This 31-part series chronicles why each team is going to be competitive in the 2018-2019 NHL season. Progressing alphabetically, three teams will be featured weekly during the off-season. A compendium 31-part series will be published by Hockey Troll (@HockeyTrollin) on Beer League Talk on why your team is trash in the 2018-2019 NHL season.
2017-2018 Regular Season: 84 Points (11th in West)
Since losing the Stanley Cup Final to Tampa Bay in 2003-04, the Calgary Flames have been a team of mediocrity. Since that Finals appearance, they have only eclipsed 100 points once (in 2005-06) and strung together 6 straight 90+ point seasons from 2006-11, while never advancing past the first round of the playoffs. If this was not frustrating enough, they did advance to the second round once (in 2014-15), which was followed by a 77-point season. Everyone had high expectations for the Flames in 2017-18 (myself included) and were rewarded with a lacklustre 84-point season. On paper, this team should be competitive enough to challenge for a Stanley Cup in 2018-2019.
The Calgary Flames already boast one of the best young forward corps in the league. Their top 2 centres of Monahan and Backlund are coming off 64 and 45 point seasons and the addition of Derek Ryan is a huge boost to the third line. While he is already 31 years old, Ryan has a ton of upside because he has only played in the NHL since 2016. Adding James Neal and Elias Lindholm to an already loaded top-6, which includes Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, seems unfair. These additions not only strengthen the top 2 lines, but may push Frolik and Bennett to the third line with Ryan. Based on the way-too-early predictions, the top-6 appears to be extremely well-rounded and a match-up nightmare. Just look at a potential line combinations courtesy of beat writer Steve MacFarlane (@MacfarlaneHKY):
Gaudreau – Monahan – Neal
Tkachuk – Backlund – Lindholm
Bennett – Ryan – Frolik
Mangiapane – Jankowski – Czarnik
Kids these days just don’t know
Defensively, the past few seasons have been a revolving door of right-shot defensemen. In the 2015 offseason, the Flames traded a first-round draft pick and two second-round draft picks to the Bruins to acquire Dougie Hamilton. In the 2017 offseason, the Flames again traded a first-round and two second-round draft picks to acquire Travis Hamonic. The jury is still out if these deals actually made the team better, but likely not. Rumours regarding “issues” had circulated after Boston traded Hamilton to the Flames and once again when he was traded to Carolina. Quotes from GM Treliving mentioned that “we take everything into consideration, both on and off the ice” and “I don’t share a lot of things that players share with me. I’m going to keep this stuff internal”, do not inspire confidence. If the rumours are true, this was an opportunity for the Flames to unload a potential locker room cancer and acquire an even younger defenceman in Hanifin and potential top-6 forward in Lindholm. The only downside of adding Hanifin is the problem of too many left-handed defensemen, with Giordano and Brodie already manning the top-4. If you want to educate yourself on why handedness matters, check out this link. As their roster is currently constructed, it is going to be difficult to properly utilize all of their left-shot defensemen, especially if they choose to maintain left & right handed pairings. It seems like a foregone conclusion that two of their three lefties are going to be paired together. In reality, that is probably a better option than relying on Stone or Hamonic for big minutes on the right side. The obvious solution to the problem is Rasmus Andersson, their second-round pick from the 2015 draft.
At least his flow game is hard AF
The real reason for optimism in 2018-2019 is the hiring of Bill Peters. This guy has a winning pedigree from the Carolina Hurricanes, the new AHL affiliate of the Calgary Flames. Over his four-year tenure (2014-2018), Peters boasted a (*checks notes*) .486 winning percentage, a high of 87 points and a total of 0 playoff appearances. All Glen Gulutzan did was get swept in the playoffs, so this is an obvious upgrade. Additionally, Bill Peters is the native son of Alberta, growing up ~100 km from Calgary; that’s easily worth 5-10 points in the standings! Let’s hope that Mike Smith is hitting the deer antler extract hard this offseason. When healthy, he is still a top-15 goaltender (2.60 GAA; .920 SV%). He should still have enough left in the tank for a deep playoff run, especially with the goal support he should enjoy from this revamped roster.
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