The winning streak has been snapped, but the Calgary Flames are now firmly (and improbably) in the playoff picture. Let’s dive into the mailbag.

Originally a teenage YouTube sensation from Norway, Pettersen came to North America as a fresh-faced 14-year-old in 2014-15. The Flames selected him in the sixth round of the 2018 NHL Draft after a few impressive USHL seasons and he’s done what their sixth rounders have done recently: he continued to impress.

Last season as a freshman playing in the University of Denver’s middle six, he had 30 points in 40 games and just missed the cut for the conference All-Rookie Team. As a sophomore this season he’s cemented himself on Denver’s top line and put up 16 points in 18 games so far. He’s the Pioneers’ leading scorer – ahead of freshman Bobby Brink, a Flyers pick from 2019’s draft – and is one of the main offensive drivers for his club.

As for timelines? Here’s what Pettersen told us back in July:

“For me, the time frame is basically to see how good I can get the time I’m spending in Denver,” said Pettersen. “If that takes four years, it takes four years. I’m ready when Calgary says I’m ready and when my coaches in Denver say I’m ready. So, I’m in a good spot right now and I’m going to keep working hard.”

The key thing here will be the Flames figuring out how to keep Pettersen challenged and growing. He’s a top dog in Denver and next season he’ll be just 20 years old. Is Stockton the right environment for him to keep learning and growing? Or would spending a second season on Denver’s top line chasing a national championship be the way to go?

If Denver wins a trophy, the Flames will probably push Pettersen to move up to the next level. But if there are still challenges for him to tackle at the NCAA level, it may be best for him to stay in school for one more year. Needless to say, the Flames are tracking his progress extremely closely.

Under this core, the Flames have alternated results in a pretty distinct way:

  • 2014-15 (Hartley): 97 points, playoff berth
  • 2015-16 (Hartley): 77 points, missed playoffs
  • 2016-17 (Gulutzan): 94 points, playoff berth
  • 2017-18 (Gulutzan): 84 points, missed playoffs
  • 2018-19 (Peters): 107 points, playoff berth
  • 2019-20 (Peters/Ward): in progress

There are a ton of reasons that likely play into the pattern, but here are a couple simple ideas: when you have a new coach or a new group, every player’s attention to detail is dialed in a bit because they need to learn new things. The season after the team has success, it’s natural that they’ll be a bit more relaxed because they’ve had that success and feel like they’ve learned what they need to learn.

Of course, other teams are learning, too, and they’re always looking for ways to game your system so teams have to be consistently changing and adapting to stay ahead. It’s not a shock that the Flames are more engaged and active right now with a new coach because they’re all trying to establish themselves under the new regime and learn whatever tweaks to their system Ward wants to employ.

As for what it means for Ward? Honestly, it’s way too early to say, but going through this many coaches in this short a span says more about the Flames’ core than it does about their coaches.

Philp started the zero with zero points in his first 10 outings. Since then, he’s dialed up 11 goals and 14 points in 13 games. It’s very impressive, but he’s a first-year pro and it’s likely that players like Glenn Gawdin, Matthew Phillips, Alan Quine and Ryan Lomberg are head of him in the call-up pecking order.

But after really struggling to start the season, Philp has really turned things around and put himself right there in the conversation for a recall. It might not be this season, but if he keeps his play improving it’s definitely coming.

Let’s tackle these two questions together, since they’re linked in a few ways.

The Flames have been looking to upgrade their top six/top nine basically since the season began. Heck, Brad Treliving was kicking tires for possible deals over the entire but the league’s cap situation and the ongoing Matthew Tkachuk contract negotiations made it challenging to consummate anything at that point.

But you can kind of see the logic behind the attempted trades: moving out expiring contracts (TJ Brodie, Michael Frolik) to open up cap is one potential avenue, but the Flames will likely need to part ways with valuable roster players (Mikael Backlund or Sam Bennett perhaps) plus sweeteners like prospects (Jakob Pelletier, Dustin Wolf, Emilio Pettersen, Dillon Dube, Oliver Kylington, Juuso Valimaki or Dmitry Zavogorodniy) or first round picks to seriously upgrade the roster at this point.

Oh, and the cap probably isn’t nudging too far next season – around $83 million is the ballpark – and there’s an expansion draft looming at the end of next season. Trades aren’t easy to make right now.

Honestly, he just needs a goal to get the proverbial monkey off his back. But right now he seems to be fighting the puck and he isn’t getting enough quality chances or shots to really challenge netminders. One possible solution may be moving him to the wing for a few games (perhaps when Sam Bennett returns) and giving him a chance to stop thinking about his defensive responsibilities. If he can just focus on creating chances, good things may happen.