Goaltending Without a proven veteran to turn to, the Flames held a preseason competition to win the job featuring Karri Ramo, Joey MacDonald, and Reto Berra. Ramo ended up winning the job with Berra starting the season as his backup. For his part, Ramo played well enough that the Flames didn’t have to get desperate in search of a goalie, but not so well that Calgary was ready to commit to him long term. Ramo ended up with a 17-15-4 record and a 2.65 goals against average. Berra struggled in his time in net, posting a 2.95 GAA before being traded to Colorado. Wanting some stability for the position, Calgary opted to sign former Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller. Once again, the Flames starting goaltender job figures to be a competition, this time between Hiller and Ramo. With Hiller having a history of consistently good play in net, he should be considered the favorite to win the job. Power Play While Mark Giordano gave the Flames a genuine scoring threat from the blue line, the Calgary power play still struggled due to a lack of playmakers at the forward position. The Flames converted on just 15.7 percent of their power play opportunities, ranking 24th in the NHL. This number is also significantly down from the 20 percent mark Calgary posted in the previous year. No player on the Flames scored more than Giordano’s seven goals in power play situations. To make matters worse, Michael Cammalleri was second with six goals and he’s no longer on the team. Besides Cammalleri, Mikael Backlund, Kris Russell, Sean Monahan, and Curtis Glencross were the top contributors on the power play, but the team as a whole could never figure out how to put enough pressure on the opposing net during 5 on 4 situations. With an expected regression from Giordano, it seems likely that Calgary will have one of the league’s worst power play units in the 2014-15 season. Penalty Kill There were opposing forces on Calgary that were simultaneously helping and hurting their penalty killing unit. Helping the team was the pair of Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie. Brodie was the defenseman who would go after the puck while Giordano would protect the net. Their efforts helped make Calgary’s penalty killing respectable. At the same time, Mark Giordano uneven goaltending PHOTO/NHL/Getty Images and a lack of skilled forwards hurt Calgary’s efforts. Without forwards who could take the puck away, Calgary was often stuck in their own zone for long periods of time. Goaltenders Karri Ramo, Reto Berra, and Joey MacDonald couldn’t be relied on to consistently keep pucks out of the net. Overall, Calgary ended up ranked 18th on the penalty kill in the NHL, but if it wasn’t for Giordano and Brodie, that mark would have likely been much worse. Three Questions 1. Who will win the starting goaltender job? Jonas Hiller has to be considered the favorite. He’s played at a good level for long enough on Anaheim that he’s proven to be a solid option in net. Karri Ramo didn’t play too badly last season, but he lacks the success and experience Hiller brings to the table. Either way, Calgary’s goalies should be a more stable group this season with Hiller on board. 2. Which of the forwards will step up? The Flames were already lacking talent on their front lines with Michael Cammalleri on board. Without him, the team is in desperate need of some scoring. The most likely source of sudden improvement is Sean Monahan, the team’s top draft pick a couple years ago. Monahan scored 22 goals in his rookie season and should be in position to develop his overall skill set this year. 3. How long is this rebuild going to take? It has now been five years since Calgary last made the playoffs. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the team is on the verge of breaking out of its slump anytime soon. The Flames are trying to build through the draft, but they have been mostly unsuccessful in developing stars. A playoff berth is at least two years away for this team. Prediction A lack of talent at the forward position, along with regression from Mark Giordano, is going to hold this team back. Despite the acquisition of Jonas Hiller, the Flames are likely to conclude the season in last place in the Pacific Division.
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