Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Calgary Flames 2019-20 season preview

From USA Today


       Consistency is a thing NHL teams strive for. Recently, the Calgary Flames have had none. Since 2013-14, here are their point totals, by year: 77, 97, 77, 94, 84, 107. That's an average point difference of 18 points. Their 23 point jump from 2017-18 to 2018-19 made no sense, as they traded away Dougie Hamilton and Michael Ferland, and while Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin were pleasant surprises, their biggest acquisition, James Neal, was a colossal bust. They were first in the Pacific Division, but were eliminated in the first round. A quiet offseason that saw the Flames ship out Neal for Milan Lucic, another failure of a contract, shouldn't hurt the Flames too much, but with their recent history, it isn't wild to predict a playoff miss, even in a terrible Pacific Division.

        Additions: Cam Talbot, Milan Lucic, Brandon Davidson

        Subtractions: Mike Smith, James Neal, Garnet Hathaway, Oscar Fantenberg, Curtis Lazar, Dalton Prout

        Forwards
The Flames' first line of Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Elias Lindholm produced big time. Gaudreau had a career high 36 goals and 63 assists for 99 points, finishing fourth in Hart voting. Sean Monahan was finally a point per game player, with career highs in goals (34), assists (48 assists) and points (82) in 78 games. Elias Lindholm had 51 assists, and his previous career high in POINTS was 45. He also reached 20 goals for the first time, with 27. Matthew Tkachuk is currently an RFA, and wants more than the $7.75 million the Flames have in cap space. He had a career high 34 goals and 77 points, while annoying opposing players. In 224 career games, he has 228 penalty minutes. Mikael Backlund scored 21 goals with 26 assists, matching his production in 2015-16, but in five less games. It was his second best offensive season to 2016-17. Michael Frolik improved from a horrid 2017-18 season, but with one more year left until hitting free agency, he could be dealt to free up cap space. Derek Ryan had another good season at 32, matching his career high 38 points. Former 4th overall pick Sam Bennett is still a bust, but his 27 points were his highest since his rookie season. Milan Lucic is earning $6 million a year (Flames are paying $5.25) but has scored just 16 goals over the past two seasons, missing just three games. He had six last year. The Flames are hoping a chance of scenery helps. Mark Jankowski produced a career high 32 points. Not amazing for a former first rounder, but good bottom six production. In 54 games, Austin Czarnik had a career high six goals and 18 points. In his first big NHL shot, Andrew Mangiapane had 13 points in 44 games.

         Defensemen
Entering 2018-19, Mark Giordano's career high in assists was 37. He obliterated that, with 57 assists, plus 17 goals for a career high 74 points, and a league leading +39 rating. He won the Norris trophy, capping off a career season at age 35. In his first year in Calgary, Noah Hanifin had a career high 33 points, and had a career high +18 rating. His previous career high was an awful -14. TJ Brodie has been unable to build on an 86 point stretch from 2014-15 to 2015-16. His nine goals in 2018-19 was his most since 2014-15. The Travis Hamonic trade hasn't been kind to the Flames, but he did have a career high seven goals and plus +21 rating last year. Both Hamonic and Brodie are free agents after 2019-20. The Flames likely can't afford both of them, so one could be dealt. Due to some depth on the left side, my guess would be that Brodie leaves. At 22, Rasmus Andersson had a good rookie season, with 19 points and a +17 rating. Oscar Kylington had eight points in a 38 game rookie season. He's primed for a starting role.

          Goalies
With Mike Smith leaving for Edmonton, the Flames signed a former Oiler in Cam Talbot. Talbot had a terrible .892 SV% and 3.40 GAA in 35 games for the Oilers and Flyers last year. He was top 5 in Vezina voting in 2016-17. He was overworked in Edmonton, with 140 games over the two year stretch from 2016-17 to 2017-18. He'll split time with David Rittich, who had a .911 SV% and 2.61 GAA last year.

          Management
In his first season with Calgary, Bill Peters was a Jack Adams candidate. GM Brad Treliving has made some questionable moves in the past, and the Lucic trade could be one of them.
          Deep Depths
Alan Quine had five points in 13 games for the Flames last year, which is a 31.5 point pace in 82 games. Enforcer Ryan Lomberg has played in 11 games over the last two seasons, with 32 penalty minutes. Byron Froese didn't play in the NHL last year, but he had 11 points in 48 games for Montreal in 2017-18. Brandon Davidson was signed after a bad run in Chicago last year. He has 162 games of experience over five seasons. Jon Gillies didn't play in the NHL last year, and was passed over by Rittich. He has a .903 SV% and 2.71 GAA in 12 career NHL games.

           Up and Coming
Dillon Dube is NHL ready. The question is whether he'll make the team. He had just five points in 25 NHL games last year, but he scored 15 goals with 39 points in 37 AHL games. Juuso Valimaki, the 16th overall pick in 2017, was primed for a starting role this year, but he tore his ACL earlier this month, which has him out indefinitely.

            2019 draft class

Round 1, 26th overall: Jakob Pelletier
Round 3, 88th overall: Ilya Nikolaev
Round 4, 116th overall: Lucas Feuk
Round 5, 150th overall: Josh Nodler
Round 7, 214th overall: Dustin Wolf

            Projection lineup
Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Elias Lindholm
Matthew Tkachuk - Mikael Backlund - Mikael Backlund
Milan Lucic - Mark Jankowski - Sam Bennett
Andrew Mangiapane - Derek Ryan - Austin Czarnik
Extras: Dillon Dube, Alan Quine

             Mark Giordano - Rasmus Andersson
             Noah Hanifin - Travis Hamonic
             Oscar Kylington - TJ Brodie
Extras: Brandon Davidson

                         David Rittich
                         Cam Talbot
Extras: Jon Gillies
              Prediction
The Flames are a good team, but have shown in their past to be totally different year to year, but in a weak Pacific Division, the Flames are one of the better teams. I predict they'll finish second in the Pacific Divsion, and win one playoff round in 2019-20.

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