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NHL - Calgary Flames 2018-19 season preview, rankings, projections, bold predictions, playoff chances

ESPN.com | Updated: 2018-09-29 00:00:43

With the 2018-19 season fast approaching, we're running snapshots of all 31 NHL teams, including point total projections, positional previews, best- and worst-case scenarios and more.

The summer brought a new coach and some new players. Can the Calgary Flames get over the hump this season?


How they finished in 2017-18: 37-35-10 (84 points), finished 20th in the NHL, 5th in the Pacific Division

The Flames followed up a playoff season in 2016-17 with a middling campaign that saw their goal output drop from season to season. So Calgary attempted to address that decline by throwing money at Vegas forward James Neal and bringing on Elias Lindholm in the trade that saw Dougie Hamilton shipped to the Hurricanes. But the biggest move was the firing of Glen Gulutzan and the hiring of coach Bill Peters, formerly of the Hurricanes.

Over/under projected point total (per the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook): 84.5

Best-case scenario: Mike Smith has one more effective season in him, and the tweaks at forward get the Flames' goal-scoring averages back up.

Worst-case scenario: It's going to take some adjusting to Bill Peters' system, meaning the season is off to a slow start. When the Flames finally get up to speed with their new coach, Mike Smith goes down with an injury -- the fourth-straight season the 36-year-old won't start more than 55 games.

Forward overview: Johnny Gaudreau hit the point-per-game level with his offense, thanks in part to 60 assists. Many of those were converted into goals by Sean Monahan, who had 31 of them. Matthew Tkachuk can put the puck in the net as well as he can annoy opponents. His chemistry with Mikael Backlund is palpable, and the addition of Austin Czarnik as a free agent fits the mold of those players. Lindholm is a good two-way forward who could see a top-line spot, but who could also fit well down the lineup with players like Michael Frolik, Derek Ryan and Sam Bennett. As for Neal, he's probably better suited in a secondary scoring role but could also play on the top line. NHL rank: 17th

Defense overview: Mark Giordano, 34, might have seen his Norris Trophy contention window closed, but he remains a top-pairing defender who can pile up points. A reunion with T.J. Brodie is a good thing for the Flames. Noah Hanifin, acquired for Hamilton, will likely play with defensive defenseman Travis Hamonic. Juuso Valimaki, Brett Kulak and Michael Stone are among the other options. NHL rank: 9th

Goalie overview: Even graded on a curve, based on expectations, it was a surprising and solid season from Mike Smith. He went 25-22-6, with a .916 save percentage, with a .582 quality starts percentage in 55 games. He's still one of the NHL's better puck-handling goalies. He's also 37 in March. David Rittich and Jon Gillies are in the mix as backup. NHL rank: 24th

Special teams: The Flames were No. 29 on the power play at 16 percent, after being 10th in the previous season. Calgary was seventh on the penalty kill at 81.8 percent.

Pipeline overview: The Flames' system has been in a bit of a holding pattern, especially with so few draft picks in 2018. That said, Valimaki remains a potential top-four blueliner, and defenseman Rasmus Andersson and goalie Jon Gillies could graduate to the next level soon. There remains some high-upside players still grabbing at their ultimate potential in Dillon Dube and Oliver Kylington. Read more -- Chris Peters

Fantasy nugget: With Hamilton sent the other way in a trade with Carolina, former Carolina Hurricanes defender Hanifin is expected to play a substantial role on the Flames' blue line. Veteran Giordano is entering the twilight of his career. Along with Brodie, Hanifin will be tasked to contribute more offensively from the back end, particularly with the man advantage. Drafted fifth overall in 2015, the 21-year-old has tangibly improved year by year, collecting 32 points this past season, his third in the NHL. As a contributing member with Calgary, he'll score 40 this season. Read more -- Victoria Matiash

Coach on the hot seat? Bill Peters gets cut a lot of slack because his Carolina teams always have strong underlying analytics. Subpar goaltending and mismanagement received much more blame than the coach. But in his four seasons at the helm, his teams never finished higher than sixth and missed the playoffs in each season.

Bold prediction: Hamilton outscores Lindholm.

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