Based on what the Calgary Flames have done so far this offseason, it is clear that they were extremely frustrated with how their season went last year.
For starters, the team and former general manager Brad Treliving agreed to part ways after nine seasons. After being one of the league’s best teams in the 2021-22 season, the Flames failed to make the Stanley Cup playoffs last season.
To replace Treliving, the Flames hired their former captain and assistant general manager Craig Conroy. Conroy then elevated assistant coach Ryan Huska to be the team’s new head coach.
While the franchise hopes these moves will help push the team in the right direction this upcoming season, they also need to hope their starting goaltender, Jacob Markstrom, returns to form.
In the 2021-22 season, Markstrom, 33, was one of the league’s best goaltenders. He was a Vezina Trophy Finalist, finishing the season with a record of 37-15-0-9 with a 2.22 goals-against average, a .922 save percentage, and nine shutouts.
In that year’s playoffs, things began to unravel for Markstrom. He went 5-7 in 12 games with a 2.95 goals-against average, a .901 save percentage, and one shutout.
He was particularly bad in the team’s second-round loss to the Edmonton Oilers. He was 1-4 in five games with a 5.12 goals-against average and a .852 save percentage.
Yes, the team in front of him did not play well, but he was one of the main reasons they got knocked out after being picked to go far in the postseason. Markstrom looked uncomfortable, was often caught out of position, and could not come up with the big save when his team needed one.
Unfortunately for the Flames, Markstrom bought those same struggles into this past season. He finished the season with a record of 23-21-0-12 with a 2.92 goals-against average, a .892 save percentage, and one shutout.
While there were some nights where Markstrom did not get much help, there were other games where Markstrom did not get the job done. For a team that allowed an average of 27.3 shots per game (third-best in the league), stopping only 89 percent of those shots is certainly not good.
Markstrom seemed to struggle with his confidence this season. He allowed more soft goals than usual, had trouble controlling his rebounds, was sometimes off on his angles, and had trouble holding leads.
While one cannot solely blame Markstrom for the team’s woes last season, it is clear that he did not help matters. Had Markstrom been on top of his game, the club probably would have made the playoffs.
Heading into this upcoming season, Markstrom will undoubtedly be on the hot seat and pressured to finish the job. The team has backup Dan Vladar who showed he could win games last season, while also having highly-touted prospect Dustin Wolf waiting in the wings.
The Flames better hope that the Markstrom of 2021-22 shows up this upcoming season because if he does not, it could end up being another long season in Calgary.