Writers Roundtable: Season Preview
It’s about time! The 2019-20 season is upon us and because we know you all as readers, we know you want our in-depth thoughts and analysis regarding what to expect from the Flames. Well fear not M&G reader because we have put our heads together and come up with all the pertinent questions and answers about your 2019-20 Calgary Flames.
1) Can Calgary’s big guns keep up the pace or put up the numbers they compiled last year?
MarkParkinson14: Trying to keep up with the numbers they put up last season will be tough, but certain players should be able to keep pace. Elias Lindholm had a career year, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can approach his production from last season. I fully expect Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk to be on par....for the most part with last year’s phenomenal numbers. The wild card for me is Mark Giordano. Can he approach his Norris Trophy season of 2018-19 or is being another year older a hindrance to approaching those numbers? I’ll take the bait and say it’s going to be another stellar season for the Flames captain, but maybe not as ridiculous as last season was.
Madeline Campbell: Just looking at how stellar last season was for this group, it would be pretty easy to expect a bit of regression. But their underlying numbers were good, and I expect them to be good again this season, so if the process remains sound, I don’t expect a ton of dropoff. Like Mark said, if it’s going to be anyone, I expect it to be Giordano (the aging curve is undefeated, after all). They might not hit quite the same level as they did last season, but I can’t imagine all of the magic is gone.
MGMacGillivray: This is a very interesting discussion because there has to be some expectation for regression, but outside of Mark Giordano these are all young players who are still improving. When you look at the shooting percentages of Gaudreau, Monahan, Tkachuk, and Lindholm (14.7%, 16.1%, 16.4%, 14.8% respectively) nothing really screams unsustainable. The Flames have a deep team and a fantastic top powerplay unit, which leads me to believe there won’t be much regression for those top forwards. Giordano? Maybe there will be some, but we’ve doubted him and his age before, and look how that turned out.
2) Piggy backing on that question, will Johnny Gaudreau reach 100 points this season?
MarkParkinson14: Why not? Let’s go with yes. Gaudreau could easily reach that magic number this season if he continues to play the way he did last year. He had two three game stretches and one four game run where he didn’t have a point last season, so all it takes is a minor tweak and he collects one point and he’s there. Who’s to say that can’t happen again this season?
Madeline Campbell: I think as long as he stays healthy [furiously knocking on wood], I don’t see why not. Like I said in the last section, as long as the team keeps driving play (and that first power play unit continues to produce), that keeps Gaudreau in the best position to succeed. If he falls a little short, I wouldn’t be surprised, but I certainly think he has it in him to hit 100.
MGMacGIllivray: I don’t really see a reason why he couldn’t. Entering the second year on the Bill Peters system and with their first powerplay unit clicking like it was last year, Gaudreau should come very close to 100 points again this season and surpass it with a bit of luck.
3) Are the Flames any better in net this season? How do you see the starts being split this year?
MarkParkinson14: Yes....and no. I think they are light years better with David Rittich as their #1, whether the Flames will admit it or not. Where they may not be as good and this is only base don the preseason and last year is in the backup role. Rittich at times was Mike Smith’s backup and he was his solid self. This year Calgary is banking on former Oiler Cam Talbot to man the crease when Rittich needs a day off. Talbot didn’t exactly inspire a ton of confidence, but if he regain his 2016-17 form where he had a .919 Save% and a 2.39 GAA with Edmonton the Flames should be fine. I’d expect Rittich to make the jump this year and grab around 60-65% of the starts. He’s earned it, so make it so.
Madeline Campbell: My gut says marginally better, and them reaching anything beyond that is contingent on Rittich replicating his results from last season. Talbot is fine, I think he’s better than Mike Smith, and I expect that he’ll get somewhere around 40 percent of the starts. Because we love true-ish tandems. I expect the goaltending to be fine, and that’s just about all I need. If the defense can continue to do well at preventing a lot of shots from getting through, that makes the goalies’ jobs easier. They don’t need to be lights out, just fine.
MGMacGillivray: The Flames have a roster that is good enough to succeed with only average goaltending. They just need a tandem that can steady the ship and play consistent hockey all year round. I think Rittich and Talbot are a good match for each other, and should provide a calming presence in the crease. Gone now are the days of “Oh my god Smitty has the puck, don’t give it away!”. If Rittich can bring his first half form from last year, Calgary should be in a great position.
4) Will they make the playoffs and if not, why?
MarkParkinson14: Yes and only because they have to. This team has too much talent to not make the playoffs and anything less than spring hockey is a disappointment. The Flames didn’t make a real off season splash, but they hopefully have learned from their mistakes at the trade deadline and if they need a piece they go get it. Calgary’s embarrassing first round exit to the Colorado Avalanche last season should be enough of a motivating factor to make a continued push. You can’t go from the second best team overall during the regular season to missing the playoffs the following year....right? Right? The only way I see them not making the playoffs is if something catastrophic happens to one or two of their best players. So put me down for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Madeline Campbell: I think that’s a pretty safe bet. I think the mixes for division winner and the wildcard spots in the West are going to be more interesting, but I think the Flames have more than enough talent to, at the very least, get back into the playoffs. The bottom of the division I think is still going to be a mess, and that certainly helps them out. But I think they’ll be good enough to get in on their own merits.
MGMacGillivray: Anything short of the playoffs and even short of home ice in Round 1 in my opinion could be considered a disappointment. This team is simply too talented and well constructed to fail without some serious things going wrong. This team will now start to be judged not just for regular season success, but what happens after Game 82.
5) (This is our favorite) How many times will we go back and forth on whether Milan Lucic is good or bad?
MarkParkinson14: I’ll set the over/under at 2,187 and I’ll take the over. The Lucic trade certainly turned some heads, but he does bring some added toughness to the Flames, which they desperately need. Lucic looked slow and more like a pylon with skates last year in Edmonton, but maybe playing for Edmonton’s biggest rival will spark him to show he has something left. Lucic looked......good (?) this preseason and dare I say engaged? He’s only two seasons removed from a 50 point season with the Boston Bruins, so there is hope-ish. Nah, he sucks. Wait, no he’s good. No, he sucks. No he’s going to be fine. And we’re off!!!!
Madeline Campbell: Infinitely, until the sun inevitably burns out and consumes us all. Eat at Arby’s.
MGMacGillivray: Individually I went back and forth at least two dozen times in the preseason alone. He looks to have a role on PP2 carved out, and if he can just be okay at even strength then I think he fills enough of a role on the team. His contract is going to suck no matter what, but at the end of the day, he just needs to fill a role on the team that wasn’t filled before. And it won’t take much to be better than James Neal last year.