Flames in Tough Spot Going into Upcoming Season

Last season, the Calgary Flames fanned out at the wrong time.

They lost a ton of games down the stretch due to inconsistency all around and also because goaltender Mike Smith missed some time with an injury and when he came back, he wasn’t very good. Overall, the team played losing hockey and put themselves in too deep a hole to get themselves back into the playoff hunt.

Going into this upcoming season, no one is quite sure which direction the Flames will go in. They have a new head coach in Bill Peters and while he has a good reputation around the league, he never got his former club, the Carolina Hurricanes into the postseason.

On offense, this club has several quality players. Guys like Johnny Gaudreau (24 goals and 60 assists for 84 points), Sean Monahan (31 goals and 33 assists for 66 points), Matthew Tkachuk (24 goals and 25 assists for 49 points), and Mikael Backlund (14 goals and 31 assists for 45 points) can all contribute and also put up points on the power play.

The team also went ahead and added James Neal by signing him to a 5-year deal. Neal is coming off a season in which he scored 25 goals for the Vegas Golden Knights so Neal will be a more than welcome addition to an already solid offense.

Defensively, the team lost Dougie Hamilton, who picked up 41 points from the team’s backend last year. With that said, they still have a solid core with guys like Mark Giordano, TJ Brodie, Travis Hamonic, and newcomer Noah Hanifin, who is just 21 years old and was the fifth overall pick of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.

In goal, the Flames have a more-than-solid masked man in Smith. Prior to his injury, Smith was having a terrific year and helping his team win games that they had no business in being in.

Yes, Smith is 36 years old, but the numbers he posted last season certainly don’t show his age. He finished the season with 25 wins, had a 2.65 GAA, a .916 save percentage and three shutouts. If he can stay healthy for the full year, the Flames should be in the thick of things in the Western Conference playoff race.

Unfortunately for the Flames, their division is absolutely loaded. The Golden Knights, Anaheim Ducks, and San Jose Sharks all had over 100 points while the Los Angeles Kings got into the postseason with 98.

A lot is going to need to go right for the Flames in order to make the playoffs this year. If their offense can produce consistently, their special teams can improve, and Smith can stay healthy all year, they will at least give themselves a shot at clinching a playoff spot.

Photo: Sportsnet.ca

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