It’s a Game Day here at FlamesNation, as the Calgary Flames host the John Tavares-less New York Islanders. It’s also Retro Night, with good music, bad fashion, sweet Retro jerseys, and a tribute to Joe Nieuwendyk – Joe’s #25 will go up to the rafters as part of the Forever a Flames program.
Now that I’m fully recovered from trade deadline day on Wednesday, I’ve got a few thoughts.
First off, injuries. The Flames are lousy with them right now. Kevin Westgarth (concussion), Curtis Glencross (ankle), David Jones (upper body), Karri Ramo (knee), Dennis Wideman (unspecified), Jiri Hudler (upper body) and Matt Stajan (personal) are all absent, at least for the weekend. Galiardi is slated to return tonight in Hudler’s place, and the Flames have brought in Tyler Wotherspoon from Abbotsford to fill Wideman’s shoes. That’s a lot of veterans out of the line-up: the team’s #1 goalie, a veteran defenseman, and three really key forwards.
On the flip-side of all that, the Flames are dressing a TON of kids right now. Your guys under 25 look like this:
- G Joni Ortio 
- D T.J. Brodie 
- D Tyler Wotherspoon 
- F Mikael Backlund 
- F Lance Bouma 
- F Paul Byron 
- F Joe Colborne 
- F Markus Granlund 
- F Ben Hanowski 
- F Corban Knight 
- F Sean Monahan 
- F Max Reinhart 
While a lot of folks had praise for the Dimpled Dozen after Wednesday’s win over Ottawa, these guys have all been playing extremely well in Abbotsford (or Calgary) this year. And don’t underrate the impact in the locker room of having new faces playing their first games, or hunting for their first NHL goals or wins. The energy these guys can bring to each game can turn a dismal late-season tilt into something memorable.
Of these guys, presumably Brodie, Bouma, Backlund, Colborne and Monahan are here to stay. Reto Berra’s trade to Colorado cements Ortio’s status in Calgary, as well. Wotherspoon is an emergency recall so he has to go back when Wideman recovers, but that leaves the remaining races for NHL ice-time rather wide-open. In other words, it’s audition time.
In terms of deadline moves, I’m growing to like Burke’s boldness and “line in the sand” mentality. Extending Cammalleri may make some folks nervous – and it may be partially a cap-floor move – #13 does bring some assets to the table that have value here. However, there’s also a chance that Burke dangles Cammalleri at the draft in an effort to grab assets or move up. I’m less nervous about re-signing Chris Butler, as he’s been a fine penalty-kill option and provides depth. Moreover, the Flames arguably have few options in Abbotsford that can challenge Butler for a job – Smith, Breen and Billins have been tried and found wanting. Wotherspoon’s first NHL weekend may make him an option, but considering the Flames have five guys under NHL deals for 2014-15 on the back end, they still need two more. Berra for a second is insanely great value. Stempniak for a third is basically market value (and probably what most of the Cammalleri offers were at the deadline).
In other news, the Flames made a few paper transactions on deadline day – sending down Ortio, Granlund, Knight and Reinhart so that they’re eligible to play in the AHL’s Calder Cup playoffs at the end of April. Derek Smith was sent down for-reals, while the timing on Ben Hanowski’s recall means that he’s eligible, too. The Heat are razor-thin right now, but when the Flames, junior and college seasons end, they could be full of talent. Heck, they’d be pretty stacked if they just got everyone back from Calgary that they sent up. One guy that’s not eligible for the playoffs is Paul Byron, who would’ve required waivers to go down – on-paper or otherwise.
Colgate University, Boston College and Providence College all have byes into their conference quarterfinals and are off this weekend, so no Johnny Gaudreau updates this week, gang.