The 2021-22 regular season was an outstanding one for the Calgary Flames, who after a down 2020-21 campaign have re-established themselves as a serious threat in the Western Conference. They were able to put up a record of 50-21-11 for 111 points, which ranked sixth amongst all NHL teams while also giving them their highest point total since 1988-89.
There is a multitude of reasons the Flames have had the success they have this season. Many players had career years on a roster that has almost no flaws. General manager Brad Treliving deserves a ton of credit for putting it all together, while head coach Darryl Sutter has done a remarkable job in preaching a team-first approach.
Thanks to their great season, they are set to take on the Dallas Stars in the first round of the playoffs, a team they are considered heavy favorites over. Before the postseason chatter begins, however, let’s take a moment to give out some awards to certain individuals who have played a big part in this team being where it is.
MVP – Johnny Gaudreau
Heading into the 2021-22 campaign, Johnny Gaudreau’s future as a Flame was up in the air. The 28-year-old hadn’t been at his best over the past two seasons, and was heading into the final year of his six-year deal. Instead of letting the pressure get the best of him, he responded admirably, having the best season of his career to this point.
Gaudreau was able to hit the 40-goal barrier for the first time in his career this season, while also posting a career-best 115 points. His point total tied Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers for second in league scoring, while his ridiculous plus/minus of plus-64 led all skaters.
Another aspect that shows just how great Gaudreau was this season is proven by his even strength production, as 90 of his 115 points came at 5-on-5. That total also led all NHLers, as Connor McDavid ranked second in that category with 78. There is a very legitimate argument to make that Gaudreau isn’t just the MVP of the Flames, but of the entire league. Going against him in terms of the Hart Trophy is the fact that several other players also had outstanding years. Regardless of whether or not he wins it, he absolutely deserves to be one of the three finalists.
Most Improved – Rasmus Andersson
This award could have been given out to several different players, but few would argue that Rasmus Andersson isn’t deserving. After the departure of Mark Giordano this summer, there were plenty of questions as to who may step up and be the new offensive leader for this team from the back end. By the end of the season, we now know that player was Andersson.
Heading into 2021-22, Andersson was viewed as a reliable top-four defenceman who could chip in somewhat offensively, though he had never cracked the 30-point plateau in his career. Not only did he manage to break that this season, but he did so with relative ease, finishing the season with 50 points.
Seeing time on the team’s second power-play unit certainly helped with that point production, but he stepped up his offensive game at even strength in a major way, as 30 of his 50 points came at 5-on-5. If he is able to continue that into the playoffs as well as seasons moving forward, his contract, which has four more years with a cap hit of $4.55 million, will be an absolute bargain.
Best Defenceman – Chris Tanev
Many, including myself, questioned the four-year, $18 million deal Treliving gave to Chris Tanev prior to the 2020-21 season. By all accounts he had been a great shutdown defenceman with the Vancouver Canucks for a number of years, but he often struggled to stay healthy and was on the wrong side of 30.
Any concerns regarding the deal are long gone, as this deal too has turned into a huge bargain for the Flames. Though Tanev doesn’t possess some of the flash seen from other top defencemen in the game, make no mistake, he is one of the best. In his first season with the Flames, he was paired alongside Noah Hanifin, who elevated his game in a big way compared to years prior.
This season, Tanev was paired alongside Oliver Kylington, who prior to the 2021-22 season had struggled to be a regular in the Flames’ lineup. That has changed in a big way, as he had a huge breakout year, compiling 31 points in 73 games. While he deserves credit himself, a big part of that was due to being paired with a defenceman as steady and reliable as Tanev.
Another part of Tanev’s game that often goes unrecognized is his fantastic work when shorthanded. His 2:58 minutes per game when down a man led all Flames skaters this season, and was one of the biggest reasons their penalty kill was the sixth best in the league with a 83.2 percent success rate.
Breakout Player – Oliver Kylington
This one was probably rather obvious given what was written about him above, but Kylington stepped up in a way almost no one had imagined this season, including Flames management. There was plenty of talk this summer on whether or not the 24-year-old would even crack the opening-night roster after having played just eight games the season prior.
As it turns out, not only was he able to crack the team’s roster for Game 1 of the season, but remained a fixture on it for the course of the 2021-22 campaign. His 18:09 minutes of average time per game ranked fourth amongst Flames defencemen, while 28 of his 31 points game at even strength. He is set to become a restricted free agent this summer and has earned himself a significant pay raise from his current salary of $750,000.
Onto the Stars
While the 2021-22 regular season was a superb one for the Flames, both the team as well as the fanbase knows that it doesn’t mean a whole lot without playoff success. This group has had its fair share of playoff failures in the past, and need to right that wrong this year. That said, this is without a doubt the most complete roster we have seen this team ice in the Treliving era, giving plenty of reason for optimism this spring.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.