We’re all setup and ready to go. This year’s instalment of the Calgary Flames are slated to provide the same mediocre on ice performance as they did last year. Although this will be a full season compared to the reduced COVID season last year, the team itself looks about the same. Actually, maybe it’s a bit worse off.
What did they accomplish over the post-season after missing the playoffs in the Canadian (North) Division? Every year it’s the same problem: improve the right-side with elite talent. Problem, you can’t just go out and buy that kind of talent. What really happens, nothing changes up front, and the entire 4th line gets an update. It’s been that way for 3-4 seasons now. This pre-season no different.
The shift in this season’s preparation had to do with the expansion draft where the Seattle Kraken (Cool name) took Mark Giordano. That exposed a gapping hole on D. The short-term loss will work out over time, but you can’t simply replace Giordano. So what did Flames management do with the 6.5 million dollar “savings”? Promptly spent it on Erik Gudbranson and Nikita Zadorov. That’s it, that’s all. If pre-season is any indication, although the Flames got much, much, bigger on defence, they also got slower.
Ideally, you would see the younger prospects like Valimaki and Kylington get regular minutes, but if anything is clear on a Darryl Sutter team, you’ll have to earn those minutes by supplanting a veteran. Sutter loves his vets.
Speaking of the coach, who will have a full season as well to put his stamp on the organization, rumors have it part of the reason the Flames can’t attract talent, why they have to get defensive help by trading for RFAs, is because nobody wants to a) come to Calgary, b) play for Sutter. How much of that is true…well you be the judge. If you do score help you’ll overpay.
Calgary did make a free agent splash by signing former Lightning Blake Coleman. He’ll slot in on line 2 or 3 on the LW (still no RW).
Where else did Calgary add/change?
They replaced Rittich with Vladar, a proven minor league prospect who has less than a dozen NHL games. He’s a big body, but time will tell if he can take much needed load off of Jacob Markstrom. Markstrom needs a bounce back year. He’s being paid top tier dollars ( at least on this team) and has at times lost his game. A healthy Markstrom is key to the Flames’ success.
In the Pacific Division, arguably one of the “easiest” divisions to play in, the Flames have a chance to slide into playoff contention. The final playoff tally likely required will hover around 96+ points (as it does every year).
On D, we already mentioned the two main additions. Stone also returns to be the 8th (or wherever Sutter puts him) D man.
On Forward, somehow the Flames are rolling with the return with Brett Ritchie. With the likes of Milan Lucic, the Flames added more Sutter type players with aging vets like Brad Richardson (why?), Trevor Lewis (from LA days gone by), Tyler Pitlick (from Seattle), and Coleman. Not exactly a shakeup. Which means, for another year, management expects the existing group to make hay.
With contracts coming up (gaudreau), and careers diminishing (Monahan), this is shaping up to be another disappointing season of a Flames team in search of identity (which I surmise Sutter will help fix in a hurry), and goals. Can they push past the always under-performing Oilers? Without goal scoring help, and with the questions on D, it might turn into another long season. Only this time we can go to the ‘Dome and watch it unfold in person.