The Calgary Flames were a lucky team last season.
For once, we’re not referring to their PDO, but rather their ability to avoid injuries. The Flames had the fewest man-games lost due to injury of all clubs, and the most significant in-season injury was to fourth-line centre Sean Monahan.
The Flames’ luck ran out during the post-season. Chris Tanev, Oliver Kylington and Nikita Zadorov all suffered injuries in the playoffs and the Flames had to lean on other defenders against Edmonton. It didn’t result in a series victory.
“Tanny gets hurt, Oliver and Z both played with significant injuries,” recalled Flames head coach Darryl Sutter. “We swallowed hard. Some guys we put in. We got through seven against Dallas, but the next part we couldn’t, because say what you want, those centremen and that position [defence] was an issue for us.”
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Several of Brad Treliving’s off-season additions seem aimed to directly address these positional challenges:
  • On the back end, the Flames added MacKenzie Weegar, Nicolas Meloche and Dennis Gilbert to an already strong defensive group.
  • Up the middle, the Flames added Nazem Kadri, Kevin Rooney, Clark Bishop, Cole Schwindt and Ben Jones.
The Flames are also hoping for some internal growth. One area that Sutter was critical of when he became head coach midway through the 2020-21 season was the club’s fitness level. Dillon Dube, Trevor Lewis and Mikael Backlund were ranked 1-2-3 in main camp fitness testing, but Sutter indicated that a large proportion of the club was close to the top.
“I think we were significantly better than last year, and last year was significantly better than the year before,” said Sutter regarding the club’s fitness testing results.
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Another area where the Flames have possibly improved is their versatility and flexibility. Under Geoff Ward, the Flames had a few common lines that they only occasionally deviated from; part of the reason for that was coaching, but another part was that the club’s players could only be used in very specific ways.
It was the hockey equivalent of “if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail” – the Flames were a team that didn’t have a terribly diverse toolbox. That’s something that’s changed over the past few off-seasons.
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The camp roster of the 2022-23 Flames features a handful of blueliners with NHL experience that have played either side of the ice in the NHL, notably Weegar (who said he has zero preference what side he plays). The forward group features a lot of left shot wingers who have played on their off-wing with a good amount of success.
All-told, the Flames’ camp roster features 31 contracted players who have played NHL games – plus a mix of youngsters trying to make a push from the AHL level and veterans on professional try-outs looking for deals. Flames brass is likely hoping this mixture of competition in camp results in improved depth at crunch time in the NHL calendar.
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“Things are going to happen throughout the year, guys are going to get hurt, guys are not going to be able to play,” said Chris Tanev. “Guys have to step up. Guys have to play maybe in a position where they’re not comfortable. All that stuff plays into 82 games, and the goal is to make the playoffs every year. We made it last year, the goal’s to continue to make the playoffs and become a better team.”
The Flames begin their pre-season schedule on Sunday with a pair of games against the Vancouver Canucks.

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