New coaches, new players, new mindset. The Calgary Flames have addressed their issues during the offseason and are ready to get back in the playoff hunt.
After finishing third in the Pacific Division and advancing to the second round of the playoffs in 2015, the Flames took a step back missing the playoffs. Last season the Flames gathered a record of 35-40-7 finishing 5th in the Pacific Division and missing the playoffs by 10 points. In the previous year the Flames had finished the regular season with 45-30-7 and 97 points. Although Calgary had a 20 point drop-off from last season, general manager Brad Treliving has made moves for the Flames to have a bounce back year in 2017.
For starters, Treliving fired longtime coach Bob Hartley and replaced him with Glen Gulutzan. Hartley had been the coach of the Flames since the 2012-13 season and led them to one playoff appearance in 2014-15. Gulutzan has spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach of the Vancouver Canucks and plans on bringing new changes to the Flames immediately.
“There’s going to be a definitive style change,” the 44-year-old said. “We’re going to change the style of game. We want to play a little quicker. We’re going to be a lot more determined to deny entries into the zone. Our gap and the way we play rushes will change significantly. The way we break out the puck will change. Those are fundamental changes.”
Flames’ players Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau will again be at the core of the team’s offense and although they’re not currently signed, there is no doubt that Treviling will have them signed by the start of the season. Monahan has said that he wants to sign a long-term deal and remain a Flame for his entire career while Gaudreau is working towards a long-term deal as well. Gaudreau, 22, led the Flames in goals and scoring last season with 30 goals and 78 points in 79 games. Despite many doubting his ability based off his size, Gaudreau has not only shown that he belongs in the NHL, but he can be a superstar. With 143 points in 160 thus far, expect for Gaudreau to have another monster year for the Flames next season.
Monahan has also turned into one of the offensive leaders on the Flames. Last season he recorded 63 points in 81 games with 27 goals and 36 assists. Since being drafted 6th overall in 2013, Monahan has shown his commitment to the Flames. In an interview regarding his contract extension, Monahan was quoted saying he would take less money if it meant helping the Flames improve.
“Our goal is to bring a Stanley Cup to Calgary,” Monahan told Reda. “So if (taking less money is) what it is, that we can bring other players in to have a little extra (cap space) and get them in to help us be a better team, then I think that’s the idea.”
Combined with Monahan and Gaudreau players like Sam Bennett and possibly even Matthew Tkachuk provide the Flames with a collection of skilled, young offensive forwards.
On the backend Calgary has mainly the same defense aside from losing Kris Russel and gaining Jyrki Jokipakka. Mark Giordrano led all defenseman in scoring with 56 points in 82 games and is showing no signs of slowing. Dougie Hamilton who was brought over to the Flames last season gathered a respectable 43 points in 82 games and will likely improve now that he has his first season in a new home under his belt. However, the defense will have to be better next year as the Flames went from being 14th in goals allowed at 213 in 2015, to having the most goals allowed this past season with 257. However, this is in part due to the lack of solid goaltending.
Speaking of goaltending, last season the Calgary Flames dressed four goaltenders throughout the regular season and none of them accumulated a winning record. The majority of the games were played by Karri Ramo, Jonas Hiller and Joni Ortio. Ramo had the best record of the three netminders compiling a 17-18-1 season with a 2.63 GAA and save percentage of .909%. Hiller on the other hand didn’t have quite the year he hoped for. In 26 games played he amassed a record of 9-11-0 with a GAA of 3.51 and save percentage of .879%. No team is going to make the playoffs with those numbers so Brad Treliving went out and made a couple of good moves to fix that.
On June 24th, Calgary acquired St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott for two draft picks. Elliott, 31, had been with the Blues since 2011-12. Last season, Elliott appeared in 41 games and gathered a record of 23-8-2 with a GAA of 2.07 and a save percentage of .930%. Not only did he have a terrific season, but he also helped catapult the Blues to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2001. Elliott will no doubt be the Flames starter next season and if he can have as a good of a season as he did last year, this trade will be a steal for the Flames.
Treviling also went out and signed Chad Johnson, who will likely be the backup goaltender, to a one year contract. Johnson also had a good season with the Sabres last year totaling a record of a 22-16-10 with a GAA of 2.36 and save percentage of .920%.
PREDICTION: With the addition of Elliott and Johnson, coupled with the success of the team’s young forwards, I think the Flames have an excellent shot of getting into the playoffs this upcoming season.