Risk Factors: Calgary Flames edition

From the same bunch of pessimists who brought you “Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup,” PHT presents a new series called “Risk Factors,” i.e. three reasons to be worried about each NHL team in 2014-15.

Calgary Flames:

1. Where are the goals going to come from? The Calgary Flames didn’t exactly starve for goals last season – other teams in the Pacific Division, like the Canucks, Oilers and, heck, even the Kings finished below them in goals-per-game average. But when you finish 23rd out of 30 teams in filling the net throughout the course of 82 games, it’s certainly worth bringing up for the following season.

Mike Cammalleri is gone, and so are his 26 goals from last season – a team best. He signed with the New Jersey Devils as an unrestricted free agent, which means his scoring touch is now in another conference. The Flames have added Mason Raymond and Devin Setoguchi this summer. Not necessarily players known to be models of consistency. They’ve shown flashes and potential and promise, yes. Doing it year after year after year has been a different story.

But next in line, behind Cammalleri last season, was rookie Sean Monahan and his 22 goals. Not bad, considering Calgary’s sixth overall pick from 2013 only turned 19 years old just after the start of last season.

But what of those dreaded sophomore slumps? Can Monahan improve on his total from a season ago? Better yet, can he avoid falling off that same pace he was scoring at a year ago?

The Flames might have a not-so-secret weapon. If there are some in the hockey world, for whatever reason, still unaware of 21-year-old Johnny Gaudreau, then it won’t take long for him to make a lasting impression. He might be what some folks would classify as “undersized” at 5’9″ tall and 150 pounds.

But he possesses immense skill and has shown this pre-season that he can score goals – some pretty ones dating back to the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, B.C. – and set them up, too.

“The thing with Johnny,” Flames GM Brad Treliving recently told the Calgary Herald, “is that with the puck on his stick he’s an NHL player. You can see the instincts. They’re obvious. So now it’s OK, the game’s also played without the puck.

“I think for him it’s just a question of feeling his way around. He’s an intelligent guy. You can almost see his brain working ‘What can I get away with and what can’t I?’ To me he’s just sorting it out.”

Perhaps the Flames have the young talent to turn their offensive fortunes around. Only one real way to find out though. For a team that had only two 20-goal scorers in 2013-14, this is area is still a concern heading into this season.

2. Hiller needs to find his game.

The Flames went out on the first day of free agency this past July and landed themselves a goalie. A puck stopper capable of being the No. 1 guy, in Jonas Hiller, with a cap hit of $4.5 million, according to Capgeek.com.

The 32-year-old Hiller expressed frustration about how his time with the Anaheim Ducks concluded, especially after finding himself in and out of the crease during the playoffs, when his starting job was taken away, at first by Frederik Andersen and then John Gibson.

With a career save percentage of .916 and goals-against average of 2.51, the Flames get an experienced starting goalie, and that has, for the most part, been lacking since the retirement of Miikka Kiprusoff.

From Kristen Odland of the Calgary Herald:

Hiller comes in, challenging Karri Ramo who is technically the incumbent No. 1 netminder after falling into a consistent groove last season.

It’s unclear at this point how many games the Flames intend to use him for but last season, he made 50 appearances for the Ducks and had 29 wins.

Still, Hiller feels it’s important to have a good working relationship with Ramo.

If the Flames are to have an outside shot of competing for a playoff position this year, stability at that position could go a long way.

“At the end, you always have to compete no matter where you go, but definitely, I felt like I have a chance here,” Hiller told the Globe and Mail. “It’s a young team with a lot of talent around. I hope my experience over the last years in different leagues, in different situations, can help out the team.”

And on a team that might have difficulties offensively, goaltending becomes even more necessary for success. If Hiller struggles to find his game, the Flames could find themselves quickly extinguished.

3. Flames need captain Giordano healthy

Mark Giordano is now 31 years old – he celebrated his birthday just last week — but is coming off his best season in terms of point production in the NHL. He scored 14 goals and 47 points. Consider, too, he missed 18 games due to injury.

There in lies a risk. He’s another year older. And when you finish second on a team in total points – 20 of those came on the power play – while playing on the back end, it shows just how valuable you are to a team.

The Flames have a very veteran defensive corps, with 24-year-old TJ Brodie already having played almost 200 NHL games.

Injuries happen in hockey. They’re unavoidable. Last season, a broken ankle suffered in late October kept Giordano out of the lineup. Well after his return, Giordano, who almost Canada’s Olympic hockey team, went on a tear, racking up a nine-game point streak.

Given his point production alone, the Flames need a healthy Giordano. It’s vital to what success they might have, and that includes on the power play.

The risk: If he can’t stay healthy, the Flames lose their best defenseman, arguably their best player.

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    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

    Ilya Mikheyev
    Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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    Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
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    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

    Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

    After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

    Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

    But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

    “I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

    “I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

    Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

    Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

    Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

    All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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    Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports
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    SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

    Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

    The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

    Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

    Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.