Elias Lindholm

Long-term outlook for the Calgary Flames

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the Calgary Flames. 

Pending free agents

The Core

The Flames played a little over their heads for much of 2018-19, building some belief that the Flames might possess one of the NHL’s best cores. Unfortunately, Nathan MacKinnon and the Avs rained on that parade during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and things got downright soggy at times in 2019-20.

Overall, though? The Flames’ core still looks quite good. Not best-in-class, but quite good.

If nothing else, they boast some serious value.

Thankfully, they didn’t overreact and trade Johnny Gaudreau, who’s almost insultingly underpaid ($6.75M AAV through 2021-22). Maybe 2018-19 inflated expectations for “Johnny Hockey,” but he’s still an excellent player.

It’s actually difficult to tell how much Sean Monahan and/or Elias Lindholm lean on Gaudreau for production, but both are cheap and covered for years, so it doesn’t really matter.

Matthew Tkachuk? He’s worth every bit of that $7M per year through 2021-22. So the forward group is covered pretty nicely.

And, yes, Mark Giordano‘s age (36) is troubling for the future, but we’ll get to that. For now, consider Giordano pretty fantastic (not quite Norris-fantastic, but fantastic nonetheless), and nicely cost-efficient at $6.75M. Giordano’s contract ending after 2021-22 mitigates much of that aging curve concern, too.

Now, not every long-term dollar is well-spent. While Milan Lucic isn’t as bad of a player as the snark suggests, his contract really is a headache. There are other issues, such as Mikael Backlund‘s troubling term.

Ultimately, though … not bad. Not cream of the crop stuff, but you can bump that group up quite a bit thanks to a mix of bargains and relatively limited risks.

Long-term needs for Flames

Consider Cam Talbot’s resurgence triage for the Flames’ goaltending situation. Talbot provided a short-term fix, but considering his pending UFA status and how unpredictable the position can be, will the Band-Aid slip off soon?

There’s quite a bit of uncertainty there, whether Talbot returns or the Flames find the “next” Talbot. Meanwhile, David Rittich presents an unpleasant form of predictability: he’s been consistently mediocre.

Unfortunately, the Flames face questions about how to insulate their goalies. Their defense lacks clarity beyond aging star Giordano, especially if both Hamonic and Brodie played their last games for the Flames. There are worse groups out there, but the Flames may be stuck with “good” while seeking “great.”

In ranking the NHL’s farm systems for The Athletic in January (sub required), Scott Wheeler placed the Flames 26th. Even at such a low ranking, Calgary’s highest rank prospects were forwards (and goalie Dustin Wolf), not defensemen. If the Flames get help on defense, it might have to come via free agency.

Oh yeah … they might need a coach, too, if they aren’t impressed with Geoff Ward.

Long-term strengths of Flames

While the Flames’ forward group ranks a notch or two behind the best of the best, it’s still quite good. The one-two punch of Gaudreau’s playmaking on one line and Tkachuk’s two-way peskiness on another can be very effective.

The Flames also lack a cap hit above Tkachuk’s $7M. That flexibility could come in very handy if other teams need to shed salary thanks to a coronavirus-related cap squeeze.

Even certain weaknesses could be spun as strengths.

Yes, their goalie situation is uncertain, but the Flames also enjoy flexibility. Before you scoff at that point, consider that Sergei Bobrovsky‘s performing at a sub-backup level for $10M per year at age 31.

Who’s to say that the Flames won’t successfully target better goaltending, at better prices, without the risky term other teams hand out?

Such flexibility opens up lanes for free agency, too. Perhaps the Flames could take that next step by landing, say, Alex Pietrangelo or Taylor Hall?

As is, the Flames mostly show the makings of a good team. Last season showed they could flirt with great, while this one reminded that there’s still work to do. They have a decent shot at getting there, even if they aren’t there yet.

(Then again, there’s also the possibility that they already missed their best chance or chances. Hockey’s fickle that way.)

MORE FLAMES BITS:
Looking at the 2019-20 Flames (so far?)
Biggest surprises and disappointments.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Looking at the 2019-20 Calgary Flames

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to take a look at where each NHL team stands at this moment with a series of posts examining their season. Have they met expectations? Exceeded expectations? Who has been the surprise? All of that and more. Today we look at the Calgary Flames.

Calgary Flames

Record: 36-27-7 (70 games), third in Pacific Division
Leading Scorer: Matthew Tkachuk — 61 points (23 goals and 38 assists)

In-Season Roster Moves: 

• Traded away Michael Frolik to the Buffalo Sabres for a fourth-round pick in 2020.
• Sent Brandon Davidson to the San Jose Sharks for future considerations
• Acquired Erik Gustafsson from the Chicago Blackhawks for third-round pick in 2020.
• Traded away a conditional fourth-round pick in 2021 to the Los Angeles Kings for Derek Forbort.

Season Overview: 

It seems like a long time ago now, but the Flames had the best record in the Western Conference last year. Of course, the season didn’t end on a positive note though, as they were eliminated in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Colorado Avalanche.

Heading into the NHL pause, they hadn’t really come close to locking up a postseason berth. Although they were sitting in the third spot in the Pacific Division, the Vancouver Canucks, who were on the outside of the playoff picture, were just one point behind the Flames.

Why the Flames have failed to improve on their regular-season success from a year ago isn’t exactly rocket science. Just look at the difference in production for some of their top players.

Johnny Gaudreau went from 36 goals and 99 points last year, to 18 goals and 58 points in 2019-20. Sean Monahan had 34 goals and 82 points during Calgary’s standout season a year ago only to see those numbers drop to 22 goals and 48 points this year. Elias Lindholm was still having a strong season so far in 2019-20, but his numbers went from 27 goals and 78 points to 29 goals and 54 points.

Captain Mark Giordano, who won the Norris last season, missed a 10-game stretch due to a hamstring injury. He put up an incredible 17 goals and 74 points in 78 games last year. This year, he had a very respectable five goals and 31 points in 60 games.

Let’s not forget the head coaching change/controversy that went on at the beginning of the season. Bill Peters lost his job because of the way he had been mistreating some of his players over the year. Geoff Ward has come in and picked up the pieces of what was left behind by Peters, but that couldn’t have been a comfortable situation for all involved.

If the season resumes, the final spot in the Pacific Division will be one of the best races in the NHL. Can the Flames hang on to it? What does the future look like for them? This is going to be an interesting situation to monitor going forward.

Highlight of the Season So Far: 

The biggest moment that stands out has to be the battles between Tkachuk and Zack Kassian. When I think of the 2019-20 Flames season, that’s the first snippet that pops into my mind. If the playoffs started today, the Flames and Oilers would go head-to-head. Can you imagine what that would be like? A best-of-seven series between two teams that hate each other would be must-see TV.

MORE FLAMES BITS:
Biggest surprises and disappointments for Flames

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

The Buzzer: Brodie leads Flames to OT win; sizzling Flyers win seventh straight

Sean Monahan #23, T.J. Brodie #7 and Johnny Gaudreau #13 of the Calgary Flames celebrate
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Three Stars

1) Ivan Provorov, Philadelphia Flyers

Wins on the road have been tough to come by for the Flyers this season, but they earned two points in a 5-2 victory against the division-leading Washington Capitals Wednesday. Provorov had a goal and an assist as the surging Flyers picked up their seventh straight win and moved to within one point of the Capitals for the Metro Division lead. Provorov and the rest of the Flyers defensive group have recorded an NHL-best 43 goals this season. The 23-year-old blueliner scored 6:36 into the final period to give the Flyers a 4-2 lead and wrap up the critical inter-division victory.

2) Rickard Rakell, Anaheim Ducks

Rakell needed every second of overtime to lead the Ducks to a 4-3 victory against the Colorado Avalanche. The Swedish forward fired a wrist shot from the top of the right circle and notched his first goal since January 31 with 1.2 seconds remaining in OT. Rakell also assisted on Brendan Guhle’s marker which gave Anaheim a 2-1 lead at 13:40 of the opening period.

3) TJ Brodie, Calgary Flames

With less than 11 seconds remaining in overtime, Brodie fired a wrist shot from the slot to propel the Calgary Flames to a 3-2 victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Sean Monahan couldn’t finish a feed from Johnny Gaudreau prior to the game-winning goal, but never gave up on the play. He collected the rebound, skated around the net and found an open Brodie in between the circles. The Flames erased a two-goal third-period deficit with goals from Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk to force the extra session. Calgary sits in third place in the Pacific and trails the Vegas Golden Knights by five points for first place in the division.

Highlights of the Night

Derek Grant masterfully kicked a puck over to Kevin Hayes to help the Flyers take a one-goal lead in the second period.

Nick Foligno delivered a perfect saucer pass to Gustav Nyquist when the Blue Jackets opened up a two-goal lead on the Flames.

Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog feathered a wrist shot from the right circle to even the score at 2-2 late in the first period.

Blooper of the night

Coyotes forward Carl Soderberg ends up with credit for this fluky power-play goal.

Push for the Playoffs

Notable injury

James van Riemsdyk blocked a shot and will be sidelined for the foreseeable future with a broken right hand.

Stat of the Night

Scores

Philadelphia Flyers 5, Washington Capitals 2

Calgary Flames 3, Columbus Blue Jackets 2 (OT)

Anaheim Ducks 4, Colorado Avalanche 3 (OT)

Arizona Coyotes 4, Vancouver Canucks 2


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Flames cough up costly loss to Kings

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Todd McLellan’s crew can argue that they are better than their record indicates. Even so, the Flames may rue a loss like this to the Kings, with Los Angeles winning 5-3 on Wednesday.

Flames could regret this loss to Kings

Calgary came into the night with a chance to distance themselves in the Pacific and West bubble races. Instead, the Flames dropped from the Pacific’s third spot, and squandered quite a bit of margin for error:

Pacific 3: Golden Knights (28-22-8, 64 points in 58 games played)

West Wild 1: Flames (29-23-6, 64 points, 58 GP)
West Wild 2: Coyotes (28-23-8, 64 points, 59 GP)

9th: Jets (29-24-5, 63, 58 GP)
10th: Wild (27-23-6, 60, 56 GP)
11th: Predators (26-22-7, 59, 55 GP)
12th: Blackhawks [in progress] (25-23-8, 58 in 56 GP)

Again, the Kings stand as a scrappier opponent than their worst-in-the-West record indicates. Really, they could carry real upset potential down the stretch.

Even so, the Kings beat the Flames in three of four games this season, with Calgary only managing three of a possible eight points. Los Angeles broke a five-game losing streak and earned just their second win in 12 games. Since Dec. 19, the Kings are now 5-15-2.

Flames missed opportunities in loss to Kings

A few factors stand out in Calgary’s defeat:

  • The Flames began the game a little flat, losing the shots on battle 13-8 during the first period. Eventually Calgary finished with an edge of 38-33.
  • Calvin Peterson was sharp for the Kings … aside from the Flames’ 1-0 goal. Yes, Calgary opened with a lead.
  • The teams combined for the first three goals in less than 90 seconds, including two Kings goals in 39 seconds. David Rittich looked incensed by the Flames’ defensive lapses during that span.
  • Calgary received a lengthy 5-on-3 power play opportunity during the third period, but couldn’t connect.

Quite a night for Kurtis MacDermid

Players stood out for both teams, even beyond Peterson. Elias Lindholm gave the Flames life with two late goals, cutting the Kings’ lead to 3-2 and 4-3. Jeff Carter nabbed an all-too-rare point, scoring the game-winning goal. MacDermid may not forget this one, though:

  • MacDermid fought with Milan Lucic early in the game. No word on if they fought because of a joke about Lucic’s frosted tips.
  • While it wasn’t the game-winner, MacDermid’s 3-1 goal was significant.
  • Overall, he finished with that goal, the fight, a +3 rating, three hits, and a blocked shot in 12:17 of time on ice.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Gaudreau needs to find offensive touch

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Wednesday’s matchup between the Calgary Flames and the Los Angeles Kings. Coverage begins at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Having a player on your team produce enough to be a on 65-point pace is nothing to scoff at most of the time. But for Johnny Gaudreau and the Calgary Flames, those are disappointing numbers. Can he turn this season around before it’s too late? He almost doesn’t have a choice.

The 26-year-old posted a career-high 36 goals and 99 points in 82 games last season. The Flames were heavy favorites heading into their first-round series against Colorado, but they ended up getting bounced in the first round. That playoff exit isn’t all on Gaudreau’s shoulders, but his one assist in five games certainly didn’t help make matters easier.

You have to wonder whether or not that underwhelming playoff performance has impact his game this season.

He’s heading into tonight’s game against the Kings with three assists in his last two games, but he’s scored just once in his last 10 outings.

If he scores the 20 goals he’s currently on pace for, that would be his second-lowest total since he made the leap to the NHL (he found the back of the net 18 times in 2016-17, but he missed 10 games that season).

As you’d imagine, his numbers are down across the board from last season. According to Natural Stat Trick, his CF% has gone from 54.49 percent to 50.31, his GF% went from 56.15 percent to 45.59 percent, his XGF% is down from 54.16 percent to 48.83 percent and his high-danger chances went from 53.8 percent to 46.24 percent.

Getting their star forward back on track will be key. The Flames are sitting in third in the Pacific Division with 64 points in 57 games this season. Their spot is far from secure though, as the Golden Knights and Coyotes, who are both in Wild Card spots, are tied with them. The Winnipeg Jets are one point behind the Flames.

The fact that they’re in a playoff spot with Gaudreau producing the way he has is impressive. Calgary’s a deep team and they’ve been in able to spread out their scoring pretty evenly. They have four players with more than 40 points (Matthew Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm, Sean Monahan and Gaudreau). They also have six players with double digit goals (Tkachuk, Lindholm, Monahan, Gaudreau, Mangiapane and Derek Ryan).

For them to secure a postseason berth they’ll need their elite offensive players to be…well…elite. They might be able to sneak in with these players producing below expectations, but they need Gaudreau to turn things around if they’re going to do some damage come April.

Alex Faust will call the action from STAPLES Center alongside analyst Brian Hayward. Liam McHugh hosts the night’s studio coverage alongside analysts Keith Jones and Patrick Sharp, and NHL insider Bob McKenzie.

With Alex Ovechkin just two goals shy of reaching 700 goals for his NHL career, NBC Sports has flexed into its second Capitals game this week, adding Washington’s game against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo, on Thursday night.

Thursday night’s coverage of Capitals-Avalanche will be the second half of an NHL doubleheader on NBCSN, immediately following originally-scheduled coverage of Flyers-Panthers, which begins at 7 p.m. ET. Pre-game coverage at 6 p.m. ET with NHL Live.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.