The Calgary Flames have made the post-season two times in the past three seasons and that’s been making some people kind of optimistic about their chances going forward. There are still questions, as there always are, and the team is still transitioning away from a rebuild phase to something more dependable.
But such is life, right?
The Flames enter 2017-2018 with a strong and young defence, a(nother) new goaltending duo and a prolonged set of expectations for prospects like Mark Jankowski and Spencer Foo. The time is right for Calgary to push further into the playoffs, especially with a slick forward group capable of putting points on the board.
And while the club could be a few years away from holding a mega-parade on the Red Mile, optimism is growing in Cowtown.
Johnny Gaudreau saw a dip in production in 2016-2017. He posted 61 points in 72 games, which is a reasonable total under most circumstances. But after posting 78 points in 79 games a season prior, it’s safe to say a lot is expected from him. Gaudreau also skated to a minus-7 after charting a collective plus-15 the past two years, plus his shot totals were down. Don’t worry. He’ll bounce back in 2017-2018.
That “resurgence,” which is a silly thing to say about a 23-year-old, will come in large part thanks to Sean Monahan. The top centre for the Flames has amassed a serious amount of points as Gaudreau’s pivot. He had 58 points in 82 games last season, including 27 goals and 31 assists, and bumped up for five points in four playoff games.
Mikael Backlund is generally the second line centre in Calgary and he posted career-high totals in points in 2016-2017. He had 22 goals and 33 assists, plus he clocked 197 shots on goal and seemed to transition from a defensive game to something a little more open up front. The 28-year-old also had three points in four playoff games, including a shorty.
Matthew Tkachuk may have been held without a point in the post-season, but the Flames are sure the 19-year-old received some irreplaceable experience. He put together a quality rookie season with 48 points in 76 games and has arrived in Calgary. The Scottsdale native is set for a boost in production and is worth a close look from fantasy owners, especially if we’re counting penalty minutes.
Mark Giordano is the guy in Calgary, at least in terms of consistency and leadership. He’s not the most prolific defenceman on the team (more on him in a second), but he does possess upper echelon skills at both ends of the ice. He had 39 points in 81 games in 2016-2017 and averaged 25:30 in the playoffs.
Dougie Hamilton led the way on the scoreboard among Flames defencemen, setting career-highs in almost every category. The 24-year-old had 50 points in 81 games, including 13 goals and 37 assists. He finished a plus-12, had 222 shots on goal and produced 14 points on the power play. Can the lanky Toronto native do even better? Yes, he can.
The Flames brought in Travis Hamonic in a swap with Long Island. His 2016-2017 season was limited to 49 games due to injuries and his minus-21 suggests he’d like a few of those games back, but the 26-year-old can play. He posted 33 points in 71 games in 2014-2015 and would love a shot in Calgary. He’ll get one.
The Flames shuffled the deck once more in goal and they’re hoping they found the right combination this time. Mike Smith was snagged from Arizona in June and hasn’t really played all that well since 2011, but Calgary’s hoping to pull some good hockey out of the 35-year-old. He’ll have a new lease on life in Alberta. Also, he can handle the puck well and should give a boost to the team’s young defencemen.
Eddie Lack was another off-season acquisition and he’ll slip into the backup role. The 29-year-old Swede is a big personality goalie (ask Vancouver) and he can handle the spot well. He went 8-7-3 last season in 20 games with Carolina and never really emerged on the Hurricanes, but the Flames may offer him the part he’s after behind Smith. He can thrive in support of a veteran, after all.