3 Worries for the Flames Entering 2022-23

After one of the wilder offseasons we have seen from an NHL team in some time, the Calgary Flames are nearing training camp for what should be a thrilling 2022-23 season. With two new stars entering the fold in Jonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri, there is a much different vibe throughout the fanbase, one that truly believes their team has a shot at winning the Stanley Cup.

Related: Flames vs. Oilers: How They Stack Up Heading Into 2022-23

All talk regarding the Flames in recent weeks has been positive, and rightfully so. Barring a major shocker, they should be not only one of the best teams in the Pacific Division, but the entire league throughout the course of the 2022-23 season. With that said, there are a few potential causes for concern with this group, which will be looked at below.

Markstrom’s Confidence After Ugly Playoff Performance

There is no way to beat around it; Markstrom’s second-round playoff performance against the Edmonton Oilers was horrid. The 32-year-old, who was coming off of the best season of his career, had a 5.12 goals against average (GAA) along with a .852 save percentage (SV%) in the 4-1 series loss.

Jacob Markstrom Calgary Flames
Jacob Markstrom, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

As mentioned, prior to that series, Markstrom had been reliable all season long. In 63 regular season games, he led the NHL with nine shutouts while putting up a sparkling 2.22 GAA and a .922 SV%, numbers good enough to earn him second place in Vezina Trophy voting.

There is plenty of reason to believe Markstrom will continue to be that goalie moving forward. It isn’t as though last season was a breakout year for him, as he proved throughout his time with the Vancouver Canucks how good of a goaltender he is. That said, there is at least some cause for concern that his confidence may still be shaken after what transpired versus the Oilers.

The other concern is how he will perform when matched up against the Oilers, a team whom the Flames could very well see in the playoffs once again this coming year. It isn’t as though his only struggles came against Connor McDavid and company in the playoffs, as he was very bad against them during the 2021-22 regular season as well with a 3.54 GAA along with a .894 SV% in four games. The 2020-21 season was more of the same, as he had a 3.34 GAA paired with a .884 SV% in nine outings versus the Oilers. Suffice it to say, he needs to find a way to be significantly better against his team’s provincial rival moving forward.

Tanev’s Health

Chris Tanev was limited to just two games versus the Oilers in the playoffs, and in all honesty, should have sat out the entire series. It was clear that after dislocating his shoulder he was nowhere near the effective shutdown defender Flames fans have grown accustomed to. While it was honorable that he tried to gut things out for a short time, he struggled to make an impact.

Tanev being healthy in the second round wouldn’t have changed the final result of the series, though it could have helped make things a lot closer. The 32-year-old is the player you want on the ice every time McDavid steps out, and the Flames did not have that luxury this past May. It is unfortunate, as it would have been great to watch him go head-to-head with McDavid as well as Leon Draisaitl.

The good news for the Flames is that it appears Tanev is healthy and ready to go for training camp, which is a significant bonus given that it had been reported earlier in the summer he may miss a few weeks of the regular season. The bad news, of course, is that he had gained a reputation as being injury prone during his time with the Canucks. That hadn’t yet been an issue for the Flames prior to last year’s playoffs, and they will need to hope it is a one-off as they are a much better team with him on the ice (from ‘Hailey Salvian and Dom Luszczyszyn: Flames bet on Chris Tanev paid off in Year 1: How did he exceed expectations and what does it mean going forward?,’ The Athletic, 06/21/21).

Flames’ Team Chemistry

Few things went wrong for the Flames as a team in 2022-23. Right from the get-go, they were firing on all cylinders, putting pucks in the back of the net with ease while also playing terrific defensively in front of Markstrom. While they project to be a great team once again this year, they may get off to a slower start than most would expect.

The reason why they may start off slow has to do with their additions and subtractions. As mentioned, both Huberdeau and Kadri, two star players, joined the Flames this summer. Subsequently, their top two stars last season in Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk have both moved on.

Calgary Flames Elias Lindholm, Johnny Gaudreau Matthew Tkachuk
Calgary Flames Elias Lindholm, Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Given the outstanding seasons both Gaudreau and Tkachuk had in 2021-22, it simply isn’t fair to expect the same from Huberdeau and Kadri. Not only are they moving cities, but they are playing with new teammates and may take some time to form chemistry like they had with their respective linemates a season ago. As the year progresses this should sort itself out, but head coach Darryl Sutter may need to tinker with the lines early on in order to figure out what combinations work best.

Plenty More Reasons for Optimism

While this article focuses on the things that could cause trouble for the Flames in 2022-23, fans of this team are wise enough to know that there are plenty more reasons for optimism regarding this roster than not. In fact, the argument could be made that this is the deepest roster they have had in decades. That roster, paired with one of the game’s best head coaches in Darryl Sutter, should translate to success. That said, there are always things that can go sideways, making the three points above worth taking into account.

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