The Calgary Flames are 4-4-2 in their past ten games, have a .500 record at home this season, and currently hold down the fifth spot in the Pacific Division with 44 points through 40 games. They’re 20th in goals for, 17th in goals against, 20th on the power play, and 25th on the penalty kill. If the season ended today, they would finish 12th in the Western Conference, three points outside of a playoff spot. By every metric, the 2017-18 Flames have been mediocre.
However, when your team acquires solid defenseman Travis Hamonic for a first-round pick and two second-rounders, expectations are raised. When your team “solves” it’s goalie problem by bringing in respected veteran Mike Smith for a player, prospect, and pick, expectations are raised. When your trio of under-23 star forwards – Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Matthew Tkachuk – combine for over 160 points the season prior, expectations are raised. Mediocre is not good enough for this Calgary team and now the Flames are feeling the heat.
Head coach Glen Gulutzan appears to be the first one to have reached his limit on the sub-par play. Yesterday at practice, Gulutzan lost his cool and went on a profanity-laced tirade (video). Discernible lines included criticism of the team’s attitude after “one f***ing game”, referring to the team’s upset win over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday, and “We’re so f***ing good? You check the f***ing standings?”, which obviously speaks for itself. Gulutzan capped off his outburst by whipping his stick into the stands as words were not even enough to express his frustration and displeasure with his players. After practice, Gulutzan defended his actions, stating that the NHL was not “warm and fuzzy” and that what the media saw was the reality of the bleak situation in Calgary.
While the effort and results in Calgary have been poor all year, this has been the first time that the lack of success has made major headlines. However, if the team continues to struggle, it surely won’t be the last. The Flames are expected to win this season and for seasons to come and, if that doesn’t happen, Gulutzan’s tirade will be forgotten among the many oncoming repercussions.