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I recently looked at three question marks surrounding the Calgary Flames
heading into the 2019-20 campaign.
Naturally, the post had more of a pessimistic feel to it. Today I'm going to offset that by looking at three reasons to be optimistic about what the Flames can do this year.
Let's get to it.
1. A strong core is returning
The Flames enjoyed one of their best regular seasons in history and, as it stands, they're bringing back *every* key player that helped make it happen. Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk (once re-signed) form an extremely strong quartet of returning forwards. They'll lead the charge offensively.
Defensively things look just as good as, headlined by last year's Norris winner Mark Giordano, the Flames are currently rostering one of the league's best group of top-4 defensemen. Even if T.J. Brodie is shipped out to address another need, Rasmus Andersson has shown the ability to play a bigger role without missing a beat.
Are there some things to nitpick about on the roster? Absolutely. But I think a lot of teams would happily trade their top-4 forwards and top-4 defenders for the group Calgary has.
2. Continued development
Matthew Tkachuk has grown leaps and bounds every season and, at 21, there's still a real chance he takes another step forward. Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson are just 22 years old. Andrew Mangiapane showed very well down the stretch last season and should play a lot more this year. Dillon Dube was one of the AHL's best youngsters
and looks ready to contribute as early as October. Oliver Kylington has shown promise as well, and Juuso Valimaki *could* return at some point later in the season. If a handful of these guys continue making strides, they'll raise the ceiling for the Flames.
3. The Pacific Division sucks
A lot has changed in the NHL over the last year. The state of the Pacific? Not so much
. It's going to be bad again.
Beyond Vegas, who I think will be very, very good, there isn't a whole lot to be worried about.
San Jose is a good team but they lost Joe Pavelski, Gustav Nyquist and Joonas Donskoi, among others, without adding anybody of note. They have really poor goaltending, too.
Arizona made some nice additions but I don't think the ceiling is overly high there. The same can be said of Vancouver – at least in 2019-20.
Anaheim is retooling and Los Angeles is rebuilding so they're not of any concern.
All that's left is the Edmonton Oilers. They have Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, which is scary, but the team registered 79 points last season and their biggest off-season additions were Flames castoffs James Neal and Mike Smith. Yikes! They seem poised to waste another year of arguably the league's best duo.
Even if a few Flames deal with some injuries, and regression, they should still claim a divisional playoff spot once again.
Three Flames question marks heading into 2019-20
best defense pairing in the Central?
Best defense pairing in the Pacific Division?
Best 1-2 punch in the Pacific Division?
Best forward duo in the Pacific Division?
Top-5 wingers 22 & under?
Top-5 defensemen in the Western Conference?
Top-5 wingers in the Western Conference?