NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams from Nov. 16-Dec. 16.Today, three important questions facing the Calgary Flames.
1. Will Johnny Gaudreau bounce back?
Gaudreau scored 183 points (60 goals, 123 assists) in 162 games in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, which was ninth in the NHL. But the forward scored 58 points (18 goals, 40 assists) in 70 games last season, his fewest in his six full NHL seasons.
“It’s a reality in professional sports that you don’t always have the type of year that you want; it happens to players,” Flames coach Geoff Ward said. “But the biggest thing for Johnny now is that he just has to put (last) season behind him and come in with a new outlook and make sure he gets off to a good start. We’re going to do everything we can to help him with that.”
There were positives from last season for Gaudreau. He was third on the Flames with 18 power-play points, his 50.5 percent shot attempts percentage was fifth among Flames forwards (minimum 50 games), and his 8.6 percent shooting percentage was far below his NHL average of 12.1 percent, making him a prime candidate for a bounce-back season.
“We really like a lot of the strides that [Gaudreau] made in some areas that we asked him to do, but we just want him to come in and play his game,” Ward said. “If he can marry both aspects of it now and get back to being the dominant offensive player that we all know that he is, then it’s going to be a real good year for Johnny, and that’s going to help our hockey team an awful lot.”
2. Can Jacob Markstrom and Christopher Tanev carry over their success?
Markstrom, a goalie, signed a six-year contract Oct. 9, the same day Tanev, a defenseman, signed a four-year contract. Last season they helped the Vancouver Canucks reach the Western Conference Second Round, the Canucks’ deepest postseason run since reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2011. Calgary is hoping for a similar experience this season; the last time the Flames won multiple playoff series was when they reached the Final in 2004.
“I’ve played lots against both of them, and it’s always been tough,” Flames center Mikael Backlund said. “I don’t know when I scored last on [Markstrom], and Tanev is just a solid defenseman in this league for a while, sacrifices his body, experienced. So great pickups, both of those guys. They have that connection.”
3. Who will play on the third defense pair?
The Flames signed Tanev but lost defensemen TJ Brodie (Toronto Maple Leafs), Erik Gustafsson (Philadelphia Flyers), Derek Forbort (Winnipeg Jets) and Travis Hamonic (free agent).
“The one thing that I’m really excited about is that some of our younger defensemen are going to have an opportunity to play bigger roles,” Ward said. “I think it’s just giving them the opportunity in (training) camp and doing our due diligence to see where they fit in and what the best fit for us is going to be in terms of what our pairings are going to look like.”