The Flames' incredible season: Boon or bane?
There are only a few teams and events that are more surprising than the Calgary Flames’ early success, which leads to the question on if they can keep up the traction for a longer time. Is the NHL seeing the next dynasty unfold or is it another one-hit wonder?
After missing to join the playoffs in the 2020-21 season, and losing Mark Giordano without finding any replacement, you would have to believe that they will have yet another lackluster season.
However, this could not be any further from the truth as the Flames are at the top of the Western Conference standings just 19 games into the 2021-22 season. This year has had so many surprises for the NHL, but nothing could exemplify this surprise any more than the Flames where they are ranked number 1 on offence and top 5 on defence.
So, what exactly did the Flames do to adhere to this success and will they be able to keep it up? Only time will tell, but so far, Calgary seems to be the team to beat next to the Washington Capitals who are expected to wreak havoc in the 2021-22 season.
Oliver Kylington’s great season
Giordano’s departure to the Seattle Kraken paved the way for the career surgance of Oliver Kylington who was relatively forgotten in prior years. He became the team’s leading scorer with three goals and 12 pints among NHL blue-liners.
More impressive, his plus-10 rating is also among the higher-tier defencemen in the league that should tell everyone that he is truly the real deal. Before, he used to turn the puck over several times and make mistakes, but clearly in the earlier parts of the season. He looked to minimize these mistakes that led him to become one of the best players of the league this season.
With scoring points in 11 of his 14 hockey games so far, Oliver’s creative playmaking proved to be too much for the league to handle as his team is sitting at the helm because of him for the most part.
It also helps when his teammates compliment him with his playmaking that makes their offence so cohesive and lethal against the top defenders of the league. With the NHL shifting to a dominant offensive play style every single game, there’s no question why Calgary is seeing so much success. They are the blueprint of what the future would look like should they be successful during the playoffs and secure a title for the team.
The Flames burning teams on the road
You don’t see top teams beating other opponents on the road. It’s usually the other way around where home-teams are generally speaking the better clubs in their conferences when they lead at home.
However, the Flames are looking at things in a unique light where they are beating opponents on the road. It’s hard enough to win against a team where their fans are rooting against you, but with the Flames, it is not a problem at all.
On the road, Calgary has an impressive record of 11-3-5 to start the season, and are now 15-7-6 which still has them at the top of the West. What’s more impressive is their road record where they have a best-record league-wise of 9-2-2 away.
Fans are betting on Calgary to be among the best teams battling for the third place in the league’s worst division only behind the Edmonton Oilers and the Vegas Golden Knights.
If Calgary can duplicate their road wins at home, the disparity between them and the rest of the league could be heavens apart. In fact, they could be the best team ever when they replicate what they do away at home.
Historically good offence
When talking about the best offense in NHL history, you might be thinking of the Los Angeles Kings way back in the 80s or the 2001-02 Detroit Red Wings. However, this season of the Calgary Flames are among the top offences the league has ever seen.
Rivaling their offensive contemporaries, the Flames may be a bit behind on the offensive charts due to the bloated numbers of an inflated offensive season. The NHL, as you should know, is shifting more to offence where top teams are doing better offensively and even worse defensively.
Unusually, the worst defensive teams in the league like the Capitals are getting ahead of the curb when they don’t play defence. After the league’s strong emphasis on the offensive schemes, it should go without saying that the Flames are also ablaze in historically presented offence.
There’s so much to love about this year’s Flames, like the past teams whose offence are so great that make the league better for ice hockey fans.
A formidable goalie: Dan Vladar
It might sound like the praise for the Flames’ offence and the top teams’ absent defence is a good sign for the league. However, defence still plays a part for a team’s success no matter what.
The Flames made a gamble after acquiring Dan Valdar, a 24-year-old goalie from Boston in exchange for a third-round pick. Calgary is very lucky to take a chance on him, and their goal defence improved because of it.
In the first five games of the Flames’ season, he is 4-0-1 with an outstanding 1.57 GAA and 0.946 save percentage which includes a block and shutouts against the Boston Bruins and the Ottawa Senators during his last two outings.
It also helps when the defencemen for the Flames, Erik Gudbranson and Nikita Zadorov, are great at helping Vladar against the top-tier offences of the league. They limit their scoring output to fewer points than the league average which is already low historically.
The Flames are undeniably exciting to watch
The Flames are exciting to watch this season. Perhaps it’s the surprise of the season where they are on the upper echelon of the division and have the best teams lose against them like the Washington Capitals on October 24 (3-4) and the Anaheim Ducks (0-1) on December 4.
Their amazing offence pushed this team to success, and the longer they can keep this up, the better their outlook would become coming to the postseason. Likewise, they can even win it all during the Stanley Cup if they can manage the load of this offensive season.
However, there is still time for teams to adjust to their woes, and the Flames’ fire may die out as the season wanes. With how well they played, it seems as if they’re the real deal, and their concerns from the previous offseason turned out to be working for them with surprises from Kylington and Vladar. With these two players, it’s going to be tough rooting against the Flames as the year ends and the playoffs nearing this May.
Will the Flames keep the fire burning?
The Flames this season have been a huge surprise in large part due to the offseason misses they’ve unfortunately left the hockey scene due to missed calls in free agency and departed members.
However, they quickly turned it around and became the best team in the league with only the Capitals creeping in. There’s no doubt about it that this is no one-hit wonder as they have formed something special with their offence and the defensive schemes the coaching staff is working so hard to formulate has left opposing teams wanting to score more.
Regardless of their imperfections like the lack of a superstar player or a bad track record of previous seasons, the Flames have never been this close to winning games since the 90s. They have the new players and the coaching to thank for in line with their success so far this year.
The only opponent they have to look out for is the steamrolling Capitals who look to be their rivals from the East, and adjacent teams in their own conference like the Ducks and Oilers who look to overthrow their Pacific Division supremacy later down the line.
Unfortunately for their rivals, it’s going to take a lot more than close records and a few scares during third quarters to put down the fire of Calgary, and without a solid offensive scheme to stop the Flames. It’s next to impossible to take them down, especially when the second half of the season starts where all the remaining top-heavy teams will look to upscale their rosters as the midseason trade nears.
Words: Vonn Consul