Last summer the Flames made a splash by trading Dougie Hamilton after one season in Calgary because he was too nerdy. He liked museums or something. So much so, he allegedly skipped nights out with “the boys” to take nights in, or do other nerdy stuff. What a shame, a young NHL player who doesn’t want to party. You have to hate that. That’s an issue in the locker room. And as we know, locker rooms are the only thing that make a hockey player.
Though their alleged reasoning for trading a top pair, young right handed defender (basically the hockey equivalent of owning the newest iPhone), was flawed, their return was excellent.
Elias Lindholm was having trouble negotiating his new deal with the Hurricanes. Noah Hanifin had an underwhelming start to his career as a top prospect. Both could have used some changed. They certainly got whatever reset they needed.
Hanifin seemingly revitalized Travis Hamonic and formed a very solid second pair all year. Elias Lindholm played RW on one of the best lines in the league. They were better than expected, and in return Carolina got even better. Win-Win. Rarely happens, but here it is.
We all had Calgary being a playoff team this year. They had the pieces. What we did not expect is for them to torch the whole league. They were the best western team all year, and second to only Tampa Bay this season. They surprised us all. What a better place the hockey world is when Calgary is doing well.
Their success can be accredited to a few things in particular.
New coach Bill Peters seemed to change their whole dynamic. They were fast, they took lots of shots, they owned the puck, and they got some decent goal-tending for a bit (a luxury Cam Ward never offered Peters when he was in Carolina).
Speaking of goal-tending. David Rittch had quite the first season as a starter. He really needed to because let me tell you, Mike Smith is not good. He hasn’t been for a while, but this season, he was a serious issue. A save percentage of .898 after 42 games is not ideal. He’s their alleged starter for the postseason. Someone shake Bill Peters. Rittich should be your guy.
That line I mentioned earlier? It also had Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. Their point totals this year?
Not bad at all for a first line. One they can certainly boast about, and cause some damage in the playoffs.
The other name to look for on that list? Mark Giordano.
In a season where we thought we’d seen his decline coming. Where we assumed last year’s numbers were the result of the privilege he had playing with Dougie Hamilton all year, he was an easy Norris Trophy choice. 74 points as a defender is absurd. Putting up those points while playing the toughest minutes on the team. At 24 minutes a night, while being paired with the slumping TJ Brodie. He was solid in every zone all year long. Mark Giordano earned himself a Norris Trophy. I don’t think it’ll even be close.
This is a young team. But one that can compete right now. They might need a long term solution in nets, but they’re pretty well setup for the long haul.