For a team that struggled with consistency throughout the 2020-21 season, many Calgary Flames players need to be better if they want to get back into the playoffs in 2021-22. Aside from a handful of players, most Flames had a down season, either compared to previous campaigns or what was expected of them.
One player Calgary needs more from is Johnny Gaudreau, who, despite leading the team in scoring with 49 points, was inconsistent, and yet he’s proven to have superstar talent. They need him to get back to that. However, he was still one of the team’s best forwards last season, so he shouldn’t get much blame. There are three players in particular who should, however, and they will need to have bounce-back seasons if the Flames want to be competitive again.
3. Jacob Markstrom
After winning the free agency sweepstakes in 2020 by signing Jacob Markstrom to a six-year, $36 million deal, Flames management and fans believed they were getting a top-10 goaltender. Though he got off to a hot start early, he began to cool off and then was forced to miss time due to injury.
When he returned to the lineup, his play was far too inconsistent for a player with his cap hit. It wasn’t all his fault as the team did him no favours. However, a goalie of his skill level should be able to overcome some of those issues. He will need a save percentage far better than the .904 he posted in 2020-21 to live up to his contract.
2. Matthew Tkachuk
Given all the criticism he faced last season, it is sometimes hard to remember that Matthew Tkachuk finished the year with 16 goals and 43 points in 56 games. He is capable of producing more, but the numbers aren’t as bad as many made them out to be.
Regardless of whether or not he is named team captain for this upcoming season, most would agree that he is one of the leaders of the team. He plays the game with his heart on his sleeve, and when he is at his best, he can be a very dangerous player for the opposition. Hopefully, having fans back in arenas will help get him back to playing like his old self, as the Flames could use it.
1. Sean Monahan
As of this writing, Sean Monahan remains a Flame, though many reports this summer have suggested that general manager Brad Treliving is considering moving him. It would be easy to look past his 10 goals in 28 games last season given that he was playing with a hip injury for most of it; however, it becomes a concern when you realize he also had a down year in 2019-20 with 22 goals and 48 points in 70 games.
When he’s at his best, Monahan is capable of scoring 30+ goals and north of 60 points. If he is back in Calgary for the 2021-22 season, that’s the player the Flames will want to rely on. Perhaps having an extended offseason to get healthy and clear his head is what he needs to turn things around.
All Three Are Capable
In the NHL, a player’s game tends to slide as he ages. This means that while organizations, fans, and the player himself may hope for a bounce-back campaign after a down year, they often don’t happen. However, the three players mentioned here, particularly Tkachuk and Monahan, are still young with a lot of hockey left. If all three can bounce back, then the team should be able to clinch a berth in the 2022 Playoffs.