Head Coach: Bill Peters
Key Additions: Noah Hanifin, Elias Lindholm, and James Neal
Key Losses: Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland, and Kris Versteeg
Strengths: High end scoring talent and Solid defensive core.
Weaknesses: Questions in net, Depth scoring, and chemistry concerns
Predicted Point Total: 90 (39 – 28 – 12)
The Calgary Flames had a very disappointing 2017 – 2018 campaign in the Pacific Division. This team had one of the best scoring duos in the league with Johnny Guedreau and Sean Monahan. On paper three of the best defensive pairings. Along with arguably one of the best shutdown defensive forward lines. With a roster make up like that it is shocking that the Flames weren’t even relevant at the end of last season.
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This year’s Flames club looks a little different coming into 2018 – 2019. The Calgary made a huge splash on draft day with a trade with Carolina. They sent their most productive offensive defenseman Dougie Hamilton and Forward Michael Frolik to Calgary for defenseman Noah Hannifin and forward Elias Lindholm.
This swap surprised a lot of people especially ones who hold Hamilton in such a high regard. But listening to reports that came out after this trade it seems that Hamilton didn’t mesh well with the rest of the locker room. They also signed UFA James Neal who scored 25 goals for the Vegas Golden Knights last season.
The Flames are confident that this new configuration of the roster along with a fresh face behind the bench will produce more positive results this time through the regular season in the Pacific Division.
Looking closer at their offseason additions the team seemed to have addressed their areas of need. Their offense was effective at generating shots but lacked the finishing ability to convert them into goals. Calgary really struggled to score goals last season, they placed 28th overall in goals for, while managing to put up the 3rd most shots on goal.
Their lack of goal scorers really hurt them last season. The Flames just didn’t have enough players who shot for the net instead of just throwing the puck on goal. This can be exhibited with some underlying stats. The Flames had the 27th worst shooting percentage on scoring chances, and placed 30th in high danger scoring shooting percentage. Essentially this means when the Flames had good scoring opportunities they really struggled to convert them into points.
The additions of Neal and Lindholm should help supplement their lack of offensive finishers, but their Hannifin for Hamilton swap might hinder their ability to generate offense on the back end. Still there are reasons to be excited about this team. Lindholm is a fantastic playmaker and thrives at setting up players for golden scoring chances. While Neal seems to be an automatic 25 goals every season, and the Flames desperately need a player with his finishing ability in the lineup but especially the power play.
Much of the success of next season is going to dependent on the coach Bill Peter’s goalie usage. Goaltender Mike Smith is going to be heavily relied on this season and is expected to start more than 50 games. That’s a tall order for a 36 year old coming into his 15th season in the league. Still he is coming off back to back seasons with 50 or more starts, so it’s difficult to cast doubts on Smith’s ability to stay on the ice.
Their backup David Rittich has been a regular for their AHL affiliate the Stockton Heat and spent some time with Calgary towards the end of last season. They are hoping he can take a few games off of Mike Smith’s hands so their starter can remain effective throughout the season.
This is probably one of the most volatile teams in the entire league. They could easily be a 100 point club with their elite scoring ability and some consistent goal tending. But things could just as easily fall apart like they did towards the end of last year.
Keep tabs on this team throughout the year for some interesting story lines. Calgary’s management is banking on their midsummer roster shake up to kick start this potential contender in the Pacific Division.