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3 intriguing storylines to watch for in the Calgary Flames’ final 48 games
1 month ago
The Christmas break has come and gone for the Calgary Flames. They have 48 games remaining in their 2023-24 season and there are a ton of storylines to watch for over the next four months.
Here are some intriguing things to watch for the rest of the season.
It’s inevitable that the Flames are going to make some major trades between now and the trade deadline. We all know that Elias Lindholm, Noah Hanifin, and Chris Tanev are going to be moved. We’ve beaten that story to death over the last seven months.
What is intriguing is which Flames players could be moved who aren’t pending unrestricted free agents.
What is going to happen with their goaltending situation? Jacob Markstrom has rebounded nicely this season and could be of interest to teams who have goaltending issues. Would Markstrom be willing to go to another team to try to win a Cup?
Could the Flames look to move Andrew Mangiapane? He is going to be a 29-year-old UFA in 2025. Do the Flames want to sign him to a long-term extension that takes him into his mid to late 30s? Would trading him with a couple years left on his deal get them a bigger return?
A.J. Greer is having a breakout season with 6 goals and 10 points in 33 games. Should the Flames sell high on a player who they picked up for nothing on waivers?
One other player I’ll throw out there is Rasmus Andersson. Would the Flames be willing to move on from him if they received a large return for him? Similar to Mangiapane, Andersson is going to be a 29-year-old UFA, but in 2026. Does Craig Conroy want to sign a 30-year-old to a seven- or eight-year contract in 2026? Would it make sense to trade him now or in the off-season if they are able to get a large, futures-based return for him?
These are all questions that are going to be fascinating to see how they are answered. Conroy has the ability to make a lot of moves and start to put his stamp on this Flames roster.
How can the Flames get Jonathan Huberdeau going?
This is the $84 million question. How can the Flames salvage this situation with Jonathan Huberdeau? As we all know he has struggled this season. He is 11th on the team in scoring and is only on pace to score 10 goals and 36 points.
This is the first year of an eight-year contract that has a cap hit of $10.5 million a season. Conroy and head coach, Ryan Huska, have to find a way to make this work.
Here are a couple short term ideas to give Huberdeau a spark.
First, set new goals and expectations for the struggling winger. The 115-point and point-per-game days are over for number 10. He is not that player anymore. It’s unrealistic to expect him to be the player he was in Florida for all those years.
The team needs to get Huberdeau back to being a top six winger who can put up 55-65 points a season. That’s it. Take the weight of the world and pressure of the contract off his shoulders. You can tell it’s taking a toll on him on and off the ice. Hopefully new, more realistic goals and expectations can slowly help get his confidence back.
Next, the Flames should consider taking Huberdeau off the Backlund and Coleman line, and get him back with Nazem Kadri. Get him on the ice with more creative, offensive minded players, more offensive zone starts, and against lesser competition. Shelter him at 5-on-5.
A line with Huberdeau, Kadri, and say, Connor Zary, could potentially do some damage and score a lot of goals.
Huberdeau is pointless in the month of December. It’s not working with Backlund and Coleman. It would be a good idea to switch things up and try something new to help Huberdeau out.
As the Flames begin to subtract from their roster via trade, they are going to need to fill in those holes with players from the Calgary Wranglers.
Up front, the two obvious young players Flames fans want to see more from is Jakob Pelletier and Matt Coronato. Pelletier will be returning from a shoulder injury at some point in 2024. He should get a long look in the NHL. Coronato has 21 points in 19 games with the Wranglers. The Flames could use his natural scoring ability in their lineup.
Some other names to watch for up front are Rory Kerins and Adam Klapka. Kerins has had a breakout season in the AHL putting up 19 points in 21 games. As for Klapka, he is 6’8″ and physical, but also has some decent offensive instincts. He could be a nice fit on the fourth line.
On defence, look for Jeremie Poirier to get a look at the NHL level when he returns from his laceration injury. He could be a perfect fit quarterbacking the Flames first power play unit. Poirier led the AHL in rookie scoring by a defenceman last season. In four games before his injury this year, he put up 7 points. He is dynamic with the puck, has tremendous vision, and is incredibly skilled. He could make a difference on special teams if he gets the opportunity.
The Flames could look a lot different between now and the end of July. That is exciting for a fan base looking for some fresh faces and a new, positive, long-term outlook for a middling franchise. It’s going to be fascinating to see how Conroy goes about his business in the coming months.
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