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Traci’s Ten Takes, Welcome Back To Calgary Flames Hockey

It’s a new season and here are some of my thoughts before the season begins.

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Calgary Flames Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

After a long season of travel baseball (which isn’t quite over yet), I’m back! And I’m very happy to be here. Welcome back to my loyal readers and to anyone who might be stopping by for the first time. Get ready for another season of my opinions and hot takes that are questionable at best. I don’t talk a lot of hockey on social media anymore, but the amazing crew at M&G have decided to allow me to vent my perspectives here for another season and I’m very grateful to be back. With that being said, allow me to offer my first Ten Takes...

1. Mark Giordano

Entering the league in the 2005-2006 season as an undrafted player, Mark Giordano was a positive and influential part of the team throughout his 15 seasons with the Calgary Flames. In his first full season with the Flames, he amassed 15 points in 48 games on defense during the Jarome Iginla era. His best season was 2018-2019 when he garnered 74 points in 78 games as captain of the Flames. But his numbers are only one side of the Giordano story. In 2013, following the departure of Jarome Iginla, Giordano was named captain, a role he took very seriously as the subtle, welcoming face of the Flames. “Gio,” as he was affectionately known to fans, played on the edge, with a grit that proved successful for a defenseman. The opposition didn’t like playing against him because he pushed the defensive limits and typically got away with it. Giordano and his wife, Lauren, have been an influential couple and part of the positive culture in Calgary throughout the years as part of Habitat For Humanity and Team Giordano Project. Mark Giordano earned the J.R. McCaig Award in 2012 for his charitable contributions with HFH and he won the ESPN Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award in the 2016-2017 season for his contributions with the Team Giordano Project. He was the best possible candidate to fill the void that Jarome Iginla left when Iginla was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. And now, at the end of his tenure with the Calgary Flames, after being exposed in the expansion draft and taken by the Seattle Kraken, Mark Giordano has a fresh start with a fellow west-coast rival. One thing is for sure, like Iginla, Giordano and his family will most likely be welcomed back to the Saddledome with open arms from fans upon his return. Thank you, Captain Giordano, for everything you’ve done for the team and the city during your time in Calgary. And best of luck in your new adventure. I’m looking forward to your return to the Saddledome with your new team.

2. The Calgary Flames Next Captain

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Among the plethora of options for the Calgary Flames next captain, one player just seems to fit the culture of the Flames in my mind. Although there are a few good choices among Lucic, Lindholm, Gaudreau, Andersson, Tkachuk, and possibly even Markstrom, there is a more subtle player who thrives in the background as a solid player, a pillar of charity behind the scenes, and a quiet yet effective role model on a team of big personalities. And he’s been there long enough to have seen some things. He never seems to be part of the drama, instead he seems to quietly watch and learn from the sidelines as everything happens around him. He’s an alternate captain because he’s a positive and knowledgeable force on the team. He has also been a big part of the Iginla era and has learned from both Iginla and Giordano about how to lead a team efficiently and effectively. It’s his time. Joining the team for one game in the 2009-2010 season, Mikael Backlund joined the Flames permanently the following season when he logged 23 games and 10 points. His stats have been consistently better each season with his best season being 2016-2017 when he earned 53 points in 81 games. He’s a reliable forward that capitalizes on his opportunities and has followed in the footsteps of Iginla and Giordano in the community as a positive role model. Mikael and his wife, Frida, are part of many charitable organizations in Calgary and in Sweden, including the Special Olympics, Kid’s Cancer Care Foundation, ALS Alberta, and Ride For Hope, which led to Backlund winning a Humanitarian Award for his key roles in 2014. With 12 full seasons as part of the Flames organization, Mikael Backlund is my choice for the next captain of the team because he’s earned it just like all the other captains before him.

3. Blake Coleman

Coming off of back to back Stanley Cup wins with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Blake Coleman, a 29-year-old American player originally from Texas, will be making his debut season with the Calgary Flames this year. Signed as a free agent, Coleman will most likely have a top six role on the team unless something goes very wrong (knock on wood). On a team that’s known for setting up plays and making passes so much that they miss the shots on net, Coleman seems like the guy who will take that shot at every opportunity. If the Flames want to get shots on net, now is the time, just pass to Coleman. Whether or not he actually buries the puck remains to be seen, but it seems that the team’s chances will be better if the puck lands on Coleman’s stick. With 14 goals in 55 games last season with Tampa Bay, Coleman joins the ranks of Andrew Mangiapane (18 goals, 14 assists last season), Matthew Tkachuk (16 goals, 27 assists last season), and Dillon Dube (11 goals, 11 assists last season) so it seems he will fit in well among the forwards. But whether Coleman can solidify a permanent spot in the top six will take some time and some consistency among players like Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund, and Sean Monahan. And Coleman will have time to prove his worth as the Calgary Flames locked him up through the 2025-2026 season.

4. Expectations

Will this be another disappointing season or the beginning of something new? There are a lot of new faces in the organization this season, but none of them seem to be stand-outs...yet. At the rate of mediocrity that the Flames have been known for over the past few seasons, there were no acquisitions that made me believe that this year will be any different than the others. That being said, chemistry plays a big part on any team and maybe the player turnover will spark something new. The Flames are a hot/cold team - when they’re hot, they’re winning consistently and doing what we all expect of the skill and talent on the team. But when they’re cold, they go on losing streaks that would make the Oilers blush. I’m hoping that the new players can somehow spark something within the team that they’ve needed for a long time, but until I see that happen, I’m cautiously optimistic.

5. Johnny Gaudreau

First, congrats to groom Johnny Gaudreau and his bride Meredith on their special day. I wish you all the best in your future together! Second, it’s time. Gaudreau’s time is now. And the Calgary Flames need to step up to the plate and give Johnny whatever he wants in order to keep him in Calgary. I know he won’t be commenting about his possible re-signing in Calgary, but we all have thoughts. In the back of my mind, I don’t think the Flames have enough to offer and there will always be a small part of me that’s afraid Gaudreau will walk after this season. I really hope I’m proven wrong. Time will tell. No matter what happens, I will always be a Gaudreau fan and I’ll follow his career no matter which path he chooses to take. Third, I’m really tired of the narrative that Gaudreau’s value is based on his lack of production. This ridiculous narrative that Gaudreau’s value is sinking makes it seem as though he’s not an elite player who would be an asset on any team who is lucky enough to have him. This garbage needs to stop. Seriously. The only people who would think this are people who don’t watch Flames games on a consistent basis. It’s very clear that if his line mates aren’t producing, neither is he. This is a team sport and they win or lose together as a team. If a player doesn’t have anything to play with, then they’re production will go down. It’s that simple. And did his production really go down? With 49 points in 56 games, how is that a bad thing?! Granted, there are other factors that affect production, but just watch last season’s games and you’ll see Gaudreau only had one or two linemates (and never at the same time) who gave him opportunities to be better. The chain is only as strong as its weakest link. And Johnny Gaudreau has never been the weakest link. And I look forward to watching him blow his stats out of the water this season.

6. Matthew Tkachuk

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Calgary Flames Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

This is the make-it or break-it season for Matthew Tkachuk. To be clear, I am a huge fan of Chucky’s and I love his style of play, but he needs to step up to the plate (sorry, I just can’t seem to get my mind off baseball and into hockey season quite yet). I want to see a lot from Chucky this season. I want to see the gritty youth that we saw flashes of a couple seasons ago, I want to see more leadership skills taking hold of him, and I want to see his production and stats skyrocket. Because I know he’s capable. It’s a lot, but I think he’s one of the most capable players in the league right now to be able to show everything he’s got and more. And I don’t necessarily mean that his stats need to be better. He had 43 points in 56 games last season which is good. But I want to see more Tkachuk-style hockey being played. I want to see some leadership from him. And I want to see him do well for himself. Because he has the ability to be one of the best leaders that this team needs right now.

7. Glenn Gawdin

At the end of August it was announced that Glenn Gawdin re-signed with the Flames to a one-year, two-way, $750,000 contract. As the unofficial president of the Gawdin fanclub, I was happy to see it. But, again, like the season before, I’m just hoping they give Gawdin the opportunity he needs to show what he’s capable of. I don’t think the club has given Gawdin what he needs yet to show what he’s made of. Especially with the most recent short-term signings. One season, third line minutes, dependable linemates, and a permanent roster spot is what he will need to show his capabilities as a solid, productive forward. I haven’t yet seen the Gawdin I watched in the WHL with the Swift Current Broncos because he hasn’t had the opportunity to get comfortable on the team. Any team will be pleasantly surprised once Gawdin is given his chance at a permanent placement. Do I think the Flames will be the team to give him this chance? No. At this point, I think the one-year contract was a bandaid by the Flames to showcase Gawdin in order to possibly send him to a team that might utilize him better. As long as Glenn gets his chance in the NHL, maybe this is what he needs because the Flames have made it clear over the last couple of seasons that Gawdin will probably not get the opportunity he needs with this team. That’s a shame because I’ve seen the best of Gawdin and it’s amazing to watch.

8. Covid Protocol

The rules were handed down in August by CSEC (Calgary Sports and Entertainment) that all visitors and staff must be vaccinated to attend live events. This is not something I will debate online because, I feel, we all have our opinions and I will not try to sway others one way or another (I’ve tried and failed). Vaccinated people are not shy about telling you they’re vaccinated and I’m one of them. But that doesn’t mean I’ll be taking in a game at the Saddledome this season. When you’ve been through what I have, and when you’ve seen what I have through the pandemic, you’d probably understand my opinion a bit better. But I digress. Either way, I’m very happy that CSEC has brought in these restrictions and I hope it all goes smoothly to keep all my friends and family at the games safe and healthy. I really want to see some live hockey this year - I miss it. But I’m not willing to risk my health or the health of my family to watch some hockey when I can safely watch from home. There are other people in my home that need to be considered when I potentially expose myself to covid. This is the mental stress of covid - what I want vs what is best for me. Above everything else, we are all struggling through this and dealing with it in our ways. I will not judge those who decide to go to games because their situations are probably very different from mine. We are all making the best decisions we can among one of the most historic events of our generation. So, I’m begging you, can someone at the games this season please enjoy a Dome beer for me??

On the topic of vaccinations, Tyler Parsons will not join the team at training camp. Some are speculating that it’s because he is not vaccinated. At this point, it’s only speculation because Brad Treliving, during his press conference on September 22, would not comment either way on whether or not Parsons is vaccinated. But Treliving did make it very clear that all players at training came are, indeed, vaccinated. Which gives me hope that covid won’t rip through the team like so many other teams last season. I don’t really care what the reason is behind Parson’s absence because it’s none of my business. But it’s reassuring to know that everyone who is in Calgary right now is vaccinated. The one thing I’ve learned about the Calgary Flames is that they’re very family-oriented and they take care of their organization. I think the rules established by CSEC are just another step in their process of taking care of the players, coaching staff, executives, families, vendors, fans, etc… And I trust this decision, regardless of who made it and for what reason.

9. Seattle Kraken

NHL: Calgary Flames at Toronto Maple Leafs John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

I have a friend who lives in the Pacific Northwest and he’s been waiting a long time for this. I’m happy for him and I’m happy for all the people in that area who no longer are forced to go to Canucks games in order to cheer for their favourite teams that aren’t the Canucks. And, let’s face it, Flames fans, they drafted one hell of a good dude in Mark Girodano. As weird as it is to see Giordano in a Kraken jersey, I can’t help but be excited for my west coast fans who get to enjoy the leadership and veteran experience that Giordano brings to any team. As well, the Kraken have acquired a good player in Kole Lind. Lind grew up playing in my hometown of Swift Current for the U15 Broncos and then the Legionnaires before a quick stop in Saskatoon before heading to major junior in Kelowna. After making quite an impact with the Kelowna Rockets, Lind was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks and so began his journey through the AHL and then a quick stint in the NHL before Seattle took him in the expansion draft. With Giordano and Lind on the team, Seattle has a good amalgamation of old and new hockey that will benefit the team. There are a lot of other factors that will play into the success of the team, but, for these two reasons alone, I will be keeping an eye on the newest NHL team just out of sheer curiosity. Good luck to the Seattle Kraken this season (except when they play the Flames) and I’m looking forward to watching their talented roster.

10. Training Camp Lines, Sept 23

Wow, there are some unhappy people commenting on the training camp lines that were announced yesterday. As I said on my social media, change is good. And I think we should sit back, enjoy the ride, and see how this plays out. Gaudreau with Monahan and Mangiapane on the second line is sure to ruffle some feathers. Gaudreau is a top line player, but I’m glad Sutter didn’t split up the Johnny-Mony duo just yet. If that means they have to start on the second line in order to remain linemates, I’m okay with that. For now. It’s a new season, a fresh start, and I’m hoping to see more out of them as a duo this season. What happens in a few weeks or months will be dependent on what they bring to the table in the early part of the season. Mangiapane is a good addition to their line because he proved his worth last year and has solidified his position in the top six. Coleman on the top line with Lindholm and Tkachuk will also cause some people to question Sutter. But I really like it. Lindholm has progressively evolved through the past few seasons with the Flames and he has earned his spot on the top line. Tkachuk is feisty, fiery, and sacrifices himself in every play. Coleman is a good addition as long as he can take the shots on net. This line has potential to be permanent if they can keep up the energy level and bring what is expected out of a top forward line. Tanev and Zadorov as the first pairing was not what I was expecting, but at this point, I’m open-minded. Hanifin and Andersson as the second pairing is good, but I had assumed they’d be the first pairing. Kylington and Stone as the last pair probably doesn’t surprise anyone. And contrary to popular belief, I’m not the unofficial president of the Micheal Stone fanclub. I don’t think he’s as bad as everyone makes him seem on defense because he plays hard and does his job. The Flames are known for the one-year contracts and I don’t see this as anything other than a bandaid on a mediocre season. For now, he’s dependable on the back end and does what needs to be done on defense.

I’d like to say a quick welcome back to all my loyal readers who have been wonderful enough to follow my return last season. Thank you for coming back to me and thank you for continuing to support me as I get back into the swing of hockey writing. As well, I want to say hello to my newer readers who have just discovered the joy of M&G and their incredible coverage of the Calgary Flames. Thank you for being here and I’m really looking forward to enjoying some hockey with all of you. And please remember that I always love a healthy hockey debate, but I will opt out if things get disrespectful. Just a quick disclaimer, these are my opinions only and mine alone. Whether you agree or not, let’s talk some puck and have a respectful, mature discussion about the game that brought us all here. We all have our opinions, but how we express them is important.

You can find me online on twitter during most game days. Hit me up and let’s talk hockey!