A new year, a new division and some new and/or enhanced rivalries. The NHL’s realignment to allow a season to happen during this pandemic will see all 7 Canadian based teams in the new Scotia North Division. In order to get you ready to this new normal, we’ve reached out to our pals from the other Canadian SBN sites to have a quick chat about their teams.
Mark Parkinson from Matchsticks & Gasoline was kind enough to tell us what the deal is with the Calgary Flames.
1.- So... what’s new with you folks?
Well, for starters, the Flames did a little off-season shopping in Vancouver! I think the addition of Jacob Markstrom was clearly the key move the Flames made and they expect good things from him based on the money and length of the contract they gave him. Now, whether that translates to wins or not will be seen sooner than later, but from his numbers with your organization, it looks good on paper. Calgary lost a few players this off-season (namely T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic), but I feel the addition on Chris Tanev and getting Juuso Valimaki should either help the Flames break even or potentially be even better. And let’s face it, bringing back Blasty as their Reverse Retro was the biggest and best thing the off-season delivered.
2.- What’s the general mood amongst the fan base around this divisional realignment? Good, bad or otherwise? Are you mentally prepared for this many games against the Oilers and Canucks?
I think the fanbase is excited for 10 cracks at you guys and the Oilers this season. Part of me is excited about that as well, but at the same time I hope it doesn’t take some of the luster of the rivalries. That many games in a condensed time frame could water it down. Then again, it could look like any game from the movie Slapshot, so who really knows at this point. What will be fun will be seeing teams like Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa more than the Flames normally would.
3.- There were high expectations for the Flames, but after taking out the Jets, lost in 6 to the eventual finalist Dallas Stars. Have they addressed the issues that can help them get further this season?
I’m going to say probably not, from the addressed issues. Other than adding Markstrom (and Talbot was NOT the problem last year) it is still the same coach and team leadership that soiled themselves in the playoffs. Geoff Ward really didn’t establish himself as a coach that gives you that feeling of confidence when he had to make moves, so the jury is still out. It’s still the same Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Mark Giordano coming back as well, which to be complaining about seems ludicrous, but it’s high time they start producing relative to their salaries. I have no worries about Matthew Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm, Andrew Mangiapane and Rasmus Andersson. Their stocks are either where they need to be or are rising and if you held a gun to my head, those would be who I would re-build the Flames around if this season doesn’t produce results. I still love Gaudreau and Gio, but they need to really step it up and start carrying this team.
4.- Do you expect any mid-season moves if things aren’t where they need to be?
I think it all depends on where the Flames are. Yes, that’s a total non-answer, but it makes sense. If I had a crystal ball, I’d say Sean Monahan could be a piece that eventually gets moved. He’s struggled to find himself as a player and last year he was pretty flat. There were stretches of games where he was a ghost and that can’t happen. I mean, there’s always the possibility that they really shake things up, but that doesn’t seem like an option unless it’s really gone to hell. And if it has, I’d expect Geoff Ward to be the first to go.
5.- When the smoke clears, are the Flames in the top 4 in the shiny new Scotia North Division?
Ottawa clearly won’t be, so that means they won’t finish less than 5th. This is a really tough division. Edmonton (I’m gritting my teeth) is a tough out and it’s not like they’re going to fall off a cliff. Winnipeg is solid and with Connor Hellebuyck anything is possible. Toronto is no slouch and not having to play Tampa and Boston will only motivate them more. The wild card, I think, is Montreal. How do they bounce back from last season? So, I think Toronto, Winnipeg and Edmonton are most likely penciled in for three of the four spots. Calgary is strong enough and has the talent to get that final spot and I think Markstrom will be a huge part of that. So I’ll say yes, but I don’t think that final spot will be a runaway either. It will most likely be only a point or two that separates fourth and fifth place. Which is how the Flames and Canucks finished at the end of 2019-20: only one point difference (79 & 78 points) Let’s just hope it doesn’t come down to Chris Tanev scoring a GWG against you guys....you know, for your sake.
Thanks to Mark for taking time to chat with us, and make sure to check out M&G for all the info you need about our new divisional opponent.