4 reasons to get excited about the Calgary Flames 2023-24 season
Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
2 months ago
There has been a lot of negativity around the Calgary Flames franchise the last 14 months. And for good reason. A lot has gone wrong. We don’t need to rehash what has happened.
But I thought it would be a good idea to talk about some positives with the Flames and give a few reasons to look forward to next season.
The Flames are going to be more entertaining
A guarantee heading into next season is the fact that the Flames coaching staff is going to allow the players to play a more up tempo, creative offensive playing style. Craig Conroy, Ryan Huska and Marc Savard have all talked about the Flames are going to play a more entertaining brand of hockey.
Expect the likes of Jonathan Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri, Andrew Mangiapane, and others to make more passes in the offensive zone, be more patient with the puck on their stick, and create more high danger scoring chances than they did last season. Gone are the days of shooting the puck toward the net from everywhere on the ice.
A big part of the change we are going to see will come from the ideas and systems of assistant coach, Marc Savard. I can’t stress enough how exciting of a hire Savard is for this Flames team that needs a jolt of positivity, fun, and creativity to their game at 5-on-5 and the power play. The St Louis Blues had the third best power play in the NHL under Savard in 2018-19. The Windsor Spitfires were the highest scoring team in the OHL both years Savard was the head coach. They also put up the second and third best power play percentage in the OHL in that time.
It would be stunning if Huberdeau, Kadri, Lindholm (if he’s still in Calgary), Mangiapane and others didn’t bounce back from a production perspective next season because of the changes in system and culture.
MacKenzie Weegar building off his strong finish
One player who is going to take a big step next season is MacKenzie Weegar.
Weegar didn’t live up to lofty expectations put on him from the fans and media in the first half of the season. There are reasons for that. It took time for Weegar to settle into being a Calgary Flame. That includes familiarizing himself to the city. Getting used to a new, demanding head coach. Integrating himself with his teammates. It takes time for a player like that to get used to his new surroundings.
From January to the end of the season, he seemed like a whole new player.
|Oct. 13-Dec 31||37||1||9||60.26%||52.27%||56.47%|
|Jan 1-Apr 12||44||3||22||62.29%||59.09%||59.57%|
(Goals and points are at all strengths. CF%, GF%, xGF%, are all at 5-on-5. Stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick)
As you can see, Weegar improved every statistical category in the second half of the season. The most notable change being his point totals.
Weegar should see time on the Flames power play next season which should boost his offensive numbers next season.
Weegar carried his strong play to the IIHF World Championships where he led Team Canada in points with 11 in only ten games. He quarterbacked the first power play unit and was a force at 5-on-5 in that tournament.
It’s going to be fun to watch continue his progression with the Flames now that he has a year under his belt with the team and a fresh start with a new head coach.
The Flames finally have a management team and coaching staff who believes in playing young players. Hallelujah!
Flames fans can expect to see the likes of Dustin Wolf, Matthew Coronato, Jakob Pelletier, and Walker Duehr in the lineup for some or most of the 2023-24 season.
This is going to be a nice change of pace to see some exciting, skilled, youthful, and passionate players in a rather stale Flames lineup. We all saw the energy Pelletier and Duehr brought to the team last year. And remember the last game of the season when Pelletier, Coronato and Wolf all played? That was the loudest and most excited the dome had been in months.
Having young players will also make the on-ice product more exciting. Out are Milan Lucic, Trevor Lewis, Nick Ritchie, and Brett Ritchie. In comes younger, faster, more talented young players to take their place in the bottom six of the lineup which should lead to more entertaining hockey for Flames fans.
I don’t want to hype up the rookies too much or put too much pressure on them. They will not be saviors for this Flames team. But they are going to be exciting additions to an aging roster who needs an injection of youth.
The return of Oliver Kylington
It’s going to be great to have Kylington back in Calgary next season. The Flames missed his dynamic style of play last season.
Kylington is going to bring a lot of speed, skill, and excitement to the Flames defense group. It might take him some time to get back to where he was in the 2021-22 season, but he will get there eventually. He’s too good not to.
Here is a little reminder of what the Flames were missing last season.
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What is exciting you about next season? Let us know in the comments section!
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