Well another season is officially in the books, and there was no shortage of intrigue and excitement this year. We finally got a full 82 game schedule in, as life as a whole seemingly continues to go back to "normal." With the playoffs starting tomorrow and our fantasy seasons in the rear view, I figured now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on the season and highlight some players and teams that stood out, for good or for bad. I am going to start off in the West with a team and one player in particular really broke through this season.
Johnny Hockey and the Flames Burn Up the Competiton
Going into this season, we all knew the Pacific Division was probably the most volatile and hardest to predict. I had Calgary as a playoff team for sure, maybe a two or three seed, or maybe even a wild card team depending on how they played. I thought their offense was mid-tier, and I questioned their defense, but here we are after 82 games and the Flames finished the year with a whopping 111 points. They clinched the top seed in their division by seven points and looked dominant throughout most parts of the year.
With 293 goals scored (sixth best in NHL), the offense certainly wasn't an issue and thanks to steady defense and an outstanding year from Jacob Markstrom, they were equally as efficient in their own end. I could probably write a whole bit on Markstrom's year as well, but the true star emerging from the Flames this year is clearly Johnny Gaudreau. Johnny Hockey led his team with 40 goals and a ridiculous 75 assists for a total of 115 points this year.
There were a couple seasons pre-COVID where Gaudreau performed at a pretty elite level, but I was starting to have my doubts on him after his numbers dipped over the past couple of seasons. After he hit a career-low in shot rate in the 2020-21 season, I was pretty down on him heading into this season. This year though he stormed back with a vengeance and proved me and the rest of his doubters wrong. He smashed his career highs in goals, assists and shots, and helped pave the way for the Flames to contend this season.
Alongside Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm, the Flames boasted three players who scored 40 or more goals this season and Andrew Mangiapane was almost a fourth, finishing just shy with 35. It will be interesting to see if Calgary can translate their regular season success to the playoffs. We will find out this coming Tuesday as the Flames kickoff their opening round versus the Dallas Stars!
Josi Gets Better with Age, Leads Preds to Another Playoffs
Much like Gaudreau, Roman Josi was another player I had kind of written off going into draft season. It's so easy to write off a guy in hockey, especially after one off-year. The COVID-shortened 2020-21 season was a down year for Josi as he posted some of the worst numbers of his career. That, mixed with the fact that he wasn't getting any younger (now 31 years old), kind of led me to pass on him in a lot of drafts. Going even a step further, I thought the Preds were going to be a non-playoff team this season. I did not foresee the reincarnation of Matt Duchene's career comi