2017-18 CALGARY FLAMES PREVIEW
2016-17 record: 45-33-4, 94 points; 4th place, Pacific Division; 7th place, Western Conference
2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Lost in first round to Anaheim (four games)
Corsi-for rate: 50.5% (10th)
Additions: G Mike Smith, D Travis Hamonic, F Spencer Foo, F Luke Gazdic, G Eddie Lack
Subtractions: G Brian Elliott, G Chad Johnson, F Alex Chiasson, D Dennis Wideman, F Lance Bouma, D Deryk Engelland
Calgary, let’s face it, isn’t the hardest team to handicap. If the Flames receive league-average goaltending, they’re a playoff team. If their goaltending is subpar – as it was, at times, last year – they’re generally not.
Here’s Calgary’s all-situational save percentage in the post-Kiprusoff era:
Now, take a guess at which teams qualified for the playoffs, and which teams totaled 77 points.
With precision, the Flames have done a good job filling holes on their roster, dating back to last year’s trade for Michael Stone that balanced out the defensive corps and quickly precipitated a 10-game winning streak. With the addition of rugged minute-eater Travis Hamonic, that defensive corps has solidified further and through a multi-year evolution has grown younger and should be more equipped to keep the puck out of its own net than the Saddledome blue lines of recent years. And that goaltending should be at worst league average, even if trade acquisition Mike Smith only sports a .912 save percentage since his breakthrough 2011-12 season. The Flames won’t offer the same downward slope of scoring chances that the Coyotes did over the last several years, and Smith, a mid-season All-Star who was Arizona’s MVP on so many nights last season, provides experienced workhorse minutes in what appears to be a natural line of succession in a sunshine-and-ice cream scenario in which he ultimately lays out the welcome mat for talented prospects Jon Gillies and/or Tyler Parsons.
That’s a lot to say without even getting to Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, the latter of whom is a potential Hart Trophy candidate. Gaudreau, who tuned 24 last month, started slowly last season and ultimately fell from 30 goals and 78 points to 18 and 61 as he readjusted after a contract holdout wiped out his preseason. But there’s depth on Calgary, too, and if former fourth overall pick Sam Bennett can re-establish himself as a top young player in the league – he fell from 36 to 26 points between his 19 and 20-year-old seasons – the center depth, which includes Monahan, Mikael Backlund and Matt Stajan, could be a major strength of this team.
Calgary’s ability to gain the second point in overtime games certainly helped last season. With an 18-6 record in OT since the implementation of three-on-three, the Flames are right behind the Kings in overtime dominance.
To get to know the Calgary Flames even more… intimately, I spoke with Sportsnet 960 The Fan’s Pat Steinberg. Have a listen, get informed.
-photo credit Rob Marczynski/NHLI