To make the playoffs again, the Flames will have a have to compete in not only a tough division but also a tough conference. The Los Angeles Kings, Dallas Stars, San Jose Sharks and the Colorado Avalanche are all looking to get back into the playoffs after missing out last season. The Flames will have to beat them to have the best chance to make the playoffs. The Vancouver Canucks, whom they faced in the first round last season, are most likely not going to make the playoffs but they will have provincial rivals, the Edmonton Oilers, back in the playoff hunt. Other teams on the bubble of the playoffs, the Minnesota Wild, Winnipeg Jets, will be tough to beat despite not being in their division. The Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators and the St. Louis Blues are out of reach for the Flames to overtake in the NHL but they will need to get some points from them especially on home ice. The final team left in the West, the Arizona Coyotes are probably not going to make the playoffs.
The worst case scenario for the Flames is a drop back to the bottom of the NHL standings. If the Flames offense fails to score while having less of the puck, the Flames depth on defence and adequate goaltending may not be able to bail them out. Another problem could be long-term injuries to players like Giordano, Monhan, Brodie, Hamilton, Hudler or Gaudreau. If more than on of them get injured at the same time it could prove to be deadly.
On the other hand, the best case scenario is a deep playoff run but no Stanley Cup. This can only happen if the Flames finish second or higher in the Pacific division so they play weaker opposition than the likes of the Ducks or the Blackhawks. They will most likely play the Ducks in the second round. The only way they can beat them is if their depth forwards really perform well and outperform the Ducks depth and expose their inexperienced defence and goaltending. The Flames will be unable to make the Stanley Cup Finals as their most likely opponents do not have as glaring issues that the Ducks have.
To finish my preview for the season I think that the Flames will return to the playoffs but will be unable to get further than the second round unless a miracle happens. Their roster is good but not good enough to challenge the top teams in the NHL just yet but they could in the near future the the likes of Hamilton, Monahan, Gaudreau and Bennett.