What is a successful season for the Flames?

In the strictest of definitions, there’s only one way to have success in a professional sports league: win.

Not just a game. Not just a series. If you don’t win the ultimate prize at the end, you didn’t win. Period.

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In the NHL, that means there’s only one winner, and 29 losers. That’s a really high bar, and an unfair one for even contenders, let alone those still working to get to that status. The Flames are among that latter group – but even then, we don’t know quite where they fall.

With a lot of (bad) contracts soon to come off the books, this is a year of transition. What would make it a successful one for you?

Another high draft pick

The nice thing about this is just that – you’re likely adding another elite player to a lineup that already has a fair share of great talent. Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, Dougie Hamilton, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Sam Bennett? Add Matthew Tkachuk to that group and–

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Yeah, we went through this last year. It wasn’t fun. It was fun in June as we were writing draft profiles, knowing the Flames were going to have a good shot at someone who would be a high-end player. It wasn’t fun in October when we saw the Flames’ season end pretty much right in the first month. It wasn’t fun when games became a chore to watch. It wasn’t fun to watch stupid decision after stupid decision or crushing goal against after crushing goal against.

Another high draft pick isn’t the worst thing in the world. But going through another full season of, well, garbage to get there, in hopes that maybe things will be better for 2017-18 – at that point, probably only with the hope of a cleared out cap? We’re well past that point. That’s not a success.

On the outside looking in

We lived through this quite a bit before the Flames finally committed to rebuilding. “If we can just get into eighth place, anything can happen!” Yeah, maybe when they had a 26-year-old Jarome Iginla; that dream died a long time ago. 

But at this stage, just barely missing the playoffs is actually a sign of hope rather than hopelessness. This is a team on the upswing, not a downswing, and there’s something to be said about how fun it is to watch the playoff chase. Meaningful games in March aren’t the ultimate goal, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t fun.

Of course, it would still be crushing to see a team come that close and still have their season end early in April regardless – and without the compensation of one of the top draft picks available of that year. 

This option may not be what one would call a success, either, but in the ultimate game plan, it would probably be much more satisfying.

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Barely in the playoffs

Think 2014-15, but with a little less luck and a little more growth to get them there. The division the Flames play in probably works to their advantage – the journey isn’t as much of a struggle as it would be if they played in, say, the Central – but getting in the playoffs is getting in the playoffs.

In 2014-15, the Flames got lucky in that the opponent they drew, the Canucks, was probably one of the few they actually had a chance against. When they moved on to the second round, they were comically outclassed by the Ducks. It was a fun year, and there wasn’t really anything to complain about during it, but it wasn’t a sign of natural progression. It was a fluke.

If the Flames are in the playoffs this year, chances are, it won’t be because of a fluke. It’ll be because of a combination of their division, the natural growth of their younger, high-end players, and hopefully, because Glen Gulutzan turns out to be the right fit.

To make it in and do so convincingly – not necessarily with a positive possession team, but at least with one that’s on the edge of being so – would probably be both the most attainable, and most satisfying mark of success for the Flames this year.

Contenders

Everything would need to fall into place for this to happen, and I mean everything. Hamilton, Gaudreau, Monahan, Bennett, and probably another kid or two would have to have record years. Brian Elliott would need to not miss a beat as he moves on to his next team. Gulutzan would need to turn out to be one of the top coaches in the league from pretty much the get-go. The weaker players on the roster would probably have to be either buried or put together strong redemption years.

In other words, everything would have to go right, and some things would have to go beyond that. It’s certainly possible, but it’s probably not something to bet on.

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Not for 2016-17. Maybe for 2017-18, depending on how the Flames handle their newfound cap space and how far the kids progress (plus Gulutzan). But whenever the Flames reach this status – assuming they actually do – it’ll definitely count as a success for them.

Champions?

Any team that wins the Stanley Cup has a successful season by default, come on. And I mean… everything is possible in this life?


  • redwhiteblack

    Development of players. One or both of the young D men mature enough to step in. Tkachuk develops to be a regular. Bennett and Hamilton take noticeable steps forward. Gilles is healthy and one of best tenders in AHL. Mony and Johnny mature even more. Johnny is around for the future, which is bright.

  • The Fall

    Flames have enough high picks already on board. It’s about development and establishing a high standard of winning.

    Oilers stash high picks — takes years to wash-off that stink of losing.

    The window for this team is Brodie’s contract. They can make the Western Final next season.

  • Baalzamon

    I think the Flames’ playoff hopes depend on catching Anaheim and finishing third in the Pacific. I don’t see them finishing ahead of St Louis, Dallas, Nashville, Winnipeg, or Chicago. Both wildcard spots are going to the Central this year, IMO.

    • Captain Ron

      Winnipeg has a bright future but we can absolutely finish ahead of them.

      Dallas is another team we can end up ahead of. They can score but their defence and goaltending are nothing to get excited about.

      • Baalzamon

        Both Winnipeg and Dallas have deeper rosters than the Flames do. Last year was a fluke as far as the Jets are concerned. IMO their success will be determined by how long it takes them to realize Pavelec sucks and Hellebuyck should be their starter.

  • Graham

    A couple of the albatross contacts come of the books this year, so the Flames need to position themselves for next season. They need to play the heck out of the young guys, find some low cost effective replacements for the albatross contracts, determine what they have in goal, and over the summer selectively add some mid to late twenty something mid tier players to fill holes / supplement the young guys. The rebuild should be basically concluded by the end of the year, with a well balanced competitive play off team for next season.

  • al rain

    If you define success as winning (which is reasonable) then you already know what makes a successful season.

    Perhaps a better question is “What is the most important area to progress such that winning can happen in subsequent seasons?”

    And for that I would suggest coaching and systems. So I would call it a great season if the Flames start moving the needle in the underlying structure of their game. Second would be the same but for individual players.

    In short, I’d like to see a better team at the end of the year (systems, possession stats, roster, special teams, confidence) than we have now. Wins and losses be damned.

  • McRib

    For people saying we can catch Anaheim I am here to give you two names and a word of caution, Shea Theodore, Brandon Montour two of the best defensive prospects anywhere. I am not saying it is impossible, but Anaheim is retooling in a hurry with those two. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Shea Theodore break 40-45 point next year, future star in the making. I think those two could make Cam Fowler expendable before seasons end, which would net them what an RNH? Lol.

  • McRib

    Johnny Gaudreau actually looks a fair bit stronger from last season, he has added at least 5-10 of core strength by the look of it, those glutes are just much more developed. Hahah.

  • Kensington

    Success is either getting to round three or beyond or getting the first overall pick. Who knows I picked Calgary to make the playoffs two years ago but I also picked them to make it again last year. I think this article hits the nail on the head we need everything to fall into place to really have a chance of playoffs and success beyond. I am hoping for hard working committed play and to see growth by our young guys, its strange what can happen if all are on board for a common cause! We all know if you make the dance anything can happen after that, we did it in 2004 and who knows when lightning will strike again.

  • FlamesFanOtherCity

    A couple of positive signs that will indicate success for the year:

    Winning at Honda Center

    Sweeping the Kings in Cali

    Winning road record

    Johnny Hockey’s scoring pace home and away ~equal

    Having more than two forwards leading Flames scoring

  • Deef

    “just barely missing the playoffs is actually a sign of hope rather than hopelessness.”

    I, personally, would rather have another high draft pick this year than a glimmer of hope. We’ll have plenty of hope when we are are cup calibre team in 2018-19.

  • McRib

    I really think this Team North America has a legitimate chance of winning this tournament especially with Canada pulling boners like replacing Duncan Keith with Jay Bouwmeester. Matt Murray looks so solid in goal, which was my only slight concern. In today’s modern day NHL “age” and “experience” means next to nothing.

  • smatic10

    Make the playoffs.

    I don’t care about how good the other teams are in the west, we have enough talent on this team to make it. If GG can implement a puck possession game with decent special teams, we’ll make it.

  • Greg

    I’m totally fine with another high draft pick, so long as it isn’t earned in October. A season where you come ripping out of the gates and generate a lot of excitement, then slowly start losing a lot of 1 goal games until you suddenly realize in January that the hot start was a fluke and you are actually trending towards top 5 pick would still be a success. As long as there’s a lot of indicators the future still looks bright en route.

    Which to me means anything from bottom 5 to Stanley cup will be a success, depending how it unfolds. So I’m far more worried about potential bad surprises that make us stop feeling like the future looks bright. A huge drop off from Gio in the first year of his big deal for instance. Or Tkaczuk goes back to the minors and takes a huge step back. Or a worrisome injury to one of the long term core guys. Anything like that is what would make me feel like the season was a failure.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    The purpose of the regular season is to make the playoffs. There are obviously gradations of success within making the playoffs. Squeaking in, middle of the pack, winning the division, winning the conference. for me, after all that has happened over the last several years, even just squeaking in the playoffs is a success.

    The purpose of the playoffs is to win the Cup, but for a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs very often recently, has been rebuilding for a few years, and just squeaks in, maybe even just winning a game at home and on the road to push a series to 6 could be considered a success. The Cup would be nice though.

  • FoE

    If we make the playoffs great. Not gonna bank on it in the west with the team we have right now. I’m counting a success as:

    In the hunt for the playoffs all year, (even if we miss by a few points).
    Solid progression of Bennet, Mony, JG et al.
    Beat Anaheim in Anaheim.
    A possesion based system with team buy in

    Cherries are Playoffs and Tkachuk making the team.
    Failure is a high pick (unless we barely miss the post season then beat he odds and sneak in via lottery).

  • Joe Flames

    Since we are moving out of the rebuild stage (or at least progressing), I would like to see definite improvement in possession and in the standings. Not necessarily making the playoffs, but an obvious improvement by the team.

    Hopefully the flames improve enough to create some buzz, then we can use some cap space next year for a big FA signing to move us further along.

  • Craftmatic4.0

    A Fluke? FFS! That is what the others say! To hear that on this site is very disrespectful! I will never accept this story line! We deserved to be in the dance, and deserved to beat the Nucks(which I saw in person) … Fluke will never be in my vocabulary!!!!

  • Baalzamon

    http://www.calgarysun.com/2016/09/08/gap-between-johnny-gaudreau-camp-and-flames-in-contract-negotiations-as-high-as-15-million

    Flames and Gaudreau are 1.5 million apart. Gaudreau’s camp is asking for 8 per. Flames are offering roughly 6.5.

    In other words: Exactly what I suggested was the likely holdup three weeks ago. Gaudreau’s agent is doing his job, and the Flames are trying to keep the cap hit below Giordano’s.

    Granted, it’s the Calgary Sun so… yeah.

    • supra steve

      Yeah, remember that it wasn’t to many months ago that Francis was predicting a multi year, $7 million dollar/season contract for Kris Russell. The guy isn’t always 100% with his predictions.

      And if Johnny wants $8 million per season,…I’m in support of letting him sit. Kid is a great player, but IF he’s being that greedy…Flames can survive without him.

    • McRib

      Yeah I am taking this with a grain of salt, it sounds like Francis is trying to do the Flames a favour by painting Gaudreau as being too greedy. I have a hard time buying that the Flames think Gaudreau is worth the same as Monahan. It’s probably closer to a million gap and I think it has more to do with term than anything, which has already been pointed out here. I am willing to pay $7.5 if we get 7- 8 years.