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31 in 31

Three questions facing Calgary Flames

Adjusting to new coach, Smith's durability areas of focus

by Aaron Vickers / Correspondent is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three important questions facing the Calgary Flames.


[Flames 31 IN 31: Season preview | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the Numbers]


1. How quickly will the Flames adapt to coach Bill Peters? 

Hired to replace Glen Gulutzan on April 23 after four seasons as Carolina Hurricanes coach, Peters will have to adapt to a new roster, and the Flames will have to adapt to a new coaching style.

Peters will be working with some familiar faces. Defenseman Noah Hanifin and forward Elias Lindholm were acquired in a trade from the Hurricanes on June 23. Forward Derek Ryan signed a three-year, $9.375 million contract July 1 after he had NHL career highs in goals (15), assists (23), points (38) and games played (80) for Carolina in 2017-18.

But Peters will have to integrate up to five new players in the lineup and figure out where to slot forward James Neal, who signed a five-year, $28.75 million contract July 2.

Video: 31 in 31: Calgary Flames 2018-19 season preview


2. Will Neal be able to contribute consistent offense in Calgary?

Neal, 30, will be counted on to provide some pop after the Flames were 27th in the NHL in scoring last season (216 goals). He had 44 points (25 goals, 19 assists) in 71 games with the Vegas Golden Knights last season and has 495 points (263 goals, 232 assists) in 703 NHL games and 55 points (31 goals, 24 assists) in 100 Stanley Cup Playoff games. He's scored at least 21 goals in each of his first 10 NHL seasons. 

Neal will be expected to continue that same scoring prowess, and potentially more, should he skate with center Sean Monahan and wing Johnny Gaudreau on Calgary's top line.

Video: James Neal on signing a five-year deal with Calgary


3. Can goalie Mike Smith hold up in his second season in Calgary? 

Smith, 36, was regarded as one of the Flames' most valuable players last season. He won 20 games with a 2.39 goals-against average and .926 save percentage before the All-Star break to keep Calgary in playoff contention.

But Smith missed 13 games in February and March with an injury, and went 2-6-0 with a 3.44 GAA and .880 save percentage in his final eight games. He finished 25-22-6 with a 2.65 GAA and .916 save percentage.

Acquired in a trade from the Arizona Coyotes on June 17, 2017, Smith hasn't started more than 55 games any of the past three seasons.

Video: EDM@CGY: Smith slides across to stone Nugent-Hopkins

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