The Calgary Flames finished fifth in the North Division last season, with a record of 26-27-3, totalling 55 points. They missed the playoffs by four points. Now, this is not so bad for one season, especially playing in an extremely competitive division. However, this pattern of mediocrity has plagued the Flames’ organization for decades. In order to have a chance of seriously competing for Lord Stanley’s cup in the future, the Calgary Flames need a rebuild. And they need to do it now.
The Calgary Flames Need to Rebuild Now
But why? Well, let’s look at their history in the playoffs over the last 30 or so years. Their only Stanley Cup Finals win was in the 1988-89 season, 33 years ago. Since then, they’ve made the second round or further a mere five times over 31 years. The last time they did was in the 2014-15 season, and have yet to make it back to the second round since. Since the 2009-10 season, the Flames have missed the playoffs (eight times) more than they’ve made it (four times).
But surely the 2021-22 Flames roster will turn their woes around, right? You are sure to find online casinos in Canada willing to take your bet on that.
The Flames Cannot Win With Their Current Roster
In the 2020-21 season, the Flames were bad, no other way around it. Their only saving grace in the North Division was that the Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks were worse. Breaking down their current roster does not give any hope for the 2021-22 season.
20th in goals for last season, the Flames were much worse than average in the scoring department. To make matters worse, their opponents scored more goals from high-danger chances and the Flames scored fewer goals from high-danger chances than league average. Calgary didn’t have one single player hit 50 points nor 20 goals in 56 games played last season.
The truth is that Calgary doesn’t have a star player that can perform night in and night out. During an 18 game stretch in the middle of last season, Johnny Gaudreau only had 7 points. As the leading point-getter on a team, everyone relies on you to be consistent and put up points in most games. While it’s normal for players to have ups and downs in the middle of seasons, it’s not normal for star players to have stretches these bad. But the bigger issue lies in Calgary’s depth scoring. If the first line isn’t performing up to expectations, the Flames cannot score.
Last season, when their opponents scored first, the Flames’ record was an abysmal 6-22-1. The first period was their biggest weakness. Only winning four games when trailing after one period, it’s clear the Flames needed to score first in order to win. While this is a common trait among most NHL teams, the best ones are able to come back. The Flames seem to be incapable of scoring when down.
Only seven total players had 10 goals or more, and no defensemen were on that list. If you look at some of the top teams, they all have defensemen that can score or create offence consistently. Calgary has no offensive defensemen that are a real threat, allowing opposing teams to focus their energy on the forwards, shutting down most scoring chances. In addition, the leading scorer for the defensemen, Mark Giordano, was selected in the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft.
Losing their star veteran defenceman significantly hurts the Flames, as their blue line is young. Going beyond Chris Tanev and Noah Hanifin, their defence is shaky at best. Rasmus Andersson is their next best defender, but he is no superstar. Juuso Valimaki is just okay on the defensive side of the puck, but he’s only played one and a quarter (ish) seasons. Michael Stone is a more experienced defender, but he’s not amazing on both sides of the puck and has never played second-line minutes. And their sixth defender will be an inexperienced player, no matter who slots in there. Overall, their defence is shallow and has limited NHL experience in their third line.
The only thing that isn’t an issue for the Flames is their goaltending. Jacob Markstrom has been stellar and is one of the few reasons the Flames weren’t a bottom-feeder team last year. And David Rittich was decent for a backup goaltender. However, as we’ve seen with other teams, a good goaltender with a bad defence makes for an average goaltender. If the Flames cannot help out Markstrom, he will find it impossible to make every spectacular save to keep the Flames in close games.
Predictions for Next Season
It seems as though the Flames won’t take this advice, however. If they were going to rebuild, they probably would have already traded off some of their players for young prospects and draft picks. They cannot wait forever, though. Their top players are all under 28 years old, and if their production stays at this level, it will be very difficult to find a good trade for them as they age.
Calgary also has seven UFA’s and four RFA’s to sign at the end of this season, including Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, and Andrew Mangiapane, with only $3 million in cap space. So they will be forced to sign their star players for less and lose what little depth pieces they have or let them walk in free agency and get nothing in return. Starting a rebuild now will allow the Flames to get promising young players and draft picks.
So, Calgary, the choice is yours. Be stuck in mediocrity and cap space trouble for years to come, or accept your rebuilding fate. Choose wisely.