After acquiring a few big-time reinforcements such as Mike Smith and Travis Hamonic, the Calgary Flames are ready to contend for top spot in the Western Conference.
It wasn’t too long ago that the Calgary Flames were basement-dwellers in the NHL – getting to pick players like Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk. However, after a successful 2016-17 season, the Flames looked to be a team with a few missing pieces on the verge of becoming elite. With the acquisitions of Mike Smith and Travis Hamonic, they address two of their major problems; which in turn should result in success. But there’s more. Let’s take a look at why the Flames seem like a juggernaut for the upcoming season.
The Young Guns and Prove You Wrongs
The Flames have more than a few budding stars all under the age of 24, and a couple guys who are out to prove something.
Matthew Tkachuk: Many were wondering if Tkachuk would even make the team this past year. He not only made the team, but turned into a cornerstone piece for the franchise for many years to come. He is not only a pest who constantly gets under the opposing team’s skin, but also a significant offensive force and a sparkplug. The 19-year-old is in line for a very productive year.
Micheal Ferland: After a disappointing 2015-16 season which had many questioning his presence in the NHL, #79 came back with a vengeance in 2016-17. He scored a career high 15 goals and played a very effective power-forward type of game. He also found chemistry on the first line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, the two top offensive threats on the team. With a renewed confidence, Ferland can now use his size and surprising speed to turn into a very important player for the Flames.
Sam Bennett: The highest pick in Flames history has frankly been a disappointment in his first two and half seasons in the league. However, he has shown flashes of brilliance and should not be given up on so soon. I believe he has a huge chip on his shoulder for this upcoming season and will play like the fourth-overall pick that he is.
While Calgary is getting stronger, their Pacific Division opponents are getting weaker. Arizona, Vancouver, and Vegas are certain bottom-dwellers and are no threat to the Flames. San Jose and LA have aging stars who are on serious declines and middling players who do not seem able to step up into superstar roles. The most they can achieve is a wild-card spot. The only real competition for the Flames are the Anaheim Ducks and Edmonton Oilers. Top spot in the Pacific is definitely within reach for Calgary.
Improved Defense and Goaltending
Adding Hamonic, re-signing Michael Stone, and drafting Juuso Valimaki has strengthened the Flames already top-tier defense. They have one of the best defensive cores in the NHL. It will help them compete against the Oilers, the Ducks, and the rest of the top dogs in The West. Also, the team’s goaltending has been rather weak since the departure of Miikka Kiprusoff, and it has cost them more than a few wins. That problem is now rectified with the arrival of Mike Smith and Eddie Lack between the pipes.
While the Flames are certainly not guaranteed to have a successful year, especially in the very unpredictable NHL, it seems likely that they will build on their previous success. This is the team’s first real chance to get back the Stanley Cup Final in 14 years… On paper.
I know what I just said… But the fan in me can’t help it. There’s gonna be a cup parade on the red mile in a year’s time.