NHL Team Preview: Calgary Flames
The Calgary Flames missed the playoffs last season for the third time in the past six years. With both internal and external pressure to succeed, this season is somewhat of a make-or-break campaign for Calgary. A playoff appearance is a must to avoid trading away the core and starting a rebuild, especially with just one appearance in the second round since the 2003-04 season.
Calgary’s offseason strategy seems to have been to add physicality and grit to their roster, starting with signing former Tampa Bay Lightning center Blake Coleman to a six-year, 29.4 million contract. Coleman has scored 30+ points in each of the past three seasons, but his main strengths lie in knocking opponents off the puck.
Tyler Pitlick and Trevor Lewis will solidify the bottom-six forward group, with physical play as the calling cards for their games. Pitlick should be a boost to the penalty kill unit which finished 15th in the league last season at 80.2%. Meanwhile, Lewis will be a leader in the locker room, with 13 seasons of NHL experience and two Stanley Cup wins to his credit.
The biggest signing among the defensemen was Nikita Zadorov, who finished seventh in the NHL in hits last season. Zadorov should be pushing for second pairing minutes this season, though he may begin the year on the third pairing.
The biggest departure of the offseason was losing captain Mark Giordano to the Seattle Kraken during the expansion draft. While the move did free up some cap space for Calgary, the 2019 Norris Trophy winner was named the first captain in Kraken history on Monday.
At 38 years of age, Giordano is at the back end of his career, but he has still been productive at both ends of the ice. As of writing, Calgary has not named its next captain.
Josh Leivo left the Flames as a free agent and has signed in a depth role with the Carolina Hurricanes. Calgary hoped Leivo would spark his game with a new team, but after putting up six goals and three assists in 38 games last season, the Flames moved on.
Backup goaltender Louis Domingue signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins in free agency.
With Giordano gone, keep an eye on Noah Hanifin. The fifth overall pick in the 2015 Draft, Hanifin has had a few solid seasons but has yet to truly break out as a star. This could be the year.
Hanifin will see increased power play and penalty kill time as the top defenseman in the system, and as the sixth-youngest player in NHL history to play in 400 games, he’s got plenty of experience under his belt.
Additionally, Matthew Tkachuk is strongly considered the frontrunner to be the next captain. However, as a restricted free agent at the end of the season, Tkachuk could decline to sign a long-term deal in Calgary, leaving the Flames back at square one.
Rumors of Johnny Gaudreau leaving the Flames have swirled for several seasons, but nothing has materialized thus far. Gaudreau has finished either first or second on the team in points in each of the last seven seasons, but he’s in the final year of his contract. Failure to make the playoffs would all but guarantee his departure.
Goaltender Jacob Markström will see a lion’s share of the work in net. He started 16 of Calgary’s final 17 games in a push for the playoffs, and only two other goaltenders (Connor Hellebuyck and Andrei Vasilevskiy) played more minutes than Markström last season. Dan Vladař was signed to be the backup, but assuming he’s healthy, expecting 55+ starts from Markström may be on the conservative side.
Calgary Flames Season Predictions and Odds
2021-22 Over/Under Point Total: 91.5 (OVER at -130, UNDER at -110) Pacific Division Title Odds: +1000 (fourth-best) Western Conference Champions Odds: +1800 (tied for eighth-best) Stanley Cup Odds: +4500 (tied for 17th best)
* All odds provided by Action247 Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
**All views expressed are my own. My picks are my own and are not a guarantee, bet at your own risk.