In just over a month’s time, the Calgary Flames will get set to host the reigning Stanley Cup Champions in the Colorado Avalanche for the first game of their 2022-23 season. While the summer has flown by, it hasn’t come without some major stress for the Flames organization and its entire fanbase, though as we near training camp, things are now looking very promising for this group.
The Flames are entering the 2022-23 campaign with sky-high expectations, which is quite something given that just a year ago, they were considered to be a fringe playoff team at best. They were able to prove their detractors wrong, however, putting up the second-best season in franchise history with 111 points.
Certain expectations for the team, as well as certain individuals, have already been well discussed. For example, the Flames are considered a shoo-in for the playoffs, while newcomer Jonathan Huberdeau should put up plenty of points. Obvious takes aside, however, there is some potential for lesser things to take place for this team in 2022-23, perhaps ones that few, if any, have discussed. Let’s look at a few hot takes involving the Flames for the upcoming season.
No Repeat of Division Title
The Flames’ great 2021-22 regular season was good enough to earn them the Pacific Division title. In fact, they were able to do so with relative ease, as their 111 points were seven more than their provincial rival Edmonton Oilers, who finished second with 104.
Many believe the Flames are an even better team entering the 2022-23 campaign, which should mean another division title is on the way. Right? Well…maybe not. With several new faces on the team, some being among the team’s most talented individuals in Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri and Mackenzie Weegar, it may take this team some time to develop chemistry with each other.
On top of that, the Flames’ fanbase is expecting a ton out of this team. That is very clear to fans throughout the hockey community, and you can bet it is clear with the players in the dressing room. If a few games get away from them early in the year while trying to develop chemistry, it may result in some players holding their sticks a little tight early on. In the end, it will be nothing to worry about, as they will have no problems getting back on track and into the playoffs. But a team coming back with a more similar lineup in the Oilers may very well claim the Pacific as theirs.
Kadri Finishes With Less Than 65 Points
If you were to take a look at only Kadri’s 2021-22 season, you would think the Flames have a serious offensive producer coming their way. While he is very solid offensively, however, his 87-point season was the best total of his career, and in a big way.
Prior to his 87-point outburst, Kadri had broken the 60-point barrier just one other team in his career. He has generally been a player who will put up north of 50 points while also being defensively sound. That said, he is clearly at the peak of his career right now, meaning another solid season should be in store.
Based on his career, that solid season will likely be one that seems him put up somewhere right around 60 points. It is also important to remember that he was playing with some of the Avalanche’s top guns last season, as Nathan MacKinnon missed some time with injury. That won’t quite be the case in Calgary, as Huberdeau should pair alongside Elias Lindholm up front. Because of that, he may fail to crack the 65-point mark this coming season.
Pelletier Makes Serious Impact
While nothing is written in stone, most believe that Jakob Pelletier has a great chance at cracking the Flames roster out of training camp this fall. The 21-year-old adjusted to professional hockey with ease this past season, scoring 27 goals and 62 points in 66 American Hockey League (AHL) games. (from ‘Hailey Salvian: Why Jakob Pelletier could factor into the Flames’ plans next season:’ The Athletic, 06/02/22).
Given how well he excelled in the AHL, it seems that the best move for his development may very well be to keep him with the NHL club in 2022-23. He would be in a great situation if that were the case, as the Flames lineup is loaded with talent for him to suit up alongside. Because of that talent, my hot take is that he will indeed stick with the Flames and will record north of 50 points. It won’t be easy as he will almost certainly start off on the bottom-six, but I believe he has a chance to quickly make his way up the lineup and may even be able to get time on the power play.
Markstrom Wins First Vezina
Suggesting Jacob Markstrom could very well win the Vezina Trophy in 2022-23 may not fit the category of hot take, given that he was a finalist for the award this past season, but it really does seem like this may be the year for him.
Not only will he continue to benefit from playing for a Darryl Sutter-coached team, but general manager Brad Treliving was able to improve the lineup from a season ago by acquiring Weegar. That should only benefit Markstrom further, meaning that it wouldn’t come as a major surprise if he is able to better his fantastic 2021-22 totals of a 2.22 goals against average along with a .922 save percentage.
Highly Anticipated Season Ahead
While the premise of this article is to lay out hot takes, one very factual take is that this is the most anticipated season amongst Flames fans in some time. After years of playoff struggles, the core of this team has changed dramatically, leading many to believe their postseason fortunes will change. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen, but there is no denying that the feeling around the team is quite different heading into 2022-23 than it has been in some time.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.