1. Best Player
2. Mikael Backlund - Playing like a No. 1 centre, he's second in shots with 50, a sign that more offence will come.
3. Chad Johnson - A nice back-up plan is looking more like a starter. Has outplayed Brian Elliott.
2. Biggest Disappointment - Part 1, Rich Guys
1. Sean Monahan
2. TJ Brodie - League-worst minus-13. Rocky start for a guy that has been one of the NHL's best kept secrets.
3. Johnny Gaudreau - Struggled big time his first 14 games before finally turning the corner. Then he broke his finger.
3. Biggest Disappointment - Part 2, Young Guys
1. Sam Bennett
2. Jyrki Jokipakka - Touted as a potential No. 4 D, he's spent much of the last few weeks as the No. 7.
3. Hunter Shinkaruk - Hasn't taken advantage of his call-up. Three meh games then was scratched for three.
4. Most Pleasant Surprise
1. Matthew Tkachuk
2. Micheal Ferland - Physical but clean and has decent hands. Improved consistency has been the key.
3. Matt Stajan - Is rejuvenated and his solid, intense all-round play has earned him more ice time.
1. Improved 5-on-5 Play
2. Frolik-Backlund - Gaudreau-Monahan and Brouwer-Bennett have fizzled, but this pairing has been terrific.
3. Veterans Rejuvenated - While top players struggle, depth guys like Deryk Engelland and Stajan have thrived.
6. Negative Storyline
1. Special Teams
An unmitigated disaster once again. The power play is last at a meager 8.4 percent while the penalty kill is 29th at an ugly 72.7 percent, only ahead of the slow-starting Blackhawks (68.2 percent). When you've scored the fewest PP goals (6) and given up the most PP goals (21), you're killing your chances of winning with any regularity. In six of seven home losses, Calgary was within one goal into the final 90 seconds. In those six close defeats, the Flames were 0-for-23 on the PP while the opposition went 9-for-22.
2. Coach Transition Pains - Slow starts are common for most new coaches, but it doesn't make it any less painful.
3. Home-Ice Record - Season ticket holders are understandably frustrated with a 3-7-0 record at the Dome.
7. Best Win
1. St. Louis, 4-1 on Oct. 25
2. Chicago, 3-2 on Oct. 24 - Elliott made 31 saves and Calgary never trailed in a solid all-round effort.
3. San Jose, 3-2 on Nov. 3 - Began California junket with a win over last year's Stanley Cup finalists.
8. Worst Loss
1. Los Angeles, 5-0 on Nov. 5
Outshot 39-24, outscored 5-0 -- all at even-strength, this train wreck on a Saturday night at Staples Center was arguably the second ugliest defeat in the team's 2,800-plus games regular season history. The only other time Calgary was shut out, gave up five-or-more goals and were outshot by 15-or-more was that infamous 9-0 loss to Boston on Jan. 5, 2012. It would turn out to be the last NHL appearance for Nicklas Grossmann, who was waived three days later and eventually had his contract terminated.
2. Edmonton, 5-3 on Oct. 14 - Outshot the Oilers 24-12 in first period and led 2-1, only to collapse.
3. Buffalo, 4-2 on Nov. 21 - Up 1-0 when barrage of Flames penalties led to three quick Sabres goals.
9. Best Goal (click for video)
1. Tkachuk vs Arizona
Calgary had been the better team but trailed 1-0 in the third period to a red-hot Mike Smith and the Coyotes when off a face-off deep in the Arizona end, Tkachuk got the puck just above the goal line and ripped a shot that beat Smith over the shoulder. "One heck of a shot," said Gulutzan after the game. "There wasn't any room there. He made a big play." That goal at 6:40 helped get the game to overtime where Frolik notched the game-winner.
2. Gaudreau vs Minnesota - Gaudreau fends off three back-checkers and multiple slashes before tucking in a back-hand.
3. Engelland vs St. Louis - Kris Versteeg's saucer into the slot is buried by Engelland after a dandy dangle.
10. Biggest Summer Acquisition Bust (So Far)
1. Brian Elliott
2. Troy Brouwer - A bright spot the first two weeks, chemistry with Bennett has faded and so has he.
3. Nicklas Grossmann - Three games was enough to confirm his foot speed made him a serious liability.
1. Matthew Tkachuk
Gnawing all the time on that mouth guard, Tkachuk is a shit-disturber and that's the exact ilk of player the club badly needed. He's in the middle of skirmishes all the time, a sign that he's getting under the opposition's skin. Now sometimes -- maybe too often -- he is the guy that ends up in the penalty box but he also draws a lot of penalties from frustrated defenders. A fan favourite already, he's learning to play on the edge but within the boundaries. Meanwhile, he's been a great fit with Backlund and Frolik.
2. Micheal Ferland - Using his size very effectively. He hits, brings energy, wins puck battles.
3. Garnet Hathaway - Banger-and-crasher, who for a 4th liner has spent a lot of time in the offensive zone.
12. Biggest Head Scratcher
1. Nicklas Grossmann Experiment
While there were some other factors behind why Grossmann signed at the number he did -- allowed the Flames to maximize their cap relief when they put Ladislav Smid on the IR -- the signing itself still seemed strange from the outset. With the NHL another year quicker, Grossmann's wheels were always a concern. As stunning as him getting a one-year, one-way deal was, playing him opening night against the quick Edmonton Oilers will surely go down as a regret for Gulutzan.
2. Linden Vey on Power Play - In a puzzling move, he replaced Gaudreau on PP instead of Frolik, the team's leading scorer.
3. Lack of Discipline - Was shorthanded the fewest times in the NHL in 2014-15. This year they've been on the PK the second-most of anyone.
It was back on podcast No. 4 with PostMedia columnist Scott Cruickshank when he described each new Flames season as like a new book. I love that way of looking at it. He said from one year to the next, you never know what is going to happen, there will always be unexpected surprises, and that's what makes it so much fun to chronicle for those around the hockey team.
It probably hasn't been a whole lot of fun for fans to endure but it has been a season of non-stop storylines and from my perspective, it's made for a very interesting season. Just think, another four and a half months to go in this latest 'Choose Your Own Adventure' story.
After four consecutive good outings, Calgary took a step (or two) back against Buffalo on Monday. Now what? Will the tailspin continue for a few games or was that Sabres game just a blip?
It's really difficult to get a feel for this team so I guess we'll have to just sit back and watch. Over the next 20 games, one thing for certain is I would expect no stop to what's been a roller-coaster of emotions so far for fans. You might want to pop a couple Gravol before the action continues Wednesday at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
By the way, have you liked Flames From 80 Feet on Facebook yet? Go there and do so now. It's just another way to be alerted to new Calgary Flames articles that I've written.
Recent Flames Reading:
- Where's Fro, Yo? Gulutzan's Perplexing Refusal To Play His Top Scorer on PP - Michael Frolik has been Calgary's best player, No. 1 goal scorer, leading point producer and top forward in shots on goal -- and he is not on the NHL's worst power play. (November 19, 2016)
- Wild Honour Gaudreau with 21-Slash Salute - With albeit a wider scope of severity than Brad Treliving (who had 11 slashes), a look at Minnesota's 21-slash salute to Johnny Gaudreau and the flaws in how the NHL applies its rule book. (November 16, 2016)
- Engelland: Lighthouse on Defence, Standing out Amongst a Dark and Stormy Sea - While the Flames high-profile defencemen have all collectively struggled this season, Deryk Engelland has played the best hockey of his career. Here's why. (Nov. 14, 2016)
- FF80F Podcast: Episode 8 - Wes Gilbertson Stops in to Discuss the Flames Woes - PostMedia beat reporter Wes Gilbertson joined me for the latest podcast where we get into all the topics that have Flames fans frustrated and angry. (Nov. 12, 2016)
- Too Early for Final Judgment: 5 Reasons for Fans to not Give Up Hope Yet - While things may look hopeless and maybe the Flames are who they are, there are compelling reasons in which it's too early to wave the white flag. (Nov. 8, 2016)