After sending massive shockwaves through the hockey world with the acquisition of Jonathan Huberdeau, Mackenzie Weegar and Cole Schwindt from the Florida Panthers, the Calgary Flames are once again expected to contend in 2022-23. While the departures of Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk are unfortunate, one could argue this current lineup is as good as the one they entered the 2021-22 campaign with, which has the fanbase very excited to get things going.
Despite how well things went as a team in 2021-22, however, there were a number of individuals who underperformed. If those said players are able to pick things up and play to the level they are capable of this upcoming season, the Flames may very well be able to win their second straight Pacific Division title. With that said, let’s take a look at three players they will need more from in 2022-23.
The downfall of Sean Monahan over the past three seasons has been rather upsetting to watch, given that it is specifically due to a variety of injuries rather than just a decline in play. The hope was that hip surgery at the end of last season would be what it took to get him back on track. As it turns out, that wasn’t the case, as he had the worst statistical output of his career in 2021-22 with eight goals and 23 points in 65 games.
Had the Flames been able to re-sign both Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk this offseason, there is a very good chance Monahan would have been moved in order to create cap space. However, moving him wouldn’t have been easy given his struggles paired with his $6.375 million cap hit, as a sweetener would have almost undoubtedly needed to be attached. Given that the Flames are now cap compliant with him on the roster, it is almost a guarantee he will be with them for the start of the 2022-23 campaign.
While he may never get back to the player he once was, the Flames could sure use it, and there may be a small sliver of hope. Monahan’s 2021-22 season came to an end prematurely, as he once again underwent hip surgery, though on the opposite one as a year prior. Perhaps it will prove to be enough to get him back to his former goal-scoring self, or at the very least allow him to be more productive than he has been in recent years.
While he has shown flashes of the player he has the potential to be, Dillon Dube has been quite frustrating throughout his Flames career due to his inconsistencies. He has struggled to carve out much of a role under head coach Darryl Sutter, as he averaged less than 13 minutes a game during the 2021-22 season.
Despite some of his struggles, there is plenty of reason to believe Dube can step up this coming season. Over the final 15 games of his 2021-22 season, the 24-year-old recorded nine goals and 11 points, proving that the offensive skill he showed in both the Western Hockey League (WHL) and American Hockey League (AHL) is still there. While his club was able to add Huberdeau to the mix, the losses of both Gaudreau and Tkachuk will mean the Flames need others to step up offensively, and the hope is Dube is one who can do just that.
The Flames have a logjam on the back end heading into training camp, meaning Juuso Valimaki will be in a tough spot to crack the roster. The 23-year-old, who went 16th overall in 2017, was once regarded as one of the organization’s top prospects but has seen his stock drop dramatically over the past year. Now, as he prepares to head into the final year of his contract, he will need to play the best hockey of his career in 2022-23 in order to ensure he still has an NHL career ahead of him.
The hope for Valimaki is that he is able to wow the coaching staff in training camp and earn a roster spot for opening night of the 2022-23 season. He certainly possesses the talent to do so, but injuries have hampered his footspeed, which was the main reason he spent the majority of the 2021-22 campaign in the AHL.
While many seem to have lost faith in Valimaki, however, it is important to note that Oliver Kylington was in a very similar situation as him heading into last year’s training camp. He not only went on to make the team but had by far and away the best season of his career, and as a result, just earned himself a two-year, $5 million extension. What a bonus it would be for the Flames if Valimaki were able to step up and have a similar season in 2022-23.
Flames Need All Hands on Deck to Compete for Stanley Cup
After what began as a very tumultuous offseason, the Flames have revamped their roster in such a way that has most believing they will once again be a threat in the Western Conference. That said, teams like the Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Blues, Edmonton Oilers and even the Vegas Golden Knights all appear to be quite strong as well, meaning that if the Flames are to find success during not only the regular season but next years playoffs, they will need everyone contributing. If the three mentioned above are able to help with that, it will provide the team with a significant boost.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.