Calgary Flames

Flames Sunday Census: Where Calgary might finish in the Pacific Division

Over the past few weeks, the NHL has gone from complete chaos—from the expansion draft to the NHL Draft to free agency—to a slow stillness with a majority of moves made by teams being mainly depth signings with the exception of some notable defencemen contracts.

For the Calgary Flames, they have focussed on only depth signings with their last few transactions, though they will turn to their restricted free agents soon enough. If the Flames don’t make any more major moves for the offseason, how do you feel about the Flames chances in the Pacific Division for the 2021–22 season? We asked, you answered.

The Flames will be different in 2021–22

As it currently stands, the Flames have seen a decent amount of turnover in their roster compared to when the 2020–21 regulars season ended. Most significantly, Calgary lost their captain Mark Giordano to the expansion draft, while they signed free agent Blake Coleman through to 2026–27, making him the first Flame signed that far into the future so far.

Further, there are new names in Tyler Pitlick, Trevor Lewis, Nikita Zadorov, Daniel Vladar, and more depth signings as well; while there were subtractions on top of Giordano’s, most notably with Derek Ryan signing with the Edmonton Oilers. The Flames will definitely have a different look and feel to them by these moves alone, but there’s going to be more moves made before the offseason is over.

Given the current roster, where might they end up in the Pacific?

2021–22 Calgary Flames roster projections

For the Flames, the realistically have 15 forwards that will vie for the 12 roster spots on opening night:

Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, and Matthew Tkachuk will likely remain the Flames’s top line, while deployment of Andrew Mangiapane, Blake Coleman, Mikael Backlund, Sean Monahan, Dillon Dube, Milan Lucic, Brett Ritchie, Glenn Gawdin, Matthew Phillips, Lewis, and Pitlick can see some jumbling before the lines are settled.

There is also the longshot of Connor Zary or Jakob Pelletier making the roster, while players such as Byron Froese—who saw NHL minutes last season—will likely no longer be a consideration.

On defence, things are a bit clearer as the Flames will ice Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev, and Rasmus Andersson in the top-four, with one of Juuso Valimaki or Zadorov likely to take the fourth spot, while Connor Mackey and Oliver Kylington may rotate duties filling out the third pairing with the extra of Valimaki or Zadorov. This of course leaves out the inevitable Michael Stone re-signing that the Flames will probably get around to sometime later in the summer.

For goaltending, it’s pretty obvious that Jacob Markstrom will get the bulk of the starts while Vladar will hope to be a formidable backup, continuing on his development as he did in Boston.

So with this roster, the team looks to have improved on offence while taking a big step back on defence. There are also question marks on which players will return to their former selves after recovering from injury. Notably, Monahan needs to rebound past his terrifyingly awful season, Hanafin would like to see him play at the same level he did last year at the very least, and Markstrom’s recovery after his injuries will be a big factor for his workload.

Pacific division changes for the next season

The Pacific will of course welcome the Seattle Kraken to the mix while they bid farewell to the Arizona Coyotes. Per JFreshHockey on Twitter, the Pacific Division could see its two latest expansion teams sit atop while the two Alberta teams take the third and fourth spots.

At the time of writing, about half of the votes on the poll suggest that people expect the Flames to follow this projection and comfortably finish third or fourth. However, there is an added problem out for Calgary that Dom Luszczyszyn points out with his game score value added (GSVA) model.

The Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, and Vancouver Canucks got better, while the Anaheim Ducks, Flames, and Vegas Golden Knights got worse. This might make the playoff race a bit tighter than anticipated, as a comfortable third or fourth place finish in the Pacific might actually be tightly held with bubble teams breathing down the necks of the teams ahead of them.

Pacific Division showdowns

This is all to say that the Pacific is going to be weird. There’s no telling how the Kraken will actually perform on the ice, but if they successfully emulate the Golden Knights—or even define and reach their own standards for success—then they’ll be another Pacific powerhouse for years to come.

The Flames will have the work cutout for them. Under a full season of Darryl Sutter, the Flames will likely see a defence-first approach be at the forefront of their game, while they face their Western Canadian rivals in the Oilers and Canucks who are clearly going for an offence-first strategy.

However the Pacific Division ends up, the Flames’ first goal is to clearly to make the playoffs. With just one second round appearance (2015) in the NHL playoffs since the 2004 Cup run, the Flames have significant hurdles to overcome if they’re to even be remotely competitive for the Cup.

As it stands with the current roster, the Flames are a longshot to contend, but sentiments suggest that they should at least be in a better position to lock in a playoff spot instead of seeing their season end way too early for anyone’s liking.

Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

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