The Calgary Flames collected 111 points and 50 wins during the 2021-22 season, finishing sixth in the league in points and were one of only nine teams to reach the half-century mark in wins. They also won the Pacific Division by seven points (over provincial rival Edmonton Oilers) and advanced to the second round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Last season was the second-best campaign in franchise history, just a few points (six) and wins (four) short of the marks set in 1988-89. On top of winning the Stanley Cup that season, it was also the last time the team won the Presidents’ Trophy.
In 1989-90, the Flames earned 99 points and 42 wins, showing signs of regression despite leading the league in goals scored. The defending Stanley Cup champions went up against the Wayne Gretzky-led Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the playoffs and failed to defend their title, losing in five games.
Before we dig into the 2022-23 schedule, here’s a look at how the Flames did last season.
Flames’ 2021-22 One for the Ages
Success requires a team effort. Some could point to the individual achievements of Johnny Gaudreau (115 points) and Matthew Tkachuk (104 points), who finished second and eighth in the scoring race, as the reason behind the team’s success. Jacob Markstrom found a new gear between the pipes, leading the league in shutouts (nine) and, with 37 wins, was just one of seven goalies to earn more than 35.
The Flames lost Gaudreau to the Columbus Blue Jackets and Tkachuk to the Florida Panthers this offseason, yet they acquired the services of Jonathan Huberdeau, who was tied with Gaudreau for 115 points in 2021-22.
The Flames did not waltz through the 2021-22 regular season either, as they strung together a 10-game winning streak from Jan. 29 (against the Vancouver Canucks) to Feb. 21 (against the Winnipeg Jets). They also had a six-game win streak in October and a five-game streak in April. The best teams go through slumps, and the Flames were no exception, with two four-game losing streaks in December and January and a three-game losing streak in March.
The Flames played in 16 back-to-back (21-11) contests last season, which accounted for 39 percent of their schedule. They lost only three sets (Nov. 11-12, Jan. 6-7, and April 28-29) and split five other series, meaning they swept both games of a back-to-back eight times.
The Flames’ monthly schedule broke down as follows: October (8), November (14), December (7), January (11), February (11), March (16), and April (15). The team had a leisurely start before cramming 31 games into the final 60 days of the season.
2022-23 The Year of Progression or Regression
The Flames hit the ice with 10 games in October, followed by a heavy schedule before the New Year’s break with 15 games in November and 16 contests in December.
As the calendar flips to 2023, the Flames will only play 23 games in January (12) and February (11) before suiting up for 15 in March. They play six games in April, closing the season against Western Conference teams. There will be plenty of rest days to heal up from the grind, even with 19 Saturday games on the slate. The new season will be easier on back-to-backs with ten; however, six of their 16 matches in December come on consecutive nights.
The Flames will enter the 2022-23 season as contenders and will do whatever they can to defend their Pacific Division title. Hopefully, history doesn’t repeat itself because this team still has an elite goalie between the pipes and an offense that rivals any in the league. There will be a ton of questions and bumps along the way, but no matter what happens, here are the top five games to watch:
Dec. 1, 2022, vs. Montreal Canadiens (Game #23)
There could have been a handful of games worthy of this spot. Many likely can’t wait for the Flames to play the Dallas Stars (Jan. 14) again to go head-to-head with the team and a goaltender (Jake Oettinger) that pushed them to the brink in last year’s postseason.
Other candidates for this spot could have been any contest against a Pacific Division foe or another Canadian team. The Saddledome is usually rocking when the Toronto Maple Leafs, Canucks, or the Jets come to town; however, the best selection for this spot is a Dec. 1 game against the Canadiens.
In 2021-22 the two teams met twice, and the Canadiens took both games (4-2 and 5-4). However, the Habs were not the same caliber team that had just lost in the Stanley Cup Final. Star players Carey Price and Shea Weber were not in the lineup, affecting team chemistry and success, leading to a last-place finish in 2021-22.
When they last met, the Flames were Cup contenders, and the Canadiens were figuring out whether they needed a rebuild or not. It will be interesting to see if Calgary learned from their mistakes or will continue to trip over their own feet against a team that just won the draft lottery and selected first overall.
Dec. 9, 2022, @ Blue Jackets (Game #27)
Fans circled two dates when the NHL released the 2022-23 schedule. The first is this Dec. 9 contest in Columbus against the Blue Jackets.
Yes, there isn’t much rivalry here since the teams barely see each other. However, things changed on July 13, 2022, when former franchise star Gaudreau opted for free agency and moved to the Ohio capital. As a result, fans will wait for this opportunity to see how their former star player is doing in his new city.
Nov. 19, 2022, @ Panthers (Game #17)
The Panthers have never been a rival for the Flames, but like Columbus, one offseason transaction has changed everything. It will be emotional for newly acquired Huberdeau, who will play against his former team for the first time in his career. There will probably be a video montage, standing ovation, and tears as fans pay tribute to the Panthers’ all-time leading scorer. Huberdeau will have a chance to say thank you for everything and have the game of his life to remind South Florida fans what they are missing.
On the flip side, this is an essential game for Tkachuk, who will also play against his former team for the first time. Since the game will not take place in enemy territory, the hometown crowd will be behind their new player, who will go above and beyond to show the Flames what they could be missing.
Jan. 23, 2023, vs. Blue Jackets (Game #48)
Flames fans enjoy a matchup against their Provincial-rival, the Oilers, but those games won’t mean as much as the Jan. 23, 2023 contest against the visiting Blue Jackets. Gaudreau will make his much-anticipated return to southern Alberta and should expect harsh treatment from the city he left behind.
There will be a lot of energy and emotion in this game. The pre-game will feature a video and a wave, allowing fans a chance to show their appreciation for their former star. However, when the puck drops, he will be an enemy, and enemies get booed.
Oct. 15, 2022, @ Oilers (Game #2)
The Flames open the regular season against the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Colorado Avalanche, on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022. After a tough night against one of the league’s best teams, the Flames pack their bags and head north on the Queen Elizabeth highway to face off against the team that eliminated them from the playoffs.
The Battle of Alberta is always fierce, but after meeting in the playoffs for the first time in 30 years, expect this contest to get even crazier than usual. Surprisingly, the NHL only gave fans three Alberta matchups, so there will only be 180 minutes of action between two teams that strongly dislike each other.
This game is also an important night for Huberdeau, who has only played against the Oilers ten times during his nine-year career. That night’s performance will go a long way in building his reputation with the fanbase. It will also be his first appearance on Hockey Night in Canada as a member of the Flames.
Since 2013-14, the Flames have won at least 35 games every season but the shortened 2020-21 campaign. In 2022-23, they could take a step forward and advance to the Western Conference Final or take a step back and lose their spot at the top of the division. Either way, it will be a fun journey with new faces and new enemies.
Ryan Gagne is back for his second tour of duty with The Hockey Writers. In 2021 he wrote about the New York Islanders and now will embrace the challenge of covering the Calgary Flames. The best part of this new assignment is Ryan currently lives in Edmonton and will get to see both sides of the Battle of Alberta up close and personal. None of this will make much sense since he was born and raised in New England and the Boston Bruins are his still team.