Friends, the Calgary Flames season has begun in earnest. The home side of their 2019-20 schedule kicks off this evening at the palatial Scotiabank Saddledome. To commemorate this occasion, we’ve assembled the FlamesNation Roundtable to discuss the issues of the day.
What reflected the Flames’ true talent level: the 2018-19 regular season, the 2019 playoffs, or is it somewhere in the middle?
Ryan: Honestly? I’m leaning regular season Flames. When they had their team firing on all cylinders, they were a sight to behold. They just need to peak at the right time.
Karim: It’s definitely neither, but I think the Flames trend way closer to the regular season version of themselves as opposed to the playoff one. This is a good team. They’re better than most of the league and outside of Calgary, people don’t realize how good David Rittich is. They’re deep, skilled, and will be one of the top dogs in the West again this year.
Bill: Closer to the regular season. They played well enough over 82 games to win 50 of them. It takes consistency to do that and an early exit in the playoffs doesn’t reflect how good they can be.
Nathan: I think that it’s somewhere in the middle, but it leans closer towards the regular season. That doesn’t mean a whole lot right now because the 82 games of regular season don’t feel like they mean anything compared to the five of the postseason, but it’s the truth. Yeah, it’s unlikely that everyone has a career year at the same time again, but it’s more unlikely that the Flames are a team that can only win once every five games.
Konnie: I feel that what the team was like in December is the closest to what the Flames are actually like. A very deep team with serious flaws.
Christian R: It’s in the middle, but certainly skewed towards the regular season. This team has an elite scoring line and shut down line, a passable bottom six and stout blue line. Their embarrassing loss to the Avs came down, in my opinion, to erroneously “sticking to their game” instead of trying to exploit the Avalanche’s weaknesses, which Colorado instead did to Calgary. I think if they approached things differently, we would’ve seen a different series.
Mike: Closer to the middle, but maybe slightly above the middle (if that makes sense?). They’re a top team in the west, but there’s a lot of reasonable questions to pose about the normal “Calgary Flames” concerns.
What are your expectations for the 2019-20 Flames?
Ryan: Second or third in the Pacific. If they don’t win at least a playoff round, though, the season will be a disappointment.
Karim: Vegas is a very, very good team, but I think the Flames and Sharks are pretty even so I expect the Flames to contend for home ice in the playoffs this season. At the very least, they’ll be a playoff team. Missing the playoffs would be a massive failure.
Bill: The Flames should be in a top three spot in the Pacific, but I’d one up it and say they should expect to finish with home ice. Given how things are in the Pacific, it’d be disappointing if they didn’t accomplish that. If singling out a player, I would wager that Matthew Tkachuk will elevate his game to a whole new level.
Nathan: My expectations for the 2019-20 Flames are to win a god damned playoff round. It doesn’t feel real that they’ve won one round since 2004! Or that those playoff wins in 2004 were the only playoff wins since 1989! In the regular season though, I expect that they’ll probably challenge for home ice (second seed) in the Pacific Division and clinch it, although that rests more on Martin Jones than anyone in Calgary.
Konnie: At this point, the regular season standings don’t really matter. It does not matter to me where they finish, as long as it is in the playoffs. Win a round, maybe even two, and I will call it a successful season.
Christian R: Building off of question one, I suspect we’ll see a similarly strong regular season (with room for randomness, so it may not be a top three NHL finish again) and a better performance in the playoffs. Not to guarantee success either way, but I doubt we see them embarrassed in the same manner as last year. I just can’t believe Bill Peters is one to not learn from his past failures.
Mike: Matthew Tkachuk makes more enemies in year four of his friendship tour, the team is a top-three threat in the Pacific, and maybe we go a few months without a goalie controversy. I’m a modest man at this point – I just want them to do good things.
What one player will be most crucial to the Flames having a successful 2019-20 season?
Ryan: David Rittich.
Karim: Rittich is a close second, but I’m going with Gaudreau. In terms of play drivers, he’s in the highest of highest tiers in the NHL and he really is the one who dictates the Flames’ offense, both at 5v5 and on the power play. The Flames’ success is directly related to Gaudreau’s.
Bill: Rittich. The Flames skaters had little turn over in the off-season and have the talent to outscore their opponents more often than not. It’s up to Rittich, who’ll be in the spotlight as the Flames’ definitive starter, as to whether it’ll be an easy path to the playoffs.
Nathan: I think it’s easy to say someone like Rittich or Gaudreau, because that’s the easy and obvious answer. So instead, I’ll go with someone else that’s more of a meta indicator – Michael Frolik. If Michael Frolik becomes an invaluable (read: untradeable) asset to the Flames this year, it means they have an incredible top six (or even better, a complete top nine) and don’t need to focus on plugging holes up top. If not, it’s extremely likely that Frolik gets traded, throws off the chemistry of the team that was hyped up so much this offseason, and that Calgary needs to acknowledge they are still major tweaks away from competing.
Konnie: I’m going to go off the board a bit and say Rasmus Andersson. The Flames are a deep team but in terms of other top teams in the west, they are lacking in the amount of difference makers in the lineup. The team desperately needs more, especially on the back end, and Andersson is arguably the closest young player to become that. If Andersson can establish himself as a truly solid defender, then the Flames are more likely to contend for longer.
Christian R: David Rittich (or Cam Talbot). It doesn’t matter how formidable the roster may look, without good goaltending, any and all dreams of glory can be scrapped. The Flames somehow won the West with below average goaltending, but safe money is on them needing at least league average goaltending to get a sniff anywhere near, that this year. The Flames are a good team, but how good will be dictated by the man between their pipes, whomever it may be.
Mike: Rittich or Tkachuk.