Flames
The Calgary Flames are back in the race.

A very uneasy offseason led to a very similar start to their 2016-17 season for the Calgary Flames. Hiring a new coach and signing a new goal tender was likely enough for a nerve-wrecking experience. But the offseason continued with the questionable return of their star power in forwards Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. As the start of the season neared, the Flames finally managed to resign both forwards to generous deals.

The season started very poorly for the Flames as they opened up the season with only 1 win in their first 6 games. As November rolled around, things only were getting worse. The Flames dropped 5 of their first 6 games to start the month. As if things couldn’t get much worst, they would Johnny Gaudreau to a broken finger on November 15th against Minnesota. “Johnny Hockey” would undergo surgery in mid-November and was scheduled to miss more than a month of play.
In a miraculous turn of events, the Flames didn’t do so bad while Gaudreau sat out less games than expected. In the 10-game span of Gaudreau’s absence, the Flames won 6 of 10 games. Johnny Gaudreau managed to return on December 4th in a home game versus the Ducks in a period of just under 3 weeks, leaving analysts questioning the condition of his finger. The Flames have won 6 of their last 8, including a 5 game win streak to start the month of December. Amazingly, Johnny Gaudreau still leads the team in scoring at the moment with 21 points despite his 10-game absence. The Flames’ first-round pick of 2016, Matthew Tkachuk, is contributing his fair share of points and hits as he leads the team in penalty minutes but also is tied for 5th on the team in scoring with 15 points.
Fortunately for Calgary, elite defenseman Mark Giordano’s health has also remained in tact so far. But more notably, their goaltender Chad Johnson (and not the name-changing football player) is holding it down for the Flames in between the pipes. The 30-year-old goaltender started another new chapter with an NHL team for the 6th time. Johnson, a Canadian, was drafted by the Penguins out of University of Alaska-Fairbanks in 2006 after his freshman season but remained in school to finish his degree in 2009. He made his NHL debut with the Rangers in 2009. In the 2016-17 season, Johnson is 13-6-, has a 2.22 goals against average (GAA), and a .924 save percentage, above average numbers for an NHL goalie. He has also contributed 3 shutouts in his 20 games played.
With 34 points, the Flames sit in the 2nd wild card spot in the Western Conference and are going to face the poor-performing Arizona Coyotes on Monday after a lengthy and well-deserved break. As the NHL trade deadline gets closer, the Flames will likely be looking to trade defenseman T.J. Brodie, who is a team-worst -19 on the season and has just 9 points in all 33 games played for the Flames, extremely low numbers for his career.
With the Christmas break coming this weekend, the Flames have a favorable schedule going into another lengthy break that is well-deserved for the players. However, it will likely be a carefully thought time for the front office with the team needing to make some moves if they want a promising run at the playoffs.

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