FlamesNation Mailbag: Celebrating the return of hockey this week

Photo credit:Mike Gould
Ryan Pike
10 months ago
The last time the Calgary Flames played an organized game, it was mid April. Brad Treliving was general manager. Darryl Sutter was head coach. So… a lot has changed since then. The march of the 2023-24 season will begin this week with the annual Young Stars Classic tournament in Penticton, BC.
As we get ready for hockey’s return, let’s dive into the mailbag!
It’s probably reasonable to expect 2021 first-rounder Matt Coronato or 2023 first-rounder Samuel Honzek to lead the Flames offensively in Penticton. Both players are used to being play-drivers for their amateur clubs – Coronato in Harvard and Honzek in Vancouver – and if they’re going to be getting long looks at main camp, they’ll need to be drivers for the Flames in the tournament.
In terms of interesting players on other teams – and with the caveat that only Winnipeg has announced their rosters as of Sunday night – I’m looking out for Edmonton’s Xavier Bourgault, Vancouver’s Danila Klimovich and Winnipeg’s Brad Lambert.
I’ve got two to keep an eye on: William Strömgren and Étienne Morin.
The 20-year-old Strömgren is in his first NHL camp after spending his first two post-draft seasons playing in Sweden. He’s bounced between junior and pro, putting up respectable offensive numbers in junior and playing reliable two-way hockey in pro (in a secondary role). Let’s see if his experience in the European game can translate to the smaller North American ice.
Meanwhile, Morin had a superb draft season with Moncton in the QMJHL and he put up really impressive offensive numbers. He’s a dynamic offensive player and this is the type of environment where that type of player can really shine. Morin’s destined to spend the season in the Q again, but he seems like he could make some noise before he heads back to junior.
All-Star Break is 49 games into the season. The Flames will have played 12 games within their division at that point – oddly enough, zero games against San Jose but their entire season series with Columbus, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, Ottawa, Philadelphia and Toronto.
The worst-case scenario for the Flames is probably .500-ish, muddling around in the mushy middle. The Flames, on paper, aren’t bad enough to crash and burn, so the best-case scenario is probably a handful of games above .500. 30 wins through 49 games is probably the upward possibility, while 23-25 is probably the downward possibility.
I like the concept of this trade proposal, on its face, but I think it does a lot to illustrate why the trade market is in a logjam right now.
Buffalo’s got a Dustin Wolf situation in net themselves right now; they have Eric Comrie (47 NHL games) and Ukka-Pekka Luukkonen (46 NHL games) slated as their two netminders at the NHL level right now, but they recently signed college standout Devon Levi and likely want to give him every chance to play NHL games this season. Based on that situation, it seems improbable that they’ll give up assets to acquire Vladar (55 NHL games) and put barriers in front of Levi, especially when they’re probably going to try to sneak Comrie or Luukkonen through waivers at some point.
In addition to that, on the Noah Hanifin side of the ledger, Buffalo has a logjam of defenders right now – per CapFriendly, they have seven blueliners on one-way deals, plus Owen Power. If they make any swaps, it would probably be to send a defender out the door, not add one. Given they’re one of just eight teams (per CapFriendly) with more than $3 million in cap space league-wide, so if they’re adding salary, they’re going to try to squeeze the other team to get the most they can while giving up the least they can.
This is probably what’s slowing up the trade markets for both Vladar and Hanifin. Teams probably feel like they have their goalie situations under control heading into camps – or in cases like Buffalo, they want to see how Levi looks before making any decisions on further moves. Same thing with Hanifin and the defensive market. Teams have set their prices and have set their camp rosters – setting up a bunch of dominoes, if you may – and prices and desires to make changes probably don’t change significantly until players hit the ice and under-perform or suffer injuries.

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