FlamesNation Mailbag: Captains, GM contenders and expectations

Photo credit:Mike Gould
Ryan Pike
11 months ago
We’re about six weeks away from the 2023 NHL Draft in Nashville, and it seems incredibly likely that the Calgary Flames hire a new general manager and a new head coach between now and then. So as we continue to play the waiting game regarding some looming decisions, let’s dive into the mailbag!
I would argue that the priorities for the off-season are thus, in this order:
  1. Hire a new GM.
  2. Hire a new coach.
  3. Figure out what the future holds for Elias Lindholm.
  4. Figure out what the future holds for Mikael Backlund.
  5. Figure out the captaincy.
You need to know what the long-term direction of the club is going to be, and in terms of the on-ice portion of that, figuring out the captaincy is quite important. It’s not essential, but it’s quite important if you want the team to be as cohesive as it can be. Where is the club going, and who’s gonna lead them there?
I’m admittedly biased because I know a lot of the people involved, but I think the Flames have a pretty good analytics team. Chris Snow built out a lot of the apparatus, but they’ve added folks like David Johnson, Connor Rankin and Michael Charron in recent years (and I believe they’re hiring right now for a data engineer, too). But you’re right: it’s an arms race, and every team is constantly looking for an edge in terms of what information they have, the quality of information they have, and how they’re using that information to inform decisions throughout the hockey side of their business. The fact that they’re adding resources means that the club (and ownership) sees the value that group is adding to the organization.
Are the Flames the best at analytics? Probably not. Are they the worst? Also probably not. They’re somewhere in the middle.
In terms of potential general managers, some less obvious names that I would be curious about are folks like Buffalo Sabres vice-president of hockey strategy and research Sam Ventura, Seattle Kraken assistant GM Alexandra Mandrycky, St. Louis Blues senior advisor Scott Mellanby and Nashville Predators assistant GM (and former Flame) Scott Nichol.
I feel like the internal candidates in Calgary might be the best bets – in terms of assistant GMs Craig Conroy and Brad Pascall – but I think you’d be foolish (a) not to solicit outside opinions on your organization from some smart people and (b) not to see what other options are out there.
MacKenzie Weegar noted after the season that he felt comfortable after the All-Star Break. In the final 32 games after the All-Star Break, he had 16 points (14 at even strength). I don’t think it’s unrealistic to expect a 40-45 point season for him, especially if the Flames’ power play improves under a new coach.
As for Nazem Kadri and Jonathan Huberdeau, again, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect them to have offensive bounce-backs. For Kadri, I think somewhere between 65 and 75 points is reasonable based on his career history. And for Huberdeau, somewhere around 82 points – point per game – is probably where you should hope to see him, especially if the power play improves.
(Yes, I harped on the need to improve the power play twice.)

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