2023-24 Calgary Flames predictions: The Flames qualify for the 2023-24 post-season
Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
2 months ago
Training camp and the pre-season are upon us, and this is going to be the last instalment of my preseason predictions series. I’ve gone from individual predictions to now a full team prediction, and it’s a doozy. I just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who has read and interacted with these pieces, whether or not you agree or disagree with the actual premises. Hockey is slowly coming back, and I couldn’t be more excited.
A new head coach with some new members of the coaching staff, new freedoms provided to younger and veteran players that weren’t provided to them last season, and the consistent remarks in the media about how excited the players are to get the season started are making me very optimistic. I’m so optimistic that I think the Flames are going to play well enough to get into the post-season.
Prediction: The Flames make the playoffs
I can certainly see how this prediction might not sit well. I battled with myself, asking questions about whether or not I think this team could be considered a postseason threat, given what happened in 2022-23. And it’s understandable if some, if not most of you, are still relatively pessimistic about the current outlook. After all, nothing matters except what happens on the ice. However, there’s something about a fresh start that can really change the outlook within the locker room and thereby change the culture and vibe around the team.
I think there are some very important things to remember when addressing whether or not the Flames will make the playoffs that don’t revolve around the new staff and fresh start. Remember, Calgary, with all of their struggles last season, missed the playoffs by only two points. There’s no doubt that the gap felt bigger as the year wore on, but even with all of their struggles, it was only one game to tie for the second wild-card spot.
There’s also the fact that the Flames, statistically, should have been a better team, mainly related to their finishing ability. Their expected goals outweigh their actual goal output by a double-digit amount (14.1 fewer actual goals relative to their expected number via HockeyViz).
The Flames not scoring in and around the net is a bit of a problem, but one that can be fixed with time. Seeing that much blue around the crease in the viz above isn’t optimal, but if it gets better in 2023-24, we could see a huge uptick in goals scored and standings points earned.
It wasn’t only the finishing that was the problem. The other was the goaltending. We saw Jacob Markstrom front most of the starts, getting the nod in 59 total games with lots of them coming in the back half of the season. He had some bright spots that kept the Flames in the postseason chase towards the end of the year, but after some not-so-bright spots early in the season, it was too little too late.
The Flames’ goaltending is arguably the thing that needs to get back on track the most, and with Dustin Wolf in the mix now, the competition is going to be stiff, and it’s going to force the best out of Markstrom and Dan Vladar, if he’s not moved at some point.
The 2022-23 Flames season could not have had many more things go wrong, on or off the ice. But, with new leadership in place, a full off-season in Calgary for the newer players, and young players coming in and making impacts in the locker room and on the scoresheet already, there’s a sense that things could turn back down the right road, and if the Flames can get even slightly better performances from big-name, big-money players, they could see themselves back in the postseason. The only road bump would be the competition and how well they perform because the Pacific Division is getting better year after year.
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