With training camps having begun, hockey fans all around the world are beginning to get more and more excited as they eagerly await the beginning of the 2021-22 season. The same could be said for Calgary Flames players, as they are looking for a major bounce back year after an extremely disappointing 2021-22 campaign.
It is tough to get a read on what exactly the Flames will be able to do in 2021-22, as they didn’t make any major changes to their roster this offseason. On paper, they appear to be a good team, but for whatever reason this group hasn’t been able to have much success over the years.
If they want things to change, they will need everyone to be at their best. If that happens, the Flames could very well be a great team this season, as they have plenty of talent in their lineup. In fact, they have a few individuals who, if they perform at their highest level, could win some individual awards this season. Let’s take a look at 3 players on this roster who stand a change at taking home some hardware.
Johnny Gaudreau – Lady Byng
When at his best, Johnny Gaudreau is one of the games most dangerous point producing wingers, as very few amongst the league possess the talent he has. That skill was on full display in 2018-19 where he recorded career highs with 36 goals and 99 points.
On top of his skill, Gaudreau is a very disciplined player. Sometimes this works against him, as some fans view him as a soft player. However, his discipline was recognized by the league during the 2016-17 season, when he was awarded the Lady Byng Trophy after posting 61 points and just four penalty minutes (PIMs) in 72 games.
Gaudreau has recorded north of 20 penalty minutes just three times in his career, and had just six in 2020-21. If he is able to get his numbers back up to the level they were a few short seasons ago, and keep his PIMs down, he could very well win the Lady Byng once again.
The Lady Byng is an trophy that some fans discredit as, like mentioned above, they view it as a ‘soft’ award. Regardless of one’s thoughts on it, the names of players who have won it in the past speaks for itself. The most four recent winners since Gaudreau are Jaccob Slavin, Nathan MacKinnon, Aleksander Barkov, and William Karlsson. That is some very good company.
Jacob Markstrom – Vezina Trophy
I will admit, this one is a bit of a stretch, but when the Flames signed Jacob Markstrom to a six-year, $36 million deal during the 2020 offseason, the expectation was that he would be an elite goaltender. Unfortunately, he struggled in 2020-21, as did the entire team. In 43 games, he recorded a goals against average (GAA) of 2.68, and a subpar save percentage (SV%) of .904.
What the Flames need is for Marktsrom to get back to the caliber he played at in 2019-20 as a member of the Vancouver Canucks. Despite playing behind a questionable blueline, he was able to post a 2.75 GAA and a .918 SV% in 43 games. Those numbers don’t seem overly spectacular, but many thought the now 31-year-old should have been a finalist for the Vezina given the team he was playing behind.
The good news for Markstrom, and what makes a potential Vezina Trophy season more likely, is that he is playing in a weak Pacific Division. Aside from the Vegas Golden Knights and the Edmonton Oilers, there isn’t a ton of firepower in the division. He needs to prove he is worth the contract Brad Treliving chose to give him, and winning a Vezina would do that and more.
Andrew Mangiapane – Selke Trophy
Like the Markstrom selection, pegging Andrew Mangiapane to win the Selke Trophy, which is given to the leagues best defensive player, is certainly a stretch. However, while the Selke rewards great defensive play, it is typically given to forwards who can also produce offensively. Mangiapane fits that description, as he is great in his own end and is putting up better numbers each and every year.
In 2020-21, Mangiapane scored a career high 18 goals while also recording 32 points in 56 games. Those totals likely wouldn’t be enough to earn a Selke, but the 25-year-old has taken massive strides in improvement each and every year, and there is no reason to expect we shouldn’t see another major leap from him in the 2021-22 season.
One thing going for him is that he is coming into the season with a ton of confidence after a dominating performance IIHF World Hockey Championship back in June. In just seven games, he scored a tournament leading seven goals, all while continuing his great defensive play. As a result, he was named the MVP of the tournament, which goes to show just how good of a player he is. If he is to perform at that level throughout the course of the season, he could surprise many.
Big Seasons Needed
As mentioned, both Markstrom and Mangiapane are stretches to win their respective awards. However, it is well known that the Flames are in need for a massive season after last year’s struggles. If not, there could be some massive changes. There is no doubt that the players are all aware of this, and it will be interesting to see how they respond. Perhaps the additional pressure is what it takes for them to have their best personal seasons yet.