The Flames are a very difficult group to judge heading into the 2018-19 season. For about 3⁄4 of the 2017-18 season, the Flames were in the playoff picture but hit that wall late in the season and ended up 12 points out. Things should be expected to turn around this year, and here are five outlandish and five reasonable predictions for 2018-19.
Outlandish #1: The Flames Win the Pacific Division
With a division that is looking rather weak this season, the Flames should be in a good spot to make a run at the divisional crown. The Hockey News actually predicted the Flames to win the division this year and to make the Western Conference Finals, I’m not going to go quite that far with it, but the Flames should be a pretty good team. I’ve also seen other publications that have them as low as 7th. They’ll have a shot, that’s for sure.
Reasonable #1: The Flames Make the Playoffs
On February 25 or 63 games into 2017-18, the Flames were 7th in the West with 73 points, and had they gone even just .500 the rest of the way, they would’ve been right around the cutoff for the playoffs. This team should be in the playoff conversation without a doubt next season.
Outlandish #2: Johnny Gaudreau Finishes Top 3 in League Scoring
A bit of a stretch? Yeah, but I think he does have the potential to crack the Top 10, and even the Top 5 next season. People forget that for most of the season Gaudreau was a Top 5 scorer in the NHL, even reaching #2 for a period of time. Again, on that February 25 mark, he was 4th with 73 points and on pace for 95 points. With either James Neal or Elias Lindholm complementing him and Sean Monahan, he could crack 90 or even come close to 100 points this year.
Reasonable #2: The Flames will be Much More Disciplined
When Bill Peters was the head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes, the team took the least minor penalties in the league in all four seasons he was there. Over the last two years, the Flames had the most minor penalties in the league with 627, while Carolina was 31st with 414. That’s 426 less minutes of minor penalties taken by Carolina. Just to compare, before Peters went to Carolina, the Hurricanes were middle of the pack in terms of penalties taken, so it seems related to him.
Outlandish #3: Sam Bennett is Traded
If the Flames are looking like a team that could make noise in the playoffs, Bennett could be intriguing trade piece as “hockey people” still think he has a lot more value as a #4 overall pick from over four years ago. Now if he’s having a really good year, the Flames wouldn’t trade him, but if he’s middling again as a pending RFA, he could be a good young piece to move for a deadline rental if the Flames want to retain their picks.
Reasonable #3: The Flames Home Record Improves Significantly
The only teams with less points than the Flames on home ice last year were the Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes. Not exactly elite company. Calgary could just never get things going at the Saddledome and it looked like it became a mental thing at one point. The Flames had only 17 wins at home compared to 24 the previous year. If the Flames can bring their home record just back to league average, that’s an additional 8-10 points right there.
Outlandish #4: Juuso Valimaki Makes the Flames Out of Training Camp
It’s not so much outlandish as it is unneeded. Brett Kulak is a fine 6th defenseman, and if it comes down to Valimaki playing with Stone on the third pairing or getting top minutes in Stockton all year, I’d take the Stockton route. Valimaki could very well give the Flames no option other than keeping him in the NHL with a strong camp, but having him in the AHL is fine too. It is worth noting that his contract will slide back a year if he plays less than 9 NHL games in 2018-19, so that may be as good of a reason as any to keep him in Stockton.
Reasonable #4: The Powerplay is Significantly Better
No Dave Cameron. No Brouwerplay. Lock it in.
Outlandish #5: Austin Czarnik Scores 45 Points
Based on what’s been said of Czarnik thus far, he could be poised to really pop this year for the Flames. With at least 24 teams in the league having pursued him, he could be a really good addition to the Flames bottom six. Mark Jankowski will be poised to take a step forward as a sophomore, and having Czarnik with him could be a really good match. While 45 may be stretching it, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Czarnik get 10-15 goals and 20-25 assists or somewhere in that area.
Reasonable #5: Sean Monahan Sets Career Highs Again
Sean Monahan was on a 35 goal pace last season despite having at least three significant injuries that he was playing through for most of the season. Like Gaudreau, he’ll benefit with a better RW in Lindholm or Neal, along with an improved powerplay, and being 100% healthy, expect Monahan’s numbers to improve again. 40 goals may not be out of the realm of possibility for him.
What are your wild and reasonable predictions for this year? Leave them in one of our comments sections!