NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three questions facing the Calgary Flames.
[FLAMES 31 in 31: Season preview | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the numbers]
The Calgary Flames are looking to move from a rebuilding phase into a more consistently competitive group. Trading for goaltender Mike Smith and defenseman Travis Hamonic showed the increased expectations after making the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time in three seasons.
1. Will the defense live up to its potential?
Boasting three high-end defensemen -- Dougie Hamilton, TJ Brodie and captain Mark Giordano -- the Flames acquired Hamonic in a trade with the New York Islanders on June 24 and signed Michael Stone to a three-year contract on June 30 to give them one of the strongest set of defensemen in the NHL.
"To see how committed this organization is to winning is something that is truly exciting as a player to be a part of," Hamonic said. "You want to win and be surrounded by really good players. That's certainly the case here."
Hamonic (minus-21) is coming off a season that was limited to 49 games by injuries. Brodie and Giordano also look to rebound from down seasons. Brodie scored six goals and was an NHL career worst minus-16. Giordano's 39 points (12 goals, 27 assists) were his lowest in a full NHL season since 2010-11, when he had 27 in 61 games.
Video: 31 in 31: Calgary Flames 2017-18 season preview
2. Can Mike Smith provide stable goaltending?
The Flames will have a new goaltending tandem for a third straight season. After Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo in 2015-16, and Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson last season, Calgary acquired Smith in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes on June 17 and Eddie Lack in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes on June 29.
Smith had a 2.92 goals-against average and .914 save percentage in 55 games with the Coyotes last season.
"I'm a competitor," the 35-yer-old said. "I want to win real bad. I feel this move is an opportunity and a challenge I'm going to take on full-speed. I really respect this team. Playing against them is always a challenge. I look forward to being on this side of it now and helping this team be real successful."
3. Will another forward prospect emerge?
Since the Flames began a rebuild four years ago, forwards Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk have gone from prospects into impact players. Center Sam Bennett, the No. 4 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, is expected to continue toward that in his third full NHL season.
Center Mark Jankowski, the No. 21 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, played four years for Providence College before scoring 56 points (27 goals, 29 assists) for Stockton of the American Hockey League last season. The 22-year-old is expected to push for a role in training camp.
Right wing Spencer Foo, 23, is another candidate after leaving Union College following his junior season to sign with Calgary as an unrestricted free agent. The expectation is he'll be in the NHL at some point this season.
First-round picks in the 2013 NHL Draft, forwards Emile Poirier (No. 22) and Hunter Shinkaruk (No. 24), each has three full seasons of professional hockey at age 22 and could make the NHL roster.