Calgary Flames: Bold predictions for the 2018-19 season

CALGARY, AB - JANUARY 24: Fans cheer during an NHL game between the Calgary Flames and the Los Angeles Kings on January 24, 2018 at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)
CALGARY, AB - JANUARY 24: Fans cheer during an NHL game between the Calgary Flames and the Los Angeles Kings on January 24, 2018 at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images) /

This is one of the most heavily anticipated Calgary Flames seasons in recent memory. I am optimistic. You should be too. So, here are some best case scenario predictions for the upcoming season.

The Calgary Flames had arguably the busiest off-season in the league this year. They made sweeping changes to just about every part of their roster and on paper have gotten significantly better. So, there is much reason to be optimistic heading into this coming season. With a new coach, a young core, and the veterans added to this lineup, the Calgary Flames are certainly a team to watch in 2018-2019.

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So, what has to go right for the Flames to win the cup? Is that even a realistic thought at this point? I have put a lot of thought into what can be realistic expectations for this team in their first year under Bill Peters. These predictions are the best case scenario of what could happen for the Flames this year and what I would love to see this year.

1. Johnny Gaudreau will lead the NHL in assists

Johnny Gaudreau had 60 assists last season on a team that had just four players surpass the 20 goal mark. Johnny finished seventh in the league in assists, with the leaders (Blake Wheeler and Claude Giroux) finishing with 68 assists each. There is no reason why Johnny can’t build off of his assists numbers this year.

Having Sean Monahan for a full healthy season will help. So will replacing Micheal Ferland with either James Neal or Elias Lindholm. Gaudreau is one of the most elusive and creative skaters in the NHL and will continue to put up high assist numbers for many years to come. He will be playing with better players and I really can not see any reason why he won’t be flirting with leading the league in assists.

2. The Flames will have six 20+ goal scorers

Hey, speaking of playing with better players, the Flames added a lot of offense this off-season which they desperately needed. I have talked about the scoring problems of last year enough already in previous articles, so I won’t here.

Looking at last year, the four Calgary Flames to hit the 20 goal mark were – Sean Monahan (31), Johnny Gaudreau (24), Matthew Tkachuk (24), and Micheal Ferland (21). Ferland was sent to the Carolina Hurricanes, leaving just three returning 20 goal scorers to the team. So, where do I get the six from?

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Go ahead and pencil in at least 20 goals for Monahan, Gaudreau, and Tkachuk again. Those are locks in my mind. Another lock is newly signed James Neal, who has never scored less than 20 goals in a season. I fully expect two of either Mikael Backlund, Elias Lindholm, Mark Jankowski, and Mark Giordano to light the lamp 20 times as well. Jankowski finished with 17 last year in 72 games. Backlund is just a year removed from his 22 goal season. Look for a big year from these two guys. They would be my picks to join the 20 goal club.

3. The Flames finish with 95+ points

Coming off an 84 point, playoff-less season is never fun. The Flames have not finished above the 95 point mark since the 2014-2015 season. You know, that year that Jiri Hudler went off? Since then, it has been up and down for the Flames each year with no real consistency. They ended with 77 points the next year, then 94 points, and of course last year just 84 points. Following this trend, the Flames are due for another playoff year.

95 points is not at all an easy feat to accomplish. Even back in 2014-2015 when the Flames finished at 97 points, they were still third in their division. Vegas, San Jose, Anaheim, and Los Angeles are likely not going anywhere. They will make achieving 95 points very difficult for the Flames. But hey, I’m a believer in this team. I like what they have done. As long as Calgary can stay healthy, especially you Mike Smith, I see this team hitting 95 – 100 points.

4. Sean Monahan hits the 40 goal mark

Yes this is a reach. But is it? Probably. Still, Sean Monahan scored 31 times last year while playing through wrist, groin, and hernia problems. Mony had wrist reconstruction surgery, two hernia surgeries, AND a groin procedure this off-season. The man was playing through a lot of problems last year and still managed to shoot 15.3%.

He has said that he feels great this year and he certainly looked fresh in the Flames first preseason games, scoring twice. If Sean Monahan can stay healthy and continue to shoot at such an efficient clip, there is a really solid chance that he reaches the 40 goal summit. I think there is little doubt that he will score 40 goals at some point in his career, so why not this year?

5. The Flames make the Western Conference Final

I would love to sit here and say that the Flames are going to win the Stanley Cup this year and I do think they have a chance, but for now, I’m not going there. If the Calgary Flames hit 95 points, then they will be in the playoffs. Where they fall in the division is hard to say, but they will be in the playoffs nonetheless. Obviously, with Max Pacioretty going to the Golden Knights, Vegas gets a lot better for this year. Erik Karlsson is now on the Sharks too, which is also wonderful news for the Flames. The division is going to be very competitive this year, but I say the Flames finish third.

The makeup of this team on paper has the look of a team that can make a deep playoff push. They have a solid top four on defense and four lines that are capable of putting the puck in the net. These are the kinds of teams that do well come playoff time. The Calgary Flames would have to put everything together to make the Finals. There are a lot of other good young teams in the West, so the Flames will have to find a way to separate from the rest.

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This is going to be a very fun year filled with potential. There are going to be frustrations and jubilation. These are clearly bold predictions but I think we see at least a couple of these become a reality. We are entering an exciting period of Calgary Flames hockey. Let’s have some fun this year “C” of Red!