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The Calgary Flames have been as active as any team in hockey this summer.
They pulled off a blockbuster, five-asset trade with the Carolina Hurricanes at the draft. They signed James Neal. They signed Derek Ryan. They signed Austin Czarnik. They also hired a new coaching staff. No stone was left unturned in trying to improve upon a disappointing 2017-18 campaign.
Regardless of your stance on the Dougie Hamilton trade – personally, I prefer Carolina's end of the deal – I think most would agree the Flames are better, and deeper, now than they were a few months ago.
Still, there are plenty of question marks surrounding the team heading into 2018-19.
Let's take a look at a few of them.
1. Will the backup play be adequate?
Mike Smith's debut season with the Flames should be considered a success. Though the wheels fell off a bit towards the end, he still managed to post a respectable .916 save percentage while appearing in 55 games. He was one of the team's best players for much of the year.
Unfortunately, goaltending was a massive issue when Smith wasn't between the pipes. Be it David Rittich, Jon Gillies or Eddie Lack (remember him?!?), nobody proved capable of providing quality goaltending.
Rittich showed flashes but still finished with an underwhelming .904 save percentage. Gillies looked completely out of his depths and was one of the league's worst goaltenders finishing with an .896 save percentage in 11 games. As for Lack...well, we don't need to get into that.
Despite how poorly things went, the Flames did not add any insurance between the pipes this summer.
While it's reasonable to expect Rittich and/or Gillies to be at least a little better next season, it'd be nice to have more of a sure thing playing behind a 36-year-old with a pretty long injury history.
Goaltending has been a question mark for the Flames for a long time and this year appears no different.
2. Will T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic bounce back?
Their play was at or near the top of the long list of disappointments for the Flames last season.
They were supposed to solidify the defense and give the Flames one of the better 2nd pairings in the NHL. They did not.
In well over 1,000 5v5 minutes together, they posted a 45.83 Goals For% and 48.73 Expected Goals For%. Both numbers were drastically lower than the team's average without them on the ice.
Their offensive output was as disappointing as the on-ice numbers. They combined to score just five goals and tally 43 points. For perspective, Hamonic averaged 27 points per 82 games and Brodie averaged 36 per 82 prior to last year.
Even more will be expected of those two next season with Dougie Hamilton out of the picture. Brodie will take his spot on the top pairing while Hamonic will be asked to help guide Noah Hanifin as he adjusts to a non-sheltered top-4 role.
If one or both of them don't bounce back, the defense could be an issue.
3. How about some puck luck?
The Flames routinely out-chanced their opponents by significant margins and walked away with nothing to show for it. That's what cost Glen Gulutzan his job.
Oddly enough, the Flames elected to hire a coach who has frequently dealt with the exact same issues.
I don't blame Bill Peters for what happened – there weren't a lot of natural finishers in Carolina – but, at some point, the results need to be there.
A lack of scoring talent is no longer an issue with the Flames so it'll be really concerning if their shooting woes persist.
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