Calgary Flames Take a Step Backwards

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The Calgary Flames take a step backwards this season. After being the biggest surprise, and most over achieving team last season in the NHL, this year has been a huge disappointment. Given the Flames roster, and the fact they are in the NHL’s weakest division this season, this is very hard to understand.

Calgary Flames Take a Step Backwards

Last year the Flames seemed to be a year ahead of schedule in terms of their rebuild, which makes this season a head-scratcher. Last season not only did the Flames make the playoffs, but they won a round before losing to the Anaheim Ducks in the second round.

This off-season the Flames did not lose any of their core players from last year, and added Dougie Hamilton and Michael Frolik, as well as having Sam Bennett for the full season, the 2015-16 season looked extremely bright. Keep in mind last year Bennett only played in one regular season game plus the playoffs, as he spent most of the year in junior hockey.

The Flames going into action on Friday find themselves with a record of 25-28-3 for a total of 53 points. Last season Calgary finished with 97 points. So what has hurt the Flames this season? It’s not the offence as the Flames are tenth in the league in goals scored per game. However, when your a team that is dead last in the league in goals allowed per game (3.05) and have the second worst power play unit, along with the worst penalty kill unit it’s going to be a tough year.

Off-Season Priorities

There is plenty of talent on this roster but there is a lot of work to be done. Needless to say every skater on this team has to improve their defensive play immensely for next season. The play in between the pipes has to take a big leap forward as well. Finally an NHL team cannot survive being this futile on the specialty team units. Huge improvements must be made across the board if the Flames want to go back to the playoffs next year.

The Flames have nearly $20 million coming off the cap as Jonas Hiller, Jiri Hudler, David Jones, Jakub Nakladal, Karri Ramo and Kris Russell are unrestricted free agents after this season. Will any of them be back? However, Calgary’s top two scorers in Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan are coming off their entry level contracts ($925K cap hit this season) and become restricted free agents. Both will see very sizable raises this off-season. Don’t forget Mark Giordano new contract kicks in next year seeing his annual cap number go from $4.02 million to $6.75 million.

With both of their goalie’s becoming unrestricted free agents after this season the Flames have to go shopping for goaltenders this off-season. However that is not going to be an easy proposition for Flames general manager Brad Treliving. The two best options on the unrestricted free agent market are Al Montoya (31 years old, 9-4-1, 1.91 GAA, .930 save percentage for Florida) and Jhonas Enroth (turns 28 in June, 4-5-1, 2.19 GAA, .926 save percentage for L.A.). Are either guy a number one goal-tender?

Calgary might want to give the Blues a call in the off-season about their goal-tending tandem in Jake Allen and Brian Elliott. St.Louis only has them both under contract for one more year after this season. In today’s salary cap era it’s hard to see St.Louis being able to keep both. One would think the Blues will listen intently on trade offers this summer for their goalies.

It also would be a wise move by Calgary to add a solid veteran defensive defenseman to improve their play in their own end. Carl Gunnarsson of the Blues becomes a UFA at season’s end. He would be an ideal fit for Calgary.

Silver Lining

If there is a sliver lining for the Flames this season, it’s the fact they should add another top youngster to their organization come draft day this June. Calgary is tied with the Buffalo Sabres and the Columbus Blue Jackets with 53 points. Only the Edmonton Oilers (50 points) and the Toronto Maple Leafs (49 points) are below them.  Depending how the Flames finish the season and how the NHL lottery ping pong balls bounce, Calgary has an excellent chance to land a top five pick in the 2016 NHL draft. Who knows, with some luck maybe Calgary will win the lottery and land the #1 overall pick which could translate into future franchise player Auston Matthews.

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