What Needs To Happen For Bill Arnold To Make The Flames

Bill
Arnold might just be the most intriguing Flames centre not in the NHL. There
were some comments and concerns, especially in his senior year at Boston
College, that he may have piggy-backed off of Johnny Gaudreau’s skill. That can
be put to rest now.

Arnold
was one third of the NCAA’s most potent offensive line alongside Gaudreau and
Kevin Hayes, yet he’s the only member of that line that hasn’t made it to the
NHL full-time. After a very successful (if not banged-up) rookie pro season, Arnold’s
chance to join his linemates as an NHL regular seems to be leaning towards a
matter of ‘when’ than ‘if.’

Let’s
explore what needs to happen for Arnold to make the Calgary Flames next season.

MATT
STAJAN

Arnold’s
chances of making the Flames are largely contingent on what happens with Matt
Stajan over the next year.

Stajan
is still under contract for three more seasons, so it’s not as easy as moving
Arnold in and letting Matty Franchise go. However, if Stajan’s play diminishes
in any way during the 2015-16 season, the decision becomes a bit easier to
promote Arnold. This is not to say Stajan is no longer valuable to the Flames.
He certainly is valuable with his veteran leadership as evidenced by being the
first one to congratulate a young player when he comes to the bench. Beyond
that, he’s a damn useful fourth line centre and might be a good third liner on
another team.

…But
he’s occupying the spot Bill Arnold wants right now.

The
ideal plan here is that Stajan plays one more year with the Flames and is traded
the following summer, leaving Arnold with a place in the line-up. Meanwhile,
Arnold can continue to develop in Stockton and build on his already impressive
AHL play. It’s not like he absolutely must
be in the NHL next season, but he is knocking on the door.

RIGHT-HANDED SHOOTER

I
would argue that Arnold’s handedness is one of his biggest points of leverage
for him to make it to the Bigs. It may not seem all that important, but when
you start to take a look up and down the Flames’ line up, you’ll see a lot of lefties – and that bodes well
for Arnold.

First,
Arnold is one of only two centres in the entire Calgary Flames organization who
shoots right (if you don’t count regular-pivot Josh Jooris). The other is Drew
Shore. Shore is a career 46.2% faceoff man in the NHL. Arnold, on the other
hand, has been a faceoff machine throughout his career – a true student of the
faceoff dot (there aren’t any stats available to prove my point; you’ll just
have to trust me that’s he’s really
good). I don’t see that changing once he dons the flaming ‘C’. Being a
right-handed centre with good faceoff ability and outstanding defensive play in
the NHL gives the head coach a myriad of options (and coaches like options).
This is the perfect storm for Arnold.

Secondly,
as I wrote last
week
,
the Flames’ centre depth is greater than at any other time in recent history.
Bill Arnold is a large reason why. However, if the C-Train gets a little
crowded, which it looks like it is, Arnold could easily be flipped to right
wing, which is a point of weakness for the Flames.

TWO-WAY
PLAY

These
days the litmus test for a head coach to allot playing time for a young player
is trust. Trust, in life and in hockey, is the most important currency. That’s
why Josh Jooris stuck, that’s why Sam Bennett stuck, that’s what Monahan, Gaudreau
and Granlund stuck. Trust.

In
the NHL, trust is earned largely though defensive play. You have to show your
coaches that you’re not a liability. This is why Arnold’s promotion falls under
the category of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’. Playing offense against Arnold is
tougher than an oak knot. He barely gives you any room, let alone quality scoring
chances. Once Arnold is given some ice time, there is no doubt in my mind that
Hartley will be on board simply based on his ability to play solid two-way
hockey.

DREW
SHORE

Where
Matt Stajan might be Arnold’s predecessor for the fourth line job, Drew Shore
is Arnold’s direct competition. Both are outstanding prospects for that spot
and both have equally as impressive skills to stick in the NHL. The thing is,
only one of them can have the job and the other, in the best case scenario,
moves to the wing.

Remember,
that’s a best case scenario. Unfortunately for Arnold and/or Shore, you’ve got
a ridiculous number of winger prospects who could
be ready for the jump following next season, meaning whoever gets pushed to the
wing has a whole new field of competition.

Shore
currently has the experience, and thus the edge, in this battle for the fourth
line spot, but I wouldn’t rule out Arnold just yet. This is certainly one of
those training camp battles you won’t want to overlook.

  • T&A4Flames

    Plus look at his size. “Only” 6′ but over 210 lbs. He matches up much better than some against Western Conference heavyweights.

    Mike, how well does he distribute the puck?

    • Pretty well actually. He’s no Gaudreau, but you can tell why they’ve worked well together in the past.

      Arnold and Poirier were magic when they were together. Arnold set up so many of Emile’s goals when they were on a line together. Poirier’s scoring dropped off substantially once Arnold got hurt for nearly two months.

      • piscera.infada

        Thanks for this.

        At the AHL level how would you compare Arnold’s skill-set to that of Granlund? How would you compare Arnold to Shore? Likewise, Granlund to Shore?

        I feel as though two of those are likely going to stick with the organization, with the other being packaged and sent to another organization. I (as well as the organization I believe), like all three players, but I feel as though at least one of them is going to end-up drawing the short straw.

        Personally, I like Arnold’s upside the most at centre, and I think Shore has the inside track moving to the wing because he’s a right shot and the organization clearly values him (rumours abound that many teams called about him at the trade deadline). I’m interested in your thoughts.

        • Arnold vs. Granlund: These two are so unbelievably similar in almost every regard except for two things – Granlund can seemingly score at will in the AHL, but Arnold is built like a tree stump. If you value high offensive skill and vision, you’ve got to stick with Granlund until he shows it in the NHL. Both are equally as capable defensively and both are outstanding PKers.

          Arnold vs. Shore: Shore wasn’t all that great in his short time with the Baby Flames. He had his moments, but for the most part he was just… there. One thing you did see from him on a consistent basis though is his ability to control the puck for a very long time using his great cycling ability. He’s shown that translates to the NHL. I honestly can’t really compare these two because I haven’t gotten the greatest read on Shore in the AHL. He just didn’t show a lot. There are some players that actually play better in the NHL than the AHL, and he’s on of those guys.

          Shore vs. Granlund: Again, Granlund wins hands down in terms of AHL skill. Granlund’s a 60+ point guy. Once the offensive talent he has starts to take shape in the NHL, this kid’s going to be awesome. If he could show just half of what he did last season in Abbotsford, fans would be fighting each other for his jersey. I don’t know how Shore’s offense will translate to the NHL. For all we know he’ll be a ridiculously talented possession guy and not much else. It’s really tough to say what Shore will become, but I’d like it if they hung onto him for a while.

          Picking which two of these players to keep is like choosing between your own children. You can see so much talent in all three that you know you’d be giving another team a good player.

  • The GREAT Walter White

    Just a wee bit off topic: is the NHL still doing 3 on 3 overtime next year?
    Is that a thing ?

    If so; will that force teams to have more skilled guys in their line up, and less of a focus on big guys?

    What % of NHL games actually go to overtime?

    WW

  • Byron Bader

    With Backlund still unsigned,do you think he is going to be shopped on the draft floor and if so,what do you think the Flames are looking for,more draft picks or a “hockey deal” (like a RW or a d-man)?
    I don’t think Stajan is going anywhere so it seems like Backlund may be moved.

    Thoughts?

    • Byron Bader

      I don’t think he’ll be moved. I bet he’s signed in the next month. The organization seems like they like him a lot.

      Really like Arnold. I think he has some massive upside. Put together a really good 4 years at Boston College, especially the last three years. Hopefully he can develop into a 3rd line center that can help out in the top 6 if an injury pops up.

      • Problem is, these kids are ready to take the next step. Shore, Arnold, Granlund & Jooris just made that leap last year. Jooris is on the spot next year. He can’t have any regression or he will find himself in the AHL so quick. But we still need to find some space for Shore & Arnold.

        Backlund has the highest value but if Flames are sold on him & that is not a bad thing, you are looking at 3 centres locked in for foreseeable future in Bennett, Monahan & Backlund. I’m not sure what others think but I don’t feel this group needs the veteran leadership Stajan brings & we can thank 2 rounds of playoffs for that. Not seeing enough value coming back in Stajan to move him this summer. That young D has to be addressed. That leaves Shore & Granlund + maybe one of our 2nd rounders to either acquire another 1st rounder or to get a decent young defender. No one will want to see either Shore or Granlund moved, but it should be top priority. By doing so, we get a young defender well into their development & it opens us to using one of our other 2nd rounders to select a Centre if someone decent is available.

        Real real bold would be to move Backlund for a real decent young D man & roll the dice with Shore & Arnold filling his possession minutes come Oct 1. Risky, yes, but high reward based on my perceived value of what Backlund will bring back.

  • al rain

    Re: Granlund, I like WW’s idea from a few weeks back that the Wild overpay for him because Mikael. Package deal for a D man/prospect.

    Keep Shore and Arnold; I can think of no better use for the young Granlund.

  • Parallex

    Bill Arnold’s path to being a full-time NHL’er basically goes through Matt Stajan. Shore looks more the part of a winger (but it’d be a right-shooting RW which we’re short on as well so he’s fine) but Arnold is all Center. Personally, I think a fourth line of Ferland-Arnold-Shore looks pretty awesome going forward. There’s the issue of Granlund as well but, much like Shore, I see him as a winger long-term.

    That’s for the future though… he’ll pay some more dues in Stockton next season alongside Klimchuk, Granlund, Poirier and company.

    It does speak to the developing forward logjam in the system. It’s probably the 2nd most pressing issue right behind blueline depth. Treliving will have to be fairly active over the next 15 months clearing away veteran depth for the farmhands to work their way up.

  • I’m not 100% sold on the organization liking Backlund. The fans certainly are sold and that’s one thing. But this org has jerked him around for 3 straight years. Last year included. Hartley at times still does not trust Backlund, although he should. Does that mean I think they’ll trade him by or on draft day, not necessarily. I just don’t think there is a market for Backlund. The rest of the league wont’ recognize his talent like we do. And if they do they’re not exactly going to offer the moon for him and therefore Backlund is worth more to the Flames then he is to anyone else. I think that’s why Backlund sticks around and is resigned.

    I think if anyone does get moved from that young core of centre’s it’s going to be Granlund. I feel he probably has the most attraction to other teams in the league.

  • Parallex

    Just a quick thought…

    What is your guy’s thoughts on Daniel Sprong? Not too small, terrific hands, killer writer when he decides to shoot, and utmost brilliance with the puck. Also, be noted that he’s a right handed skill-type winger, that of which could benefit our RW depth, as far as skill goes. We have tons of Left wingers and centres playing wing, but we lack a quantity of true righties, and from what ice seen… Sprong, with a few years of true NHL/AHL Guidance and development, the kid could be a stud.

    Again, just a thought. What do you all think?

    (Very anxious as to what the flames could do this coming draft).

    • If the draft was tomorrow. This would be my personal pick been saying this all summer. The kids only real scouting knock is he’s not the most defensive minded and is a bit stubborn in wanting to get back and defend in his own end. When it comes to scouting reports if thats the worst thing they can think of about a kid. I’ think you take the chance. Many had him in the top 10 prior to the season.

      He has a deadly shot when he releases the puck already NHL calibre as well.

      • Parallex

        First of all, apologies for the atrocious grammar and errors. Maybe should’ve opted for that third cup of coffee…

        Nonetheless I agree. For a while now I’ve been thinking he has been an absolute stud of a right winger. Also, his occasional selfishbehaviour and lack of defensive coverage is common with such quality scorers. With maturity I feel as though those things can subside, and he can learn. Could he though, if he possibly slips (not probable), be the Flames’ true RW scorer in many years to come?

        I’m truly excited as to where this hardworking team is going

        • There’s actually a good chance he does slip. Right now most reports have him falling to the 20’s if the Flames stick at 15. They could get him if he’s someone they desire.

          If they do think he’s gonna fall deep into the 20’s. another option might be to trade one of those 2nd’s and their 15th overall to a team with young D who are a little further along in the development. Then take him at 23, 24, 25, etc. If that’s an option that would be shrewd and a nice move.

          • That is true… While I truly believe the flames stock of second rounders is great, I’ve had this childish and unrealistic scenario pop in my head a few times:

            With Ortio knocking on the door (about ready to drop kick it off its hinges), and the ramo situation (if he hopefully stays); maybe we trade Hiller? Although I’ve liked Hiller, maybe we trade him to a team that lacks greatly any goaltending at all. And with that, package a second, and possibly one or two of our prospects that has been discussed previously here, to inevitably take a mid-late first round pick to get sprong, or kylington for that matter …

            Again, very unrealistic and fantasy based…

  • OKG

    Well done Mike. I enjoyed the points you brought forward. I reinforce Piscera’s point about 2 out of the 3 will be Flames. Our depth of player talent is really beginning to show.

    My interest in Arnold was stimulated by your past praiseworthy commentaries from Adirondack and from what you describe above, his defensive abilities are NHL quality already. At 6′ and a doubtless muscular 210 lbs, he would be a hard one to play against for sure. I am assuming he does not mind ‘throwing’ his weight around?

    Mike: would a good comparison to Arnold be Nate Thompson of the Ducks … they seem to have about the same height and weight? I think Thompson is showing very well in this Cup run!! I believe Arnold is at least 6 years younger though.

    As Fretsky mentioned (and I do hate to say it) but if it takes Backlund to be included in a deal to get a high quality D-man (e.g. Brett Seabrook) … I am leaning towards maybe pulling that trigger.

    Bottom line is that we are in a fascinating period with the Flames eh? The management has ‘managed’ to fill the cupboards to the point where we are discussing topics that would’ve been unheard of before! And that doesn’t even include the quality prospects we are bound to receive in this year’s draft.

    Thanks again Mike!

  • @Byron Bader

    I think your right. The organization clearly values him,as they should.He drives the play and is in that age group that is perfect for us.
    I’m not advocating that he should be moved,just curious as to why he hasn’t been signed.

    I’m really excited about the good press Arnold is getting..and I like Shore as he has a willingness to crash and bang.

    It will be interesting to see how this shakes out.

    • piscera.infada

      He probably hasn’t been signed because RFA deals generally take awhile. It’s usually even longer when the player is looking at his last RFA deal.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if the Backlund negotiation gets a little bit testy before it’s all said and done. I agree, I think the organization likes Backlund, but this contract could come down to a couple of very interesting things:

      – At this point, Backlund has to see the writing on the wall. If he’s going to be here medium to long term, it’s not very likely that he plays in the top-6. That’s probably the correct place for him as a player, but does he (and by extension, his representation), see him as a 3C long-term?

      – For the Flames, this is a deal where you really have to help “set the market” for your forward group. If you see him as a long-term piece, this deal is going to have to be made with an eye to Monahan and Bennett extensions. Moreover, it will have some bearing on your top-6 wingers as well.

      – Also, if you’re the Flames you probably want to sign him to a deal that won’t limit you from trading the contract in the future. This is a big “if”, but “if” one of Granlund, Arnold, Shore, or a player yet to come on the scene proves to be better in Backlund’s role than Backlund, you’ll want to be able to re-coup value in a trade.

      – Finally, it’s tough to really gauge how much “possession-drivers” with somewhat pedestrian counting-stats are worth. With the NHL now publishing (their own) analytics, many pundits are saying possession numbers are more likely to be used in arbitration hearings–one can surmise that they’ll be given more weight in contract negotiations as well. You have to think that this will make a Backlund contract more difficult.

  • everton fc

    What I think is being overlooked in this great summary by Mike, and by many Flames fans, is the incredible potential we have in Granlund. What I remember hearing at Penticton last year was how mature he was, a leader, someone who will talk to his teammates, and someone who’ll play tougher than he looks. A real NHL-built player. I think he’s done well up here, thus far.

    The other two – Shore and Arnold – have not proven themselves to be regular NHL players as much as Granlund has. And everyone assumes Granlund will get moved to wing, but he never was. Shore was. Which tells me something.

    Give Granlund a full season on a line with, say, Ferland, who he had chemistry with in te past, and both may score 10-15, or more goals.

    As for Arnold, a right-handed faceoff specialist with a good two-way game, willing to play hard and tough every shift – he’ll be in Calgary very soon.

  • JumpJet

    I think when talking about the NHL futures of Granlund, Shore, and Arnold you have to consider the longevity of Colborne, Byron, and Jooris with the Flames. Colborne and Byron are the oldest of this group and I don’t see either of them being better NHLers than Granlund, Shore, or Arnold. Flames coaching and management seems to be really high on Colborne, but I would rather see him moved sometime next season to make room for one of these younger guys. Byron may not be back with the Flames next season given his RFA status. And if Stajan gets traded next summer, as others have suggested, that should open up enough room for two of Granlund, Shore, and Arnold while hanging on to Jooris. Subtract Mason Raymond from the team and there’s another roster spot.

    Of course, none of this considers where Poirier, Agostino, or Klimchuck might fit in.

    • OKG

      Byron/Jooris are two of the better possession driving winger on the Flames. When he’s out there good things happen. Granlund is one of the worst possession driving forwards on the Flames. When he’s out there, we get hemmed in.

      I’m hoping Shore (Top 6 RW) and Arnold (Buttom 6 center) both make the team. Granlund just looks like the odd man out because he can never seem to clear the zone and when he does not much happens in the OZ.

      Here’s how I could see it shaking out in a couple years when Hudler/Backlund/Stajan/Jones etc are moved for cap space:

      Gaudreau-Bennett-Poirier (High Speed/Skill Line)
      Klimchuk-Monahan-Shore (cycling snipers line)
      Bouma-Jankowski-Hathaway (classic shutdown line)
      Ferland-Arnold-Jooris
      Byron (Energy Forward)
      Agostino (Good depth forward)

      • JumpJet

        Granlund may not be a great possession player right now, but he’s only 22 and he arguably has better offensive skills than both Byron and Jooris. Of any of the forwards I listed (Granlund, Shore, Arnold, Colborne, Byron, Jooris) I think he has the highest ceiling. It’s way too soon to count out Granlund from a good NHL carreer.

  • prendrefeu

    I’d just like to point out how refreshing it is to be hand-wringing with so many talented players both on the main NHL roster and in the AHL/development pool compared to previous years where there was a derth of a future for the Flames.

    …and we haven’t even had the Draft yet, where the Flames have a lot of picks.

    So nice!

  • Cofred24

    I was actually wondering if Arnold would make a good wing man for Johnny and Monny. He has a history with Johnny, has some physicality, responsible defensively, would help Monny not have to take all the tough faceoffs and is a R hander too. Just a thought.

  • Cofred24

    Don’t get rid of Stajan. He’s gaining lots of skill and over the past years he’s been developing drastically. Yes Shore and Arnold are both great prospects but I think Stajan will stay. Maybe they could transition to wing in a season or two…