After a long and eventful training camp, the Calgary Flames are finally ready to kick things off for the 2017-2018 season. Jaromir Jagr has been signed, the roster has been trimmed down to size, and the Flames are now focused on earning a playoff spot for a second straight season. Standing in their way to start the season tonight is one of their toughest Pacific Division foes: the Edmonton Oilers (8 pm, Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960).
Calgary Flames 0-0-0, 1st Pacific Division
Jaromir Jagr is the player every Flames fan is looking forward to seeing, but they’re going to have to wait a little while longer for that to happen. Calgary has yet to even confirm their signing of Jagr, which is reported at one-year and $1 million, with another $1 million in performance bonuses included. Jagr will most likely make his Flames debut on Saturday night in their home opener against Winnipeg, which means the team will have to make another roster move to accommodate him as one of their 23. With Hathaway already clearing waivers this week, he’s the natural choice to be assigned immediately to AHL Stockton, while Jagr is likely to slot into the right wing slog on the third line.
The signing of Jagr was in part necessitated because the team didn’t have any positive options emerge on the right side through training camp. Curtis Lazar, who won’t play tonight, had a rough and inconsistent preseason and definitely didn’t show enough to earn a definitive spot. Brouwer struggled as well and seems destined for the fourth line once Jagr joins the fray. Freddie Hamilton is a decent option to have as an extra forward but, again, likely hasn’t done enough to earn a definitive spot on a nightly basis. So, with Jagr being available and coming off a solid season in Florida, Calgary decided to pounce and bring him into the fold, and most evidence suggests he’ll make the team better.
The Flames ended up making a few roster moves on Tuesday as they finalized their roster. First off, Calgary officially signed Glass to a one-year, $650,000 contract, which seemed inevitable for a little while. Glass had attended training camp on a PTO and looks to make his official debut this evening. The Flames also assigned a pair of players to the American League on Tuesday: Luke Gazdic and Mark Jankowski. The latter of those two players has drawn quite a lot of controversy, as Jankowski had a stellar training camp and earned a spot on merit in many minds. But with some of the team’s waiver situations, they decided to assign Jankowski instead, as he doesn’t require waivers.
Tonight will see the debut of Mike Smith between the pipes Calgary after being acquired from Arizona over the summer. Smith is going to be counted on as the team’s number one goalie and, if all goes according to plan, the Flames should give him 55 or more starts this season. With the Coyotes last season, Smith went 19-26-9 with a 2.92 goals against average and a 0.914 save percentage.
Edmonton Oilers 0-0-0, 1st Pacific Division
The Oilers are coming off their most successful season in a decade and the expecations are sky high as a result. Edmonton made it to round two of the playoffs last year and were a game away from the Western Conference Final, and they deserved every bit of their success. Now, with all kinds of predictions pointing to them winning the division and beyond, all eyes will be on how the Oilers deal with their highest expectations in a long, long time.
Edmonton will start the season with 2017 first round pick Yamamoto in their lineup after a very impressive preseason. Yamamoto scored five goals and added one assist in five preseason games this fall and has earned a spot on the opening day roster on merit. Whether or not Yamamoto remains with the Oilers all season still remains to be seen; Edmonton can play him in nine NHL games before burning off a year of his entry level contract. Yamamoto is coming off a dynamite year with the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs where he finished the season with 42 goals and 99 points in 65 games. As a 19-year-old junior player, Yamamoto is not eligible to play in the American League, so it’ll either be the NHL or the WHL this season for him.
While a certain McDavid fellow and his Hart Trophy season played a massive part in Edmonton’s resurgence last year, don’t count out tonight’s starting goaltender in that, either. Cam Talbot enters the season as a bona fide number one goalie after leading the NHL in starts (73), minutes (4294:00), and wins (42) last season. Talbot didn’t end up as a Vezina Trophy finalist, but his season was definitely worth of consideration for the award. Last year Talbot went 42-22-8 with a 2.39 goals against average and a 0.919 save percentage.