Maybe a week ago, I would have told you that I was pretty excited to see what the Calgary Flames have in store this season. It has one of the most exciting young players in the game in Johnny Gaudreau, even if he’s a MAGA dipshit. He plays on a very entertaining line with Sean Monahan (is there a chance he could bend?). They have Michael Frolik whom I adore, who’s on a line with fellow hockey Zobrists Michael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk. They have three #1 d-men, and just added Travis Hamonic who could be one of the better #2-3s in the game. And VERSTEEG! is here!. They look poised to make some serious noise in the West since 2004.
And then their owners started bitching about their arena deal not getting done and now I hope they go 0-82. Because fuck those guys. And wear the fucking throwbacks all the time, dillholes.
Cal And Gary Flames
’16-’17 Record: 45-33-4 94 points (4th in Pacific, torqued in 1st round by ANA)
Team Stats 5v5: 50.5 CF% (10th) 50.5 SF% (10th) 49.9 SCF% (18th) 7.6 SH% (16th) .920 SV% (22nd)
Special Teams: 20.1 PP% (12th) 81.5 PK% (12th)
Goalies: Ok, so at first I like everyone else scoffed when the Flames traded for Mike Smith. Even as underwhelming as Brian Elliot was last year in Alberta, after watching Smith get scorch marks all over his body in Arizona and then throwing presidential like tantrums over it you wouldn’t think there was any way he could improve the Flames’ goaltending this year. But this piece from yo’ boy RL makes a lot of sense.
Smith has been pretty good at even-strength the past two years (.933 and .924) while getting barraged with shots behind the Coyotes (they gave up 48 more high-danger chances than anyone else last year). While the Flames aren’t possession-dominant, they are way ahead of where the Yotes were and are. And they might have the best top four in hockey right now, depending on where Mark Giordano is (and his +5.0% REL last year suggests he’s not fading yet). This could actually work.
Eddie Lack sucks, and if Smith can’t reproduce his even-strength numbers in Calgary the Flames are dicked. But for 20-25 games maybe Lack can tread water enough if well-spotted.
Defense: The obvious strength. They already had Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, and T.J. Brodie. Both Hamilton and Brodie swapped having to drag around a corpse last year, be it Big Money Wides, rock person Deryk Engelland, or Jyrki Jokipokka (which is a lot more fun to say than to watch play). Both were great with Giordano, and both struggled when they had to avoid drowning with whatever creature was on the second pairing.
That’s all been solved by the acquisition of Hamonic. Hamonic never could take the #1 role on The Island, but here all he has to be is a #4. And he could arguably be the best #4 d-man in the league. This top four might not be as quick as what the Predators are sporting, except there’s no Alex Emelin here to gum up the works. All four are big but good skaters (maybe save Hamonic, who’s not a plodder). There’s nothing you can’t ask these four to do.
Which is good, because the third-pairing isn’t any damn good, with Michael Stone and Brett Kulak. But it doesn’t have to be. You could honestly roll the top two pairs for 23 minutes a night, which wouldn’t be hugely taxing, and spot the third pairing for 14 minutes a night. It’s hard to get killed in 14 minutes a night. This sets the Flames apart.
Forwards: It’s deeper than you think. The top line will score, but how much? Gaudreau and Monahan were not a point-per-game last year, and the Flames probably need them to get there this year or close to it. Michael Ferland seems an odd fit up there but there isn’t really anyone else. The 3M line of Fro-Backlund-Tkachuk is one of the more dynamic checking lines in the league. They take on the toughest assignments, they almost always start in their zone, and yet they continually turn over the ice. For example, Frolik started 62% of his shifts in the defensive zone last year and still carried a 55 CF%. It’s a neat toy.
The third line has Versteeg and Sam Bennett, who had a sophomore slump but did manage 18 goals as a rookie. If he can match that it’s solid support-scoring. Ok, they’re dragging around Troy Brouwer who is just a dumpster full of diapers now, but you can’t have everything. Matt Stajan centering a fourth line is a pretty nice luxury. Reclamation project Curtis Lazar joins him.
Outlook: This team looks set for a breakout, and it’s fun to think about hockey centering around Alberta this year. The Flames were undone by goaltending last year, and that’s still a threat now. But if Smith can stabilize the crease, there’s no reason to think the Flames can’t top 100 points and be right there with EdMo and Anaheim. They have the blue line, and the forward depth. If Gaudreau comes back into one of the premier scorers in the league, and a return to the 13 SH% of two years ago would probably see him do that, they have just about everything you’d want. Glen Gulutzan Glen Ross might be an idiot, he might not be, we don’t really know. But here all he has to do is stay out of the way. All systems go in Calgary.
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