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M&G Roundtable: Calgary Flames Season Preview

Our writers get together for our second roundtable of 2016-17

Our round table series continues here at Matchsticks and Gasoline as the dawn of the new NHL season is finally among us. This is the 2nd installment in the series after we premiered it prior to training camps in early September.

Today, we’ll be discussing predictions and projections for the Flames as the 2016-17 campaign kicks off. As always, we’d love to here your opinions and feel free to answer any of these questions on our platforms!

1. Let’s keep things simple and sweet to start off. What is your prediction for the Flames’ record this season? Where will they finish in the division? Will they make the playoffs? Who is your Stanley Cup favorite (besides the Flames of course)?

2016-17 M&G Staff Predictions
Writer Flames Record Flames Division Finish Will Calgary Make The Playoffs? Stanley Cup Favorite
Sam 45-31-6 (96 pts) 3rd in Pacific Yes Tampa Bay
Jason 48-30-4 (100 pts) 2nd in Pacific Yes Washington
Michael 42-34-6 (90 pts) 4th in Pacific Yes Tampa Bay
Matthew 43-30-9 (95 pts) 3rd in Pacific Yes San Jose/
Pittsburgh
Mark 44-32-6 (94 points) 3rd in Pacific Yes Pittsburgh

2. How many games will Brian Elliott play this season, and what will the impact be of the new goaltending tandem that the Flames acquired in the offseason?

MarkParkinson14: I would expect Elliott to play around 50-60 games this season. That’ll be near his heaviest work load when he had 2 seasons in Ottawa where he played 55 games. Last season Elliott split time in St. Louis and appeared in 42 games for the Blues. Calgary didn’t go out and get Elliott for him to be a 1A. They went and got him to be the #1 goaltender on the team and his preseason has shown why he should be on top. Chad Johnson has only played more than 30 games once in his career and that was last season in Buffalo. Johnson has struggled a bit in the preseason and a work load of around 20-30 games should be good for him. I don’t see Elliott playing in 70+ games like Miikka Kiprusoff did, but anywhere from 50-60 games should be fine for Elliott, barring injury.

BizzleJ: I think Els will play in about 65 games and will reach 40 wins. The impact should be huge however we have got some great goalies in the past that turned out to be busts.

Samwell9: Who knows how it will play out, but I just feel like it will be a good season from Elliott if he started about 60 games. Yeah, he has never really been the guy since much earlier in his career with Ottawa, with the most starts in a season since then being 46. But it is not like the guy is not capable of doing such a thing. He has been paired with Jake Allen for the last few years and Allen is a good goaltender, it is kind of like how the Hiller and Ramo situation was hoped to have worked, except that Allen and Elliott performed quite well. When Elliott was the guy in the playoffs last year, he played really well and I think he will do just fine with a starters workload. All that being said, Chad Johnson is a very solid backup goaltender to have and I am not anticipating that we will have to worry about the game being lost before it starts when Johnson is in goal. Elliott about 60, Johnson about 20, I think that would be a nice split that hopefully can be conducive to great seasons from both guys.

FlamesMM: Elliott has a lot to prove this season after finally being granted a #1 job. With his contract expiring at the end of this season, he could finally hit a large payday with another solid campaign. The Flames aren’t going to be in a position to toy around this season and start Chad Johnson as they’ll be likely be battling for a wild card spot in the playoffs. That’s why I could see Elliott playing somewhere between 58-63 games this year, with Johnson getting around 20. What the Flames sorely lacked last season was a goaltender that could steal them games, and Elliott is the goaltender that can do that, and even Johnson to an extent. If they can even steal the Flames 5 or 6 games this year, that’s 10 more points than last season, where we missed the playoffs by 10 points.

3. Which Flames players need to have solid seasons in 2016-17? Who will be the most improved player from last year?

MarkParkinson14: For who needs to have a good season, I have to go with Matt Stajan. The last 2 seasons have been brutal for Stajan. He’s had back to back 17 point seasons, which is terrible based on his contract. Stajan is on the books until the end of 2017-18 to the tune of $3.5 million dollars a season. His numbers don’t justify his contract and he’s already been bypassed by Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund as the team’s top centres and is in danger of being passed by Sam Bennett. All too often when watching a Flames game I say “did Stajan even play tonight?” He’s become invisible on the ice for the most part and if the Flames can find a partner near the trade deadline, they should really consider moving him. At 32, he’s not getting any younger or cheaper.

Most improved? I’d say Jyrki Jokipakka and only from the standpoint that he was a trade deadline acquisition. I’m looking forward to a full season of Jokipakka in Calgary and if his WCOH showing is any indication, he should “improve” in 2016-17. When Jokipakka was on the ice as part of the PK, 2 goals were scored and 12 goals were scored at even strength, setting his +/- at 4 for his short stint in Calgary last season. And in an odd coincidence, he had 66 blocked shots between Dallas and Calgary in 2015-16, which was the exact same number of shots he blocked in 2014-15 with Dallas in 51 games. In regards to scoring, there is reason for optimism around his offensive numbers. In 40 games with Dallas last season he had 6 points (2 goal, 4 assists) and he matched that 6 point output (all assists) in a little less than half the games, 18, with the Flames.

BizzleJ: Dougie Hamilton and Sam Bennett need to have a good season. They were alright last season but need to be solid if the Flames want to make the playoffs. I think Stajan is going to pick up his game and be the most improved player this season.

Samwell9: Flames that could definitely do with having better seasons than last year: Wideman, Stajan, Bouma and Ferland (in terms of counting stats). But, if I am looking at a guy on the roster whose career really needs a solid season, it would have to be Alex Chiasson. The guy had a brutal run in Ottawa last year with just 14 points in 77 games and rough possession numbers. He did not really look all that impressive in exhibition play either. While he is only 26, this season could be his last shot at proving he is a sufficient NHL player. He may get an opportunity at some point to play with Monahan and Gaudreau, that is as good a shot as he is going to get.

Sam Bennett will absolutely be the most improved Flame this year. Not to say he was bad last year, but through exhibition play he looked like he was on a different level than last year. Faster, stronger, more confident in making plays. Paired with the notion that Gulutzan is fully aware of what Bennett can do and is willing to give Bennett the opportunity to succeed and grow, I think Bennett is in for a big season. Next summer is Sam Bennett contract watch...

FlamesMM: In terms of players who need to have a solid season this year, the names already mentioned jump into mind such as Stajan, Wideman, Ferland, etc. I’m thinking though that there is a lot of pressure on Brian Elliott to finally prove to the NHL that he deserves a permanent #1 position. For the first time in his career he’s set up to the #1 goaltender, no questions asked. It’s up to him to now run with the ball and prove that over a 60+ game season.

In terms of most improved player, I got beaten to the punch with Jokipakka so I’m going to change things up and go with Dougie Hamilton continuing to improve after having a very good second half of the season last season. There will be a lot more pressure on him to perform as he’ll likely be coupled with Jokipakka on the second pairing, meaning the young duo could dictate whether this season is a boom or a bust for Calgary in my opinion.

4. What is your projection for Matthew Tkachuk in 2016-17?

MarkParkinson14: Matthew Tkachuk is making things very interesting for Flames management. He’s already got a spot with Calgary to begin the season, but for how long? The Flames and Tkachuk only have 2 options: Calgary or back to Juniors. It’s basically a wait and see for now. He’s had a fantastic preseason and he’s jelled really well with Sam Bennett and Troy Brouwer, so his 9 games will be heavily scrutinized. The Flames are still in a rebuild and honestly, if he shows well in the 9 games, Calgary should keep him up and get him ice time. As for scoring, that’s harder to predict. His Juniors #’s were off the charts, but those won’t translate to the NHL. Sean Monahan started young and in his first full year in Calgary was a 34 point player. Granted they play different positions, but if Tkachuk can put up 20-25 points I think you could consider that a successful first full season.

Samwell9: Tkachuk is a really intriguing player and I am very excited he is a part of the Flames after what I have seen from him since he was drafted. I could not say if he would be best served by another year in junior, but I can say that he kept up just fine with Bennett and Brouwer in preseason and is already a better option than a handful of other forwards that will be in the opening night line up. Whether that means it is best for him to stay up or not, I guess we will see how his first few games go. Personally, I feel like he will stick around but either way is very possible at this point. If he stays around, he will get ice time and powerplay time with skilled players, I think he would be good to score in the mid-thirty range of points.

FlamesMM: There’s many reasons to be excited about what we’ve seen from Matthew Tkachuk so far. He brings to the table what the Flames have desperately needed in a power forward that can get under other team’s skins. There’s 3 real reasons in my mind that he’ll stay on the team. 1. He occupies a niche on the team as a scoring power forward, but also as a solid 2nd line LW option behind Johnny. 2. His immediate chemistry with Bennett and Brouwer gives the Flames two high powered young lines. 3. I’m not sure sending him back to the OHL where he had 147pts in 75 games as an 18 year old would necessarily benefit him in the long run. I think he has the skillset and the surrounding cast to be productive at the NHL level right now, and will do so this year.

5. After a strong preseason showing, how do you see Micheal Ferland’s season going?

MarkParkinson14: I feel like this is an important season for Ferland. Every team needs a physical player like Ferland, but I feel like he offers so much more than just brute strength. He’s surprisingly fast on his feet and he has a better than average shot. Last season Ferland was snake bitten for the better part of the 71 games he appeared in. Micheal Ferland fired 122 shots on net over that time span, yet only scored 4 goals. He did manage to have an assist on 14 Flames goals, but his offensive output last season was disappointing. With that said, I don’t expect 25-30 goals from him and him to be a top 6 player. Ferland is a 3rd or 4th liner who, if he can pump in 10-15 goals and still manage to keep his physical game intact, he should be fine.

BizzleJ: I think Ferland will have a great season. He isn't going to be a superstar by any means but will do his job throwing his body around and making the occasional play.

Samwell9: I really like Micheal Ferland and he has the ability to play a very important role with this team. He has all the tools to be a player that can do a bit of everything, he just to put it together. Obviously, that series against the Canucks was an anomaly and it is unreasonable to expect a guy to play like that every night, but he is a physically imposing player, something the Flames do not have a ton of in their forward group. Ferland is more than just a physical player though, he does have a lot of skill. He posted big numbers in junior, showed a scoring touch in the AHL and last season we saw him do tons of great things just did not pay off as much as it should have. With Gaudreau being gone all preseason and Monahan missing all but one game, we have not really had a clear picture of how the forward lines might shake out. However, I hope to see Ferland with Monahan and Gaudreau. He has the potential to be the perfect complement to that line and unless he is cursed, he should be scoring with a lot more regularity this season.

FlamesMM: I’ve really liked the progression in play from Ferland so far this preseason. He’s really starting to look like a player that isn’t focused on just clobbering other guys, but it’s still a solid aspect of his game. I think under Glen Gulutzan, Ferland is focusing on his foot speed and puck movement rather than the physical aspect of the game. Ferland does have a history of scoring back in junior and I think this could be the year which he truly parlays that into the NHL. I could even see Ferland getting some time and making an impact on the top line playing right wing with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan depending on how the experimenting goes with other players.

Bonus: Player Point Projections for 2016-17

2016-17 Player Points Predictions
Staff Johnny Gaudreau Sean Monahan Sam Bennett Mikael Backlund Troy Brouwer Mark Giordano Dougie Hamilton Matthew Tkachuk
Sam 35 G
45 A
80 P
33 G
35 A
68 P
24 G
31 A
55 P
19 G
25 A
44 P
17 G
21 A
38 P
13 G
35 A
48 P
16 G
31 A
47 P
17 G
18 A
35 P
Michael 36 G
46 A
82 P
33 G
37 A
70 P
21 G
27 A
48 P
18 G
31 A
49 P
20 G
22 A
42 P
19 G
37 A
56 P
14 G
29 A
43 P
14 G
25 A
39 P
Matthew 31 G
50 A
81 P
25 G
40 A
55 P
15 G
25 A
40 P
14 G
25 A
39 P
18 G
18 A
36 P
15 G
40 A
55 P
10 G
30 A
40 P
N/A
Jason 39 G
47 A
86 P
33 G
39 A
72 P
26 G
32 A
58 P
27 G
32 A
59 P
22 G
23 A
45 P
27 G
41 A
68 P
21 G
33 A
54 P
25 G
29 A
54 P
Mark 37 G
47 A
84 P
31 G
35 A
66 P
20 G
30 A
50 P

20 G
26 A
46 P

16 G
19 A
35 P
17 G
35 A
52 P
16 G
29 A
45 P
17 G
14 A
31 P

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