Look at all those forwards

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The Calgary Flames have a lot of forwards. This isn’t a bad thing by any stretch, as options and competition are usually things you want to have. But with competition comes tough decisions, and the Flames are most certainly going to face a number of those between now and the end of training camp. Let’s try and break down how those decisions might go. Let’s also marvel at my creativity and ingenuity when it comes to the picture I’ve decided to use for this article.

Since last October, things have gotten very crowded among Calgary’s group of forwards. Why? Well, it started with Johnny Gaudreau’s explosion onto the NHL scene and was followed very shortly thereafter by the debut of Josh Jooris. Just like that, the Flames had two NHL quality forwards in October 2014 they didn’t have at the same point in 2013. More recently, three more names have been added to the fray in Sam Bennett, Micheal Ferland and Michael Frolik. As such, I count 17 forwards competing for 14 jobs come September.

Forward 1

I’m very proud of my pictures, as it shows a great deal of personal growth. Any ridiculing of my rudimentary skills will lead to permanent banishment from all Nation websites. So there we go, those are the 17 forwards who likely believe they have a decent shot of being on the opening day roster next year. Some of these decisions will be easy, some won’t be as simple.

I’m not looking at that grouping above as an iron clad depth chart, but it’s a decent representation of where Calgary’s forwards stack up. Obviously all this can, and likely will, change due to injuries during training camp and the preseason. But assuming everyone stays healthy, I think we can start to make some declarations to narrow things down.

Forward 2

The top nine guys, for me, are in. We can debate the merits of the Jones and Stajan contracts all we want, but the reality is, they’re NHL caliber forwards. Should Bennett have a check mark before he plays his second regular season game? Who knows, but I’m comfortable saying he’ll be on the opening day roster after what I saw in his 11 playoff games. I don’t know if he’ll start at centre, but he’ll be a top nine forward.

As for the two guys we’ve scratched off the page, well, they’re going to be in tough. To me, Granlund wasn’t ready for full time NHL work last year. Now the Flames are even deeper up front, and because Granlund doesn’t seem to translate well to the wing, I just don’t see where he’s going to fit. Another year primarily in the AHL for him won’t be a bad thing, and the team can now quietly put him in the “trade asset” category if they need to.

As for Shore, I actually like him and I think there’s a good chance he’ll play this year, specifically on the wing. I just don’t think he’ll be on the opening day roster. He is waiver eligible, I know, which makes things somewhat complicated. Sure, there’s a chance he could get claimed, but I don’t think it’s a big one and I think Calgary could get him to Stockton during camp. I kind of feel Shore is a guy who comes up later on in the season and potentially stays up.

Forward 3

What’s with all these question marks? Well, all five of these guys raise very interesting questions about where they fit. Let’s start with Ferland, because he burst onto the scene late in the season and into the playoffs. Personally, I love the guy and think he could be a really impactful player if he can do what he did late for the majority of a season. But that’s the real question, because we’ve never seen him do that. That said, I think it’s probably safe to put him on the October 7th roster barring some awful performance at camp.

Jooris, Colborne, and Byron are in very similar boats. I don’t believe there’s any doubt that all three of them are NHL players. I’m a bigger fan of Jooris and Byron as players right now than I am of Colborne, but I also recognize the latter player has taken huge strides over the last two years. Assuming Byron and Jooris sign their deals without issue, I think all three of these guys should be good to go.

So that leaves two veteran forwards entering their second years with Calgary. I think it’s probably safe to say Raymond was a straight up bust in his first season. He was healthy scratched, was on pace for just 33 points, and was generally ineffective for most of the year.

Bollig came as advertised, which is probably not a great thing. He just didn’t add much in most areas of the game. I guess he scored a couple big playoff goals, and I know a lot of people like his “pedigree” having spent time with a Cup-winning Blackhawks team. For me, though, Bollig played ahead of better players fairly regularly last season. Bob Hartley clearly likes him, so it’s a good bet he’ll be one of the 14 forwards that starts the season.

Forward 4

Above is my composite sketch of what I think we might be looking at for next season. This is not necessarily what I’d go with, because if it were me, Shore would definitely be in that mix ahead of Bollig. But I’ve already got them jettisoning one veteran forward, I think it’s pretty unrealistic for them to do that twice. Instead, this exercise was designed more to take a realistic look at what the decisions might look like inside Hartley’s office come early October.

So what of Raymond? Well, if we’re talking realism, I don’t think not far fetched to believe they might go in a different direction with him at some point. That could be via trade, or it could mean putting him in Stockton. A buyout probably doesn’t make sense knowing where Calgary’s cap is going to go, so if you have to ride out the final two years of his deal, I guess it’s something you have to do.

My read on the situation is just one piece of analysis, but I think it’s a worthwhile exercise. The Flames have gotten much deeper at forward, and as such, they’re going to have to more decisions to make during training camp. Injuries, camp performance, and an offseason that’s not over will still play into how things look in the fall of 2015. That said, I don’t think my read on things is coming out of left field, so I’m curious what discussions we get into in the comments.

    • The Fall

      We should be keeping Colborne(still improving), Granlund(versatile), Shore(Jones replacement), Jooris and Ferland.

      At the same time trading Jones, Stajan, Byron and Raymond. If not for picks then start puck-collecting.

      You have also ignored Poirier who should make the team and a couple others that are pressing hard.

      • I don’t think saying “Poirier should make the team” is a fair comment, because I think he’s got a long ways to go before he’s a full time NHLer.

        It would be awesome to see him blow the doors off at camp, but I’m not necessarily anticipating it.

  • The Fall

    Granlund and Shore are interchangeable for me. And both are projects; a couple years out before they are consistent enough for 80 games.
    Jooris. Bennett (rookie of the year). Johnny. Ferkland. Have all passed them on the depth chart.

    • The Fall

      Most likely they will take the spots of Stajan and Jones on the third line next year.. I think a line of Ferland – Granlund – Shore will be pretty dangerous in a couple of years.

      Jooris and Byron will always be the perfect engergy line type of guys.

  • The Fall

    Colborne is the biggest question mark for me; at times he looks like Getzlaf out there, and other times it looks like a stiff breeze can throw him off the puck. It will be interesting to see if he takes a step forward this year, but he has my vote for the most ‘expendable’ forward.

    The reason being, is he might appeal to a team like the Coyotes would could use some size and skill in their top six, without breaking the bank.

  • PrairieStew

    Stajan is not a top 9 forward. Would rather see Backlund with Bouma and Jones on the shut down 3rd line. Bennett and Frolik make up 2/3 of a decent 2nd line but need a legitimate scorer to go with them, not Colborne or Raymond.

    Hard to say whether Granlund, Poirier or Klimchuck will be impactful this year. Can 2 veterans and one young guy (eg Stajan, Colborne, Klimchuck; or Granlund Bollig Raymond) bleverage a higher quality second liner loose from a team lacking depth?

    • SmellOfVictory

      Although I disagree on Stajan (I think he’s a perfectly fine 3rd line C), I would also like to see Bennett centering a soft minutes scoring line. I’d rather put Bennett with Jones and maybe Byron, though. I can’t think of a better hard minutes combination than Backlund and Frolik, and I’d really like to see how they do together, just absolutely buried (they can bury Stajan and his wingers as well).

      • The Fall

        The best thing about Frolik is that he drops everybody below Backs down a spot. Jones, Bouma, and Staj can all have better years playing against weaker completion with Frolik in the lineup.

    • Stajan was a very effective forward for the Flames last year. On this team, he is a top nine guy, especially at his position. If Bennett plays centre, then it’s a different story. But I’m not convinced Bennett is going to be a centre, at least to start.

      • Trevy

        I disagree I believe that the coaching staff have Bennett start at center and if he can’t do his job their then he will be on the wing. I believe that Frolik will be Bennett’s right winger and the real question mark is who will be that lines LW. IMO two of the four lines are pretty much set: Johnny/Monny/Hudler and Bouma/Backs/Jones. 2/3 of a line will be Bennett/Frolik with the LW to be determined. Stajan will will center the other line with his wingers TBD.

  • CofRed4Life

    Definitely realistic. I’ve never been a fan of Bollig (though his beard is noteworthy), but Hartley really seems to like him, which makes me think he’s going to be in the lineup. I think keeping Granlund in the AHL is a good start. We may need to call him up again like last year, and he should tear things up down there this year. Colborne is my biggest question mark. He’s never noticeably that bad, but he has his moments of greatness, which is probably why everyone has stuck with him. I’m willing to give Raymond another chance to see if it was an outlier of a season, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s packaged in a trade. Shore is one I would worry about putting on waivers. He has a high ceiling, and I think he’s ready to break through. I just don’t know whose spot he would take. Hartley and co. have some tough decisions to make if everyone stays healthy, that’s for sure.

  • The Fall

    Raymond does come out of the gate strong every year. …let him get 6 goals in the first 12 games and then get him out of town.

    Colborne needs to train with whoever showed Bouma how to score in the last offseason. otherwise he’s just another first rounder turned fourth liner.

    Shore and Grandlind are still call ups in my book.

    I’d love to see Poirier make an impression in camp — just to make this type of exercise even tougher.

  • The GREAT Walter White

    Too many Forwards….

    Come to think of it; we have too many Goalies as well…..and too many D too.

    Time to package up one of each and trade for a guy who can play on the second line and put the puck in the net (and a draft pick).

    WW

    • The Fall

      On paper I agree with you but this is not by fault but by design. It’s about competition at camp for the forwards. It will be up to the players to decide who gets the positions on Oct 7th. As Hartley said he is not a banker and doesn’t care about how much they make or term. The bottom two or three will not be worth a trade and could be sent down to make room. The competition is also for the new prospects too, who will have these extra players as a bench mark to meet and possibly win a position on the team.

      Goal keeping could be handled the same way as they will not go with three goalies. I know they could trade one whoever you want to select but BT said after resigning Ramo they liked their one two punch last season? I do think it is best to move one before Oct 7th. Note : All three have one year left.

      Our D may come down to if Smid returns and when for now. Either way they have the option to move someone anytime. Maybe why have not signed Schlemko as wait and see?

  • MWflames

    I think that’s a close line-up. I suspect Shore is being a bit underrated at the moment. Not that he did too much in the NHL to warrant that, but he’s most definitely our most accomplished ahler poised to graduate. A summer to reflect on the system in Calgary, and I bet he earns a spot in camp…

    Anyways, would like to see Raymond and one of colbourne or Jones traded. Don’t think that’s impossible either. And obviously if bollig can be traded you jump on that

  • Parallex

    I agree with your top 9 “safes”. We’re then left with 8 guys for 5 spots. Granlund being exempt makes him an easy cut Shore is waiver eligable and was talked up a lot by Treliving and Ferland got his cult hero thing in the playoffs so they’re in. I’d put Byron in as well since he has that swiss army knife appeal that Treliving talked up when he signed Frolik, so that’s 5 guys fighting for 2 spots.

    At that point it may just come down to who you can move. Colborne strikes me as a prime candidate… he doesn’t have an onerous contract and he has obvious physical tools so you can maybe find someone who will pay a decent price for him even though the performance doesn’t match those tools.

  • Parallex

    I wouldn’t be too quick to be down on Colborne.

    For starters he played at least half the season with a serious wrist problem,and despite that was quite effective in the playoffs.
    With a repaired wrist which will allow him to shoot, and the fact he played much more aggressively in the playoffs, I’d hate to see a guy with his size and skill level moved out just yet.

    • Parallex

      There’s always going to be someone who’ll say “we just gotta give him one more year” or some such with Colborne. Does he have size? Yes, Does he have skill? Yes, Does he leverage either attribute to produce substantive results in the NHL? No, he does not. He’s maddening to watch out there… he eats up a prime shooting position in the middle of the ice but hardly shoots, he’s big but hangs out in front of the net less then Gaudreau who’s probably close to a foot shorter then he is. He may be big and skilled but he has no idea how to use either and I wouldn’t bet on him figuring it out at 25-26.

      Considering his physical gifts the only thing I can think of holding Colborne back is what’s between his ears… and that’s not so easily improved upon. Just rip the Colborne bandaid off now… it’ll hurt less then the slow peel.

      Frankly, I think now is precisely the time to cut bait on him before he losses all his shine and when some front office can still convince themselves that he’s young and cheap enough that they can afford to take a flier on him. With the roster squeeze it’s ideal timing for us too.

    • Purple Hazze

      He’s had that nagging wrist injury for most of his pro career and has had surgery on it before. I wouldn’t count on it being healed and back to normal. Its time to move on from Colborne, besides he cost us game 4 against the Ducks this year with that stupid penalty at the end of the 2nd period!

      • OKG

        I would cut bait on Colborne too. But let’s clear something up…he didn’t cost the Flames bupkiss in the playoffs. It is a team game and the team wins or loses. It isn’t like that he scored/didn’t score a winning goal in OT that was disallowed on video replay for the series win. It was game four, the Flames lost the series by way more than that one goal. End of.

        I think the Flames cut bait on Colborne and send Raymond and Bollig to Stockton unless Raymond can be traded somewhere before the season starts. I don’t get Hartley’s man-crush on Bollig and that will probably end up being the thing we all hate on this upcoming season now that we don’t have Baertschi’s deployment to whine about. That solves the numbers problem. Assuming Hartley gives up on his man crush.

        Move Byron to the middle and leave Jooris on RW. When injuries hit, call up Arnold, unless it is a winger, and then they can call up Raymond. If someone takes him on waivers, call up Poirier for his cup of coffee.

        This presupposes Poirier or Arnold or Granlund (or Raymond for that matter) don’t blow the doors off training camp and complicate matters.

        If Hartley doesn’t give up on Bollig and you have to choose one of the others, I just don’t know. Bollig is the most expendable of the bunch, imo and his continuing presence in the line up is twilight zone material.

    • Tenbrucelees

      [Colborne] was quite effective in the playoffs.

      A lot of people say this. Why? Because he hit some guys?

      I don’t agree. In fact I thought he looked unusually bad, especially against the Ducks. It wasn’t just the bad penalties either. Every play died on his stick.

      I agree with Parallex. Now is the time to cut him loose (actually, I thought last year while he was putting up all those points was the time to trade him, but too late for that). I don’t even mind “losing” the trade, honestly.

  • Purple Hazze

    You guys have to go out and acquire a 20-30+ goal winge you need a little more offencer and jvr comes to mind it will be tough but you have the assests to do it ship Denis Wideman over with a prospect and a 2nd or 3rd round pick and you guys will find your self in the playoffs again making a deeper run

    • Tenbrucelees

      Thing is, the Leafs are going to want futures for Van Riemsdyk. Are the Flames in a position to deal significant prospects (like Poirier and Klimchuk, say) for a probable second line winger who hasn’t had to play without Phil Kessel in years?

      • MontanaMan

        Good wingers play with good forwards. He’s not a 4th liner and he deserves to play on the top two lines. Yes he played with Kessel (and made Kessel better) and the expectation if he came to Calgary is that he’d play with Bennett. And he’d fill the net.

        • Of course he will. But enough to justify trading Poirier? Adding Van Riemsdyk makes the Flames better now, sure, but what about two years from now? Five?

          Van Riemsdyk is just one year younger than Frolik. He really isn’t all that “young” anymore, and history suggests he’s already had his best season.

          It’s debatable he made Kessel better.

          • Trevy

            I disagree..he’s only 26! How can you say he’s peaked!? He would fit in nicely on our top 6 and power play. Having said that, I would certainly not give up Poirier as part of a package. I can see Klimchuk instead and if we can enter Raymond into the equation, since he seems to play better in Toronto, even better!

            On a side note, I truly believe certain moves in the future will completely hinder on Giordanos situation. Stay tuned!

          • Trevy

            Does your history book have the likes of recently retired St Louis or maybe Jagr, Iggy, Datsyuk, etc who have consistently put up numbers beyond the age of 30? Just curious on who you are referring to?

          • MattyFranchise

            show me where I said Van Riemsdyk wouldn’t have any more good seasons. I said history suggests that he’s already had his best season. Not his only good season.

            BTW, it’s one thing to mention a bunch of outliers in a vain attempt to prove an already-debunked point… it’s quite another when two of those “examples” (Iginla and Jagr) actually peaked in the age range I mentioned (24-25)

            –This is, of course, assuming an era adjustment of some kind for Iginla. That assumption being that 96 points in 2002 beats 98 points in 2008. Which it does. Iginla won the Art Ross and Maurice Richard trophies in 2002.

          • Trevy

            Well it’s too bad 29 other gms wouldn’t share your hypothesis if JVR was actively being shopped. No one knows how a player will be in the future, at any age. You are constantly taking a gamble and I’m glad Treliving is doing his due diligence about his availability as he must see some value now and in the future and I reiterate my point from before, that I wouldn’t mortgage the future on said player.

      • TheoForever

        There is a reason that we use it, yes? The texting that most of us do for a lot of communication is destroying peoples ability the write properly, me included.

  • TheoForever

    Colborne is well liked by the coach and management. If his wrist is fine, I believe he will have a breakout season.
    If we are goimg to continue with the rebuild instead of going for it, then the most logical would be to open spots by trading some veterans.
    Prime trade targets: Raymond, Bollig, Jones, Stajan, Hiller.
    Decision time on future of Hudler, and are we keeping Widedog for one more year.

    I would like us to continue with youth movement.

    • This has been getting better, but it still remains a problem for Colborne. He’s so much better than he was when he first got to Calgary, but he’s also got a long ways to go. He’s 25 with one more year on his contract, so I’m fine with him continuing to progress this season.

      That said, if there’s a team that is interested in him, the Flames need to seriously consider pulling the trigger.

      • Greg

        I think that’s the other part of the equation we don’t know: what will other teams offer for any of these forwards in trade? We may want to keep Bouma over Raymond, but if Bouma could fetch you a 3rd round pick while Raymon costs you a 3rd to get rid of his contract, you’d have to reconsider.

  • Craig

    I know a pro scout from an Eastern NHL team and I have fun trying to get him to tell me what different guys on the Flames might be worth.

    Our last conversation went:

    “Which one of your guys do we want? How about Giordano and Brodie? (Laughs)”
    I suggest that they trade us something for Colborne; a hopeful and innocent look on my face
    “Nah, you keep big Joe” he said

    It was sad.

  • Greg

    1 other wrinkle to make this more tough to solve: if we have to carry 3 goalies for awhile to avoid losing 1 on waivers, then you lose 1 more forward spot and have to squeeze out another body.

    Really hoping there’s some trades coming to manage assets… Even if you’re just getting 6th round picks for colbourne or shore or even Byron, it’s better than losing someone for nothing.

    • Greg

      Raymond, Bollig, Granlund, Byron, Colborne, Jones in reality are all expendable and can be moved in the right scenario.

      The challenge is actually finding a trading partner…in Brad we trust

    • MattyFranchise

      Raymond, Bollig, Granlund, Byron, Colborne, Jones in reality are all expendable and can be moved in the right scenario.

      The challenge is actually finding a trading partner…in Brad we trust

  • Trevy

    I honestly think we are in for a surprise this year. First of all, there is not a #2 centre. Also, look at the depth on the wing. Yes, Johnny hockey. But besides him and hudler (he will regress this year, there’s no way he does that again) you have frolik, bouma, ferland, Jones and coulbourne after that. That’s an extremely ugly looking forward group. Ugly. You would basically need to just pray that gaudreau and hudler have an all star campaign again like last year, which is scary.

    The defence is very solid, but without more fire power up front, I think you are all going to be surprised when Calgary may not make it to the post season, or for that matter, even close, imo. I’m a die hard flames fan but I think we need to lower our expectations here.

    • Cfan in Vic

      Hudler has a life-long high shooting percentage. He may not produce as much, but be sure that it will be similar, as he’s going into a contract year for what may be one his last contracts. Johnny is just getting started, so it’s ridiculous to think that he’s topped out already. Monahan has shown steady and rapid progression each year. Frolik is a proven valuable point getter and possession driver. Backs is a fine center, especially now that he’s past the abdominal problems that plagued him last year. You’ve somehow forgot Bennet, who I believe will start on the wing this year, and you better believe he’ll be good for some points. Oh ya, and a largely bolstered defense.

      Sure, the team may not be as lucky on a whole, as they were last year. They won’t have to be as lucky. If you think they won’t get anywhere close to the playoffs, then you’re completely out to lunch. And if you’re a fan, you’re not the most observant one.

    • The Fall

      I think you are really under-estimating what Calgary did with the Hamilton acquisition. That blue-line is more than just solid. You have 3 top pairing d-men that are going to add a lot of offence. Last year with just Gio & Brodie, they were lethal & lead the league in O from the blue line. I realize it’s just my assumption here but I feel like Russell is going to have a breakout year playing with Hamilton. The top line will probably stay intact, why change, Hartley is no dummy, you go with what won you the Jack Adams. The real shifting is going to be in the 2nd & 3rd lines. Of those 6 positions, I think only 3 are locked in, Frolik, Backlund & Bennett. The remaining 3 spots will be a fierce competition with the consolation prize down to the 4th line. I get what you are saying about expectations by many being a little high, because that forward group is still definitely in rebuild mode. Think back to 1 year ago. We didn’t even have a top line. Now we do. This year will be the emergence of a bonafide 2nd line. Will be fun.

    • Parallex

      I think we’ll be a bubble team. Some guys will regress from their career year last year (Hudler & Bouma) some will take another step forward. Frolik greatly improves our depth on the wing, Hamilton on the blueline. Add that up and I think the team can get to where it was last year (lower seed playoff team) on it’s true merits (as opposed to the outlaier percentage spikes of last year).

      Playoffs aren’t a given… honestly I only see one team in the pacific that I’d say “write it down right now” as a non-playoff team (Arizona).

  • TheoForever

    Before we added Hamilton and Frolik, I thought that making the playoffs again would be hard.

    The positive was that we are in a weak Pacific Division. After Ducks and Kings, the remaining teams: SJ and Van are on the decline, Edmonton and Arizona are in the sewer.

    After, the additions of Hamilton and Frolik, I believe we finish 3rd or 2nd in the division, so, I’m not concerned. In fact I’m very exited for the new season.

  • OKG

    People need to stop tossing Granlund in with the Colbornes and the Joneses… underrated talent I wouldn’t be remotely surprised if our forwards lineup in just two years ends up be something like:

    Jankowski-Bennett-Granlund (Two-way scoring line)

    Gaudreau-Monahan-Poirier (other Two-way scoring line)

    Klimchuk-Backlund-Shore (Tough-minutes two-way Scoring line)

    Ferland/Bouma-Arnold-Jooris/Byron (Make-Life-Hell-Line)

    So much skill.

    Whoops, I forgot Frolik. Throw him.. you know.. where Shore is.

  • OKG

    Imo, this is the best starting roster, assuming no one gets traded by then:

    Gaudreau-Monahan-Hudler

    Bennett-Backlund-Frolik

    Raymond-Stajan-Jones

    Bouma-Jooris-Byron/Colborne

    Colborne/Byron, Bollig as extras

    Ferland, Granlund and Shore as the first call ups.

    Then we trade Raymond early on in the season after he has his annual early season boost. Replace him with Ferland. Then we trade Jones mid season (expiring contract with decent value) and replace him with Colborne/Byron (whoever is the extra), calling up Shore to replace as the extra.

    This will allow us to relieve cap space for next year, give the deserving young guns a chance to compete, and get something in return for our un-needed/replaceable veterans.

    • TheoForever

      I agree with the top 2 lines. Bennett played well on the wing in the playoffs so he may as well continue there. And with Frolick should be a dy-no-mite line!

      Raymond needs to be traded! So my third line is

      Bouma-Stajan-Jones

      And a fourth of

      Ferland-Jooris-Colborne

      Byron and Bollig (if he cannot be traded) as extras.

      • Parallex

        Personally I believe Bennett will be given every opportunity to play at center and will only be moved to lW if he fails at center. Otherwise he gets the Monahan treatment except with more depth and better linemates.

        • Parallex

          I think Centre is where Bennett will end up. But I also think he will start on LW and be allowed to dip his toe into the Centre position depending on match ups and injuries.

          • piscera.infada

            I guess the second part of your comment really comes down to how much and how fast Hartley trusts him at centre. I think we’ll see Bennett at centre sooner rather than later, but I agree, he’ll likely have to prove he belongs on the wing (likely with Backlund/Frolik) first.

          • piscera.infada

            You might be right but I suspect he gets the Monahan treatment, working through his growth pains. If I recall correctly I believe he played center all through training camp and would have started there except for his shoulder. Personally I think we will see him at training camp between one of Raymond/Coborne/Ferland and Frolik. That is not to say that is where he ends up but I suspect they want him at center. If he does end up on the wing that makes more room for another center on what most people call the 3rd or 4th line. But I see putting Backs there as trying to make him something he is not.