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A look back on this Calgary Flames season and what to make of it

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
1 month ago
The 2023-24 season for the Calgary Flames is officially over. Playoff hockey is on, but the Sea of Red will not be participating in the festivities for the second season in a row and the third time in the last four years.
So, with the curtain closed on the 82 games, what should we make of them? What are some positives? What are some negatives? What did we enjoy? What did we vehemently dislike? Well, you’ll find out from me here, but I’d love to hear what you all think, too!
First, to address the positives, I think this Flames season was a huge success in terms of getting players back on track or at least heading in the right direction. Nazem Kadri hit 75 points; Yegor Sharangovich hit 59 points and 31 goals; Blake Coleman hit 30 goals; MacKenzie Weegar hit 20 goals, and there were plenty more positives that didn’t revolve around just the box score. Oliver Kylington not only made his way back to the NHL after not playing professionally for a calendar year, but he also came into the lineup and immediately made an impact within the Flames defence. There isn’t anyone who could disagree with the notion that that was excellent for team morale and fan sentiment during a rough and inconsistent time of the season.
It’s also worth mentioning that Connor Zary played like a Calder Trophy candidate as soon as he entered the Flames lineup, which was a boost as well.
Oh, also, Marty Pospisil was an absolute unit whenever he made his way onto the ice. He was a great addition to the lineup that packed a little bit more of a punch than many of the other players we’ve seen, not to mention the skill that accompanied that punch.
All of that being said, I think it’s a huge testament to what head coach Ryan Huska did in his first year at the helm. Not only was he very good at giving detailed responses in press conferences and after games about what he liked and didn’t like, but the team he was coaching was a more fun product to watch as they adapted to the style of play he was aiming for.
But, with the good things come the bad, and there were plenty of bad things about this Flames team.
First, the inconsistency was maddening for everyone watching.
There are plenty of talented players on the team, but every step forward was accompanied by two steps back, every two steps forward by three steps back, and so on. Every time there was a bit of momentum on the Flames’ side, everything came crashing down. In addition to that, the games that the team was losing and the way they were doing it were frustrating as well. The two losses to the Chicago Blackhawks come to mind.
Second, the start to the season was poor. A 2-6-1 record in October set the Flames on a dark path, and even though they clawed back to around the .500 mark, it didn’t feel as if the post-season was in the cards for them after that.
Finally, some players didn’t have the most stellar years. Walker Duehr wasn’t great in the games he played despite many predicting that he could consistently be an impact forward on the fourth line like he was last season. Jakob Pelletier was unfortunately hurt for most of a year in which many Flames fans and media alike believed he could take that next step. Dan Vladar could have been better in net, and Jacob Markstrom could have been at times as well. It also didn’t help that Elias Lindholm wasn’t very good before general manager Craig Conroy traded him.
Of course, when it comes to player performance, the good feels as if it outweighs the bad, but consistency cancels out everything.
When it comes to what I enjoyed during 2023-24, there are plenty of individual answers, but there were far more times this season that I enjoyed watching the team play, even during losses.
In 2022-23, it didn’t feel as if the end of the season could come soon enough. They were out of the playoffs and playing some of the most boring hockey one could ever watch. But this year, there were still players hitting milestones in game 82, and the overall attitude from the players about making every game count was a big positive for me. The on-ice product, for the most part, was at least enjoyable.
As for dislikes, it’s everything I’ve already pointed out, plus the power-play. Finishing 26th in the league this season — seven places worse than 2022-23 – it was abysmal to watch the man advantage during stretches this season, especially at the beginning. Luckily, toward the end of the season, it felt as if the players were beginning to figure it out, but it was too little too late. There were plenty of games lost because the Flames couldn’t convert on the power-play, and at times, not only could they not convert, but it was brutal watching them try to even enter the zone.
If the team wants to succeed in 2024-25, the power play needs to be a main point of conversation and improvement.
Before the season began, I made the prediction that the Flames would qualify for the postseason. But, after their horrendous start, I had a feeling I was going to be wrong, so my expectations weren’t super high for the rest of the year. Personally, what I wanted to see was a team that could at least be enjoyable to watch most of the time and players taking a big step forward, which I’d say that expectation was met. There is still plenty of work to be done, but I’m a fan of how the management team and coaching staff helped the players take a step forward in 2023-24 because that will ultimately lead to team success in the future.
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