Sure, the Stanley Cup is more important than a silly divisional/provincial rivalry, but in order to get out of the Western Conference, the trip may have to go through the Oilers and this requires the comparison. The Flames are not in bad shape, when looking at the two teams, but they are going to need a bit more out of a few players, if they are really going to make this into a real arms race.
The foundation is certainly there for the Flames, who have taken one of the more intimidating bluelines, chose their new number one to play behind them, added a capable back-up goalie and then it will be up to their homegrown forwards to get the job done at the other end of the ice, if this team is going to really go places. Making the playoffs is all well and good, but this team knows they have to be better, because the Pacific Division and the Western Conference isn't going to roll over for them.
On the plus side, the poolies that enjoy snagging some Flames talent, won't likely be disappointed in their production, if these projections are offering any extra hope.
Table last updated on August 13th
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
In another case of a third year player making the intriguing or breakout list, Sam Bennett of the Flames is certainly one of the more interesting cases, heading into the 2018 season.
Bennett's production dropped by 10 points from his rookie season to his sophomore season, not uncommon at all in the NHL, and it is just as common to see those players start to flourish in year number three. The Flames would be far better suited to have Bennett start to reach his overall potential now, keeping the expectations reasonable on Mikael Backlund at the same time. If Bennett can be a second line centre on this team or even a top line centre, barring any fallout from Sean Monahan, he becomes a very viable option for your hockey pool team and could end up being a good bargain pick.
First Round Picks
The acquisition of Mike Smith from Arizona was a big one for both the player and the team, because he is a pretty darn good goalie and that's what the Flames have been clamoring for over the last few years. This move finally puts Smith into a situation where he can win most nights, especially with a solid blueline in front of him, he could be a huge swing player in the rankings this year.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
The Flames are not short on forward scoring this year, since they have really built well over the last couple of years, putting together a very solid group, top to bottom. Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan still run the top line, Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik found great chemistry last season, while Matthew Tkachuk will go into his sophomore season and Kris Versteeg has stuck around to add that quality depth. This should be a popular team at the draft,
Other Pool Worthy Defense
The Calgary blueline currently ranks tied for 6th in projected points and it's a pretty solid team there. Four out of their top six should be worthy of placement in the pool, led by Dougie Hamilton, who really broke out last season with 50 points and a good all around season. T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano and Michael Stone round out that top four, while another newcomer, Travis Hamonic, may be relied on more for his physical play than his scoring.
It's another new face in the net, as the number two guy, as Eddie Lack was traded to Calgary from Carolina in this off-season for next to nothing and the Flames get a pretty decent number two out of the deal. I have the feeling that Smith will be taking most of the reps in the Calgary net, but Lack will get his fair share and likely do well with it too.
Team To Pick From Late?
The depth on this team is fairly significant and they do have some potential for an upswing in scoring, if all the right pieces come together. Young players like Micheal Ferland and Curtis Lazar have some potential to score, depending on which line they end up on, while there are some unknowns coming up as well, like NCAA product Spencer Foo, who chose to sign with the Flames in the off-season. Where could he end up?
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
As much as Sam Bennett is my pick for the breakout player for the Flames, he still needs to sign a new deal out of his entry-level contract. The Flames have only $2.4 million in unused cap space with their current projected roster, so if Bennett can sign a quick bridge deal to get him through to a long-term deal, that would certainly be best for everyone.
The Calgary Flames had three players that could have potentially went to the World Championships after they were eliminated from the playoffs by Anaheim, but all three opted to stay home and deal with injuries. Sean Monahan, Michael Frolik and Mikael Backlund all finished the playoffs a little banged up, but none of the three were too worse for wear, as they should all be ready for camp next month.