The Flames are a borderline playoff contender. You can call this a prediction if you want or you can call it total B.S. but it is hard to argue with. Saying they are borderline does not imply that should they reach the post season they couldn’t do some damage, I do think that if the opponent is the right one they could do damage. Borderline just means they will have to fight to make it.
To get that opportunity they have to put up a pretty great record to make it though. The Flames had 94 points last year, historically you are right on the cusp with that number, 95 was a pretty solid number to assure yourself getting in. Last year it took 97 points to get in. So really just two more wins would have propelled last year’s Flames into the playoffs and we can all recall at least two games they should have won and blew. We can all recall two games where the boys just didn’t show up. Maybe they will this year.
Despite what everyone says I do not believe the Flames got worse. Regehr is a loss but Hannan is a very capable shut down defenseman. Hannan has drawn assignments against very tough opposition and fits the exact same mold, he’s just less expensive. We all loved what Regehr brought and I think Hannan will bring that too, a tough game with grit and thought. If you have to replace one position with ease I think it’s the shutdown defence role, there is very little difference between Regehr and Hannan.
If we look at the forward lines one could argue the Flames got better from last year with the addition of Stempniak. Langkow barely played last year so his subtraction couple with what I think is a capable 20 goal scorer is an improvement. Backlund, although out for 4-6 weeks with a broken pinky finger, is a more suitable top line center for this team than Brendan Morrison. Backlund is very under rated on his two way game, he has a pickp[ocket move that looks like Datsyuk, he does bring some ability. Having said that Backlund is not Joe Thornton, he’s not Anze Kopitar, He’s not Hank Sedin nor is he yet at the level of Datsyuk or Getzlaf and Toews. Calgary has a real issue with Center, it’s why we keep hearing about it, the teams that made it last year, that I think are locks this year, all have that guy. Maybe Backlund will get there, that’s a possibility but his shooting percentage last year and point total suggests otherwise. Time will tell. As it stands for opening night the Flames are playing David Moss on the top line, a guy with a Carreer high 39 points, and that was three years ago. It’s an issue. To say Calgary has depth at center is true, to say we have high quality depth is not. Jokinen is great now in his role as the second line guy, Horak may work as the third line guy but Morrison is a better fit there and Stajan is a fourth line center. None of those guys should play top line.
The goalie situation in Calgary may come to a head this year. Should the Flames not make the playoffs and Kipper has another ordinary year it may be very interesting to look at what happens to him. Next year his salary dips beneath his cap hit and that may make him attractive to a team that has poor attendance, money problems and is looking for a deal. A high draft pick such as Phoenix's would probably be could be a great starting point, Calgary would love to get a shot at any of the top three prospects this year. It’s just a thought.
At the end of the day the Flames do have a lot of scoring depth despite the shallow skilled center depth.
Are they worse than last year? Maybe marginally. Are they better than last year? Maybe marginally. What that translates to is that the end result should be somewhat similar, scraping to get in to the playoffs.
The ONLY difference is that this year the Flames have space to pursue a sizeable trade at the deadline that MAY help propel them in.