Fans of the Calgary Flames were full of high hopes going into the 2022-23 NHL season, thanks to topping the Pacific Division last year. Talk on Calgary Flames fan websites revolved around the possibility of the team progressing to their first Stanley Cup since losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, and maybe even adding to their solitary Stanley Cup title. However, with the regular season rapidly nearing its conclusion, Flames fans are worried their team may not even reach the playoffs—and many fear the franchise’s near future.
The Flames started the 2022-23 campaign with plenty of reasons to be positive, winning their first three games and ending October with a 5-2-0 record. The sites listed at Online Sports Betting shortened the Flames’ Stanley Cup odds but lengthened them after a dreadful November where the team went 5-7-3, including a run of six straight defeats. December saw some improvement although not much (8-4-4), while the Flames went 6-4-2 during the month of January. At the time of this writing, the Flames are 25-18-11 (61 points), enough to earn them the fifth spot in the Pacific Division.
The Decline of Jacob Markstrom
Goaltenders are often the unsung heroes of hockey teams. Offensive players receive the plaudits for their goal-scoring prowess, but goalies are literally the last line of defense. Make a mistake as a forward and you will likely get another chance at scoring a goal. However, make a mistake as a goaltender and you are almost certainly picking the puck from the back of the net.
Flames’ Swedish goaltender Jacob Markstrom has seen a marked loss of form this season. During the 2021-22 regular season, Markstrom had a 2.22 GAA and a .922 save percentage; the Flames were 37-15-9 with him in goal. Fast forward to the current season, and Markstrom is allowing 2.86 goals per game and has a sub-par .893 save percentage. With Markstrom tending goal, the Flames are 13-13-5. The 6-foot, 6-inch Swede is yet to record a shutout this season—he had nine last year—and has not featured in a winning team since the 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders on January 6. The Flames need Markstrom back to his best if they are to mount a playoff charge.
The Calgary Flames: A Team of Expensive Veterans
The Calgary Flames roster, while not elite level, should be performing better than it is currently. Some NHL rosters have plenty of potential due to the talented youngsters in their ranks. But the best Flames players have already peaked, with some in the latter stages of their careers.
For example, Markstrom mentioned above is 33 years old, has a $6 million cap hit, and still has four years left to run on his deal. Jonathan Huberdeau, who has failed to recapture the form he showed for the Florida Panthers, has eight years left and a $10.5 million salary cap. Then you have Nazim Kadri, with seven years and a $7 million cap hit; Kadri will be 33 in October.
Four other Flames veterans are entering the latter terms of their contracts and will be expiring as unrestricted free agents at the end of next season. Elias Lindholm, Tyler Toffoli, Chris Tanev, and Mikael Backlund could all leave the Flames.
One gets the feeling that this season, and 100% next season, could be the Flames’ last chance to win the Cup before a major overhaul of the playing staff is not only required but forced upon them. Some of those big earners will have to go on their merry way to new pastures if the team is to rebuild, because the Flames have less than $475,000 of cap space remaining.
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