The Calgary Flames are a regular-season team. If Stanley Cups were handed out for that they’d be just fine. Unfortunately, they are not and that is where the Flames burn out. They have failed to get past the first round in their last three playoff appearances, one of which came after winning the Pacific Division in 2018-19.
Unfortunately, they came up against a Nathan MacKinnon inspired Colorado Avalanche in the first round and got bounced. Last season they got past the Winnipeg Jets in the qualifying round before the Dallas Stars came from 2-1 down to win the series 4-2. The final game may have been the most difficult to take for the Flames, throwing away a 3-0 lead and losing 7-3.
The goaltenders will obviously be looked at when you let in seven goals and the Flames will be hoping that is fixed going into the 2021 season. They also have another problem that has yet to be fixed. To go deep in the playoffs Calgary will need to find a way to get Johnny Gaudreau going.
‘Johnny Hockey’ has struggled when it matters most for the Flames. During the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs he failed to record a goal in Calgary’s 4-0 thrashing by the Anaheim Ducks. That poor performance continued in the 2019 playoffs as he was goal-shy in their five-game series loss to the Avalanche.
Last season was better with four goals and three assists in ten games. Considering his regular-season form though this was still below what is expected from a top-line forward. The loss of Matthew Tkachuk also played a part during the Dallas Stars defeat.
There’s no doubt the Flames upgraded in goal with the signing of Jacob Markstrom. This should set David Rittich firmly as the backup which wasn’t always the case last season. Markstrom had a .918 save percentage during the regular season which never faltered as he produced a .919 during the Vancouver Canucks playoff run.
Defenseman Christopher Tanev was the other big name signing also from the cash strapped Vancouver Canucks. Tanev was an alternate captain for the Canucks last season and will add a much needed veteran presence to a young Flames d-core. Four years at $4.5 million though seems a bit high for a player past his prime.
I liked the Calgary Flames off-season moves. They didn’t get significantly better but they also didn’t get worse which is the aim for most teams during the flat salary cap era. TJ Brodie leaving for the Toronto Maple Leafs was offset by Tanev coming in and losing goaltender Cam Talbot is not a loss considering they upgraded to Markstrom.
They lost some depth pieces which may be the biggest loss. Mark Jankowski signed for the Pittsburgh Penguins on a one-year deal while Tobias Reider signed for the Buffalo Sabres. It doesn’t hurt their top six but both players were decent bottom-six players with experience.
Projected Forward Lines:
|Johnny Gaudreau||Sean Monahan||Elias Lindholm|
|Matthew Tkachuk||Mikael Backlund||Andrew Mangiapane|
|Josh Leivo||Sam Bennett||Dillon Dube|
|Milan Lucic||Derek Ryan||Joakim Nordstrom|
Projected Defensive Lines:
|Mark Giordano||Rasmus Andersson|
|Noah Hanifan||Christopher Tanev|
|Juuso Valimaki||Nikita Nesterov|
I like the Calgary Flames forward core. While they don’t have that bonafide superstar they have enough talent to cause teams problems. They also have grit and experience to add to that mix that can hold their own against shutdown lines.
The problem for the Flames will come with the inevitable injuries. Their top four defensemen are not a problem. That bottom pairing and what they have in reserve is. If they can somehow manage to stay injury-free the Flames could set the North Division alight… before inevitably burning out in the playoffs.
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