The Calgary Flames have been putting in the work this off-season and it just might pay off. Over the last few seasons the Flames have been “that close” to a phenomenal team that can compete in the post season. They’ve struggled to maintain an offensive force and were in need of consistent defensemen in front of their netminders. With the additions of Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm from the Carolina Huricanes and some veterans in the league, they have taken a major step in filling the holes throughout the lineup.
Noah Hanifin was drafted in 2015 by the Hurricanes after completing only one season at Boston College under the best coach in collegiate ice hockey, Jerry York. At BC he played in 37 of 38 games with 5 goals, 18 assists, and a +12 rating. The Golden Eagles finished second in the Hockey East that year. Following his collegiate success, Hanifin was the only defensemen in his draft class to start the season that same year in the NHL. This past season was, offensively, his best yet with 10 goals and 22 assists. He definitely needs to improve on his +/- rating this year with Calgary in order to make a difference. However, giving him the benefit of the doubt as I did with Skinner in a prior post, the entire Hurricanes lineup struggles to keep the puck out of the net and Hanifin’s rating at least shows he received a lot of ice time.
Elias Lindholm has 188 points in 374 career games. He’s a young, strong center with a lot of potential. It might have been a risky move for the Flames to sign him to such a big deal, but I believe it will pay off for them. The other big addition the Flames have made this summer is signing James Neal. The Hurricanes are the fifth organization he will be a part of in the league. Neal is a dependent, passionate winger with a lot of playoff experience. He just might be the perfect line mate for Lindholm or is he going to be the third with Monahan and Gaudreau?
A re-signing that the Flames hope will pay off for them in the long run is their goaltender Mike Smith. He won 25 of his 55 starts this past season with a .916 save percentage. Goaltending has been an issue for the Flames over the last few years, hopefully Smith can change that this upcoming season.