Calgary Flames 2015 State of the Team


With the draft and the bulk of free agency over, let’s take a look at where one of the surprise teams from last year – the Calgary Flames – stack up for the 2015-2016 season.

Despite absolutely terrible possession numbers from last year (28th in the league in score-adjusted corsi with a team CF% of 44.3), the Flames managed to PDO their way to the playoffs (5th in the league in PDO, 2nd in shooting %).

After dispatching the highly flawed “favorite” Vancouver Canucks, the Flames were simply outclassed (outscored 19-9) for the majority of their second round series against Anaheim.  While conventional wisdom says that the percentages return to normalcy will hit the Flames hard (much like the 2015 Avs, 2014 Leafs, 2012 Wild, etc), they may have made enough improvements with their roster to stave off the dreaded regression to the mean.


While Flames GM Brad Treliving has faced a lot of (deserved) flak during his short tenure — trading a valuable 3rd round pick for glorified grinder/face-puncher Brandon Bollig, signing the terrible Derek Engelland to a deal so awful that people thought the $2.9 million annual average value he is receiving was actually the total money over the three years, keeping Sam Bennett up to play some meaningless playoff games where the Flames were never truly contenders and burning a super valuable entry-level year off his contract — Flames management has had a fabulous summer.

First, the absolute coup of trading for stud defenseman (and also only 22 years old!) Dougie Hamilton for only a middle pick in the first round and two second rounders.  Despite playing tough, top pairing minutes, Hamilton still routinely dominated the competition to the tune of 55% CF at even strength.

And as if that weren’t enough, they went out and signed Michael Frolik from the Jets to the not-at-all-unreasonable deal of 5 years, $4.3 million AAV.  Frolik, who last year had the 2nd best CF% on the Jets roster for players who played more than 20 games, also provides solid middle six scoring depth with 42 point last year despite being only 8th on team for forwards last year in PP TOI per game.

Grade: Easy A


With the addition of Hamilton, the Flames now have arguably the best first three defensemen in the entire league.  Mark Giordano, who was probably the frontrunner for the Norris before he had season-ending surgery, and TJ Brodie already make up one of the best defense pairs in hockey (Career 52.1 CF% playing together despite getting some of the toughest usage in the league).  The problem is the rest of the Flames defense isn’t quite as good.

Dennis Wideman has his value as a power play quarterback, easy usage guy (though paying a 32 year old guy who is only trending down $5.25 million a year to be that type of player is not the best use of your cap space).  However, Ladislav Smid, Kris Russell, and Derek Engellend are all pretty bad, getting routinely outshot on a consistent basis and somehow being paid a combined $9(!) million against the cap this year.

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But, the young forward group the Flames have assembled this year should have fans very excited. Future American hero Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett are all under 22 years old and all look like they will be very good for a long time.  Throw in the very solid two-way centerman Mikael Backland (and very affordable at only $3.75 million for the next three years), Michael Frolik, Mason Raymond, Matt Stajan and Jiri Hudler, and you have the makings of an effective top and middle six.

The 4th line of the team probably won’t be a strength, but Joe Colborne plus some combination of David Jones, Josh Jooris, Brandon Bollig and Michael Ferland won’t exactly kill you for the 8 or so minutes a night they’ll be out there.

Jonas Hiller will be fine enough, providing around league average goaltending, though if he goes down, I don’t know how much I would trust Kari Ramo in the starter position (Career .905 Sv% in the NHL).

Grade: B


As far as prospects go, Sam Bennett’s imminent promotion to the big club will leave the system with several solid prospects, though none with the sort of can’t miss pedigree of a guy like Bennett.  Recent draftee Oliver Kylington comes highly regarded, and other defensive prospects like Tyler Wotherspoon and Brandon Hickey should challenge for NHL spots soon.  Goalie Joni Ortio should get his shot at being a backup eventually and forwards Emile Poirier and Morgan Kilmchuk also look like they will be in the mix in a year or two.

The more immediate question facing the Flames is what to do with top defenseman Mark Giordano, as his contract expires after this upcoming season.  Reports have him asking for a contract in the range of $9 million per year.  The funny thing is, he is probably worth that much this next season and probably the one after that.  However, he is surely going to be going after a deal in the 6-7 year range and it is almost never a good idea to be giving a guy that kind of money in a deal that will take him until he is 39 or 40 years old.  The Flames should be much improved this season, but if it is pretty clear they won’t be making the playoffs around the trade deadline and a reasonable deal for Giordano seems unlikely, it may be prudent to try to trade him for assets.

Grade: B-

Ultimately, the playoffs in the West is shaping up to be another bloodbath.  With the Kings and Ducks likely holding the first two spots in the Pacific, the Flames will have to challenge the improved Sharks, the now McDavid-led Oilers, and a still decent enough Canucks team for that third spot in the division.  Otherwise they will have to contend with the Stars, Wild, Avs, Jets, plus other challenging teams from the Pacific for those last two wild card spots.  Honestly, that third spot is probably their best bet to make the playoffs, as the Central is still likely the best division in hockey.  Regardless, the Flames seem set for a long time with their excellent crop of young talent and should be regularly contending for the playoffs over the next decade.

(All stats courtesy of,, and

Next: New Jersey Devils 2015 State of Team

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