Six storylines for Flames fans to follow over finishing stretch

Article content

The Calgary Flames are down to a half-dozen dates remaining in the 2023-24 campaign.

While this retooling team has already been eliminated from the playoff race, here are six storylines to follow as they play out the string …

Article content

HOMETOWN HERO?

Rookie puck-stopper Dustin Wolf has a chance to realize a lifelong dream Tuesday as the Flames open a three-game road-trip in San Jose. Wolf hails from Morgan Hill, Calif., and his childhood home is about a 20-minute drive from the Sharks’ home rink. His parents were season-ticket holders and his mom tells a heartwarming story about attending games while pregnant, and how Dustin would always seem to be kicking up a storm on those nights. Now 22, it would be special for Wolf to start in his hometown and also to have a chance to avenge that 6-3 shellacking from the Sharks in mid-February, the toughest outing of his career so far.    

Advertisement 2

Article content

Dustin Wolf
Dustin Wolf #32 of the Calgary Flames jumps before the start of the second period against the Montreal Canadiens at the Scotiabank Saddledome on March 16, 2024, in Calgary. Leah Hennel/Getty Images

 

DOOZY OF A DOUBLE

Flames workhorse MacKenzie Weegar is on the brink of an unprecedented double. With his next snipe, and as long as he keeps up his selfless play in his own zone, Weegar can become the first dude in league lore to register 20 goals and 200 blocked shots in the same season. With six games to go, ‘Weegs’ has so far scored 19 and dead-ended 193 pucks with a skate, a shin-pad or some other body part. The 30-year-old has been a both-zones bright spot for the Flames, and a slice of NHL history would be a nice way to cap off the best campaign of his career to date. 

Calgary Flames celebrates with the bench after scoring against the Vancouver Canucks during the first period of an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome
CALGARY, CANADA – NOVEMBER 16: MacKenzie Weegar #52 of the Calgary Flames celebrates with the bench after scoring against the Vancouver Canucks during the first period of an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on November 16, 2023 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Photo by Derek Leung /Getty Images

PLAYING THE ODDS

You’re not a bad fan if you hope the losses will to continue to pile up — or if you’re suddenly a huge supporter of the Ottawa Senators, Arizona Coyotes and Montreal Canadiens, the three clubs that could still bump the Flames a little further down the leaguewide standings. With a dreadful 1-8 record over their past nine, the locals have now tumbled to 25th overall. If it stays that way, they would have the eighth-best odds in the draft lottery, with a 6% shot at the top selection. Maybe the Flames will finally get lucky with the ping-pong balls. Macklin Celebrini would look good in red, wouldn’t he?      

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

120523-HKO-World-Juniors-Canada_20231205
Macklin Celebrini is among 30 invitees for Canada’s selection camp ahead of the world junior hockey championship announced Tuesday. Celebrini (71) skates during the second period of an NCAA hockey game against Massachusetts on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023, in Boston. Photo by Greg M. Cooper /THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

POTENTIAL PIVOTS

Connor Zary and Martin Pospisil have been among the centres-of-attention at the Saddledome this season. Question is, can either of these rookie wingers be a long-term solution at the centre position? With the Flames thin on pivot prospects, now is prime-time to explore the possibility. The experiment has already started with the 22-year-old Zary, who was manning the middle of the ice in Saturday’s loss to the Edmonton Oilers and earned a positive review from head coach Ryan Huska. The skipper seems torn on whether to try Pospisil at centre, perhaps worried the 24-year-old wrecking ball wouldn’t be as impactful on the forecheck while balancing the added defensive duties.

Connor Zary Calgary Flames
Connor Zary of the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on December 16, 2023. Derek Leung/Getty Images

THIRTY-SOMETHINGS

Yegor Sharangovich won the race to 30 goals, hitting that mark with a wicked blast on the power-play during Saturday’s Battle of Alberta. Blake Coleman needs one more notch to bump his own total to 30, which would be a heck of an achievement for a defence-first forward. If he’s still stuck on 29 with only a couple games to go, you can bet Coleman’s pals will be doing their darnedest to provide a setup. As long as he completes the feat, it will mark only the fourth time over the past decade that the Flames have finished a season with multiple 30-goal men.

Advertisement 4

Article content

Calgary Flames vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Calgary Flames forward Yegor Sharangovich scores the game winner against Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry in third-period NHL action at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Saturday, March 2, 2024. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

ANOTHER DEBUT?

Who doesn’t love a solo lap, the customary welcome for any new arrival prior to his NHL debut? Could we see another over the next week and change? Many fans are pining for a glimpse of Jeremie Poirier, but the offensive-minded defenceman is currently on the shelf — the 21-year-old has had rotten injury luck this season — and may not be an option. Fellow blue-line prospect Artem Grushnikov, acquired in a trade in late February, is also banged up. While he wouldn’t receive the solo-lap treatment, you could make a case that right-winger Adam Klapka has earned another call-up. The 23-year-old tower has piled up 10 goals and 18 points in his past 18 appearances with the AHL’s Wranglers.    

030524-PoirierMarch3_(1)
Jeremie Poirier, left, patrols the slot during his return to game action. The Calgary Flames? defence prospect missed four-plus months as he recovered from a skate laceration. Photo by Angela Burger /Angela Burger

[email protected]

Article content