FlamesNation Mailbag: The 2023-24 season is almost upon us
Photo credit:Mike Gould
By Ryan Pike1 month ago
Friends, the 2023-24 National Hockey League season officially begins on Tuesday evening with three games – including the Vegas Golden Knights unfurling their Stanley Cup banner. The Calgary Flames begin their season on Wednesday evening against Winnipeg.
Hockey’s back, folks! Let’s check in with the mailbag.
As the building’s time winds down, we’ll get much more in depth in terms of memories and fantastic moments under the ‘Dome. But here are three moments we’ve cherry-picked, in no particular order:
- Johnny Gaudreau’s Game 7 overtime winner in 2021 against Dallas.
- Jarome Iginla’s 500th NHL goal.
- Mike Vernon’s Game 7 overtime save on Stan Smyl in 1989 against Vancouver.
Man, I hope not. Personally, I really enjoy the personalized goal songs and the inclusion of both the eight-bit “Ya-Hoo!” cowboy and that one riff from AC/DC’s “TNT.” It works, it provides some fun individual flourishes from the players, and I’m worried that if they tried to shake things up, we’d end up with another song that didn’t fit like “Barbra Streisand.”
If there’s one storyline I’m going to be glued to during the first month of the season, it’s how the club manages goaltending. If Jacob Markstrom plays like his 2021-22 vintage, then the Flames have a potential embarrassment of riches. If not, will they let him “play his way out of it”? Or will we see what Dan Vladar (or Dustin Wolf) have up their sleeves?
Markstrom probably isn’t as good as he looked in 2021-22. He’s also probably not as bad as he looked in 2022-23. The big question is where in-between those extremes he settles in during the coming season.
Over at Betway, the over/under for regular season points for the Flames is 94.5. A reasonable range to expect is somewhere between 92 and 100, we think.
They tried him out at fourth line centre quite a bit, often with some Wrangler-quality linemates, and while he was perfectly fine, he didn’t really jump off the page the way Matt Coronato did in the role he was given. The future for Zary may be either (a) developing his two-way game a bit more so he could be a fit as fourth-line centre behind the likes of Elias Lindholm, Nazem Kadri and Mikael Backlund or (b) becoming more of a full-time winger so he can play a bit higher in the rotation.
I’m fascinated to find out what the plan is for Zary over the next few seasons, especially with the Flames’ veterans signed at centre for the long haul.
If there’s one thing I like about how the Flames’ forward group is configured headed into the season, it’s their ability to shuffle wingers around. On paper, their starting wingers are Jonathan Huberdeau, Andrew Mangiapane, Adam Ruzicka, Dillon Dube, Yegor Sharangovich, Matt Coronato, Blake Coleman and Walker Duehr. Most of these guys – notably Mangiapane, Dube, Sharangovich and Coleman – can play either side, left or right.
A lot of these guys can be shuffled up to the first line or down to the fourth line, depending on situation. That versatility could really help the Flames mix things up and avoid the mid-year malaise that a lot of teams experience during the grind of the regular season.
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