Two games without a goal, four games without a win and now the Calgary Flames get a visit from the team that humiliated them in five games last spring.
They forever surrender the game’s first goal, spend most of their time chasing, and are almost a goal-a-game behind the scoring pace that made them so formidable a year earlier.
Fans want Bill Peters fired, Johnny Gaudreau traded and Sean Monahan tarred and feathered. A 6-0 loss to Vegas Sunday has that sky-is-falling feeling hockey fans are familiar with in every Canadian city in which hockey is played.
Fact is, it’s early.
No, the Flames haven’t been anywhere close to where they want to be this season. Wildly inconsistent from game to game and period to period, they can’t seem to get back to being, well, themselves.
Matthew Tkachuk said as much after the game, with one of those, “things have got to change around here” rants that show the sort of emotion and desperation these Flames are so sorely lacking on the ice.
They seem to keep waiting for that moment when the team will be galvanized by one of their stirring comebacks, the emotional medical scare TJ Brodie’s intense fainting episode provided, or a tailspin like this that has seen them score three goals in four outings.
To this point, it hasn’t come.
It appears too many players just don’t hate losing enough. The time for action is nigh. An injection of heart is needed, as this team is too talented to continue treading — no, taking on — water much longer.
It’s with that in mind that Tuesday’s opponent is rife with such delicious irony.
Not only are the Colorado Avalanche the team that first exposed last spring just how far the Flames are from being a legitimate contender, it’s also the home of an emotional player who is exactly what the Flames could use right now: Nazem Kadri.
Identifying the team’s lack of pushback as an area the Flames needed to address, GM Brad Treliving pieced together a swap with Toronto in June that would have sent Brodie and Mark Jankowski to the Leafs.
Kadri refused the deal as he had Calgary on his 10-team no-trade list and has since been public about his motivation for doing so revolving around wanting to remain a Leaf.
He was traded to the Avs days later.
Flames fans are left to wonder what kind of impact his grit, heart and depth could have done for a team missing equal measures of all three for large chunks this season.
Alas, we’ll never know.
Treliving is indeed looking long and hard at possible moves with an eye on spurring on a team that appears to have started believing the pre-season press clippings suggesting they had a three-year window of serious Cup challenges ahead.
It’s a Herculean task to effect significant change during the season in today’s NHL given how tight so many teams are to the salary cap.
With the GMs meeting in Toronto Tuesday he’ll have a great chance to commiserate with Leafs GM Kyle Dubas, perhaps kicking around the idea of a deal swapping pending UFAs Brodie for Tyson Barrie. However, given the cap hits involved, a trade like that would be difficult to pull off.
Odds are against Treliving being able to do anything monumental with the likes of Gaudreau until the summer.
However, should this team fail to make the playoffs or fall short of winning at least one round this summer you can bet Gaudreau will start to be shopped.
He will then have two years left on his deal and will have the Flames thinking very much about not wanting to be left dealing their leading scorer from a position of weakness as they were when they gave Jarome Iginla away.
Back to the reality of the situation facing the Flames.
The 10-10-3 club has just one home game before they embark on a four-game roadie through St. Louis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Buffalo. While all but the Blues game are winnable, they are 4-8-1 on the road thus far.
No team in the league comes close to chasing leads more than the Flames, playing 647 minutes — almost 11 full games — with a deficit.
In a tight league, it opens you up to having to press too hard, which can open the floodgates for a 2-0 game to turn into a 6-0 rout as it did late Sunday.
The goaltending is not at fault as David Rittich has given his team a chance every outing. The lads in front of him have simply failed to live up to their potential as the defending Western Conference points winner.
Expectations are sky high, confidence is dangerously low.
Many take solace in the fact it’s just 23 games into the season and there the struggling Flames sit, tied with Vegas for the final wild-card spot.
Not nearly as bad as their efforts should dictate.
There’s plenty of time for this team to do like it did last year, turning an early 9-1 beatdown at home against Pittsburgh into a surge to the top of the west.
The belief inside and outside the room that this team is capable of such a rebound is certainly waning. The coach, who isn’t on the hot seat by the way, has exercised tremendous patience publicly. Behind closed doors, he has plenty of reasons to be every bit as concerned as the fans are.
Is another kick in the pants what it will take to get them going? Waiting for the GM to provide it would add to the argument a significant overhaul is in order this summer.
Fact is, the answers are in the room — whether they’ll figure that out before it’s too late is the big question.