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Pacific Peeks: Calgary Flames

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Could Johnny Hockey and Matthew Tkachuk combine forces to bring the Flames back in the ‘yoffs?

NHL: Preseason-Calgary Flames at Winnipeg Jets James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

Last season was certainly not the best for the Calgary Flames. Though the team is home to one of hockey’s favorites, Johnny Gaudreau, the Flames had a mediocre run. They finished off the season with a 37-35-10 record. Sure, their run during the 2017-2018 season was forgettable, but what was unforgettable was the risk they took with Jaromir Jagr, signing him when it seemed like his NHL career had come to a close. That was a bust and Jagr returned to the Czech Republic mid-season, but it was certainly an interesting move in a rather bleak season for Calgary.

We’ll see the Sharks meet up with the Flames in a few days for a preseason game. They’ll play them when it counts on November 11. The Sharks will head north on New Year’s Eve to face them again. The teams will meet up two more times before the regular season ends on February 7 and March 31.

Where we left off

The last time we saw Calgary, the Sharks were hot. They won that game 5-1. Michael Stone had the lone Flames goal. Stone finished off the season with only ten points, so I don’t think the Sharks will have to be too concerned with him come November.

The Sharks probably should keep their eyes on Johnny Gaudreau, though. Sure, the addition of Erik Karlsson to the blue line is incredibly, but, Johnny Hockey finished off the 2017-2018 campaign with 23 goals and 60 assists. That’s a grand total of 84 points; the next up with the most points was Sean Monahan with 64. Clearly, Gaudreau is their most effective and reliable producer.

Matthew Tkachuk is another player to look out for this season. He finished off the season with 49 points, the third most among the Flames roster. Selected sixth overall by the Flames in 2016, he played 76 games in red during his rookie season. Last season was his second in the NHL and he played 68 games. He was down and out with an injury sustained in March. The 20 year old is sporting the A on his sweater during preseason and assisted three of the five goals Calgary scored to defeat the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.

The Flames just seemed to slump and couldn’t make that playoff push. Come March, the team was battered. Losing Tkachuk certainly made an impact. They lost seven straight games that month. They finished the season off with two late wins, one in March over the Edmonton Oilers and a nice little upset against the Vegas Golden Knights in April. I wouldn’t be surprised if last season’s blunders light their flames for the upcoming season. I’m sorry about that terrible dad joke.

Entry Draft

The Flames really went for it during the draft. They had a total of five picks and used every one of them... on forwards. Well, they originally only had four, but they got an additional fourth round selection from the Montreal Canadians. Their first pick, the 105th of the draft, went to Martin Pospisil. Pospisil came from the USHL where he had 37 points. Pick 108 brought the Flames a high school player named Demetrios Koumontzis, who played 24 games and scored 20 goals. Kids these days. Then came Milos Roman from the WHL who had 32 points in 39 games. In the sixth round they went for Mathias Emilio Pettersen of the USHL. Their last selection was Dmitry Zavgorodniy out of the QMJHL. Could the Flames have five new stars on their hands?

Maybe, but it will be a few years before any of them are likely to make the jump.

Roster

The Flames have a lot of talent up front. Over the summer they picked up Austin Czarnik from the Boston Bruins. They signed him to a two-year deal, making it look likely the former Bruins prospect will spend a full season with a big club. He’s already impressing, netting a hat trick during Saturday’s 5-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Czarnik didn’t see much NHL time in Boston, so he may have a slow start with Calgary, but he looks promising.

While the Flames took in a former Bruin, they also let one go. They bid farewell to defensemen Dougie Hamilton. Hamilton played in Calgary for three seasons after being dealt there by the Bruins, all of which he described as disappointing. I understand where he is coming from — Calgary’s blue line was always lack luster. I think he will be missed, though. Hamilton played in every game last season, scoring 17 goals and assisting 27. It’ll be interesting to see how the Flames fare without him. The Flames walked away from that trade with Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin.

They acquired James Neal, who had a total of 44 points in 71 games played during the Golden Knights’ inaugural season. Derek Ryan will also be joining the squad. They’ll also take the ice under a new coaching staff this season, head coach Bill Peters, associate Geoff Ward and assistant Ryan Huska.

The Flames say goodbye to head coach Glen Gulutzan, assistant coaches Dave Cameron and Paul Jerrard, president of hockey operations Brian Burke, and players Michael Ferland, Troy Brouwer, Kris Versteeg and Matt Stajan.

What can we expect in 2019?

I hate to say it, but I think Calgary will be a contender in the Pacific Division. With Matthew Tkachuk healthy, a new coaching staff, and the addition of James Neal, we could see a very strong team. The Flames made a lot of moves in the off-season, clearly unhappy with the results they had last season. I think we have a wild card team on our hands.

The key will be staying healthy. Losing Tkachuk put a hole in the end of their already mediocre season, and James Neal missed several games with the Golden Knights prior to joining the squad. They rely heavily on Gaudreau, so the addition of point producers should be to their benefit. If Calgary’s offensive core can stay strong and healthy, the Sharks may have a few interesting games to look forward to this season.

We’ll get a little taste for what’s in store with Calgary on Tuesday when the Sharks head to Soctiabank Saddledome for a preseason match up. Puck drop is at 6:00 PT.