Welcome to another edition of TWC Mailbag, where you have the opportunity to ask any pressing questions you might about the Flames, and I’ll do my best to answer! If you missed our last mailbag, we discussed a variety of topics, including the Flames defence, Evan Rodrigues, who could be the captain, and much more. We had tons of questions on a variety of topics this time around, so thank you for asking away, and let’s get into it, starting with our very own Khalid Keshavjee.
The Flames’ new x-factor
I think the obvious answer for most is Tyler Toffoli. He has the opportunity for an increased role this season. However, I will change it up and say Dillon Dube as my answer. Dube had a very good end to the 2021–22 season, and has the opportunity to play bigger minutes with the lack of winger depth in Calgary. Dube is expected to regress positively in 2022–23 based upon PDO, so the math is there to support it. It just feels like this is the season that Dube pops and scores 40 points right?
When Weegar may extend
I would imagine we get a MacKenzie Weegar contract announcement by the start of training camp or earlier. Based on everything we’ve heard, Weegar is someone who the Flames highly covet (as they should), and Weegar wants to stick around long-term with the club.
With Weegar being a late bloomer and only playing 306 NHL games so far in his career, there should be little concern in giving him a long-term offer. The Flames are trying to win now, so locking up a massive piece of the blueline for years to come would be a huge step.
Something in the vicinity of the contract Jared Spurgeon signed with the Wild in 2019 (7 years, $7.575M average annual value) makes a lot of sense for both sides in my opinion. Spurgeon did have more of a proven track record, so maybe that grinds down an AAV range of $6.75M. Whatever the contract ends up being, I believe we will be hearing an announcement within the next two or three weeks.
Lindholm’s league rank as a centre
Elias Lindholm had a fantastic 2021–22 season, scoring at a point per game while also finishing second for the Selke trophy, awarded to the NHL’s best defensive forward. However, deep diving Lindholm’s performance shows that he is likely to regress in 2022–23, as everything was going his way last year.
The NHL has so many premier centres, namely Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Patrice Bergeron, Sidney Crosby, and more that I would put ahead of Lindholm. With the information, I would personally place Lindholm in the 15–20 range of best centremen in the NHL.
That really isn’t a knock on Lindholm—who has turned into a crucial piece for this Flames lineup—but rather just a look at the amount of good centres already in the NHL.
A Battle of Alberta rematch
This is a good question, and could be a very likely playoff matchup at some point this coming year. We all know what happened last year, where everything went Edmonton’s way after the midpoint of Game 1, and Jacob Markstrom laid a goose egg (I don’t wanna talk about it any longer).
The Oilers had a fascinating offseason, with their big move being the exchange of Mike Smith for Jack Campbell. Aside from that, and we can debate how big of an upgrade Campbell is, their team is pretty much the same.
We all know what happened to the Flames this summer, where they lost two 100-point players and arguably got better. Weegar is a massive addition to a Battle of Alberta, as the Flames defence corps is very young with the exception of Chris Tanev.
Adding Kadri down the middle helps the Flames matchup against McDavid/Draisaitl in so many other ways than last year. It is so hard to bet against “McDrai,” but assuming Markstrom won’t be that bad again and the improvements the Flames have made, I’m taking them this year.
Over/under predictions on the Flames
I love this question.
I think all four of Gaudreau, Tkachuk, Huberdeau, Kadri hit the under on points, as those were all career-highs. Gaudreau and Tkachuk had PDO benders in 2021–22 and are likely to regress, especially with Gaudreau and looking at the Blue Jackets forward lineup.
I have Weegar hitting the over for points, as he will very likely be playing on the first power play unit for the Flames, and has improved year over year. After all, Darryl Sutter and his magic turned Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson into 48- and 50-point defencemen, respectively.
To follow up, I will take the under on Huberdeau’s career-highs, being that he is an assist machine. I could see a 25-goal, 70-assist, 95-point season being in Huberdeau’s wheelhouse.
Treliving’s work as general manager
This is a great question, I like this a lot. Looking back at Brad Treliving’s history, not rushing the rebuild and making trades for Travis Hamonic, Brian Elliott, or Mike Smith would have given the Flames more young pieces now. I can understand why the surprise 2015 playoff run made the Flames brass think they were closer than they really were, but rushing doesn’t look good in retrospect.
That fact that those trades ended up resulting in Jordan Kyrou and Noah Dobson hurts a lot. If Treliving is put through another rebuild at some point in his career—be that Calgary or elsewhere—I hope he has learned from his mistakes and doesn’t trade draft picks away.
If you want to plug some holes and be a bit more competitive, spend that money in free agency as opposed to trading assets. Detroit’s offseason is a prime example of this in action, where they added David Perron, Andrew Copp, Ben Chiarot, Dominik Kubalik, and Olli Maatta at no cost to their assets. Cap-wise is a different story, but for a team with plenty of cap space, these contracts can’t hurt, and you can retain and deal them at the deadline if you really need to.
Roster additions on deck
I believe they will be adding at least one more top-nine forward before training camp. A top-six forward would be even better if they can somehow make it work. Bring me Conor Garland.
The next Flames captain
If the Flames want to name a captain this year, Mikael Backlund is the guy. If they wait a bit and Lindholm signs an extension, they could turn to him. I still like Blake Coleman as a dark horse candidate for the captaincy.
Jakob Pelletier’s role
I don’t think Pelletier makes the team, so he will start the year with the Calgary Wranglers. But, if injuries hit one of their top-six forwards, calling up Pelletier to fill that role does make sense. So my roundabout answer is no, unless injuries to key players happen.
Wolf’s waiting in the wings
Similar to my answer to Pelletier, I don’t think he sees any NHL time, unless injuries take place. Wolf has astounded many with his performances so far, but there is no harm in letting him dominate the AHL for another year. Getting him a ton of action on Saddledome ice with the Wranglers will be huge.
He could slot in towards the end of the year if the Flames clinch a playoff spot early as well.
Deep thoughts on a depth piece
Every time I see the name Kevin Rooney, I still can’t believe he was the first call for the Flames in free agency. The fact that signing him for $1.3M could be the difference in having the money to sign Evan Rodrigues or Sonny Milano is so funny. He might make an immediate impact if he hits someone, but he likely won’t be seeing the scoresheet much.
Jokes aside, I think Weegar will make the most immediate impact, as he will strengthen this defence corps so much that we wouldn’t even know what the Flames were missing. With Tanev’s health status up in the air, Weegar could jump in and replace that top-four slot while Tanev heals up.
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