As we approach the 2016-17 season, we’re previewing what’s ahead for each of the 30 NHL teams. Up next: the Calgary Flames.
MAIN SUMMER HEADLINES
• Flames trade for goaltender Brian Elliott
Head coach: Glen Gulutzan
GM: Brad Treliving
Team payroll: $64.41 million ($73 million salary cap)
2015-16 Record: 35-40-7 (Fifth in Pacific)
GF: 231 (11th in NHL)
GA: 260 (30th in NHL)
Result: Missed playoffs by 10 points
Key acquisitions: Troy Brouwer, Brian Elliott, Chad Johnson, Alex Chiasson
Key departures: Joe Colborne, Josh Jooris, Jonas Hiller
Rookies to watch: Matthew Tkachuk, at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, is likely physically ready to make the jump to NHL hockey. If the Flames feel he’s mentally ready, fans will get a glimpse of the rare combination of skills he possesses.
He’s a power forward with a strong skating stride and a silky pair of hands, which is why he was one of seven players to score more than 100 points in the Ontario Hockey League last season.
Tkachuk got a good head start on camp too, by having a strong Penticton Rookie Camp. “He certainly makes his mark on the game,” coach Gulutzan said to the Calgary Sun. “What I really like is he is always trying to make a difference someway in the shift.”
Calgary will have a successful season if…
Brian Elliott can be every bit as good over 60-plus games as he was over 42 last season.
The only time in his career that Elliott played more than 50 games in a season was in 2009-10 with the Ottawa Senators. The Flames are going to have to rely on him for at least that many and they’re going to need him to have a save percentage north of the .909 he put up in Ottawa.
Elliott had a .930 save percentage in St. Louis last season. The Flames’ defence might not be on par with the Blues’, but they’re good enough to help Elliott keep his numbers up.
Chad Johnson is a worthy backup, but if he’s pushing Elliott for more than the 20-22 starts he’s pencilled in for, the Flames are going to be in a world of hurt.
Calgary will have an unsuccessful season if…
They don’t get secondary scoring.
Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau (assuming he signs), Michael Backlund, Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie are going to get their fill. Troy Brouwer, who had 18 goals and 21 assists in St. Louis last season, is a nice addition.
But if sophomore Sam Bennett doesn’t take the next step after scoring 36 points in his first season, if 25-year-old Alex Chiasson can’t do better than the 14 points he scored in Ottawa last season, if Matt Stajan doesn’t improve on back-to-back 17-point seasons, and if Tkachuk isn’t ready, this team won’t have the scoring to get back into the playoff picture.
And of course, if Gaudreau’s contract negotiation extends into the season, it could have long-lasting negative effects on the year.