Calgary Flames season preview
Frustration and confusion are the first two things that come to mind when thinking about the Calgary Flames in the 2022-23 season. This organization has made a ton of changes over the past few seasons and after having a down year, there is still hope that this group can bounce back and get back into the playoffs. A new general manager (Craig Conroy) and head coach (Ryan Huska) could be exactly what the doctor ordered for this version of the Flames.
After a completely disappointing season, the Flames didn’t do much in the offseason to make themselves stronger offensively. If anything, they arguably got worse. Tyler Toffoli led the Flames last season in points and was traded this summer in a deal that included Yegor Sharangovich, but what this team needs is a much better performance from the guys they brought in over the previous summer like Jonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri.
Huberdeau and Kadri are both very strong players in the league, but for whatever reason, they had a hard time adjusting in their first year in Calgary. As a group, this team is capable of scoring goals. They skated to the seventh-best expected goals per 60 minutes (3.42). Their power play wasn’t as strong as they would have hoped. In 2021-22 they were in the top 10 in the league (22.9%), but last season they finished 19th (19.8%). There’s plenty of room to improve offensively for the Flames.
The Flames’ blue line seems to be their biggest strength heading into the 2023-24 season. What they lacked in other areas of the game, they made up for in their own end. Calgary finished as the third-best team in shots against per game (27.3), and they were tied for the league’s fourth-best penalty kill percentage (82.6%).
They have a very strong defensive core, made up of tough guys like Mackenzie Weegar, Chris Tanev, and Noah Hanifin. This group did its job last season, but they didn’t get a ton of help offensively or in goal.
Jakob Markstrom was, without a doubt, the Flames most disappointing player last season. After being a Vezina Trophy finalist in the 2021-22 season with 37 wins, Markstrom struggled mightily this past season, as he only won 23 games. Similar to Huberdeau, Markstrom is certainly a player who can have a big bounce-back season, but he has only reached 30 wins once in his career, so I’m not too confident that he will. Last season, he finished with an .892 save percentage and a very poor -3.1 goals saved above expected. Calgary’s success will lie in his performance.
Player To Watch – F Jonathan Huberdeau
During the 2021-22 season, Huberdeau finished tied for second in the league in points (115) when he was a member of the Florida Panthers. When you compare that to his first season with the Flames, in which he only recorded 55 points, there was clearly a lot of untapped potential. He has established himself as an elite player in this league, and if there is one guy in the NHL that can have a strong bounce-back season, it is Huberdeau. I don’t think he’ll get to that 100-point mark this season, but I have no reason to doubt that he can put up at least 80.
The Calgary Flames are a team that can flirt with making the playoffs, but as of right now, DraftKings has them at +145 to miss the postseason, which seems too good to pass up. They didn’t miss the playoffs by much last season, but the Pacific Division has at least three stronger teams than them, so, if anything, they will be a wild-card team. I personally don’t see this team making the playoffs, and I love the value on that bet.