2023-24 Calgary Flames predictions: Dustin Wolf claims the backup spot by game 20

Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
10 months ago
In my first two prediction articles, I looked mainly at players that could (and need) bounce back next season if the Calgary Flames are going to succeed in the Pacific Division and in the Western Conference. So, in order not to stay too much in the same vein as those, I’m moving on to one of the young players that could be vying for a roster spot as soon as training camp: Dustin Wolf.
Everyone knows the kind of year that Wolf had last season, and it ended with him getting a start against the San Jose Sharks at home for his NHL debut. He made some big saves and ended up with a win. It’s just one game, but the question has been asked: when has Wolf proved enough in the AHL to be called up full-time to the big show? Well, for my third 2023-24 prediction, I think he will have the backup job by the 20th game of the 2023-24 season.

Prediction: Dustin Wolf claims the backup spot by game 20

This one is certainly bolder than the other two prediction articles that I’ve written thus far, and it’s also one that doesn’t only rely on the predictability of returning to the mean for a player. Part of it has to do with the kind of production that Wolf has up to that point (whether or not he starts in the NHL or the AHL), but it also relies on what the coaching and management staff believe to be the right call, which as the person making this prediction, is basically just luck.
Last season with the Wranglers, Wolf played 55 games, held a record of 42-10-2, and registered a 2.09 goals against average and .932 save percentage. Those incredible numbers allowed him to win a multitude of awards, including the Les Cunningham Award (AHL MVP), Hap Holmes Memorial Award (lowest goals-against average in the AHL), and the Aldege Bastien Memorial Award (best goaltender in the AHL), and was named to the first AHL’s All-Star team. However, even with all of that, there are reasons as to why he may not start in the NHL with the Flames.
The biggest reason that Wolf may not be a staple on Flames roster is because he’s waiver exempt. It gives the Flames leeway to move him up and down from the NHL to the AHL, and since it doesn’t seem like Dan Vladar is going anywhere anytime soon, the plan may be to use that as much as they possibly can.
However, I think that by game 20, they will have no other choice than to make Wolf the backup. First, it’s hard for me to believe that Wolf is the third-best option in the net at this point. Vladar is a solid backup goaltender, but at some point, you have to find a way to move him out and give Wolf the keys to that position. Whether it happens because of Wolf’s stellar play or Vladar not being good enough to keep the Flames in a good position to win, that’s up for time to decide. But, I believe that at some point within the first 20 games of the season, Flames management and the coaching staff will have no choice but to make Wolf the full-time backup goaltender.
As of now, Wolf is the future in the blue paint for the Flames. And there comes a time when young players have already proven themselves at lower levels and deserve an extended shot at the NHL. That feels applicable here. One of the most important pieces here as well is that the Flames shouldn’t feel obligated to use Wolf in a reserved way because of his waiver exemption. If he gives you the best chances to win every night, he deserves a full-time shot, and I think plenty of Calgary fans believe he can do just that.

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