BOCA RATON, Fla. — Brad Treliving wasn’t prepared to accept that the Calgary Flames’ playoff hopes are over. But after the 11th-place team lost on Monday night for the fourth time in last five games, the general manager acknowledged that they are running out of time to make a push for the playoffs.
“It’s been a tough stretch for us,” Treliving said at the GM meetings on Tuesday. “It’s put us in a real tough spot. It’s frustrating, so we’re going to get ready for our next one but we certainly put ourselves in a position where the hole’s that much deeper and we have to address some things.”
The Flames, who are on a three-game losing streak, are six points back of the Ducks for the final wild card spot, with Anaheim having played one less game. And with Calgary having traded away its first- and second-round pick to the New York Islanders in exchange for Travis Hamonic, the team is operating without a safety net.
It is something that makes their place in the standings even worse.
“That’s a fair statement,” said Treliving. “We’ve underperformed, no question. But I’m not ready to sit here and give last rites and do a post-mortem. There’s still hockey to play, but it’s certainly disappointing recently this slide that we’re on.”
It was after Monday’s 5-2 loss to the Arizona Coyotes that goalie Mike Smith told reporters that on paper the team should be better than what it’s shown. Johnny Gaudreau is ranked seventh in league scoring with 82 points in 74 games, while Sean Monahan (31 goals and 64 points), Matthew Tkachuk (24 goals and 49 points) and several others are enjoying career years.
“You look at our team, we should be a lot further than we are,” said Smith, who is ranked among the top-20 with a 2.63 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. “I think that’s the frustrating part about this season and how it’s gone is that we’ve underachieved by a lot.”
Instead, like the 13th-place Edmonton Oilers — another team that was picked by many to qualify for the playoffs — the Flames failed to live up to their expectations.
“You can be shocked, but we are where we are,” said Treliving. “A wise man once said, ‘You are what your record says you are,’ so that’s where we’re at.”
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We could see a decrease in the “Ref, you suck!” chants when it comes to future goalie interference challenges.
According to Colin Campbell, the director of hockey operations, the NHL is seriously considering whether the Situation Room — not on-ice officials — should have the final say in all challenges. This comes after general managers met for three hours on Monday to discuss how to achieve more consistency in what has been a season plagued by controversial calls.
As of right now, the on-ice referee comes to a final decision after consulting with a small group inside the Situation Room in Toronto. The problem is there are 34 full-time referees, who have varying opinions as to what is goalie interference and don’t always take the advice of those in the Situation Room.
“That doesn’t mean we’ll disagree with the referee, but the final say would be Toronto if that’s where we end up tomorrow,” said Campbell, who added that a rule change could be implemented in time for the playoffs as long as it receives a consensus vote from all 31 owners, as well as agreement from the NHLPA. “What I’m hearing from the managers is they want consistency and it’s not who is doing it.
When asked if adding a retired referee to the Situation Room would help clear up matters, Campbell laughed.
“My opinion on that is you can put the King of England in there, it doesn’t matter who you put in there, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “The team, the coach, the players, the fanbase are not going to like the answer.”
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Hits to the head are down, but hits from behind appear to be creeping up. At least, that’s the conclusion George Parros, head of the department of player safety, came to during Tuesday’s meeting.
“You used to see a lot of guys head-hunting,” said Parros. “Now, we keep shifting the microscope to different aspects of the game and smaller, less impactful elements. Checks to the head are down, which is great.”
There were only suspensions this season under Rule 48, which is an illegal check to the head. On the flipside, there were six boarding suspensions.
According to Parros, the difficulty is determining whether the fault lies with the person delivering or receiving the hit.“Particularly with boarding, we’re seeing more younger players these days that turn their backs to the play at the last second, whether they’ve grown up that way not expecting to get hit or whatever,” he said. “Those are the tough ones to determine where the fault lies. If the player can essentially get out of the way before making contact before seeing the numbers, we take that into consideration.”
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When it comes to off-side challenges, a player’s skate still has to be on the ice —regardless of whether it’s on or behind the blue line — before the puck crosses into the offensive zone.
The NHL had asked general managers if they wanted to amend the rule by allowing for players to have their skate in the air, just as long as it doesn’t cross the imaginary line at the blue line. According to the league, this would have resulted in 16 more goals so far this season.
But it only received 10 of the required 21 votes needed for change.
“We are where are now, and we’re going to leave it the way it is because it’s working now,” said Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee. “We understand that it took a little time to get accustomed to it, but we understand what it is now and it’s no longer an issue.”
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