Hockey’s back! The Calgary Flames begin their 2017-18 season tomorrow in probably the most fun way possible: a Battle of Alberta against the Edmonton Oilers. To commemorate the opening of a brand new 82-game slate of Flames dates, we’ve assembled our new-look roster to lay out our feelings and predictions for the coming season.
Joining me for the Roundtable today are Ari Yanover, Christian Roatis, Christian Tiberi, Bill Tran, Karim Kurji, Taylor McKee and Vintage Flame. Let’s drop the puck!
Do the Flames make the playoffs?
Christian R: Yes.
Vintage Flame: Yes, the Flames will make the playoffs.
Bill: The Flames will make the playoffs, the main battle will come in seeding.
Taylor: Yup! no home ice though.
Karim: Definitely think the Flames make the playoffs this year.
Christian T: Yes.
Ari: Oh yeah, the Flames make the playoffs.
Where do the Flames finish in the division and with how many points?
Christian R: I think the Flames finish 3rd in the division when it’s all said and done with 98 points. Edmonton in 2 and Anaheim back at 1. There’s definitely an opportunity for them to take home ice advantage, but given the number of muffin in-division games this year for everyone, it’ll be tough to keep pace with two formidable Anaheim and Edmonton clubs. BoA though!
Vintage Flame: If the team starts the first 20 games well and isn’t forced to play catch up for the next 30 – 40 games, then I think they can finish 2nd. As Christian said, the opportunity is there and I’m not as daunted by the Ducks. This is the year they win in Anaheim, maybe even more than once. Accomplish this and they’ll be somewhere around 95-98 points.
Bill: This year would probably see the Flames, Ducks, Oilers, and Sharks battling for the top spots in the Pacific, and it’ll swing based on the divisional tilts. If the Flames walk away with a few wins against these three, they have a legitimate shot at finishing second or third. Don’t think they’d nab the top spot but can probably finish north of 95 points.
Taylor: I’m gonna say that the Flames finish third in the Pacific and something like 92 points.
Karim: I think the Flames will finish first in the Division with 101 points
Christian T: I think they finish third with 99 points. The Pacific is going to be tough this year but I feel they come out safely in a playoff spot.
Ryan: I think they finish third with somewhere around 98 points.
Ari: If most things go well, I figure they can take the division with over 100 points. If some things don’t pan out, then they’ll probably finish third in the division, somewhere in the mid-90s, points wise.
What about the 2017-18 edition of the Flames makes you excited?
Christian R: The top 4 looked sensational in their final preseason outing and could make for some really fun hockey, as well as if Mike Smith plays like he did against the Jets for the bulk of the season, we’re in for a really fun season. And of course, watching a season of Jaromir Jagr. Sam Bennett could turn into an absolute treat with competent linemates now, too.
Vintage Flame: The addition of Hamonic should pay off in spades for Brodie. I think we are going to see a pairing that is dynamic and dominant. We are going to see Brodie really come into his own this year. Up front, I’m excited to see what kind of season Bennett and Tkachuk have. Both should break out and it’s my hope that it drives both competitive natures and we see something special come out of it.
Bill: They can actually roll three formidable forward lines and 2 top-level defensive pairings. That a luxury the Flames haven’t had in years.
Taylor: Well, despite the overall lackluster preseason, the top-four is extremely solid, thanks to the addition of JAROMIR FREAKING JAGR the top-nine is legit, and I can’t wait to see what they can do on the powerplay with that kind of firepower.
Karim: Obviously I’m excited to see Jagr in a Flames uniform, but outside of that I’m really looking forward to seeing Sam Bennett. I think he has a fantastic opportunity to finally live up to expectations. He’s extremely skilled and if he figures it out this year, he could be an absolute force.
Christian T: Jaromir Jagr, Jaromir Jagr, Jaromir Jagr, and uhhh Jaromir Jagr. Also, a defence worth a damn outside of the top pairing and Matthew Tkachuk with one year’s experience under his belt. What can’t you love?
Ryan: Three lines that can score will be nice, as well as a solid defensive group.
Ari: They have a real top nine AND a real top four now. The players that will be spending the most time on the ice are all very good ones. It’s been some time since that happened. Certainly not recently.
What about the 2017-18 edition of the Flames fills you with a feeling of impending dread?
Christian R: The goaltending could be a huge issue if Smith doesn’t hold up and Lack doesn’t bounce back. Like every succeeding season since Kiprusoff left, it’s a wildcard in net. The third line was an original concern but it’s become the exact opposite of that, now.
Vintage Flame: I’m still not sold on Mike Smith and Eddie Lack. I hope I’m wrong… very, very wrong.
Bill: Smith and Lack- if they perform- will take the Flames to new heights, but they can both crumble. Goaltending continues the tradition of being precarious.
Taylor: For the millionth time this summer: the goaltending fills me with a dark, brooding sense of foreboding that can only be rectified by reminding myself of the points listed earlier (the top-four and a Czech demi-god on a line with Sam Bennett and Versteeg). Hopefully the latter is enough to counteract the former. Also, the fourth line, if it is indeed some mix of Stajan/Brouwer/Glass/Jankowski/Hamilton/Lazar, will be a diaper fire.
Karim: Gotta be goaltending. I do believe in Mike Smith and I think he’s going to thrive in Calgary, but at the same time the team could really suffer if he doesn’t play well – or at least average.
Christian T: There’s great potential for inconsistent goaltending, given the spotty pasts of the two goalies they acquired. There’s also the chance that the Flames pick up a lot more injuries this year than they did last year and the depth will really get tested.
Ryan: I think everyone has some concerns about goaltending. I’m curious if Eddie Lack finishes the season here.
Ari: Goaltending is the biggest question mark and the one thing that could see everything go south. The fourth line and bottom pair maybe won’t quite match the potential of the other skaters, but they won’t be on the ice too long so it’s not a big concern; if the goalies don’t pan out, though, then it could be a troubling season.
In terms of pure ability, are the Flames better right now than they were when the 2016-17 season began?
Christian R: Yes. Full training camps for Gaudreau and Monahan, solid D pairings and all around improved defence makes the team heading to Edmonton a much more formidable one than the one that got spanked last year. Let’s get this show on the road.
Vintage Flame: Absolutely! Full training camps for Monahan and Gaudreau are for sure a plus. If Bennett and Tkachuk come out flying as well, then we see immediate improvements. And let’s not forget, Jaromir Jagr! Right?
Bill: Yeah, the fact that they can now juggle lines to see which combinations work best instead of juggling lines to see which ones carry anchors better pushes them well past their previous levels
Taylor: Despite the fact that it looks like Tanner Glass will have replaced Lance Bouma (which seems like a lateral move in the most generous of interpretations) I think they are better in terms of skaters, though I am just not sure how much, if any, they’ve improved in net. Hang on to your butts I guess.
Karim: Absolutely. The top-9 looks formidable, Hamonic and Brodie look like they’re becoming a lot more comfrotable with each other, and lots of guys should have better years. On paper, goaltending is probably about the same if not a tad worse. But I think Mike Smith has a better chance to succeed here than Brian Elliott did.
Christian T: You really can’t say otherwise. The team now has three full forward lines to give teams headaches and a solid top four to boot. That’s deadly, regardless of goaltending worries.
Ryan: Oh, easily. I think they’re a deeper, better team, and hopefully familiarity with each other and Glen Gulutzan’s system will result in fewer peaks and valleys throughout the year, too.
Ari: Yes. What really helps here is under a full year of Glen Gulutzan, the players are not only up to speed, but he knows how to use them. Remember the defence pairings to start last season? Not an issue now. We should now be seeing a team come together from the beginning. No excuses this time.