The three Calgary Flames stories that defined 2022
Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
5 months ago
As the calendar year 2022 comes to a close, I thought I’d put together a few year-end pieces to bring us into January. It all leads up to my favourite feature every year, which drops Saturday: the top five moments of 2022.
Before we get there, though, here are the three stories that defined the last 12 months for the Flames.
3. The Battle of Alberta
1991 to 2022 is a long time, but fans in this province finally got to see Calgary and Edmonton go toe-to-toe in a best-of-seven playoff series. Despite both teams having to survive a game seven in round one, the Flames and Oilers crossed paths in round two and gave us all kinds of fireworks. It was one of the most eventful five-game sets I can ever remember.
The atmospheres in both buildings were great. The media circus surrounding the series was off the charts. And outside of game three at Rogers Place, none of the games lacked drama and crazy momentum swings. Calgary won game one despite blowing a 6-2 lead. The Flames held a 3-1 edge in game two and couldn’t close it out. Mike Smith allowed one of the most egregious goals of all-time in game four. And game five had enough drama for an entire series and was eventually decided in overtime.
It’s a series that has impacted both teams ever since, too. Neither team won again after game five with Edmonton being swept in the Western Conference Finals. Now, with the ensuing regular season underway, the Flames and Oilers are meandering through with full knowledge the only thing that matters is how they perform in the spring.
The real question is: will the Battle of Alberta also be a defining story in 2023?
2. Overcoming Oettinger
People on Reddit were coming up with curses. Fans were attempting to hex him at the Scotiabank Saddledome. And the Flames were doing everything in their power to not let some 23-year-old from Minnesota get in their heads. And Jake Oettinger almost single-handedly stole a series for his Dallas Stars. Right up until the last shot.
Oettinger made 272 saves on 285 shots over seven games in round one for an insane 0.952 save percentage. His 64-save performance in game seven is the greatest single game goaltending performance I’ve ever seen in person and a performance for the ages. But I give Calgary a lot of credit, because they just wouldn’t be denied.
For the first time with that (former) core group, they faced adversity in the playoffs and didn’t let it bowl them over. The Flames fell down 2-1 in the series and also failed to close out the Stars in their first chance in game six. Calgary trailed 1-0 and 2-1 in game seven and came dangerously close to losing in overtime on a couple occasions. But they stuck with it, which allowed Johnny Gaudreau to score the franchise’s biggest goal since the spring of 2004.
1. The Off-Season
After the second-best regular season in team history and a rollercoaster of a postseason, the Flames entered one of the most significant summers in decades. But even with the work general manager Brad Treliving had in front of him, no one, including Brad himself, could have predicted one of the most unprecedented off-season’s in league history was coming down the pipe.
After weeks and weeks of uncertainty, things started heating up following the NHL Draft. July 12th, a day before free agency, Gaudreau and the team hunkered down and seemed to have banged out an eight-year, $84 million extension. But later that evening, Gaudreau backed out and informed the team he was headed to market. Less than 24 hours later, he was a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets, which literally no one saw coming.
Less than a week after that, Matthew Tkachuk informed Treliving he wouldn’t be signing an extension, which set the stage for a bona fide NHL blockbuster. Calgary’s trade with Florida on Friday, July 22 is viewed by many as the biggest since the inception of the salary cap. Tkachuk, Jonathan Huberdeau, and MacKenzie Weegar have all signed max deals with their new teams. And that wasn’t even the end of the story.
A few weeks later, Treliving was the talk of the league again. With a seven-year, $49 million agreement with Nazem Kadri already tucked away in a secret compartment for later, Treliving opened up the cap space he needed to make the signing official. The Flames sent Sean Monahan and a first-round pick to Montreal for future considerations, the Kadri deal was certified, and the off-season of all off-seasons was finally in the books.
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