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Calgary Flames 2021 Eulogy: Another Year, Another Similar Result

Mediocre.....it’s FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANTASTIC!

Vancouver Canucks v Calgary Flames Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images

The 2021 Calgary Flames season has finally come to an end and after a pandemic and an abbreviated season in 2019-20 I never thought I’d be happy to see a season end. But after the events of this season, I would have been fine with the Flames and Canucks just forfeiting those final four games and putting everyone out of their misery.

The Flames finished with a record of 26-27-3, good for 55 points and sole possession of 5th place in the North Division. Not great, not bad, but considering only four teams from the North made the playoffs, this season should be considered a failure. With all of the talent, off-season acquisitions and even a coaching change that seemed like it was going to propel the Flames to a playoff spot, it all fell apart and left the Flames in their usual rut: not good enough to be good, not bad enough to be bad. Calgary now sits with the first 4th worst lottery odds in the NHL Entry Draft and will most likely pick somewhere in the mid teens, aka the dead zone of the draft. So....the usual.

Calgary’s season of promise derailed when Geoff Ward couldn’t get any kind of traction with this group and even the much heralded return of Darryl Sutter only gave a “decent” return on that investment. The Flames underachieved for 56 games and now we’re left to wonder where they go from here?

As a group the Flames stats wise were about what you would expect: meh. Calgary would finish with 155 goals, good for 19th overall. They gave up 160 goals, which was 16th worst in the league for 2021. The power play was extremely lackluster at 18.3% (21st) and the penalty kill sat in the middle of the pack at 15th overall at 80.2%. I won’t throw anymore stats at you, but you can probably guess where they finished in most categories based on what’s already been listed.

This is a basic snapshot of what the 2021 Calgary Flames season looked like and it’s nothing to write home about. Once again the core group of the Flames failed to deliver a playoff appearance, never mind a deep run and changes clearly need to be made. Darryl Sutter isn’t going anywhere (?) for the next two seasons so the Flames need to figure out what needs to be added and what needs to be jettisoned to make this worth everyone’s time.

Here’s what worked and what didn’t work as we wrap up our coverage of the 2021 Calgary Flames season.

What Worked

Andrew Mangiapane

Mangiapane continued to grow as a player and show the Flames they have something they can rely on. The young forward took a huge step forward in 2021, scoring 18 goals and collecting 14 assists with that 32 points being good for 5th overall on the Flames squad. It also tied his career high point total and he achieved that in 12 less games than last year, so you should be excited to see him play a full season come next year. He’s a player Calgary can count on night in and night out. Even if you take away the stats, Mangiapane’s work ethic is something more Calgary players should be paying attention to. You never get anything other than his best and his best is still to come.

Jacob Markstrom

Yeah, the final numbers weren’t spectacular, but that also had a lot to do with the team in front of him. The Flames newest attempt at replacing Miikka Kiprusoff appears to be working. Markstrom finished with a 22-19-2 record, a 2.66 GAA and a .904 Save%. At one point Markstrom started 14 straight games after Calgary traded David Rittich and looked like the workhorse the Flames were hoping to get when they signed him for six years this past off-season. He would win 7 of his final 10 starts and in 43 appearances he only allowed more than four goals a total of five times.

Johnny Gaudreau/Elias Lindholm/Matthew Tkachuk

It took forever and a day, but Darryl Sutter finally threw his three best offensive weapons on a line together and it clicked immediately. Elias Lindholm was having a fine season, but Johnny Gaudreau seemed to be dragged down by his own personal anchor in Sean Monahan and Matthew Tkachuk was just, well, there. But once those three were placed together, everything seemed to come alive. Coincidence that those three finished in the top three in scoring on the team? I think not. In their final 10 games of the season Johnny Gaudreau had 15 points, Elias Lindholm had 7 points and Matthew Tkachuk had 13 points. Now imagine if that grouping had played together earlier in the season.

Chris Tanev/Noah Hanifin

You’re lying if you said you knew Chris Tanev was going to be that good for the Flames when they signed him. I think we all hoped he’d be good, but his play, paired with Noah Hanifin was a revelation this season. The two were absolutely Calgary’s best paring by far and Tanev helped Noah Hanifin reach that playing status we’ve all been hoping he would reach. Tanev had an astronomical +15 on the season and he blocked 107 shots. This should be the Flames top D pairing as they head into the 2021-22 season and a full 82 games of these two should be fun to watch.

What Didn’t Work

Mark Giordano

I HATE even having to write this, but the Flames Captain just didn’t get it done this season. The fall from Norris Trophy to this season was spectacular and sad all at the same time. Giordano looked like a player that should have walked away from the game two seasons ago as he looked very slow and a step behind from the drop of the puck. Even the on and off ice leadership seemed to be fading as well. Gio’s been a great captain and rock on the blueline for years and his story of getting to the NHL is fantastic as well, BUT it looks as if the end is near. Even in a shortened, 56 game season, Giordano put up some of the worst numbers of his career. His 26 points are the lowest of his career (non lockout) since the 2008-09 season where he collected 19 points in 58 games.

Early Season Matthew Tkachuk

A leopard can’t change it’s spots, yet that appears to be what the Flames tried to do to Matthew Tkachuk this season. After the puck flipping incident with Jake Muzzin, the Flames resident rabble-rouser went into a DEEP funk. There were ALLEGEDLY conversations about Tkachuk toning down his game and if that’s true and he did, shame on the Flames. The puck incident took place in January and in the 17 games following he had only 10 points and had only 17 PIM in that span as well. It’s like the fire had been put out and he was just.....there. We all know he took off towards the end of the season when he was placed with Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm, but for a good chunk of this season Matthew Tkachuk was a passenger at best.

Sean Monahan

Blame it on injuries, blame it on line mates, blame it on whatever, but Sean Monahan was a shell of the player he used to be this season. Monahan’s 28 points in 50 total games are the worst of his career and they were even a steep fall off from last year. In 20 more games Monahan produced 20 more points...and we all thought he was bad last year too. Ever since his 82 point season in 2018-19 his play has declined and he can’t seem to generate his own offence. He appears slow, disinterested and just not there at all. Sure, he’s played through some injuries, but even when he’s allegedly healthy he isn’t much of a force on the ice and it’s probably time the Flames and Monahan file for divorce.

These are just a few things that worked and didn’t work in 2021 for the Calgary Flames. Comment below if you agree, disagree or have some other ideas of things that passed or failed for the Flames this season.