We push aside the punchbowl of eggnog, the plates of Christmas cookies and the rash of rapid test kits to gaze into the Calgary Flames’ crystal ball to make three bold predictions for 2022:
The Flames will have a new arena deal within the next year.
The latest impasse will prove to be much like the one four years earlier when the Flames also walked away from the negotiating table.
Eventually the mayor and city officials will come to their senses, realizing the city needs a new event centre more than the Flames do.
There’s simply too much at stake for both sides to have a $10 million difference of opinion destroy a $630 million project that has been in the works for more than a decade.
After originally agreeing the project would be a 50-50 proposition, the city has twice moved the goalposts on a deal that would see the Flames ownership group pay an inordinate amount for a rink the organization won’t even own.
On top of that, they were willing to take on the risk of future construction and design cost increases due to surges in commodity prices, and supply chain issues stemming from the ongoing pandemic.
They were literally within months of breaking ground on an event centre that is the core piece of the city’s development plan around an arts and cultural district next to the 38-year-old Saddledome.
Both sides have poured too much money and time into the project to walk away now.
This will get solved.
The Flames will trade for a top defenceman, who may or may not be Mark Giordano.
As good as his team has been defensively this season, coach Darryl Sutter continually laments the fact his group of blueliners don’t move the puck as quickly as he’d like or get involved offensively often enough.
The coach wants more of, well, what Giordano brought to the table in Calgary every night.
Fact is, every team could use more of that, so the bidding will be high on the former Flames captain come the trade deadline.
The debate over whether the Flames should or will go after a known and beloved commodity like Giordano is sure to be a hot topic in the new year.
Fitting his $6.75 million cap hit into the team’s cap structure would be a challenge, as would meeting the Seattle Kraken’s asking price.
Seattle’s ask in the summer, to avoid selecting Giordano in the expansion draft, was a first-round pick, as well as either a second- or third-rounder, depending on who you talk to.
You can bet the ask will be every bit as high for the 38-year-old rental, with multiple bidders swirling.
Even if they choose to avoid the Giordano sweepstakes, the Flames will want to bolster their back end, which needs more depth and experience.
If the Flames can continue playing as one of the top teams in the west, GM Brad Treliving will feel compelled to bolster his back end for a potential playoff run.
Jacob Markstrom will be a Vezina Trophy finalist
As sensational as the Flames’ top netminder has played so far this season, he likely wouldn’t be a Vezina finalist if the season were to end today.
The GMs who vote on the award would likely have Carolina’s Frederik Andersen, Toronto’s Jack Campbell and Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy ahead of him at this point.
Consider how close the stats of the Vezina frontrunners are now:
Pittsburgh’s Tristan Jarry (15-5-4) and Andersen (16-5-0) both sport a 1.93 GAA, while Markstrom (10-6-5) and Campbell (15-5-2) are at 1.94.
Vasilevskiy is at 2.14, but leads the loop in wins, at 17-4-3, and is widely considered to be the best goalie in the NHL the last handful of seasons.
The save percentages of these five range from .928 (Vasilevskiy) to .937 (Campbell). Markstrom sits in the middle at .933.
Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers and Nashville’s Juuse Saros have also had starts that can keep them in the running as the season progresses.
It says here Markstrom’s steadiness and structure in front of him will help him surpass one or two of the current frontrunners to earn a seat at next summer’s NHL Awards.
The hype that goes with Campbell’s unlikely success, Andersen’s resurrection and Vasilevskiy’s dominance will make it an uphill battle for the Flames goalie.
But as his five shutouts attest, he’s capable of posting numbers that will be hard to ignore by season’s end.