While they certainly have the makings of a contender, the Flames will be hard-pressed to surpass last year’s win total. Led by a dynamic group of young superstars, Calgary produced over 3.5 goals per game last season. The top-heavy nature of their offense was ultimately their downfall. Calgary had no plan B when their stars went cold in round one against the Avalanche, as Nathan MacKinnon and company upset the Flames in five games.
As far as contenders go, The Flames had what must be considered an underwhelming off-season. Their key additions include:
- Cam Talbot (UFA): Signed a one-year, $2.75M contract.
- Milan Lucic (Trade): Acquired for James Neal and a 2020 third-round pick
Calgary also re-signed a pair of key pending free agents:
- David Rittich (RFA): Signed a two-year, $2.75M AAV extension.
- Sam Bennett (RFA): Signed a two-year, $2.55M AAV extension.
The core of this contender remains intact, but Calgary might regret not surrounding Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan with more help in the off-season. Depth is clearly the biggest issue with this roster, yet Calgary was surprisingly stagnant when it came to adding role players. By going this route, the Flames are placing a hefty wager on the continued development of internal players like Bennett, Mark Jankowksi, and Andrew Mangiapane.
While lines three and four offer nothing to get excited about, there’s every reason to believe that this top-6 can carry Calgary to another Pacific Division title. Gaudreau, Monahan, and Elias Lindholm were as productive as any line in the league last season. Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk are such a force together at 5v5 that Calgary should be able to get away with squeezing another second-line season out of Michael Frolik. The offensive production should remain steady for Calgary, but the nature of their roster means they’re only one key injury away from a derailed season.
Johnny Gaudreau (LW)
- — Gaudreau is coming off a career-year in which he posted 36 goals and 63 assists across a full 82 games. He finished seventh in the league with 99 points and has a great shot at topping 100 points for the first time in 2019-20. He was fortunate to register a 14.7 shooting percentage and an 11.5 on-ice SH%, but any regression there could be offset by a spike in power-play production. Gaudreau finished the year tied for 25th with 27 power-play points. He is a great piece to build a fantasy team around if you’re drafting towards the end of round one.
Sean Monahan (C)
- — Monahan seemingly realized his potential last season, potting a career-high 34 goals to go along with 48 assists in 78 games. Monahan has been a sharpshooter his whole career, but he’ll be hard-pressed to break 40 goals without improving on last year’s career-high of 211 shots. Still, like Gaudreau, Monahan’s 5v5 production makes him a very safe mid-round pick, and the underwhelming power-play production to date gives him considerable upside.
Matthew Tkachuk (LW)
- — Tkachuk broke out for 34 goals and 43 assists last season while playing less than 18 minutes a night. Unfortunately for Tkachuk, his production will always be limited so long as he’s behind Gaudreau on the depth chart. His capped role and last year’s 16.4 SH% mean there’s a lot of risk surrounding this consensus top-60 pick.
Elias Lindholm (RW)
- — Lindholm surpassed everyone’s wildest expectations after coming over in the Dougie Hamilton trade last offseason. He proved to be a great fit alongside Monahan and Gaudreau on the top line, registering 27 goals and 51 assists in 81 games. Of course, Lindholm was very much a passenger on that top line, and there’s always risk in drafting a player whose core value is driven by their linemates. A whopping 25 of Lindholm’s 51 apples were secondary helpers, suggesting he’ll have a hard time matching last season’s output. Buyer beware.
Mikael Backlund (C)
- — Backlund is a force at 5v5 and one of the best two-way centres in the game, but that doesn’t always translate to fantasy. He should continue to be a great possession driver at even strength, but his shot leaves a lot to be desired (career 9.1 SH%), and the opportunity simply isn’t there. He’s nothing more than a late-round flier in the deepest of leagues.
The defense should continue to be a strength for Calgary in the 2019-20 season. Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie make for one of the best defensive pairings in the NHL. Father time is coming for both of them, but their success last year suggests they’ve still got a couple of elite seasons left in the tank. Calgary does have a couple of serviceable blue-liners on the other side of the aging curve. Noah Hanifin has developed into a respectable top-four defender and Rasmus Andersson could end up challenging Travis Hamonic and even Brodie for ice time before too long.
Mark Giordano (D)
- — Giordano did have a career year last season, and it’s hard to see him replicating that success. His 11.3 on-ice SH% suggests last year’s assist total of 57 is likely to take a hit, but he remains a reliable goal-scorer on the backend. His impressive shot totals and consistently high SH% make him a legitimate 20-goal threat. Like the Flames’ other stars, Gio’s regression could be mitigated if Calgary’s power-play takes a step forward this season.
Noah Hanifin (D)
- — Hanifin continues to make strides as an NHL defender, but his offensive upside remains to be seen. He saw his ice time jump nearly two minutes a game last season, yet his 116 shots were 49 less than the year before. He’s unlikely to be relevant in standard leagues so long as he’s still jockeying with Brodie and Andersson for power-play time.
After a failed stint in Philadelphia, Talbot returns to Alberta to serve as Rittich’s direct competition. Coming off the worst season of his career, Talbot is a bit of a reclamation project. He’ll enter camp sitting firmly behind Rittich on the depth chart but should see more work than the average backup. Rittich started just 42 games last season and struggled with consistency at times.
David Rittich (G)
- — Rittich will enter the season as the incumbent starter but his job is anything but secure. After coming out of the gates red-hot, Rittich struggled throughout the second half of the season. The 27-year-old Czech native posted a dreadful .902 SV% from January 1 onward. There are red flags, but you could be getting tremendous value on draft day if Rittich can run away with the starting job.
Cam Talbot (G)
- — Talbot’s production has taken a nosedive since registering at least a .917 SV% in each of his first four seasons. The optimist will say Talbot has never had a team this good in front of him, and they’re probably right. Calgary was one of the best 5v5 teams in the league last season and that should continue into 2019-20. Still, it’s hard to get excited about a 32-year-old goalie who’s three years removed from his last decent performance.
Projected Scoring Leaders
|S. Monahan (32)||J. Gaudreau (58)||J. Gaudreau (89)||S. Monahan (10)||J. Gaudreau (24)|
|J. Gaudreau (31)||S. Monahan (42)||S. Monahan (74)||M. Tkachuk (9)||M. Tkachuk (21)|
|M. Tkachuk (28)||E. Lindholm (42)||M. Tkachuk (68)||E. Lindholm (6)||S. Monahan (20)|
Flames in the DFO Top 300
- 13 — Johnny Gaudreau (LW)
- 44 — Sean Monahan (C)
- 58 — Matthew Tkachuk (LW)
- 59 — Mark Giordano (D)
- 103 — Elias Lindholm (C/RW)
- 187 — David Rittich (G)
- 188 — Cam Talbot (G)
- 218 — Mikael Backlund (C)
- 277 — Noah Hanifin (D)
|2||CALGARY FLAMES||44-29-9||97 PTS|
|4||ARIZONA COYOTES||39-32-11||89 PTS|
|7||ANAHEIM DUCKS||36-36-10||82 PTS|
The Flames will no doubt be in contention for another Pacific Division crown, but the competition is steep. Calgary has the foundation of a contender, but they failed to address their lack of depth in the offseason. They are one of the best even-strength teams in hockey, but their special teams and goaltending pale in comparison to fellow Stanley Cup contenders.