Are you ready? We are back to the regular season format of 82 games, which means more joy and also more pain. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions every season, because there are always surprises, and the good ones can make us feel like geniuses, while the bad ones feel like we’re falling into an empty pool.
But we’re all gluttons for punishment, so we might as well stay informed to later rationalize why the fantasy hockey gods hate you. Yes, they specifically hate you.
Here’s your fantasy preview for all 32 teams. The annual Polar Guide is now available and also check out Matt Larkin’s top 250 players for the upcoming season.
2021-22 Fantasy Outlook: Calgary Flames
Last season: The Flames looked good on paper. They poached Chris Tanev and Jacob Markstrom from a division rival. Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau are said to have a recovery season. But the script literally turned around on the Flames in just their fifth game, leading to a players-only encounter and a season-long battle marred by stories of a gap between the locker rooms. Geoff Ward was fired 19 games later. Monahan struggled again and an overworked Markstrom couldn’t cover up a mediocre defense. They gave up Sam Bennett to see him excel at the Panthers. The Flames have failed to make the playoffs or have not made it past the first round in six of their seven seasons under GM Brad Treliving and are in 20th place in points percentage since 2014-15.
Best option: Elias Lindholm, California
Lindholm has been an under-the-radar gem for the Flames, with 179 points in 207 games over the past three seasons. His ceiling isn’t as high as Gaudreau’s or Matthew Tkachuk’s, but Lindholm is more consistent with his attacking contributions, ranking second in power play points and fifth in shorthanded points over the same period. It’s no fluke; his consistent number of possessions are among the best in the league, and according to naturalstattrick.com, he’s finished every season since his rookie year with a 5v5 CF% of over 50 percent, though his teams haven’t always been particularly good. THN’s Pool Guide expects Lindholm to lead the Flames with 73 points, followed by Tkachuk, Monahan and Gaudreau, all of whom are expected to finish with 66 or less. Lindholm may be a safe bet in fantasy, but there should be a bounty for players you can count on.
Hidden Gem: Andrew Mangiapane, LW
Mangiapane personifies what the Flames want to be under Darryl Sutter: not particularly talented, but able to punch way above their own weight and blaze their way to victories. He finished fourth in scoring on the Flames, fell one goal behind to tie Lindholm and Gaudreau for the team lead and is third in 5v5 CF% over the past three seasons (min 150 GP) behind only Tkachuk and Mark Giordano. His playing style and versatility are a very good fit for Sutter’s Flames and will likely spend an average of between 16-18 minutes per game in a top six role. He is expected to score 50 points per THN’s Pool Guide, making him a mid-round stealth option after all the frontline attackers have been taken.
Goalkeepers: Miikka Kiprusoff has routinely played over 70 games for Sutter and he will have to resist the temptation with Markstrom, whose game was clearly affected by fatigue and injuries. That’s probably the biggest concern of the season, especially without an experienced backup in 24-year-old Daniel Vladar. Markstrom has only played 60 games with the Canucks twice and is 31st for the past six seasons with a 0.912 Sv%, which allows you to win games, but maybe not many. If Markstrom is in his game he can be brilliant but it’s hard to count on him given his injury history and a Flames defense with just one player – Tanev – who is over 26 years old. Vladar has little experience, but in 78 AHL games he has a 36-26-13 record with a 2.33 GAA and 0.917 Sv%, and excluding an eight-goal debacle (four were on the power play) against the Capitals , Vladar showed some flashes of potential. If Markstrom gets injured, I suspect Vladar will be a popular pick-up.
Outlook: At best, the Flames will be a contender for the playoffs, but definitely behind the Golden Knights and Oilers. The Canucks look better on paper and it will likely be a dogfight between them for the final playoff spot, and it’s hard to tell if the Flames are even fit to play Sutter’s signature style, even with the addition by Blake Coleman. There are just too many different factors, both on and off the ice, that prevent the Flames from being reliable options in fantasy. The ceiling may be high, but the floor is probably lower than you think; Gaudreau, for example, could be an elite points producer again in a contract year and demand a lucrative renewal, or he could also be shipped on the trade deadline – both are clear possibilities.
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