Offseason review: Perfectly average Calgary Flames had a perfectly average offseason

May 19, 2021; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk (19) celebrates his second period goal with forward Johnny Gaudreau (13) against the Vancouver Canucks at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

There is no team in the NHL more average than the Calgary Flames. They don’t have world burners on their top-to-bottom list. Their offseason was also an almost perfect embodiment.

They made a few trades and a few minor signings, but is that enough to move them forward?

What happened in 2021?

Last season, the Flames finished 26-27-3, missing the North Division playoffs by just five points, just behind the Montreal Canadiens. Offensively, they were led by Johnny Gaudreau (19-30—49), Elias Lindholm (19-28—47) and Matthew Tkachuk (16-27—43) while others lined up Andrew Mangiapane, Mikael Backlund and Sean Monahan.

At the back, veteran captain Mark Giordano (9-17-26) was productive, but he’s now gone to Seattle. Chris Tanev, Rasmus Andersson and Noah Hanifin all completed the top four, but beyond Tanev struggled. This trio will rely heavily on preparations for the 2021-22 campaign to help catch up with the delay left following Giordano’s departure.

Calgary’s biggest move in the offseason was the acquisition of goaltender Jacob Markstrom – a move that didn’t quite work out the way they had hoped in the first year. While Markstrom posted a 22-19-2 record, his .904 save percentage and -4 GSAA paint a different picture. This save percentage was the lowest of his career as a starter. He will carve out the lion’s share of the job in Calgary and will need to regain his game for the Flames.

What were they doing out of season?

Notable additions: Blake Coleman, Nikita Zadorov, Daniel Vladar
Notable subtractions: Mark Giordano, Derek Ryan, Josh Leivo

Signing Coleman on a massive six-year, $ 4.9 million AAV contract was by far the biggest deal of the offseason for the Flames. They acquired a 29-year-old companion and paid him a shipment of money. This past year with Tampa Bay has been his most productive in the NHL where he has scored 2.2 points per hour, but he has played the overwhelming majority against mid- and low-end competitors. Will he be able to maintain this in the face of high level competition? The Flames obviously feel so given the deal that they’ve signed it too.

Calgary lost Giordano in the backend to Seattle in the expansion draft. The Flames could have kept him, but it would have cost a first-round pick – something the club just couldn’t afford. It was the right decision, but not easy to make. Having worked in the media in the Calgary community, I can say firsthand how important the Flames captain was not just to the team, but to the city as a whole. His loss will be felt far beyond the ice.

Although his game may have declined in recent years, he was a minute nibbler for the club and still had solid impacts on the ice. The acquisition of Nikita Zadorov and Erik Gudbranson will not help fill the void.

What to expect in 2021-2022?

Calgary is going to be tough with an average roster in a division, well, average. The top will no doubt see Vegas and the Edmonton Oilers, but beyond that, third place in the playoffs is completely up for grabs. Beyond the top two teams, the entire division is filled with teams that don’t scream at the burners. There’s a chance the Flames can aim for the playoffs, but I’m not confident.

The team will rely heavily on Tkachuk and he needs to take a big step forward as a gaming driver while also needing Tanev and Andersson to do the same at the back. Calgary will count on these young players more than ever.

A bold prediction …

Calgary misses the playoffs and trades while waiting for UFA Johnny Gaudreau at the deadline, recouping its assets while launching a rebuild.

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