One of the most disappointing teams this past season, the Calgary Flames settled for fifth in the North Division. Finishing below .500 for the first time since 2015, the team failed to get stellar goaltending from Jacob Markstrom. The 31-year-old racked up just a .904 save percentage. In addition, the longtime Vancouver Canucks netminder recorded a mere .535 quality start percentage, his lowest total since 2017.
Enjoying up-and-down campaigns, the star trio of Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, and Mark Giordano failed to match their past success from previous seasons. With his lowest point-per-game total in three years, Tkachuk scored just 16 goals in the shortened season. Furthermore, after winning a Norris Trophy in 2019 by leading defenseman in points with 76, Giordano saw his offensive numbers fall once again. Posting 26 points in 56 games has caused the 37-year-old to see his name floated in expansion and trade talks.
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By The Numbers
Power Play: 18.29 percent (21st)
Penalty Kill: 80.23 percent (15th)
Goals For: 156 (Tied for 20th)
Goals Against: 161 (Tied for 16th)
Best Player: Elias Lindholm
Lindholm enjoyed another successful season this past year after joining Tkachuk and Gaudreau on the team’s top line. Racking up 19 goals and 28 assists in 56 games, the 26-year-old was also successful on the power play. He spent over 177 minutes on the ice and logged six goals and ten assists with the extra man. A go-to guy for Calgary on the penalty kill like the powerplay, Lindholm played over 132 minutes shorthanded, the eighth-highest mark among forwards in the NHL.
Consistent for the Flames throughout the season, the former No. 5 overall pick registered an eight-game point streak early on in the year to help the group keep pace for the postseason. Lindholm’s ability to play in all situations throughout the entirety of a game makes him one of the most versatile pieces in the NHL.
Biggest Disappointment: Jacob Markstrom
Markstrom inked a six-year deal with the team a year ago. After beginning the season red hot out of the gate (two shoutouts in the opening month), the Sweedish netminder would ultimately become a tale of two tapes thanks to struggles in the middle part of the year.
Suffering a concussion after being run into on a breakaway forced Markstrom to post just five victories in his next 14 starts while seeing his team fall out of the playoff race. While he finished the season strong, the franchise’s big-ticker acquisition in net still posted his lowest save percentage in five seasons. Furthermore, he also finished with a negative four goals saved above average to keep Calgary out of the playoffs for the second time in four years.
Behind the Bench Analysis
Although interim head coach Geoff Ward was behind the bench to begin the year, the Flames made a rare in-season coaching change. An 11-11-2 start forced the team to bring in veteran bench boss Darryl Sutter. He signed a three-year contract with the franchise and was brought in to solidify an old-school approach inside the dressing room.
Starting off slow under Sutter, Calgary limped to a 5-9 record in their first 14 games. They rebounded somewhat, and now Sutter has added Kirk Muller and Cail MacLean as assistants to round out his coaching staff as the franchise prepares for next year. He has also informed both Ray Edwards and Martin Gelinas that they will not return in 2021.
Front Office Analysis
Entering the 2020-2021 season with lofty expectations, Brad Treliving made multiple moves during the offseason a year ago. After inking Markstrom to a six-year deal, he also signed his ex-teammate, Chris Tanev. Handing out over $50 million during free agency led the longtime executive to face scrutiny as he let defenseman T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic walk.
Active at the trade deadline, Treliving shipped goaltender David Rittich to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a third-round pick. Along with this, he sent forward Sam Bennett and a 2022 sixth-round pick to the Florida Panthers for Emil Heineman and a second-round pick. Bennett recorded six goals and nine assists in 10 games with the Panthers. Treliving is projected to have around $14 million in cap space and will have to make multiple moves with Josh Leivo, Dillon Dube, and Juuso Valimaki set to become unrestricted free agents.
2021 NHL Entry Draft Picks/Prognosis
Currently slated to hold seven picks in the upcoming NHL Draft, Calgary will carry an extra third-round choice after acquiring it from the Edmonton Oilers while lacking the fourth-round selection they shipped to the Los Angeles Kings.
The Flames have needs across the roster as they must add depth scoring in their bottom-six forward group. Furthermore, Calgary will also head into the draft with a need at the backup goalie spot. Additionally, Louis Domingue will become an unrestricted free agent in July.
Offseason Wish/Checklist & Prognosis for 2021-2022
With lofty expectations surrounding them heading into the year, question marks engulf the core group in Calgary. No question is more significant than Gaudreau, who is set to enter the final year of his contract. He made clear his willingness to sign an extension with the franchise, but the New Jersey native has seen his point totals fall drastically in each of the last two years. Loook for Treliving and the team’s front office to entertain trade offers for the 27-year-old if they are unable to come to terms.
Furthermore, the group needs to add another capable scoring option that can play in the top end of their lineup. Enacting a scoring by committee approach over the last few seasons, the Flames failed to get a 20-goal scorer this past year. Potential targets include Taylor Hall, Zach Hyman, and Kyle Palmieri.
As expansion continues to loom large over the NHL landscape with the Seattle Kraken beginning to conduct business, one last item on the offseason agenda for the franchise focuses on captain Mark Giordano. A mainstay on the Flames for 15 years, the Owen Sound Attack alumn has begun to see a dip in his play.
Follow Chris Gallagher on Twitter @ChrisGally06
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