In a season where things have not gone as planned, it seemed like the Calgary Flames could do no wrong in their final visit to the soon-to-be-abandoned Rexall Place.
Two players scored two goals for Calgary. Mikael Backlund’s two goals moved him within one goal of matching his career high in goals in a season (He had 18 in 2013-2014).
The other one, of course, was Johnny Gaudreau. The New Jersey product that was undervalued for his size has been on everyone’s radar for the past couple seasons pulled off a feat that he had yet to reach in his “short” career. In just his second full season in the NHL, Gaudreau’s second goal against Edmonton on Saturday gave him his first career 30-goal season.
He is now the second Flames player to hit the plateau since Jarome Iginla roamed the Saddledome. Last season, Jiri Hudler scored 31 goals for the playoff-bound Flames.
Unfortunately, Hudler is no longer in Calgary. His departure to Florida officially passed the offensive torch over the younger core.
Gaudreau’s best run of the season was in December, when he had 12 goals and six assists. Not coincidentally, the Flames had their best run of the season. At one point, they had won seven straight games, and they set a franchise record with 11 straight wins at home.
This season has featured plenty of younger players that can put the puck in the net. Some, like Gaudreau and Sean Monahan (Currently at 27 goals), could reach Patrick Kane levels in the years to come. Gaudreau is currently at 75 points, which is not as far behind Kane’s 100 points for the season as Blackhawks fans would willingly admit.
Others, such as Backlund, Michael Frolik, Joe Colborne (who also scored against Edmonton), and Sam Bennett, could reach 20 goals for the season with a strong final week. If defenseman Mark Giordano, who has 20 goals for season, is included, then there are seven players that have or could have 20 goals by season’s end.
For those not impressed with the balanced production, consider the Dallas Stars, the top offensive team in the NHL. Three players (Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Jason Spezza) have at least 30 goals, but only one other player (Patrick Sharp) has reached 20. Only Mattias Janmark and Cody Eakin have a half-decent shot at reaching that plateau.
Most of Calgary’s issues this season has been on defense, but with Joni Ortio looking strong in the second half (he shut out the Oilers on Saturday), Karri Ramo possibly returning next season, and Jon Gillies and Mason McDonald not far away from seeing NHL time, the Flames may not be as far away from success as the growing pains of 2015-2016 may insist.
The team’s identity, of course, could very well stay around the shortest player on the ice. If Gaudreau’s 30-goal campaign has revealed any hints, then Calgary has a lot to look forward to.