There certainly has been a buzz surrounding the Flames as they’ve had a very busy offseason reshaping the team and coaching staff. When it’s all said and done, the Flames seem to feel that they’re closer to a Stanley Cup, but is that really the case? Here are five reasons to be optimistic and pessimistic heading into 2018-19.
Optimism #1: Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan
The Flames dynamic duo both had career highs in points last season and were really clicking with each other. Gaudreau finished with 84 points after a slow end to the season, but he was in the Top 5 and even Top 3 in league scoring for a good chunk of the year. Sean Monahan had 31 goals in 74 games while playing though multiple significant injuries. Should be a lot more good to come this year.
Pessimism #1: Mike Smith’s Health
We’ve got to bring this up right away. The Flames entire season is reliant on Mike Smith staying healthy. When he got hurt last year, the Flames fell off a cliff. All these other moves they made are great, but if he gets hurt again, that could be all she wrote.
Optimism #2: Actual Top 6 RW’s
While Micheal Ferland had his moments last year, especially in the first half, he and Michael Frolik were simply not the Top 6 right wings that a playoff calibre or contending team needs to have to be successful. James Neal and Elias Lindholm should provide a really good boost to Calgary’s offence this year.
Pessimism #2: You Traded Dougie Hamilton
I know you have to give up something good to get something good, but it hurts to trade away one of the Top 20 defensemen in the NHL. Obviously it’s come to light that there were some issues off-the-ice and potential personality clashes with the team which may have made this trade a necessity, but the Flames will still really miss his on-ice production.
Optimism #3: Forward Depth
The off-season additions of Derek Ryan and Austin Czarnik will go a long way in bolstering the Flames bottom six which was a chasm of ineffective play last year. Having Sam Bennett, Mark Jankowski, Austin Czarnik, Derek Ryan, Michael Frolik, and the likes of youngsters like Andrew Mangiapane, Spencer Foo, or Dillon Dube should really give the Flames four solid lines.
Pessimism #3: How Good is the Defence?
A lot seems to riding on T.J. Brodie bouncing back to his former self when he’s paired with Mark Giordano again. If he does return to form, great! If not, then the Flames are kind of screwed. Travis Hamonic had a disappointing year last year but will hopefully improve, Noah Hanifin will be adjusting to his new team, Brett Kulak and Mike Stone are a serviceable third pairing at best. Maybe Juuso Valimaki or Rasmus Andersson make the team but even then there will be a noticeable learning curve.
Optimism #4: A New Coaching Staff
Things clearly weren’t working under the leadership of Glen Gulutzan, so the Flames brought in Bill Peters to change things up. Peters has coached a strong possession and shot heavy style in Carolina that also focused on discipline. He did what he could with the Hurricanes who often spent well below the cap which limited his options.
Pessimism #4: A New Coaching Staff
As with any new coaching staff, there is always an adjustment period. Peters was unable to get his teams to the playoffs in Carolina which may be worrying to some fans. The Flames have gone through their fair share of coaches recently, can we be sure that this was the right pick?
Optimism #5: A Weak Pacific Division
Let’s not hide from it, the Pacific Division is probably the weakest division in the NHL. It doesn’t look poised to bounce out of that role this year with teams like Anaheim and Los Angeles getting older, while the Knights look like they may be primed to regress. Vancouver is a dumpster fire, Edmonton could be better but still don’t look great, and Arizona is Arizona. This could all benefit the Flames as they fight for a top three spot in the division. If they can’t get that in this division, then they’re a lot further away then we think.
Pessimism #5: It’s the Flames
We’ve been burned before by getting our hopes up. Hopefully this year it changes, but there have been some disappointing seasons in recent memory. The Flames look a lot better than they did last season, but it remains to be seen whether everyone will be able to gel together to create a contending team. Brad Treliving has gone all-in on this season, so we better hope he made the right moves.