I’ve always liked to imagine that the Flames last five years are exactly what a commissioner for a major sport want to emulate wherever possible. A team that is full of excitement, they have a roster full of fresh young talent coming in and on any given year, you have NO idea what’s about to happen.
Let’s dive into their last five seasons. Starting in 2013-2014 they finished in dead last in the Pacific division with a paltry 77 points, finishing as the fourth worst team in the NHL. This is our starting point.
Entering the 2014-2015 season with not-so lofty expectations, one of the few highlights was rookie Johnny “hockey” Gaudreau out of Boston College but ultimately, this team was being led in scoring by Jiri Hudler’s 17 goals and 54 points and head coach Bob Hartley who had back to back atrocious seasons, needless to say things were not looking optimistic. Little did they know that a young goalie by the name of Jonas Hiller, the magical touch of rookie Johnny Gaudreau paired alongside Sean Monahan and a rejuvenated Jiri Hudler in his 9th season would lead them to finish atop the Pacific Division (albeit 15th in the total NHL standings). The combination of Gaudreau, Monahan, Hudler and Hiller brought them 32 more goals season over season while also allowing 25 fewer goals as this new transformed team provided a quick turnaround and new hope for the city of Calgary.
Congrats to Johnny Gaudreau. Rookie of the year Finalist. Few thought he could do it. pic.twitter.com/Z8rffc3h53— Bucci Mane (@Buccigross) April 23, 2015
Entering the 2015-2016 season, there was optimism for this team, if they went from 4th to last to 15th, they could finish among the best in the league this season! Well, they finished the season with 77 points dropping back into the depths of the league notably behind Jonas Hiller who dropped to a .879 save percentage allowing 3.51 goals per game.
To recap: In three years they went from last in the Pacific Division to 1st back to 5th. How should the fans feel going into the 2016-2017 season, especially with head coach Bob Hartley being relieved and promoted AHL coach Glen Gulutzan taking control as the new head coach? What they got was something in between the previous few seasons, Gaudreau, Monahan and Mikael Backlund would put up a combined 152 points and new goalies Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson would combine for a 42-33 record both sitting above .910 sv% and beneath a 2.60 GAA to bring an average Calgary squad to an average 4th place in the Pacific (with lack of depth being their biggest obstacle). The average team earned a playoff berth that provided a sweep at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks in the first round.
Next up was the 2017-2018 season where they dropped AGAIN to 5th in the Pacific with 84 points behind a continued lack of depth. Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan were great on offense with not much behind them and Mike Smith was respectable in net but not too much behind that. To recap the five year trend of standings points: 77, 97,77, 94 and 84.
Enter 2018-2019 season and again, I like to imagine at this point Gary is drooling with anticipation for what this team can produce this season.
This team has shown that anything can happen in a given season, and has to be a marketing goldmine for the NHL to exploit. “Just when you thought you knew what was going to happen, the Calgary Flames come in and shake it all up! This is a team that can surprise you and disappoint you all at once”. I think they even get their own Wednesday Night Rivalry game against themselves.
We can safely assume that one thing will NOT happen this year, they won’t duplicate whatever we saw last year and once again, the Flames have not disappointed.
42 games into the season, the Calgary Flames are looking like one of the best teams in the NHL. They are led by the likes of Captain Mark Giordano (12 years of experience), James Neal (10 years of experience), Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan (5 years of experience), Matthew Tkachuk (2 years of experience) and Mark Jankowski (2 years of experience). Wait did you just say Mark Jankowski? I get Johnny and Sean, who sit in the top 9 in points, I get Elias and Matthew, who sit in the top 20 but Mark Jankowski?
Mark was the 21st overall pick in the 2012 draft and the focal point of this article. He’s 24, he sits on their third line and he scored just 25 points across 72 games last year. He’s not overtly flashy, he’s not a #1 overall pick, he’s not going to have 60+ points or 25+ goals, but he does serve as a great example for what this team does. He is the third line center on a line that includes James Neal and Sam Bennett (which on the surface sounds attractive); however, the three have combined for 38 points across a total 122 games, that’s not an average stat line for a third line.
What is most important is the crucial role Mark plays on this line to help carry depth for the team. He has 17 of the third lines 38 points, he has all seven of their seven shorthanded points, he has one of their two game winning goals and is a plus 5 while the other two are a combined -11. He is shooting 11.8% while the other two are beneath 9%. He has just six PIM while the other two have anywhere from 3-10x that amount. He is keeping this line’s average stats looking good and keeping the Flames roster deep and competitive (which can be the difference between a 10th place team and a 2nd place team). Speculating at the start of this season that I would be focusing in on Mark Jankowski at this point in this season, the words of one Clark Griswold come to mind “Eddie, I wouldn’t be more surprised if I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet”.
Mark could continue on his pace, but he probably won’t, Calgary could continue on their pace, but they probably won’t…or will, who knows? What I do know is this team is full of Fantasy Sleepers and/or Busts and the uncertainty is a blast to follow.
As a fan, which would your rather have?
This poll is closed
5 years of good followed by 5 years of bad
1 year good followed by 1 year bad