Arizona Coyotes 2014-2015 Season Preview: The Calgary Flames

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Arizona Coyotes vs Calgary Flames Part I: Year-to-Year Changes Feb. 18, 2013; Glendale, AZ, USA; Calgary Flames center Roman Horak (51) crosschecks Phoenix Coyotes center Kyle Chipchura (24) during the first period at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Responses given by: Len Nunes, Editor of Flame for Thought, and myself (Catherine Silverman), Editor of Howlin’ Hockey

Head-to-head records aren’t always relative to league standings, and last year, the Coyotes/Flames rivalry was no exception. The Coyotes won only three of the two teams’ five game matchups, but the desert dogs finished eighteenth overall and the Flames staggered in at twenty-third. The Coyotes just missed the Western Conference’s second Wild Card spot by a devastating two points, yet they were met with a surprisingly even match in Calgary throughout the season.

The Coyotes are polishing up an increasingly pretty-looking roster, and the Flames are eyeball-deep in an attempt to showcase a younger, faster, fresher Calgary. So, without further ado, here’s what Len thinks about them- versus us- in 2014/2015:

Howlin’ Hockey: Do you think that your team’s offense looks better or worse than last year? Why?

Len Nunes: The Flames finished 23rd overall in league scoring and lost Mike Cammalleri. By the time the Coyotes and Flames play, Sam Bennett- the Flames’ first round draft pick 4th overall in the draft- will likely be back in the juniors. The word “if” best describes the Flames offense. If Johnny Gaudreau and if Sven Baertschi live up to the hype, the Flames offense might be okay. If David Jones finds his 20 goal self from his Avalanche days and free agent signing Mason Raymond repeats his 19 goals campaign from last year, the Flames offense might be okay.

 A lot of this will ride on how well Lauri Korpikoski can step up to fill in the second line winger role, and which prospects receive playing time.”

Catherine Silverman: It’s still pretty tough to tell. The team almost made the playoffs last year with Mike Ribeiro and Radim Vrbata, neither of whom are back. The team is extremely weak on the left wing right now as a result, and it’s unclear as to how strong the team’s scoring is going to be next year. A lot of this will ride on how well Lauri Korpikoski can step up to fill in the second line winger role, and which prospects receive playing time. Overall, though, the team hasn’t gotten noticeably worse, so it’ll be interesting to see how the new forwards fit in with the old. 

HH: How about your defense? Let’s talk about that- is your blue line looking better, or worse?

LN:  Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie as a 1-2 punch is an excellent start. Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell have potential, but are very middle of the pack. The drop-off to Laddy Smid and Deryk Engelland is a bit scary. Answers to any Calgary Flames defensive questions are in the system (Tyler Wotherspoon, Patrick Sieloff, Brett Kulak) but for now, what you see is what you get. 

Apr 13, 2014; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks forward Henrik Sedin (33) skates with the puck against Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano (5) and forward Lance Bouma (17) during the third period at Rogers Arena. The Vancouver Canucks won 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

CS: It was sad to watch the team let go of Rusty Klesla at the end of last season, but the trade needed to be made- the team shouldn’t have played him at all post-injury, and I think it was hurting the team overall. In that aspect, I think the team has gotten better. The blue line hasn’t really made a ton of changes between last season and now, though; I really think that GM Don Maloney and head coach Dave Tippett are confident in the one-two firepower of Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and are most likely either hoping that Zbynek Michalek will improve, or the team will be able to pick up one more solid d-man. 

HH: You know what’s coming next, I guess. How’s your goal looking? Have you made any changes in the net, and will this help you, or hurt you? 

LN: The addition of Jonas Hiller to the Calgary crease cannot be overstated. Karri Ramo is in a contract year, so continued improvement after his four-year hiatus is expected. 

CS: Before we go on, I have to agree with this. I fangirl for Jonas Hiller in a major way, so congratulations, Calgary. Looking at the Coyotes, though, I’m going to say that the new Coyotes’ backup is simply a lateral movement for the team. I know they’re waiting for Mark Visentin to be NHL-ready, but in the instance the team makes the playoffs, I don’t think that Mike Smith can carry the team particularly far next year.