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Interesting winter ahead for Flames' fans

Columnist Bruce Penton writes about how this season could look for the Calgary Flames.
bruce penton sports

Calgary Flames may have had the most intriguing off-season of any National Hockey League team, and for Flames’ fans, the coming season’s success or failure will be measured in mathematical comparisons.

Two superstar offensive players, Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, have been stricken from the roster, and replaced by players of similar skill levels — Jonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri. You can bet that when Flames’ fans fire up their computers to check scores around the league this winter, they’ll be checking out the Columbus Blue Jackets’ summary to see how Gaudreau fared, and results from Florida games, where Tkachuk will be skating for the Panthers.

On the surface, the free-agent transactions — Gaudreau out, Kadri in — is close to a wash. Gaudreau may have more offensive firepower, but Kadri can score and also plays a more physical game than the slight Johnny Hockey.

The trade deal — Tkachuk for Huberdeau — is also close to a coin-flip. Tkachuk is a sandpaper, in-your-face player who not only scores and sets up wingers, but plays an antagonistic game that definitely keeps opponents on their toes.

A stick jab to the belly, a quick fist to the jaw or a slash to the ankle are trademarks of Tkachuk’s game, while Huberdeau plays a less physical game while performing as one of the NHL’s best playmakers.

The wildcard that turns the off-season transactions in the Flames’ favour is the addition of defenceman MacKenzie Weegar, who comes to Alberta from Florida in the Tkachuk-Huberdeau transaction. Weegar was a top-pair defender with the Panthers last year and will definitely strengthen the Flames defence corps, but they may have him for only one year.

Weegar is an unrestricted free agent after the 2022-23 season, probably the key reason the Panthers weren’t too concerned about including him in the big trade.

Weegar strengthens the Flames’ defence, which was pretty strong to begin with. He joins Rasmus Andersson, Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev and Oliver Kylington on the blue line, protecting goalie Jacob Markstrom, who ranks in the top third of NHL keepers.

Players come and go, contracts expire, free agency looms and players get traded like shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Flames’ fans will generally root for Gaudreau’s success in Columbus, but comparisons between his offensive numbers and those of Kadri will be frequent. Same with Tkachuk-vs.Huberdeau.

If Gaudreau and Tkachuk shine in their respective new homes, and Kadri and Huberdeau don’t live up to exceptions, it won’t take much to fan the flames of discontent around Calgary this winter.

  • Comedy guy Gary Bachman: “In the fall my life is football — high school football, college football, and pro football. My wife says my priorities are screwed up. Perhaps she's right — it should be pro football, college football, and then high school football.”
  • Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “PETA, saying ‘words matter,’ wants to change the football term ‘horse-collar tackle’ to ‘Goodell Grab’ or ‘back-collar tackle,’ as neither of these terms normalizes animal abuse. Though, to be fair, none of the horses we talked to seemed offended by it.”
  • Funny guy Steve Burgess of Vancouver, on Breaking Bad actor Aaron Paul serving as TV advertising pitchman for an online betting company: “I wish Jesse Pinkman would go back to a more reputable  line of work, like dealing meth.”
  • Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “Purdue safety Chris Jefferson had a game-winning pick-six against Penn State, then vomited profusely on the field. This is the most vomit in sports since Rosanne Barr sang the National Anthem at a Padres game.”
  • Club Pro Guy, on Twitter, responding to golfer Patrick Cantlay’s engagement announcement: “Fowler, McIlroy, Morikawa and Zalatoris are a combined 0-51 in majors since getting engaged.  cc: Cantlay, Pat.”
  • PGA Tour’s Twitter feed, quoting LIV player Pat Perez, who has won little individually but cashed in big with the 4 Aces in the team competition: “I feel like a waiter who provides terrible service, but still gets guaranteed gratuity. It’s great.”
  • Comedy writer Brad Dickson of Omaha: “Some people are demanding to know why I am entitled to comment on Queen Elizabeth II's death when I didn't even know her. Not true. Just so happens we were in the same bowling league for years.”
  • Headline at the “‘Madden’ glitch lets player win Super Bowl with Texans.”
  • Dwight Perry again: “Buffalo’s Dawson Knox became one of the highest-paid tight ends in the NFL, agreeing to a four-year extension for $53.6 million — $31 million guaranteed. Or as he’s now known around the Bills’ locker room, Fort Knox.”
  • Ex-LSU football coach Ed Orgeron, to the Little Rock (Ark.) Touchdown Club, when told at his firing he’d receive a $17.1 million buyout: “What time do you want me to leave and what door do you want me out of, brother?”

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.  

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