Calgary Flames fans across the world experienced some of the most painful heartbreak in their lives when Johnny Gaudreau exercised his right to enter free agency and confirmed to fans that he would not be returning to Calgary. With the decision, many Flames fans are left wondering, what’s next?
Calgary won the Pacific Division last year, and they were looked at as potential cup contenders throughout the season. However, with Gaudreau’s departure, and with Matthew Tkachuk needing a new extension, it seems like just after one year, the Flames are looking for their identity again. So, with all of this considered, what approach should the Flames take this offseason? We asked, you answered.
At a crossroads
To put it simply, this is one of the most important moments, if not the most important, in franchise history. Gaudreau is gone, and Tkachuk has the option to accept his qualifying offer to keep him with the Flames for one more year before he too could walk to unrestricted free agency.
It’s safe to say that the Flames will not allow what happened with Gaudreau, to happen with Tkachuk too. Lessons have been learnt, and it’s up to the Flames to decide which direction they go next to make sure they aren’t wounded by this again.
For this weeks poll, we wanted to see what direction our readers thought the Flames should go. Two simple options: compete, or tear it down.
Normally, we ask weekly polls and have the results out every Sunday, but with the arbitration deadline lining up on a Sunday, Tkachuk’s immediate status needed to be announced. Since he didn’t file for arbitration, he gives himself the most options available, such as still accepting his qualifying offer or negotiating a long-term contract. Without further ado, let’s see the results.
Losing Gaudreau hurts, however, the roster is not bad all of a sudden by any means. The defensive core is still intact, and the Flames still have Tkachuk, Mangiapane, Lindholm, Dube and Toffoli. The team got downgraded as any team would when losing a 115-point player, and it is unfortunately a lot tougher to see them as Stanley Cup contenders now.
Can some roster adjusting, whether through trade or free agency, keep the Flames in a contending position? More than half of the voters believe that this is the right path. If Tkachuk decides to stay long-term, there is no doubt that the franchise will remain in a win-now mindset.
Sights set on the lottery
Now this is the complete opposite end of the spectrum. The Flames could go on full tank mode. Trade everyone, get draft picks and young players and cross your fingers that you win the draft lottery. Connor Bedard would look phenomenal in a Flames jersey, right?
Just under half of the voters want to see this approach. Honestly, I can understand this. Fans have been tortured with mediocre hockey for so long before the Gaudreau era, it would be a very long painful time in Flames history to see it again. If the Flames are able to land a generational talent in Connor Bedard, it would be the first time the Flames would ever have such a player.
Decisions need to be made
To put it simply, this all revolves around Tkachuk now. Either he sees this as an opportunity to take the keys and decide that this is his team, or he decides that he wants to be somewhere else. If Tkachuk commits to the Flames long-term, the front office will do everything in its power to be a Cup contender, and I think that’s the right call.
However, if Tkachuk does not commit, it seems like the only option for the franchise is to rebuild. Tough decisions lie ahead, and fans will know pretty quickly here whether they should expect to cheer at the games, or at the draft lottery.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire