Although there are a few wrinkles to iron out still – the back-up goalie and the overly crowded blueline – what you see is probably what you’re going to get once the season starts when it comes to the Flames roster. We’ve built the depth chart previously, but now it’s time to project where you think this team will land in standings this season (assuming there is a season at all, of course).
Subtractions, Additions and the Competition
The Flames weren’t overly active this summer, but they did make a move or two. Gone are Hannan, Jokinen, Moss and Kostopolous. In their stead, Calgary signed Wideman, Hudler and Cervenka. Jones, Backlund, Comeau and Sarich were able to stick around, while Sven Baertchi is expected to make the club out of camp.
It looks like there’s a bit more offense in the line-up this time around, but Calgary’s greatest weakness – possession – wasn’t really addressed (unless Cervenka turns out to be Pavel Datsyuk). Every single Flame not named "Backlund" who played in the top-6 last year got his head beat in terms of driving the play and scoring chance differentials. In fact, the club lost one of it’s top-3 players by this measure in David Moss, so there’s a good chance the team will continue to be outshot and outchanced by good teams more often than not. Particularly with key guys Iginla, Cammalleri and Tanguay one year older and one more year past their peak.
Also, keep in mind Kipper is not likely to repeat his performance from last year. His ES SV% has hovered around league average (.920) over the the last 5 seasons with some wild swings above and below. Last year was his best performance in a long time (.928) which usually means he’s in line for some regression. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but even a 0.008 drop in SV% equates to about a 14 goal difference over a full season, assuming he plays about 70 games again.
It’s not impossible for a 36-year old goalie to replicate an excellent performance, of course…it’s just not the best bet in the world.
Finally, the stats of the NW division and Wetsern Conference as a whole is something to keep in mind.
Teams I expect to improve include:
- Anaheim Ducks (Hiller, Getzlaf and Perry rebound)
- Minnesota Wild (big additions in Parise, Suter and Granlund)
- Edmonton Oilers (kids are growing up, added Shultz to the back-end)
- Colorado Avalanche (Landeskog, Duchene, Parenteau, Downie, O’Reilly and Jones in their top-6. Added Zanon to a decent blueline as well. They have 16M in cap space too)
- Los Angeles Kings (as long as pucks go in for them at even a middling rate, they will be near the top of the conference)
Teams I expect to take a step back:
- Detroit Red Wings (lost Hudler, Stuart and Lidstrom. I doubt Jimmy Howard manages a .920 SV% again as well)
- Nashville Predators (Lost Suter, Weber (maybe), Radulov and their success last year was percentages/special teams based anyways)
- Phoenix Coyotes (lost Whitney, Mike Smith won’t repeat his performance from last year)
Right now, there seems to be more risers than sinkers in the WC. Bad news for the Flames is three of their NW division rivals are trending upwards (COL, EDM, MIN) at a time when Calgary is doing it’s very best just to tread water.It’s going to be a very crowded middle-class in the WC again this year, so a lot of things are going to have go the Flames way if they are to make the playoffs for the first time in four years.
I think there will be some bounce backs on Calgary this year (Backlund, Comeau, Cammalleri) and some guys will regress a bit (Kipper, Glencross, Hudler). The Flames should score a bit more, but will probably continue to give up more shots and chances than they generate. Wild cards include the performance of kids and rookies (Baertschi, Cervenka, Brodie) as well as the degree to which older guys like Iginla, Kiprusoff, Sarich and Tanguay fall off the pace.
I have placed the Flames in the "7-10" bucket for each of the last two seasons, but looking at them this year and considering the WC overall, I have to bump them down a notch to 8-11 or even 9-12. It’s possible the Flames rides the percentages for awhile (think Minnesota or Nashville last year) because every year some club rolls sevens for an extended period. Absent a nice bout of luck like that, however, I think the best we can hope for is running in place.
That’s just how things seem to me from where I sit. Your mileage may vary.
Of course, this is an open thread, so please add your own projections and justifications in the comments.