After suffering a shootout loss at home against Nashville, the Calgary Flames have officially been eliminated from playoff contention. It was a disappointing campaign for Calgary after a rollercoaster of an offseason that followed their Pacific Division title last year. The team bowed out with just one game remaining in the season at a record of 37-27-17 and was led in scoring by forward Tyler Toffoli, who has tallied 73 points in 81 games.
For the Flames, it was a strange year of disappointment on many fronts, starting in free agency. That’s when star forward Johnny Gaudreau decided to walk away from the team and sign with Columbus, a decision that was quickly followed by a trade that sent Matthew Tkachuk to Florida. Over the last few weeks, a lot of people thought that they could still find a way into the playoffs with an easier schedule of games to play. They did collect some tough wins against good teams, but the Flames floundered against weak opponents when it mattered most. In the last month, they suffered losses to the Canucks, Ducks, Blackhawks and Coyotes.
They Never Got Hot
Although the Flames got an excellent return on paper in the Tkachuk trade and ended up signing Nazem Kadri through free agency, the newcomers could not match the production of Gaudreau and Tkachuk last year. In fact, the production from Kadri and Jonathan Huberdeau specifically was way down this season. Of course, some of that is due to coaching, injuries and other uncontrollable variables, but the stats don’t lie. In 2021/22, Huberdeau exploded for 115 points while Kadri had 87 with the Avalanche. This season, they’ve both tallied just 55. Meanwhile, Tkachuk has had a fantastic season in Florida, and although Columbus is one of the worst teams in the league, Johnny Gaudreau is still averaging nearly a point per game.
Obviously, it’s not just about the point production up front. Jacob Markstrom had his worst season as a starter in the NHL this year after being a massive difference-maker last year. He saw his GAA go from 2.22 to 2.92 and his SVP fall from .922 to .892. So much of goaltending is about confidence, and at this point, you just have to hope that he’ll be able to get it back in the summer for next season.
So, with so much talent still on the roster and nothing to show for it this year, where do the Flames go now? Personally, I’d be very surprised if Darryl Sutter comes back for another season with the team. He is known for having a short shelf-life with teams, and it seems like he lost the room in the last half of the season this year. With a new coach behind the bench and possibly a more offensive system in place, I’d expect Jonathan Huberdeau specifically to bounce back next season. The forward averaged less than 17 minutes of ice time this year, and despite the reasoning, a talent like his needs to be seeing more ice with the best linemates available.
Yes, it was a terrible year in Calgary. However, if the team can forget about it and reset next season, they still have a roster that can do some damage in the Pacific Division for the next few years to come. Scratch this season off and move on to the future.
Sign up for our public NHL Playoff Pools today at http://officepools.com!