Continuing to attempt to predict outcomes of the 2016-2017 season. Next up: The Calgary Flames
2015-2016 Important Notes:
Finish – 12th place in the Western Conference, 26th overall
Goals for vs. goals against – minus 29 (25th overall)
Picked 6th overall in 2016 NHL Entry Draft – Matthew Tkachuk
Where Will the Flame Finish?
The Flames possess some very young and exciting players in Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett. Their biggest obstacle is competing with the likes of San Jose, Anaheim and the Kings in their division. Gaudreau is coming off of a 78pt campaign, and looks every bit like the real deal. He reminds me so much of Patrick Kane when he broke into the league, and has great chemistry with Monahan. These two are the building blocks every team is dying for. Add in a newly drafted Matthew Tkachuk, and this team looks like it’s headed in the right direction.
The biggest struggle last year for the Flames was keeping the puck out of their net. Jonas Hiller looked lost on most nights, and they had 3 other goalies make appearances in a Flames uniform last season. Many thought the Flames would end up with Marc-Andre Fleury between the pipes to start the 2016-2017 season, however they went a different route and brought in Brian Elliot. What does this mean to Calgary? They’ve helped stabilize the biggest question mark surrounding their team. Backing up Elliot will be Chad Johnson, who looked great in Buffalo last year, going 22-16-1 with a GAA of 2.36 and a save percentage of 0.920. These are great numbers for what will be your number two goalie. With these additions in net, the Flames should have no problem pushing for a playoff spot this season. If they can stay healthy, and improve defensively (most goals against allowed with 260), they should be a fun team to watch.
One of the smaller guys in the NHL, Gaudreau has not let his size hold him back. He’s improved in each of his first two full seasons, going from 64 to 78 points and finishing in the top 10 in league scoring. How much further can he go? It appears the sky is the limit for the self-named Johnny Hockey. He possesses all of the skill in the world, and is a very competitive player night-in and night-out. He’s had great chemistry with Monahan since they both broke into the NHL, and with the maturation of fellow teammates in Sam Bennett, and adding a skillful prospect in Matthew Tkachuk, the Flames look to be adding more offensive weapons to their roster in the very near future.This will only create more room and opportunity for Gaudreau to score. Gaudreau should continue to be in the top 10 in scoring for many years to come, with the potential to challenge for the Art Ross for many years to come.
When Calgary traded for Dougie Hamilton, many believed they had stolen him from Boston. Did he live up those expectations in his first season in Calgary? Many would argue no, however he still managed to put up 43 pts. Another year playing with a well-respected veteran in Mark Giordano will only help Dougie develop into a better all-around defensemen, as he still requires some improvements in his own end. That being said, replacing the horrendous goaltending in Calgary from last season with Elliot and Johnson will surely help all Flames defenders. Finishing last in goals allowed is never a good indication of your defensive game, however another solid addition by the Flames this past season was replacing Kris Russell with young prospect Jyrki Jokipakka. He should step into the Flames bottom pairing this season and help the Flames in their own end of the ice. Comparing last year to this year, there really is only way one to go, and that is most definitely up.
The future is bright (and now) in Calgary. This is a team to watch in the next few years.