One of the best things about sports is no matter what, there’s always a new season. Your team was terrible the past year? Don’t worry, they won’t get cancelled (uh, probably); there’s always a chance for a new season.
And with new seasons come new season predictions. Every year, the best and brightest of sports minds, not to mention everybody else with an opinion, come together and prognosticate on just how the season will go. And no matter how wrong everyone is, they get to do it the year after, again and again and again.
The Flames surprised us in a good way in 2014-15; in 2015-16, it was… more the opposite.
Here’s our round table from before the season started. Come laugh with us at how wrong we all were. Because without laughter, there’s just sadness.
Where do the Flames finish in the division and with how many points?
General consensus: They finish second or third in the division, with anywhere from about 96-100 points.
What actually happened: They finished third last in the division with 77 points. Haha! Whoops.
Do the Calgary Flames make the playoffs?
General consensus: Yes, but just barely.
What actually happened: They were pretty much dead in October, but an impressive homestand brought them back into the mix of things. Then they really died around the trade deadline, and were officially mathematically dead in March. So at least we predicted a struggle, although it was much shorter-lived than initially imagined.
What about the 2015-16 edition of the Flames makes you excited?
General consensus: The new acquisitions and the youth, mostly.
What actually happened: Dougie Hamilton didn’t play nearly as much as we’d all hoped, and even Michael Frolik got shafted on occasion. Sam Bennett didn’t exactly get the chance to settle as Markus Granlund occupied much of what should have been his time at centre, and when he wasn’t playing with Mikael Backlund, he didn’t exactly have the best linemates ever.
Johnny Gaudreau took a massive step forward, though, and T.J. Brodie proved himself one of the most important players on the Flames. Sean Monahan kept on posting impressive offensive numbers. Micheal Ferland didn’t show a ton over a full season, though, and Lance Bouma was not able to sustain his play. Brandon Bollig played only eight fewer games and Deryk Engelland spent more time as a top four defenceman, so the vaunted depth didn’t necessarily always push inferior players down.
What about the 2015-16 edition of the Flames fills you with a feeling of impending dread?
General consensus: Shooting percentages and Bob Hartley.
What actually happened: Shooting percentages and Bob Hartley. Nailed it.
What player that’s on the farm team right now do you think makes the biggest impact on the 2015-16 roster?
General consensus: There wasn’t really one, so I’ll just list all the players named: Garnet Hathaway, Ryan Culkin, Emile Poirier, Markus Granlund, Bill Arnold, Oliver Kylington, Paul Byron, Jakub Nakladal.
What actually happened: Hathaway was a longstanding recall, but I’m not sure he exactly made what one could call a “big impact”. Nakladal was a good choice, though. We lost Byron far too soon, Arnold was never called up, and Culkin, Poirier, and Kylington didn’t really do much of anything.
Nakladal is the clear winner of this bunch, but I suppose we could also say Granlund provided a pretty big impact. Especially considering not only how long he stuck around for, but that he brought back the guy who could potentially be the next biggest impact: Hunter Shinkaruk.
Yes or no: are the Flames off-season acquisitions enough to avoid the oft-prediction statistical regression of the team’s performance? (Sub-question: if no, what else could they have done?)
General consensus: Yes, because Hamilton and Frolik were great adds; but they’ll probably need to do more to completely offset regressing (i.e. a change in either coaching tactics or personnel).
What actually happened: The Flames fell in the standings, but their 5v5 possession game jumped up nearly 4%, which is fairly substantial growth. In the long-run, this past season was probably a step forward; in the short-term, it was a step back. It’s reason for hope, but also reason to remind ourselves that they aren’t there yet, so those suggestions on what could still be done totally have merit.