For the Calgary Flames, 2020–21 might go down in their history as one of the most disappointing seasons in a long time. A lot of things went wrong for the Flames as they stumbled in the North Division. As they turn to 2021–22, they’ll have a different look in their roster, but a few players in particular are in need of rebound seasons if the team is to right the ship. Whose rebound do the Flames need the most? We asked, you answered.
Potential rebounds for the Flames
The Flames had a whole slew of players who weren’t quite themselves last season. Selecting just four players to fit into the poll was an exercise in itself as other names could have been listed. However, there’s reason to believe rebounds for Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, Rasmus Andersson, and Jacob Markstrom would all have big impacts for Calgary. Here are the justifications for each player:
By all definitions, Gaudreau did not have a bad season at all. However, he could have been better. A shoo-in for the 2022 USA Olympic roster, he has the potential to be the Flames best player year in and year out—he just wasn’t that in 2020–21. For him to rebound, it’s a simpler matter of going from good enough to exceptional.
Should he turn things around, it’d be nothing but good news for the Flames. He’s going to be playing on a line expected to score and score often, and if the end of last season was any indication, Gaudreau alongside Elias Lindholm and Tkachuk should be dynamite. Gaudreau will have the talent around him to properly take advantage of his on-ice play, as Lindholm and Tkachuk are sure fire upgrades over the likes of Sam Bennett, Josh Leivo, Dominik Simon, and dare I say it even Sean Monahan. More on Monahan a little later.
Courtesy of HockeyViz.com, here are Gaudreau’s on-ice impacts from the past season. You can see that when it comes to offence, his 5v5 play is outstanding whereas his power play was not so good at all. There’s always room for improvement and Gaudreau is no exception to the rule.
There was little doubt that Tkachuk would be the runaway most frequent selection for the poll.
Tkachuk’s season was probably as frustrating for him as it was for everyone watching him. He was effective at everything he did, but something was just off about his game. Similar to Gaudreau and arguably to a larger extent, Tkachuk is a player that has game-changing impacts on the ice—a prototypical player that wills the rest of his team to victory when they need him to the most.
For both Gaudreau and Tkachuk, their rebounds aren’t exactly from rock bottom. It’s more so about getting the most out of them and having them on the same line for the new season should be a big help to both players. Seeing either of them getting on the scoresheet both early and often will change the outlook on the whole team.
Tkachuk’s net-front presence is obvious in looking at his isolated impacts, but even more than Gaudreau, translating his chances into goals is a must-see for the Flames.
The Flames will officially face off against Mark Giordano for the first time when the Seattle Kraken visit Calgary on December 23, 2021. By then, the Flames will need to know what type of defender they have in Rasmus Anderssson. A player that completely fell off of his trajectory, his 2020–21 season was one of the worst individual performances a regular defenceman could have had.
By the tie the calendar year wraps up, that’ll be enough games to see where Andersson is at. Things can turn around to the point that he elevates to a top pairing spot—replacing one of Noah Hanifin or Chris Tanev, or he might find instant chemistry with Nikita Zadorov and works out on the second pair, or worst of all, he might continue down the path of desolate hockey.
With the Flames’ defence corps one of the biggest question marks heading into the season, seeing Andersson back on track would be tremendous for himself and the rest of the team. Looking at his isolated impacts, on offence, he was—in a word—terrible. On defence, he was—in another word—atrocious. It was not a good season for him at all. His rebound could be a big shift for the Flames to trend upwards as a whole.
The Flames goaltender was on track to have a pretty decent season, but being overworked and running into injury issues derailed his season. Being newly signed as a free agent in 2020, the comparisons between Markstrom and the Canucks’ Thatcher Demko were plentiful. By and large, Demko had a much better season than Markstrom. While Demko’s probably happy to get the reins in Vancouver, Markstrom will be out to prove the Flames were right in investing in him.
It’s pretty much a given that Darryl Sutter will start Markstrom as much as possible, but Markstrom can at least be more prepared knowing what is in store for the next year. Should he struggle, the Flames have a solid up-and-comer in Dan Vladar who should be able to hold the fort. Knock on wood it doesn’t get there though, as Markstrom will be e expected to handle the lion’s share of the games and a lot of the Flames’ success depends on him staying both sharp and healthy.
For Markstrom, we can look at his saving, also from HockeyViz.com. He did not perform particularly well in any area. He was either well short of expectations, such as when looking at tips and deflections, or fell right into expectations when looking at pretty much all other types of shots. He didn’t steal many games and didn’t have a single area of excellence. Turning things around will be critical for the Flames goaltender.
Monahan was a strong candidate to list on the poll, but he was left off in lieu of how he’ll be expected to contribute to the Flames. After Lindholm moved back to centre, the Flames got a huge upgrade in centre depth as Monahan was bumped down to a middle-six role. However, injuries prevented him from being as effective as he could have been.
Capable of being a 30-goal scorer, Monahan was not remotely close to being the offensive threat he usually is. His rebound would certainly help the Flames and there’s no doubt that should he find his game around the Flames will have a solid top-nine forward group on the ice no matter where he slots in. But not slotting into the first line likely limits his overall impact as even if he’s back to himself, the scoring pace may lessen as he continues to transition to having more two-way responsibilities instead of just being expected to score.
Don’t get me wrong, seeing Monahan rebound could really well have larger compared to the others in the poll. However, in the direction the Flames are going, his usage is likely changing and his on-ice impact will look different compared to years past. It’s too early to tell how much impact he can really impart on the team as he won’t be with his long-time linemate Gaudreau either.
Getting the Flames back on track
The Flames have a lot of opportunity to reach higher potentials this year. Playing in a weak Pacific Division will help, but they won’t get there if their best players don’t rebound. A lot of players on the team will need to trend upwards again for this season to be successful.
With much on the line right now, the Flames are in full desperation mode. There are still possible moves to be made before the first game, as well as chances to make midseason trades based on how things go for the Flames to start the new season. With any luck, Calgary’s first full season with Sutter behind the bench since 2005–06 will be a good one.
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