The 2019-2020 NHL season is nearly upon us and that means it’s time to cheer on the Flames to another pursuit of a Stanley Cup. Calgary will open the season visiting the Colorado Avalanche who ousted the Flames in the 1st round of last year’s playoff series. If you haven’t noticed I haven’t posted very much over the summer because that playoff performance was so disappointing I had to check out. The team underperformed, were thoroughly outplayed, and went home early despite finishing first in the Western Conference.
What can we expect this year?
First, let’s look at the offseason changes. The ultimate question is are the Flames any better this year? There were no significant offseason acquisitions to speak. Yes there was a big name swap but that accounted for the Flames worst player last season, for another bad contract in Milan Lucic. Do The Flames benefit from the trade? It all really depends on whether James Neal can round into form in his new Oilers uniform. That’s expecting a lot from a player that looked to be done last season. As for Lucic, he will be playing third and fourth line minutes and will fill that role much better than Neal. Plus Lucic adds significant size. So although the GM made a mistake and signing Neal to begin with, the Flames might be ahead, if we are glass half-full people, with the size and Leadership that Lucic brings. In terms of scoring, his foot speed and offense is on the decline and will be for the rest of the four years he has signed.
After that it’s pretty much the same team. The Flames tried their best to unload a defenseman in the offseason but the injury to juuso valimaki, changed those plans. Brodie will be with the Flames for another year and Frolik will stay on that second line. Although all eyes were on Matthew tkachuk and his ultimate bridge contract, changes in th elineup were minor. When you think of it, the team finished first in the Western Conference. Adding size certainly helps, but have they ultimately changed enough to make a significant playoff run? That’s the question and right now it doesn’t appear so. At least on paper the team is virtually identical. Sure they added three former Oilers, but that’s not saying much coming from a that broken franchise. Toby Rieder signed to be the 10th forward; Dilon Dube didn’t impressing and will likely be sent down to the minors. That means the opening day roster will be mostly the same, and the season banks on the extra year of experience that lineup has under their belts. None of them have hit their peak which spell improvement. Heck even always fresh Mark Giordano could very well compete for another North winning season.
While the expectations are high. Everyone needs to improve and question marks need to outperform. Cam Talbot sharing the space with David Riddick must outperform. That top-line needs to find some support from lines three and four. Whether the Flames can stand up to much bigger teams, and ultimately big teams in the playoffs, remains to be seen. So let’s celebrate the start of a new 82-game season. But let’s not forget that everything changes come April and if the Flames look the same as they do on opening night, they’re going to be in for a quick first round exit yet again.