Flames Could Struggle With a Canadian Division in 2020-21

The idea of a Canadian division has been a rumor for the 2020-21 season essentially since the day the 2019-20 season was delayed. Until recently there wasn’t much traction behind the idea, however, Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley changed that with a single statement. The Calgary Flames are one of the teams who would most be affected by this change, considering last season they were fourth in the Pacific at the stoppage of play.

Comparing the Pacific Division

As previously mentioned, the Flames were fourth in the Pacific Division when the season was delayed. Despite this, they were the last-placed Canadian team in the Pacific based on point percentage. They finished with one more point than Vancouver but had also played one more game. The Edmonton Oilers finished with only four more points than the Flames despite their extra game played. As a result, the teams who they would certainly have to compete against are very closely matched. However, the 2020-21 Flames are a very different team than the 2019-20 team and as a result, there is a large amount of uncertainty around them.

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If Calgary were to remain in the Pacific, the Vegas Golden Knights would be the team to beat on paper. They finished first in the division last season with 86 points through 71 games, however, they strengthened their team significantly by signing Alex Pietrangelo during the offseason. If Vegas is expected to finish on top of the league, then the most competitive teams for the playoff spots below them would certainly be the three Canadian teams.

Alex Pietrangelo St. Louis Blues 2019 Stanley Cup
Alex Pietrangelo, former St. Louis Blue (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Arizona Coyotes were a fairly strong team in 2019-20, however, the subtraction of Taylor Hall will certainly hurt them substantially. The three California teams also have the potential to pick up their play in the coming season, however, the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks have been largely unchanged with a few additions and subtractions.

Overall, if the Pacific Division were to stay intact, then the Flames should have no problem competing for a playoff spot based on the past season. The offseason changes will be the biggest question facing the team, as the subtractions of T.J. Brodie, Travis Hamonic, and Mark Jankowski among others will seemingly hurt the team. With that being said, it’s entirely possible that the signing of Chris Tanev and the likely additions of Glenn Gawdin and Juuso Valimaki to the NHL team full-time next season will make up for those moves. If this were to be the case, then the Flames are certainly a better team thanks to the addition of Jacob Markstrom in goal.

Comparing the Remaining Canadian Teams

If the Canadian Division had existed for the 2019-20 season, the results would’ve been fairly similar to the Pacific Division. All three Pacific Canadian teams would’ve finished in the top four, however, Edmonton would take the top spot due to the absence of the Golden Knights and the Toronto Maple Leafs would slot into second. The strongest team in the division on paper would almost certainly be the Maple Leafs considering their offseason moves and offensive firepower. Edmonton would be very close, however, as they added Kyle Turris and Tyson Barrie among others to fairly team-friendly deals.

Tyson Barrie Toronto Maple Leafs
Tyson Barrie, former Toronto Maple Leaf (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Canucks are a much weaker team than they were last season on paper, as they had quite a few players leave in free agency. Considering a few of those players stayed nearby and signed with the Flames, Calgary should be able to easily move ahead of Vancouver in the coming season. The Canucks did sign Braden Holtby to replace Markstrom, however at this point in his career Holtby is not quite at the same level as Markstrom.

The Winnipeg Jets haven’t made many moves at all this offseason, but they did reacquire Paul Statsny from Vegas. As a result, Winnipeg will likely be in a much similar situation as they were last season and should certainly compete for a playoff spot.

Tyler Toffoli Vancouver Canucks
Tyler Toffoli, seen here during his tenure with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

The Montreal Canadiens have made quite a few moves to solidify their team, including trading for Jake Allen and Josh Anderson as well as signing Tyler Toffoli in free agency. Montreal would be by far the most difficult team to predict in this group, mainly because Anderson is an unknown going forward. If he shows any signs of his previous injury still affecting him, then it could be a very difficult season for him and the team. At the same time, if he is fully healthy, then they could be a great team going forward.

Meanwhile, the Ottawa Senators did take a few steps forward to help improve their team, however, they’ll likely be near the bottom of a Canadian Division if it were to happen.

How Do the Flames Stack Up?

The Flames would truly be in a similar position in either of the divisions for the 2020-21 season, however, the Pacific Division is likely the safest option as they could easily finish anywhere between second and fourth. If they were to be in a Canadian Division, then things would be much more up in the air. The Flames could realistically finish anywhere between first and sixth under those circumstances as all of the teams besides Ottawa can easily fight for the top spot. That’s not to say the Senators couldn’t squeak into a playoff spot either, considering stranger things have happened.

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It seems at this point in time, a Canadian Division would be a lot more entertaining to watch, but it would also be much more stressful for both fans and management alike. If the Flames are in the Pacific Division in 2020-21, then there’s a very good chance they’ll end up in a playoff spot. If they’re in a Canadian Division, then anything can happen.

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