The Calgary Flames finished the 2013-14 season on a high note on a 19-13-0 run. Will the Flames continue to trend upward and be a viable nightly option on the NHL odds?
What Went Wrong Last Season?
Sure, the Flames finished ahead of only their rivals from Edmonton in the Western Conference but NHL odds value and expectations weren't high. Long-serving captain Jarome Iginla was gone, as was goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, so the Flames were obviously in a rebuilding stage. Not to mention, the Flames were barely able to play in the Saddledome due to floods that hit the city of Calgary in the summer, but they got it ready in the nick of time. With Iginla gone, the Flames were able to allow rookie Sean Monahan to get steady ice time and he flourished in the role. Mark Giordano took over the "C" and provided leadership from the back, but the best part of the Flames was the fact that head coach Bob Hartley got the team to compete virtually every single night. They bought into his system. Even though the results weren't there much of the time, they did get better throughout the season and that is as much as you can ask of a relatively young team.
The Flames continued their rebuild in the offseason, starting with the drafting of Sam Bennett with the fourth pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. While he might need another year of seasoning in juniors, it continues the youth movement in Calgary. Mason Raymond signed with his hometown club to provide scoring while Deryk Engelland and Jonas Hiller will help stabilize the back end. The key will be Hiller: the 32-year-old can be a solid starting goalie if he can stay healthy and that’s been one of the Flames biggest weaknesses over the last few seasons. They could have a decent 1-2 punch in goal with Hiller and Karri Ramo. The biggest exit was Mike Cammalleri, but this will give a young player more of a chance to improve on the ice.
The Flames should be able to move up in the standings a little bit…but it will depend on the growth of their youngsters. As long as they continue to play hard and get better every day, the Flames have a bright future. Jiri Hudler is still around to provide some points, and the Flames have a lot of hard-nosed guys who will be a pain to play against. Monahan will get another season under his belt and now that he knows what to expect, he will be able to pace himself throughout the campaign and he should avoid the dreaded sophomore slump. It will be interesting to see how the Flames handle Max Reinhart: do they let him learn on the job like Monahan or hold him back a year?
If the young Flames forwards can make an incremental improvement, Hiller proves to be an upgrade and the team can carry over their 19-13-0 finish, they’ll have an outside shot to make the playoffs. When making your NHL picks keep that in mind that’s the ceiling for this young team.
NHL Pick: Will Miss the Playoffs