Pacific Division predictions

Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) battles for a loose puck with Vancouver Canucks defensemen Tucker Poolman (5) Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) battles for a loose puck with Vancouver Canucks defensemen Tucker Poolman (5) Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports /
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Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

3.  Calgary Flames

I have to hand it to GM Brad Treliving in one sense – trading away Tkachuk after he made it clear he wanted out and then signing Nazem Kadri as a free agent was probably the best case scenario he could’ve seen play out after neither Gaudreau nor Tkachuk wanted to come back.

But will these two players move the franchise forward? In my opinion, no they won’t.

As far as I’m concerned the Flames are a team that’s built on a house of cards whose only purpose is twofold – exist and don’t collapse.

That’s the only explanation I can come up with for why you would pursue replacement players instead of starting a rebuild once your two best players from last year want out and many players disappeared in the playoffs. This team generates a lot of hype but IMO it’s very unwarranted.

So why do I list them third? Default. This spot in the standings flatters them. But, all the other teams below them at this point in time are even worse. That’s it. But as the rebuilds in Anaheim, Vancouver, and Seattle mature expect that to change – they are still relevant now but expect that to change as the division gets better.

For one thing, a lot of players on the Flames last season had career years – here is the list:

Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm, Andrew Mangiapane, Rasmus Andersson, Noah Hanifin, Dillon Dube, Oliver Kylington, Chris Tanev, Nikita Zadorov, Erik Gudbranson (CBJ), Jacob Markstrom.

We’ll throw in Huberdeau and Kadri as well, because both of those guys had career years with Florida and Colorado, respectively.

Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with having a career year, but the key is what happens after that. Can the player do it again? I have no doubt some of those guys will repeat their career years, others will not. They even acquired Gudbranson hoping he would repeat a career year from Columbus.

And the thing is – most of those guys sported shooting %s above their career average which means that for many of them get ready for their numbers to drop back down to earth. In Markstrom’s case, he’s been in the league for a long time, and finally after many years he put up an elite sv% – does it seem logical to expect him to repeat that? No. So I have a reaction of absolutely ZERO surprise when I see that Markstrom’s start to the season is terrible, having only a .900 sv% and a 2.84 GAA. The guy has a career .912 sv% so naturally he’ll regress down to the  mean and show last season was a complete and utter fluke. Pitty the sucker who’s paying him $6 million a year to be an average goaltender.

Nor am I surprised that Tkachuk is having a better start to the season then Huberdeau – Tkachuk went to the superior team with more depth built through the draft while Huberdeau went to the inferior team built in large part through trades and free agency.

That brings up another red flag about this team – the lack of draft picks on it. Take a look at the Flames roster and see how it’s constructed vs. better teams – in the forward ranks the Flames here a mere four forwards who were drafted. The Oilers have seven forwards who were drafted, while the Kings have seven also. On D the Flames have but a single draft pick on their roster. The Oilers have three draft picks on D on their roster, while the Kings have four. Between the pipes the Oilers and Kings can each boast one goalie drafted (Stuart Skinner, Jonathan Quick) while the Flames don’t have one.

Sign and trade is not a recipe for success, otherwise the Oilers would’ve won two or three more cups in the 90s. Sign and trade is supposed to supplement your drafting, not replace it.

The flaws in the Flames roster, even just taking a cursory glance at it, is obvious – not enough talent on the roster, hoping and praying that guys on career years have a repeat performance, paying an average goaltender elite money, questionable drafting. Not a recipe for long term success.

Look at how the roster is constructed – Huberdeau-Lindholm-Toffoli

– five points in 10 games, six points in 10 games, eight points in 10 games, respectively

One player out of three with an elite start to the season


– four points in 10 games, 11 points in 10 games, four points in 10 games, respectively

Again, one player out of three with an elite start to the season

That’s your top six. Not a good start.


– four points in 10 games, four points in 10 games, four points in 10 games, respectively

Not bad for a third line, but when your top six isn’t scoring enough, your third line isn’t going to save you, nor should you ask it to


– three points in 10 games, one point in 9 games, five points in 10 games

Quite a mixture here, won’t save the top six though

Now for the D:


one point in nine games, eight points in 10 games

Yay Andersson, boo Hanifin – those are pathetic stats for a top pairing guy.  Cody Ceci is outscoring you and he’s a stay at home guy.


three points in 10 games, four points in 10 games

Middling results, especially for Weegar, who came to Calgary with a lot of hype.


zero point in 10 games, five points in 10 games

Mackey is an injury call-up, so he’s not as important to the team. Stone looks like he just got injured as he’s listed on IR now.

The fact that Stone, Tanev, and Kylington are all out with injuries now doesn’t help matters but it should magnify the issues with the roster.

I’ve already spoken about Markstrom and his struggles. Don’t expect backup Dan Vladar to bail him out, either, as he doesn’t even have a .900 sv% and his GAA is an ugly 3.81.  All that from a guy who has a mere 31 games of NHL experience. Doesn’t inspire confidence to me.

Even with a healthy roster, though, I firmly believe the Flames would still be struggling right now. There are simply no signs this team can have any sustained success. Fans should expect pretty much what you’ve gotten for the majority of the existence of the Flames – a pattern of one good season, then disappearing into the woodwork for awhile. No sustained success. You had some success last year, so expect to disappear in the woodwork this year.  I predict the Kings will wipe the floor with the Flames if they meet in the Pacific Division rounds of the playoffs.

No wonder Tkachuk and Gaudreau wanted out….I would too if I was playing here.