The Calgary Flames made quite some big moves this off-season. Everyone believes it’s now time for contention. But what makes them a contending team?
With some big moves happening this off-season and the GM Brad Treliving being one of the busiest men in the NHL, the Calgary Flames are now ready for cup contention. But what makes them a contending team?
To be quite honest, they weren’t that far off this past season. Yet nobody took them for a contending team last season. And although it seems like they made some big, bold moves this off-season, their roster still looks quite similar. Just some unlucky moves and little mistakes here and there in the first round, and before we knew it, they were shutout.
But a new season is starting and some confidence is starting to boil through the organization and the fanbase. So let’s take a look at what makes the Flames a contending team.
Two First Lines
Right now, the Calgary Flames top two lines are absolutely solid. While Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan somewhat struggled to start the season off, the 3M line (Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik, and Matthew Tkachuk) were there to assist. Since the 3M line was formed in late October, they were dominating and easily the most consistent line throughout this season.
Then in February, when head coach Glen Gulutzan decided to put Micheal Ferland on that top line alongside Gaudreau and Monahan, things took off. The Flames had a ten-game win-streak, and Ferland was proving himself as a top-line winger. He’s fast and even Gaudreau has said that he’s definitely underrated and has a sneakily good shot.
Gulutzan has said that Ferland will start off on that top line (throughout training camp and pre-season) and if everything goes smoothly, he might have a full-time job up there.
Many people said that Gaudreau had an “off” year this year, but if 61 points in 72 games is an off year, I’ll take it. The recent Lady Byng winner has consistently had more than 60 points per season since his first season three years ago which compliments well with Monahan having at least 20 goals per season since his first season four years ago. If Ferland can keep up his second half of the season performance, this line will take off right from the get-go.
And don’t even get me started on the 3M line, the line who has dominated all season. Their Rel.CF% (shot attempts relative to the team) are all positive and all three lead the team for forwards in that category. Tkachuk, in his first NHL season had a Rel.CF% of 7.47 which was tenth overall of all forwards in the league. Frolik, not too far behind him, with 7.09. Tkachuk also was second out of all the forwards for Rel.CF/60 with 14.01.
This basically means that the 3M line, in relation to the Flames, are one of the best offensive lines for their team than other lines are in relation to their respective teams. That may sound confusing, but hopefully you can see what I mean.
The Calgary Flames blue line is one of the biggest upgrades this off-season. This change alone for one extra player was basically the reason people are putting them in the contention window now. On the second day of the draft, the Flames traded three draft picks for D Travis Hamonic from the New York Islanders and got another draft pick in return.
The Flames top-four is now stacked and easily in the top three in the league. They have Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton as that top pairing and who were a dynamic duo last season. With some analysis, Sportsnet even put them as the best defensive duo out of all the Canadian teams and TSN’s Travis Yost ranked them as the best in the league.
Now with the addition of Hamonic to play alongside T.J. Brodie, the top four is absolutely dangerous. But that’s not all – the Flames also re-signed Michael Stone to a three-year contract. While the contract and pay isn’t exactly the best (3 years, $3.5 million AAV), the Flames now have their D locked up for a few years. And now they have five solid defenders.
And in case if someone gets injured, we know that Stone can play as that fourth defenceman. The Calgary Flames defencemen as a whole looks to be one of the best in the league and they’re all locked in for a few years. They’re set.
Four Two-Way Centers
Of course, offence is important in every team. But what’s offence if your forwards can’t come back to their zone and defend a little? Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund, Sam Bennett, and Matt Stajan are all solid two-way centers. The team and the fans all even wanted Backlund to be nominated as a Selke nominee, but unfortunately, he wasn’t.
Backlund, Bennett, and Stajan are all used to kill off penalties and they’re all good at it. While Monahan isn’t exactly used on the PK, he’s still fast and can come back to his own zone and is seen as a solid two-way center. Actually for me personally, he somewhat reminds me of Jonathan Toews in his playing style. He remains calm on the ice and doesn’t make any flashy plays, but is still a good two-way centerman.
Backlund and Frolik together, they were a dynamic force and they vastly improved the PK throughout the season. If they can start the season off the way they ended it on the PK, they’ll start the season off much better than last season and in turn, make the playoffs and be Cup contenders.
With having all four centers be good two-way centers, it’ll help the goaltender, solidify their defensive zone, and of course, help them win games.
Like I said, the Calgary Flames weren’t far off last season. There were some kinks here and there that needed to be fixed. But overall, they were still a solid team. And now, they seem to be Cup contenders.