September 12 2013 03:36PM
Flames coach Bob Hartley said T.J. Galiardi will be starting this season at centre, joining Stajan & Backlund. Still, who is their fourth?— Kristen Odland (@KristenOdlandCH) September 12, 2013
It's pre-season and no injuries have struck the Calgary Flames, but the club is already pulling somewhat desperate moves to fill out their center position. As Kristen notes above, the club has made noises about TJ Galiardi skating as a pivot this season - not on the fourth line either, where one might actuall get away with converting a winger to a centerman some 5 seasons into his career.
Galiardi took about 5 faceoffs last year and has taken around 300-400 over the course of his NHL career (221 games). He was a C in junior, but he's never done the job regularly at the NHL level and it's a significant step up in terms of commitment and role to shift from the boards to the dot. As such, it doesn't strike me as something destined to succeed.
What this also says is that the organization doesn't really have much faith in any of the kids being able to fill that role this season. Sean Monahan, Corban Knight, Max Reinhart, Roman Horak, Lance Bouma and Markus Granlund are all natural centers, but it doesn't seem like any of them are getting penciled into the top-9 by the coaching staff. And fair enough - all of them have something or other to prove.
So who is the 4th line C? Knight, Bouma and Horak should be the early favorites. Monahan might get a 9-game look out of the gates, but should probably go back to junior after that. Of course, any one of them could be the 3rd line C at some point if Galiardi can't make the transition or one of the kids takes a big step forward.
Still, it's clear the Flames are very susceptible to injury risk down the middle. if Backlund or Stajan goes down for any length of time, TJ Galiardi might suddenly be your second line C. I know the Flames aren't counted on to win anything this year, but...yikes.