Calgary Flames – 245 goals for, 207 goals against (6th in the Western Conference, 3rd in the Pacific)
Gaudreau – The proverbial straw that stirs the drink when it comes to overall team offense. Emergence of Tkachuk on a 2nd line would do wonders for the Flames’ offensive balance and depth. Does his best work vs 2nd line competition.
Monahan – Doesn’t control play vs any level, settling in as 2nd line C.
Backlund – Saws off best competition, but excels vs 2nd and lower level competition.
Tkachuk – WOWYs suggest he was being helped by Frolik and Backlund in his rookie season. I’m not anticipating a sophomore slump, though I do expect he will be received much differently by opposition and officials this season as a result of his on-ice behaviour in his rookie campaign.
Frolik – Similar results to Backlund, but appears to be more of a catalyst and presents an argument as Flames’ most valuable forward.
Versteeg – Supporting scoring winger who does not play a possession-strong game, meaning his results rely heavily on luck and likely explain journeyman career.
Bennett – Sheltered and struggling, but his WOWYs look better without Brouwer as a linemate. Supporting C or future as W seems likely.
Ferland – Deployed primarily as depth W, progressing, but likely a complementary player.
Brouwer – No way to sugar-coat this. Bad year for Brouwer and no shelter to be found. He improves or he becomes a major cap anchor.
Stajan – Still a useful depth center. Could the Flames have actually won the Phaneuf trade after all?
Hathaway – NHL anachronism, plays a role but doesn’t appear to be able to play the game well enough to justify his roster spot.
Lazar – Still considered a reclamation project, though it appears that he will become a depth C/W. If he carves out a PK role he could have a decent career.
F. Hamilton – Not much justification for keeping this player around and family connections create some bad optics in terms of player personnel decisions in this regard.
Shinkaruk – Not enough data to project, though likely still a prospect with some NHL potential.
Jankowski – Expected to make a more significant NHL debut this season, with expectations varying across the typical range of opinion.
D. Hamilton – Dominant player against all levels of opposition. That Boston traded him for any package that did not include an established impact player remains a damning indictment of management.
Giordano – Struggled away from Hamilton. Expect age and injury history to begin to whittle away at this player’s production, but so long as he remains paired with Hamilton I believe he will continue to be effectively deployable against top competition.
Brodie – Faced a difficult year with a steady rotation of partners and a new coach uncertain about his defensive pairings. Still effective against middle and lower competition, but the bet here is he will mesh with Hamonic to provide a true and consistent second defense pairing.
Hamonic – Coming off a poor season, for a variety of reasons, has the resume of a solid 2nd pairing defensive defender and if he can find chemistry with Brodie has a skill set that should complement well. High price paid for the player, but the potential payoff could make it well worthwhile. If it fails, though, that cost will be considerable.
Stone – There was no reason to re-sign this player and I have reservations about his ability to play effectively against even middle to bottom tier competition for the duration of his contract.
Kulak – Young prospect who appears to have his foot on the bottom rung of the defensive pairing ladder.
Bartkowski – Less useful than Stone, but Flames are less invested and could easily cut ties.
Andersson – Prospect, good skills, will need much more time to develop.
Smith – This was a bad bet made with the best of intentions. The Flames’ management went on reputation and past performance and will likely discover age-related regression and a return to a dip in performance associated with new free-agent signings.
Lack – A fair backup who may yet surprise, but if things go down a well with Smith I don’t think this player has enough rope to pull the team up.
The Flames are betting on defense and a surplus of skilled talent (mistaken for elite) to overcome the depth and skill of the Ducks and Oilers. It isn’t a necessarily unwise decision, but it carries with it inherent limitations in that it relies heavily on systems, team-wide consistency, and peak performances from those few, game-breaking talents available. When it works, it is wonderful but all too often it is overcome by a greater talent or a deeper system. Overall, the Flames’ have done well to build a team capable of at least running with the best in the division, but I have doubts about their ability to separate themselves from the pack.