The Flames missed the playoffs in 2015-16 and hired Glen Gulutzan as their new bench boss last season and he led them back to the postseason with a 44-33-4 record (94 points)—good for the first Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.
Following a first round playoff exit, changes were abound in Calgary this summer, but the core remains intact. The Flames made their first move prior to the NHL Draft, acquiring veteran goaltender Mike Smith from the Coyotes for Chad Johnson, Brandon Hickey and a conditional third-round pick. Shortly after the draft they made another big trade, acquiring defenseman Travis Hamonic from the Islanders. A couple days later, Eddie Lack was brought in from Carolina to be their No.2 netminder and Spencer Foo, the prized college free agent, signed on with Calgary.
Consistent goaltending has been an issue for the Flames over the years, which is what necessitated the deals for Smith and Lack. Over the last three seasons the Flames are tied for the ninth most goals against (2.80 GA/G). Smith has played behind poor Coyotes teams, who gave up the second most shots per game over the last three seasons—Smith had a .910 SV% during that stretch. He goes from a young inexperienced Arizona squad to playing behind one of the best bluelines in the NHL, which will almost certainly help improve his splits. Smith comes into 12th NHL season as a strong No.2 fantasy option and Lack will look to bounce back after a couple tough years in Carolina.
The Flames’ blueline added Hamonic to a group that already consisted of Dougie Hamilton, Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie and Michael Stone. Over the last four seasons, Hamonic has played big minutes (22:57 TOI/GM), but likely won’t be leaned on quite as heavily in Calgary. Hamilton and Giordano were one of the best pairs in the league last season and come into 2017-18 each with No.1 fantasy defenseman upside and could post a combined 100 points. Rounding out the Flames’ blueline will likely be Brett Kulak. The 23-year-old split his 2016-17 season between the NHL and AHL, posting 10 points (2G / 8A) in 22 games with Stockton and three assists in 21 NHL contests. Kulak has decent size and has shown some offensive ability at lower levels, but he probably won’t see enough meaningful minutes to be a real factor this season.
Up front, the Flames are led by Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. Gaudreau had a bit off a disappointing year last season, but remains one of the most gifted young wingers in the NHL and a point-per-game candidate in 2017-18, while Monahan will shoot for 30-30 yet again. Micheal Ferland carries some sleeper value as he is expected to open the season on the top line. The Flames’ success in 2016-17 can be attributed to their second line of Mikael Backlund, Matthew Tkachuk and Michael Frolik, who were one of the best possession lines in the league. They seem to have struck gold with Tkachuk, but Sam Bennett still hasn’t turned into the offensive force that they were expecting when he was selected No.4 overall in 2014. Bennett drew comparisons to Dougie Gilmore when he was coming out of the OHL, but he has just 63 points (31G / 32A) in 159 games so far. He remains just 21-years-old and has a lot of offensive talent and upside, which gives him some late round sleeper/breakout potential.
The Flames made some moves to improve their roster this summer, but it likely won’t be enough to tip the scales in their favour. The Pacific is very top heavy with Connor McDavid and the Oilers leading the way and followed closely by the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks. Calgary should be able to push for third in the division and could be a Wild Card team for the second year in a row.
Fantasy Rankings (Top 350)
- Johnny Gaudreau-#27 (#5 LW)
- Sean Monahan-#49 (#13 C)
- Dougie Hamilton-#54 (#11 D)
- Mark Giordano-#66 (#13 D)
- Mike Smith-#130 (#21 G)
- T.J. Brodie-#151 (#32 D)
- Matthew Tkachuk-#170 (#29 LW)
- Sam Bennett-#212 (#53 C)
- Mikael Backlund-#279 (#64 C)
- Michael Frolik-#287 (#53 RW)
- Troy Brouwer-#295 (#56 RW)
- Eddie Lack-#322 (#47 G)
- Travis Hamonic-#333 (#86 D)
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