January 04 2017 08:00AM
It's been awful season for the Colorado Avalanche. Not only are they once again one of the worst possession teams in the league, but their goaltending is mediocre and nobody can score. A dry spell when you also get outshot every game sinks a team pretty quickly.
That has the club considering a fresh rebuild. With Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen up front, they are looking to cash in on their collection of young forwards and improve their blueline. According to Elliotte Friedman, Duchene and Landeskog are the most likely guys to be put on the auction block.
The Flames, on the other hand, still need to improve their forward depth. With Troy Brouwer struggling and both Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett running in place this year, Calgary's depth seems even more questionable than it did to start the year. Another quality forward - particularly a center - may help push the team forward.
So the question is: should the Flames consider putting together a package for Matt Duchene?
January 02 2017 08:00AM
That's it for 2016. It was a year marked by both modest frustrations and modest growth for the Calgary Flames. They came back down to earth after their Cinderella 2014-15 season, settling back into draft lottery territory before ultimately picking Matthew Tkachuk at sixth overall.
Luckily Tkachuk has been a revelation so far in his rookie season, settling in on the left side with Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik to help form one of the best two-way forward units in the entire NHL. Usually kids - especially teens - struggle to play a complete game at the NHL level, but Tkachuk has leapt fully formed into the show.
On the other hand, the Flames haven't yet seen the growth they likely expected from other notable youngsters like Sean Monahan or Sam Bennett. Those guys essentially running in place has made Glen Gulutzan's life much more complicated, leaving him trying to find a way to shelter everyone who isn't playing with Backlund in the top nine rotation.
So what will 2017 bring? Can one of the other kids take another step? Can the club get back into the playoffs? Who is going to be sacrificed in the expansion draft? Lots of interesting questions will potentially be answered this year.
For the first edition of the FN mailbag for 2017, we take a look at Sam Bennett, Matthew Takchuk and the Flames' defensive prospects.
December 29 2016 02:00PM
When Troy Brouwer was signed by the Flames this summer to a four-year, $18M deal, many of us at FN were... skeptical. The conventional wisdom was the Flames needed Brouwer's size and experience to help stabilize the forward group, but his age and underlying results suggested the club was making a bad bet.
With Brouwer out for weeks with a hand injury, now seems like a good time to evaluate the early returns on Brad Treliving's biggest offseason UFA signing. Will the Flames be worse in absence? Or is this injury a secret boon for the club?
The truth is it's kind of both (but mostly the latter).
December 28 2016 03:00PM
It's no secret that the forward unit of Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik and Matthew Tkachuk has been the most consistent for the team all year. The "3M" line has been together for majority of the season so far and combined they own the team's best results at even strength by a wide margin.
So why consider breaking them up? Simply, to spread the wealth. While the Backlund line continues to put up above average shot rates at 5on5, every other regular forward unit on the team has mostly been drowning. While having three potent play drivers on one line makes for a highly effective single unit, it also means the rest of the team struggles to get out of their own end on many nights.
And for Glen Gulutzan only being able to rely on a third of your top nine rotation to outshoot or outchance the opposition is a tough way to win hockey games over the long run.
December 26 2016 08:00AM
The Flames gave us a nice early Christmas present heading into the break by crushing an exhausted Canucks group. What Calgary will be in the new year, however, is still up in the air. The first portion of the season has been filled with inconsistencies and contradictions - terrible and then resurgent special teams, awful and then elite goaltending, etc.
So the team is still very much a work in progress. They've settled into a sort of middling area through their wild oscillations, but I doubt either Brad Treliving or Glen Gulutzan are satisfied with the results, even given some of the peaks so far. New gaps have formed in the roster this year and some questions still remain unanswered. The rest of the season may well be spent pursuing solutions to these issues, as well as chasing another playoff appearance, of course. We'll see what can be accomplished in the first half of 2017.
Given that the Flames' second defense pairing is one of those glaring aforementioned questions, it's appropriate that we talk about nothing but defensemen in the final edition of the mailbag for 2016...