The Calgary Flames have struggled in the early stretches of this season, and some of their fans have found a scapegoat: “The Wideman Effect”.
The belief is that since January 2016, when Dennis Wideman ran linesman Don Henderson from behind, ending the latter’s career, the referees have been biased against the Flames. Despite the catchy name, it appears that the perception just isn’t true. Sportsnet’s Mark Spector broke down the penalties called in the 47 games before the incident and the 46 since. While the Flames did see a nearly 50 per cent increase in penalties last season after the attack, they still spent more time on the power-play. Moving to this season, the Flames are the second-most penalized team in the NHL after the Bruins. But they’ve also had the fifth-most power-play opportunities of any team.
Fans can look no further than the struggles of Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, and Brian Elliott, and some questionable lineup choices on the blue line. Fresh off signing new contracts for $6.375MM and $6,75MM respectively, Monahan and Gaudreau have combined for just 11 points through 12 games. That’s eight less than last season at this time.
Elliott was traded for to stabilize the Flames wretched goaltending from last season, and so far has a sub-900 save percentage and a GAA over 3. Backup Chad Johnson has been better, but is still below league-average.
Finally, the Flames new coach Glen Gulutzan’s usage of Dougie Hamilton has been weird this season. Hamilton scored 43 points last season while playing just under 20-minutes per game, but has fallen below 19 minutes this season and has been playing third-pairing at even-strength with lesser players.
- It has been an ugly stretch for the Canucks, who have lost seven games in a row after starting 4-0-0. They’ve fallen from first in the NHL to 26th. Even worse, the Canucks have scored just seven goals in that stretch and have been shutout in four of their last five games. The Blue Jackets outscored the Canucks’ entire losing streak in 38-minutes on Friday night, and they weren’t even done yet. Coach Willie Desjardins said he believes in their players and thinks they can turn it around, despite admitting this season’s losing has been tough on him. Desjardins is on the hot seat, considering GM Jim Benning believes the Canucks are a playoff team. However, Benning may not be entirely accurate in that belief: the Canucks are averaging just 1.45 goals-per-game, nearly a goal-and-a-half less than the league-average. Most prognosticators have the Canucks pegged as a real contender, not for the playoffs, but for the best draft lottery odds.
- Meanwhile, the Edmonton Oilers are sitting in first in the Western Conference after a hot start. They’ve cooled down a little, going 0-2-1 in the last week. Spector echoed a common sentiment about the team: if they can get their hands on a legit point-threat for their floundering power-play, then watch out. The Oilers were linked to Kevin Shattenkirk, P.K. Subban and Tyson Barrie over the summer, and more recently pending-UFA Brent Burns. In his article, Spector suggests Jason Garrison might be available in Tampa Bay as a cap casualty, though he’s another lefty; when healthy, five of the Oilers top-six defenders are left-handed.