Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – Calgary Flames
For the last 16 years (12 with The Hockey News) Dobber has reviewed each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint and graded them.
The 17th annual review will appear here on DobberHockey throughout the summer. This is not a review of the likely performance on the ice or in the standings, but in the realm of fantasy hockey.
Impact of changes – It’s possible that Talbot is an upgrade to Smith. It’s also possible that Talbot is a downgrade to Smith. It all depends on Talbot. Where is his head? Since he and his wife had twins a couple of summers ago, his game has been completely thrown off. It didn’t help that his Edmonton defense was like Swiss cheese. It’s hard to regain confidence and string together several good games in a row when you’re being peppered with shots. That won’t be the case with Calgary, which is a much stronger team. Now we can really see if Talbot has truly lost his mojo, or just misplaced it. Regardless, the Flames will be in good hands with David Rittich and at the very least Talbot will be a seasoned backup. But my opinion is that Talbot starts five of the first eight games, and how he does (and how the team does) will determine the split moving forward. Both goaltenders make the same salary so that will not be a factor. But coaches always bow to age and experience first. Always.
The removal of James Neal and replacing him with Milan Lucic takes the pressure off the coach. Now Coach Bill Peters can stop wasting ice time in scoring situations on Neal. Now he can use Lucic as a role player. I think the door opens a little for Austin Czarnik to possibly become a 40-point player with upside. The Flames have a strong third-line now with Andrew Mangiapane – Mark Jankowski – Czarnik. No more pressure to keep Neal in the top six, I’m sure Peters is comfortable with Lucic on the fourth line
Ready for full-time – Dillon Dube made a nice impression early on last year, forcing his way onto the roster when there really wasn’t room for him. He was that good. But his play tailed off a little, which wasn’t helped by a concussion that he suffered in November. He dominated the AHL in 37 games as a rookie there, garnering 39 points. He’s close, but again he will be up against a deep roster and the Flames can afford to be patient. The contract status of RFA Andrew Mangiapane will got a long way towards determining Dube’s odds. Regardless, at the very least he will be a mid-year call-up.
Juuso Valimaki was a shoe-in to make the squad, but an offseason ACL injury required surgery, sidelining him until likely late February or early March. The stud prospect defenseman was solid in 24 games with the big club last year and did not look out of place in two playoff games.
Alexander Yelesin should have an easier job of making the team out of training camp thanks to the Valimaki injury. The undrafted 23-year-old Russian plays a physical game, and was a solid second-pairing defenseman in the KHL. He could sneak onto the roster in the bottom pairing, but would only hold fantasy value if your league is very deep and includes penalty minutes.
Oliver Kylington also stands to benefit from the Valimaki injury. He had 14 points in 18 games with Stockton, and eight points in 38 games with he big club. Those are solid numbers, with the latter coming despite averaging just 12:25 of ice time per game. And despite absolutely no power-play time. The 22-year-old is being brought along slowly, but his offensive potentail cannot be ignored.
Calgary Flames prospect depth chart and fantasy upsides can be found here (not yet ready for mobile viewing, desktop only right now)
Fantasy Outlook – Goaltending isn’t great. Or at least not recently proven to be great. But both Talbot and Rittich have the potential to consistently win games. The latter doesn’t have a track record for playing in 50 or more games, while the former is coming off two pretty piss-poor seasons albeit with very weak clubs. But the Flames more than make up for this in offense. I project this team to finish third in the league in goals scored, mostly on the heels of that amazing top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm. But that second line is pretty sweet too – Matt Tkachuk (still not signed though), Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik. I already discussed the third line, and Lucic, Derek Ryan and Mangiapane make up a good scoring threat despite being a supposed fourth or ‘3B’ line. On defense, a Norris Trophy winner is a nice start, but the roster is also nice and deep beyond Mark Giordano. The prospect pipeline is average by NHL standards, but Kylington, Valimaki and Dube are very promising and have little in the way of wait time.
Fantasy Grade: A- (last year was B-)
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