We caught up with Ramina Shlah of Flame for Thought, FanSided’s Flames site, on Monday to get some more insight into Calgary’s early-season performance. Here’s what we found out:
AA: Obviously we’ve seen over the first few weeks of the season that Chad Johnson has a serious shot at ending up as the Flames’ starting goaltender. Do you see Brian Elliott rebounding from this, or do you think he’ll struggle to bounce back from his slow start?
RS: I think he’ll definitely rebound. I mean I’m sure you know, but he’s been an extremely solid, consistent goaltender since 2011. I was watching the games on Thursday night and on Saturday night, against the Hurricanes and Blues respectively, and commentator Kelly Hrudey was making comments on this whole Elliott scenario too. Kelly used to be a goalie for the LA Kings, and when he was traded out of LA, he said he struggled a bit for the first two and a half to three weeks, even though he had a really great preseason, which we also saw with Brian Elliott.
He mentioned how he’s not concerned at all for Elliott, and he knows he’ll get back to his usual self in probably about another week tops. I also briefly mentioned in an article about this on Flame for Thought about Elliott’s slow start, and I mentioned how this is not something to be concerned about., He’s coming to a new team in a new city; it’ll take a few weeks for him to get into his old habits again. He’s also starting tonight and tomorrow, so tomorrow will be a fun game since it’s in his old city against his old team and I’m sure he wants nothing more than to beat them.
AA: Moving to another guy with St. Louis ties who was held out of the Flames’ lineup on Saturday night, Matthew Tkachuk has been an interesting player to follow over the early part of the season. It seems like he’s given a pretty major role when he plays, but do you think he’ll ultimately end up sticking with the NHL team for the entire year or going back to his junior team?
RS: Oh man, Tkachuk. I could talk about this kid for like half an hour straight. Speaking of St. Louis ties, I saw a tweet the other night that said they’re pretty positive Dennis Wideman is the only player to play with both Keith and Matthew Tkachuk, so I thought that was a nice thing to mention. But I honestly love the way Tkachuk plays. In the preseason and during training camp, he was amazing, definitely one of the best guys there. During the Young Stars Classic, he NEVER missed a scrum and played a really hard game (similar to his dad), so we know Brian Burke and Brad Treliving like him.
I’m a little worried right now for him because it might be a repeat of what happened with Sam Bennett last season with his scoring drought, even though he always made some impact with his presence. Tkachuk was a healthy scratch last game and tonight he’ll also be a healthy scratch, so I am a little worried that after the first nine games of the season he’ll be sent back down and come back next season. But I was really excited for him on a line with Bennett and (Troy) Brouwer, because it sort of reminded me of the 2014-2015 season with (Johnny) Gaudreau, (Sean) Monahan, and (Jiri) Hudler, and how Hudler kind of acted like a mentor to the two young kids.
Seems like a similar situation to me with Brouwer being paired with Bennett and Tkazhuk, considering how Brouwer can use his veteran experience to provide guidance to the two. I just hope that he comes back from being a healthy scratch and kills it and proves (coach Glen) Gulutzan wrong–I mean we could only hope. But honestly, and I hate to say it, but the way it’s looking right now, he’ll be sent down if he doesn’t make an impact in these next few games.
AA: Is there any level of concern about Johnny Gaudreau’s slow start, or is there a decent amount of faith that he’ll get into a groove sooner than later?
RS: I think there’s actually a really high amount of faith. He’s projected as being one of the top, if not the top, players for the Flames this season, and he’s also projected as being one of the top in the league. Yahoo Fantasy projected him in the Top 10, as well as NHL.com. Yes, he’s had a bit of a slow start, but some of the best in the league have been in that spot.
I think he just needs to break out and have like a two or three point game and that’ll start his momentum. I mean, being a Flames fan, I hate talking about the Oilers, but let’s look at (Connor) McDavid last year. He had a very slow start the first two to three weeks, but picked up his pace and from there he killed it, and definitely would have been a high-scoring rookie if not for his injury. I don’t think it’s something to be concerned about. He just needs one really good game and he’ll break out and sky-rocket from there. Definitely by the end of this week he’ll get it going again, mark my words.
AA: I guess expectations weren’t exactly sky-high this year for the Flames to begin with, but this has been a rather concerning start. Do you think Glen Gulutzan has job security throughout his first season, or could there be a quick hook with him if the team continues to be as dreadful as it’s been to start the season?
RS: Oh, I definitely don’t think he has job security whatsoever, and neither does Flames power play coach Dave Cameron. My dad was even saying how he wants the Flames to keep losing so Gulutzan and Cameron will be fired. A lot of fans right now are a little confused as to why Cameron was hired in the first place, seeing as his power play numbers as a head coach with the Senators the last two seasons have been not great. And Gulutzan has a fast-pace style of game, which is good, but at the same time, this fast-paced game has led the Flames to have the most giveaways in the league.
Also, Flames president Brian Burke likes truculence (the amount of times I have heard that word in the last two years is too high), which is why I’m also more confused about Gulutzan being hired as head coach, since he likes a fast game, not a hard game. I think if they continue like this, Gulutzan will be gone before the end of November. The Flames had a pretty decent start to the 2014-2015 season under Bob Hartley, and he even won the Jack Adams award that year.
Then last year, not so much of the same story, and we saw him get fired after the season ended. Losing your job the year after you win Jack Adams is not exactly something you really see happening, but anything can happen. For the last 10 years or so, the Flames don’t normally like to switch coaches mid-season, but like I just said, anything can happen. Especially under Brian Burke, who’s very outspoken, and I think he would definitely want to give the boot to Gulutzan. Even on my Twitter timeline earlier today when Flames released the projected lineups for tonight, everyone’s confused by Gulutzan’s pairings and nobody really agrees with him, so I think–if he’s not let go at mid-season–he won’t be with the Flames after this season.
Thanks a bunch to Ramina for giving us a local perspective on the Flames. Be sure to check out her content at Flame for Thought. Here’s what the Blues’ lineup is expected to look like on Tuesday: