Mid-Season Review: Calgary Flames
With one game left before the Christmas break, the Calgary Flames would tell you they are happy with their position in the standings.
They are 3rd in the Pacific Division with 39 points on the season, sitting 7 points behind the division leading Vegas Golden Knights. Calgary goes into their last game before the holiday break against the Montreal Canadiens.
The Big Two
Sitting 7th in league scoring, Johnny Gaudreau is on pace to have a career year. He hasn’t missed a game this season, playing all 35 recording 40 points. Johnny Hockey scored a goal of the year candidate this year, in a shootout against the Minnesota Wild. The 24 year-old showed his soft hands and showing patience as he flipped a puck over a sprawling Devin Dubnyk. As long as he stays healthy, Flames fans should expect a big second half, and possibly making the playoffs for a second straight year.
Calgary’s 1st round pick in 2013 Sean Monahan has had a good start to this season. Monahan has 31 points, good for 2nd in team scoring behind Gaudreau. Monahan needs 32 points in the 2nd half of the season to tie his career-high of 63 points in the 2015-16 season. He has been struggling as of late, only recording 1 assist in his past 6 games. Monahan has had success against the Habs in his career scoring 9 points, so he could snap his struggling slump before the Christmas break.
Up the Middle
One thing the Flames need to improve at the trade deadline is trading for a centre. Mikael Backlund, Mark Jankowski and Matt Stajan round up the Flames centers. Those 3 combine for 34 points, with Backlund recording 20 of them. Playoff teams need contributions from all 4 lines if they want to have a deep playoff run. With Matt Stajan appearing in 25 games for them this year and only recording an assist, this is something he will forget going into the 2nd half. The 34-year-old is 40 games shy of 1000. Looking at his line mates is a hard reason to figure out Stajan’s slow start. He plays with veteran Troy Brouwer and Freddie Hamilton. If the Flames are looking to solidify their playoff spot, they will need more than 11 points out of their 4th line.
One thing the Flames have lots of? Veterans. After Kris Versteeg returns from a hip injury (month-to-month) and Jaromir Jagr returns from his lower body injury, they will have Jagr, Versteeg, Michael Frolik, Troy Brouwer, and Matt Stajan. These 5 could be essential as they have lots of NHL experience, which is important for the younger players as they look to solidify a deep playoff run.
The Back End
The strength of this Calgary Flames team? The back-end. General Manager Brad Treliving has done an exceptional job establishing his defensive core. After the legacy that Jarome Iginla had in Calgary they needed a new captain in 2013 and Mark Giordano was selected. He has 14 points this season as he is on the top pairing with Dougie Hamilton, who is in 2nd for scoring among the defencemen on this Flames team. Hamilton has chipped in for 4 goals and 12 assists, sitting at +5 going into the game against Montreal. The 2nd pairing consists of TJ Brodie and Michael Stone. Brodie, who leads in scoring among the defensive core and has 17 points this year. Once Travis Hamonic returns from a minor groin injury, Calgary has arguably the best defensive core in the NHL.
in the pipes
Mike Smith, the starting goalie for the Flames is a great addition for this team, who have had some average goalies in the past couple years. Smith has appeared in 30 games, winning 14 of them with a 2.55 goals against average. If the Flames allow less than 3 goals a game in the 2nd half of the season, it will lead them to the success they will need to make the playoffs.