The Calgary Flames' talent at forward and on the blue line is among the NHL's best. But the netminders could hold them back from reaching the ultimate prize. Here's everything you need to know about the the Flames heading into the 2019-20 NHL season:
The big question: Can this goaltending be trusted?
The Flames were a huge surprise last season in Bill Peters's first campaign behind the bench, earning 107 points before getting absolutely rolled in the playoffs by the Colorado Avalanche in five games. The problem in the postseason was the offense, which sputtered to seven goals in four straight losses. Mike Smith played all five games and was actually not bad, as the Flames had a .947 even-strength save percentage in the series. He's in Edmonton now, with Cam Talbot in Calgary to back up last season's regular-season darling David Rittich (27-9-5, .911 save percentage).
Both of their underlying numbers last season don't encourage much confidence, as Rittich was just 2.5 goals saved above average and Talbot is sub-replacement. Outside of the Carolina Hurricanes, no team has a more promising lineup potentially sabotaged by shoddy goaltending than the Flames.
Offseason comings and goings, cap situation
Besides the indirect goalie swap with the Oilers, the Flames' offseason was defined by their signing of RFA Matthew Tkachuk to a three-year, $21-million deal and their controversial trade of struggling free agency mistake James Neal to Edmonton for struggling free agency mistake Milan Lucic, who is signed through 2023 with a $5.25 million cap hit and has 16 goals in his last 161 games.
Johnny Gaudreau, of the 36 goals and 63 assists last season, finishes with under 30 goals and 90 points.
Breakout candidate: Andrew Mangiapane
Based on his 44 games last season -- where he scored 13 points, was a plus-11 and had a 59.91 expected goals percentage at 5-on-5 -- the 23-year-old winger deserves more than the 10:33 per game he averaged last season.
Elite skill players. Gaudreau was a 99-point player, and together with Sean Monahan (82 points) creates one of the NHL's most dynamic duos. Mark Giordano finally captured the Norris Trophy at 35 years old with 74 points in 78 games. We'll include Tkachuk in this group too after his 34-goal season. Even with some issues in their depth, the Flames can rely on this group to propel them.
As mentioned, the Flames' are really staking a lot of their success on goaltending that, as mentioned previously, is barely above average analytically.
Flames in NHL Rank
18. Johnny Gaudreau, LW
40. Mark Giordano, D
47. Sean Monahan, C
The cap/contracts (No. 11) and NHL roster (No. 13) lead the way for a team that has some shortcomings in the owner/GM/coach (No. 23) and prospect (No. 31) departments.
Pipeline ranking: 30
Fantasy facts to know
Calgary's dominant top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm not only remains intact, but is allegedly looking to improve after combining for 259 points last season. While Gaudreau, a threat to break the 100-point barrier, presents as a valid first-round fantasy selection in most drafts, Monahan sports underrated value as a pick outside the top 50.
Veteran Mark Giordano once again serves as an elite fantasy asset as top offensive defenseman and lone blueliner on the Flames' No. 1 power play, comprising of the aforementioned top line, and a freshly re-signed Matthew Tkachuk. Giordano amassed 74 points on 221 shots, while averaging more than 24 minutes per game, in 2018-19.
New netminder Cam Talbot is outwardly eager to challenge No. 1 David Rittich for starts in the Flames' net. Rittich was good, not great, in limited play in 2018-19, while Talbot appears determined to rebound from last season's poor showing with the Oilers and Flyers. The 32-year-old's one-year contract only provides additional incentive to that end. While Rittich remains the anointed favorite, fantasy managers should be aware of a possible battle for playing time between the pipes in Calgary. -- Victoria Matiash