The Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche are treading a similar path – which one will take the next step first?
As with the Colorado Avalanche, the 2015-16 season for the Calgary Flames was a huge disappointment for Flames fans. After advancing to the second round of the playoffs in the spring of 2015, the Flames saw a huge regression this year, finishing with 77 points, good for third worst in the West, and fifth worst overall.
While Flames fans were disappointed, many hockey pundits were not surprised. Although the Flames have a talented core, analysts predicted this regression due to the Flames’ poor analytic numbers. These analysts saw the Flames playoff run as a fluke and predicted, correctly, that the Flames would fall back to Earth in 2015-16.
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Sound familiar? It should if you’re a Colorado Avalanche fan. This is exactly what happened to the Avs after their meteoric 2013-14 season. In that season, Patrick Roy won the Jack Adams trophy as coach of the year, just as Bob Hartley would the following year with the Flames. Now both coaches are out of jobs, although for different reasons, and their old teams are left to prove their mettle.
The comparisons don’t stop their. Both the Avs and Flames are led by an extremely talented and young core of players that tantalizes with potential. Both teams have a set of skilled and respected veterans to guide their young core, and both teams will be led by new head coaches this season.
Like the Colorado Avalanche, the Flames have enough talent in their core to push for a playoff spot this season. Although they aren’t in the same division, the Avs could find themselves competing for a wildcard spot against this team. Each game against the Flames this season needs to be played with this in mind, while the young Avs core can use the Flames as an opportunity to prove themselves against another young and talented team.
This offseason has been steady and productive for the Calgary Flames. Most importantly, the Flames re-signed 21-year-old star center Sean Monahan to a seven-year, $44.1 million contract. In three seasons in the NHL, Monahan has already put up 80 goals and 79 assists, including a 31-goal season in 2014-15. At the age of only 21, these numbers are impressive. Monahan is a model of consistency, professionalism and skill and will be a vital piece of the Flames future.
Author’s Note: There is a mock Sean Monahan twitter account called Boring Sean Monahan. Currently with 68 thousand followers, this account pokes fun at Monahan’s occasionally dry personality.
In other moves, the Flames traded for former St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott, while signing Chad Johnson as a backup. Both these moves are huge upgrades to the traditionally shaky Flames crease. Elliott is an intriguing acquisition given the incredible play he demonstrated in the playoffs this year, despite being replaced by Jake Allen in the later rounds. Elliott’s presence alone will alter the Flames position greatly.
Additionally, the Flames signed hard-nosed, former Blackhawks champion Troy Brouwer to a four-year deal. While this deal likely won’t look great in a couple years, Brouwer has grit, experience and secondary scoring to add to a young team. Along with Brouwer, the Flames also signed center Linden Vey, a once top prospect with the L.A. Kings and also traded for Alex Chiasson, a gritty, skilled and physical winger from the Ottawa Senators.
Most intriguing, the Flames drafted Matthew Tkachuk with the 6th overall pick in the entry draft in June. Tkachuk is the son of U.S. Olympian and former NHL star, Keith Tkachuk. Like his father, Matthew plays a tough, but skilled game. It is unknown whether Tkachuk will make the Flames this year, but either way he figures to be a big part of this franchise.
This offseason saw the Flames mostly stay the course, while adding key veterans and role players. The Flames did not re-sign goalies, Karri Ramo, Jonas Hiller, Joni Ortio and Niklas Backstrom, all of whom started for the team last season. Additionally, they let RFA Joe Colborne walk (to the Avalanche), despite putting up career numbers last season. Forwards Mason Raymond and Josh Jooris were also not re-signed.
However, the offseason is not over for the Flames. Flames fans are anxiously waiting for superstar Johnny Gaudreau to be re-signed to a long term contract. Quite simply, Gaudreau is one of the most talented players in the league and is the star of the team. Undoubtedly, Gaudreau will re-sign with the Flames, but until it happens, Flames fans will be nervous.
How They Stack Up Against the Avs
Last season the Colorado Avalanche went 2-1 against the Flames. This season they should seek for a 3-0 sweep. Most pundits aren’t sure exactly what to expect from the Flames. However, it’s safe to assume that they will be in the mix for a playoff spot, especially considering the upgrades they made in net.
Like the Avs, the Flames will be expecting their core to take another step forward and become a driving force for the team. The Flames core is composed of forwards Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, former 4th overall pick Sam Bennett and defenders Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie.
This core is remarkably similar to the Avs core both in talent and age. Because of this the Avs should be wary of the Flames and not take them for granted, despite their poor finishing last season. Additionally, the Flames represent a great proving ground for the Avs core trying to find ground in the NHL.
This season the Avs and Flames will meet three times:
Tuesday, December 27 @ Colorado 7:00 PM
Wednesday, January 4 @ Calgary 8:00 PM
Monday, March 27 @ Calgary 7:00 PM
Personally, the Flames are one of my favorite teams to watch, mostly because of Johnny Gaudreau. However, I also like their style of play which is disciplined, assertive, yet also skilled. I think they make a great match-up for the Colorado Avalanche this season and will reveal the progress our core has made since last season.