The Flames welcome Jonathan Huberdeau back to their line-up tonight as they face the Los Angeles Kings at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Huberdeau has been out three games with an injury.
The Flames won their last outing Saturday night against the Winnipeg Jets. But before that, they had lost seven games straight, part of an up-and-down start to the season.
The rollercoaster start matches the rollercoaster offseason just finished. First, the club lost an emotional series in the playoffs in May to their Alberta rivals, the Edmonton Oilers. Then, they lost three of their top players, Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, and Sean Monahan.
At training camp in September, head coach Darryl Sutter had already set some ambitious goals for the upcoming season.
“Well, we became a playoff team last year and we need to take the next step. I said this after the last game we lost. Only time you can become considered a good team, or a favourite, or the odds go up – do it again. Got to make the playoffs,” said Sutter.
However, matching last year’s success won’t be easy for Sutter and his club, as their roster looks remarkably different following the departure of the three stars.
“So, they broke up the band,” Sutter said, unfazed. “They had career years. That’s what happens.”
While losing three longtime Flames was an emotional one for the organization and its fanbase, the club also added former Florida Panthers Huberdeau and Mackenzie Weegar, who were acquired via trade, as well as Stanley Cup champion Nazem Kadri, via free agency.
These additions have propelled the Flames back to being a top ranked team and has fans, including superfan Noah Adler, still optimistic for the rest of the season.
Adler said the Flames have a better squad on paper this year and are “now one of the favourites to win the Stanley Cup since probably the heyday of the organization, which was the 1980s.”
Adler, who has been following the Flames since he was seven, understands that it’s a long season and it’s unwise to make conclusions just yet. With that being said, he does hope the club can make a deeper playoff run than the seasons prior.
“You want to keep the expectations low because we are Flames fans, but you’re hoping they get to at least the third round. That’s the biggest hope and best-case scenario.”