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Jeff's 2023-24 NHL Western Conference Spotlight Team:
Calgary Flames (2022-23: 38-27-17, 93 points)
2023-24 Projected Season Point Total: 95.5 (Mybookie.Ag)
No team was more disappointing than Calgary last season. The Flames lost 12 overtime games and another five more in a shootout. They would have made the playoffs if the Flames had won just two more games. In 2021, the Flames accumulated 111 points, and last year fell off to just 93 points despite advanced metrics that suggest they should have finished with 103 points.
It's important to note that the Flames performed exceptionally well. They ranked No. 2 in shots for and No. 3 in shots against, which shows that they could create numerous offensive opportunities while maintaining a solid defensive presence. Their shot differential was also impressive, ranking 2nd in the league. One area the Flames may seek improvement is their face-off win percentage, which ranked 16th. Winning face-offs leads to better puck control and scoring opportunities.
The Calgary Flames had 35 1-goal losses in the 2022-23 NHL season. This was the fifth-most in the league, behind the Anaheim Ducks (42), San Jose Sharks (42), Arizona Coyotes (39), and Chicago Blackhawks (38). This was one of the reasons why they failed to make the playoffs that year. In the upcoming season, Calgary will be looking to improve its performance in close games. If they can achieve this, they will become a much more formidable team and have a higher likelihood of making the playoffs while surpassing their season point total.
The Flames have high hopes that Jonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri will have a better season in 2023-24. It is believed that their production will increase under the guidance of the new head coach, Ryan Huska, as both players were reportedly unsatisfied with the previous coach, Darryl Sutter. Huberdeau's performance significantly declined due to his role on the team, the players he was paired with, and the team's playing style, which did not allow him to excel as he did with the Florida Panthers. Similarly, Kadri was unable to play alongside the elite offensive players he had with the Colorado Avalanche and had to adjust to a different playing style in Calgary. I am very bullish on the Flames this upcoming season.
The Flames have qualified for the playoffs in four consecutive seasons after failing to qualify the previous year, with an average of 102.2 points. This team is highly talented and has set its sights on achieving great things this season. I was hoping that oddsmakers would overlook this team, but it's clear that they recognize the Flames' potential and have good reason to do so.
My Prediction: 47-25-10, 104 points, 5th seed in the West
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