MISSED PLAYOFFS IN 2017-18, COULD MAKE IN 2018-19
1. Calgary Flames (My projection: second in Pacific Division, fourth in West)
An aggressive prediction, yes. Even if the Flames had kept their exact roster from this past season, I would’ve been bullish on their chances at a rebound in 2018-19. They endured horrible injury luck this past season. Mike Smith was probably the team’s MVP before he got hurt, 23-16-6, with a .921 save percentage, and was terrible upon returning, going 2-6-0 with an .880 SP. T.J. Brodie and Matthew Tkachuk sustained concussions. Sean Monahan needed four surgeries this off-season to repair his battered body. Better health alone would thus make me optimistic about the Flames getting back to the playoffs. With Monahan, Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, Mikael Backlund and Mark Giordano leading the way, the Flames don’t hurt for talent when they’re healthy.
And now they’ve significantly increased the overall talent on their roster – yes, even though they surrendered the best player in the Dougie Hamilton trade. Noah Hanifin isn’t as good as Hamilton right now, but Hanifin is still only 21 and has plenty of time to grow into a top-pair blueliner. Elias Lindholm, also coming over in the blockbuster deal with Carolina, has a much higher ceiling than the departed Micheal Ferland. James Neal, signed as a UFA, brings 25 goals or more to the fray. The Flames now have their best options ever to play with Gaudreau and Monahan, whether Neal, Lindholm or even Tkachuk gets tabbed for the job. To top it off, the Flames signed underrated two-way pivot Derek Ryan to center their third line – and they have a new coach in Bill Peters.
No team has improved itself more this off-season in my opinion. I don’t merely like the Flames to get back in the playoffs – I like them to compete for the Pacific Division crown.
- Matt Larken
Last edited by Cap'n Clutch on Sat Sep 15, 2018 11:21 pm; edited 1 time in total