VHN definitely won’t take back what it said about the Calgary Flames falling back to the Vancouver Canucks and the Pacific Division with the player personnel losses it recently suffered, but the players acquired from the Florida Panthers in exchange for Matthew Tkachuk on Friday will definitely modify the stance a little bit.
Jonathan Huberdeau finished tied for 2nd place in scoring in the NHL last season with 115 points, tied with none other than recently departed Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau. So do we consider that a wash? Time to bust out the analytical comparison?
Analytics at this point hardly paint a picture. For both of the aforementioned players, we’re talking about new linemates, new coaches, new teams, new conferences for that matter. The all important intangibles in hockey, like chemistry, will take some time to realize.
For the Flames, the uncomfortable oddity is that both players acquired in the Tkachuk-to-Panthers deal, Huberdeau and defenceman MacKenzie Weegar, are both entering the final year of their deals. Both will be unrestricted free agents (UFA) in 2023 if unsigned in advance. Huberdeau will be due a hefty raise.
For Flames General Manager Brad Treliving, he’s hoping it won’t be history repeating itself. It’s impossible to say at this point if Huberdeau, or Weegar for that matter, will want to stay.
So pretend Gaudreau and Huberdeau wash out, which leaves the gigantic void of no Tkachuk, not just his scoring, but his annoying grit. In his unique way, irreplaceable.
Would JT Miller of the Vancouver Canucks fill that void? That’s a whole different story.
In the meantime, the Flames need to attempt to figure out how to make up for Tkachuk’s 104 points, good for 8th best in the NHL last season. So yes, as it stands, the team is weakened offensively and the Vancouver Canucks inadvertently gained a little ground. As pointed out, Calgary also lost its main source of sandpaper, as important as anything.
Let’s call the regular season goaltending a wash with Thatcher Demko representing the Vancouver Canucks and former BC Boy Jacob Markström creasing for Calgary.
D-zone, the Flames have the depth advantage, pure and simple.
Here’s the potential new looks up front as it stands:
Huberdeau, Elias Lindholm, Tyler Toffoli
Blake Coleman, Mikael Backlund, Andrew Mangiapane (unsigned)
The Flames have also lost some punch off their NHL 10th ranked, 22.9% power play.
Elias Pettersson, JT Miller, Brock Boeser
Conor Garland, Bo Horvat, Ilya Mikheyev
Vasily Podkolzin and recently acquired Andrey Kuzmenko are part of the new mix and match.
There’s a decent chance these line-ups will change ahead of training camp. Until then, the Flames still represent the team to beat in the division, defending champs of the Pacific. The Canucks play at Calgary on December 14th and 31st, while the Flames hit Rogers Arena on March 31st and April 8th.
Wouldn’t it be nifty if the division title or at least a playoff spot or two were on the line for those last two.