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.
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.
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.
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.
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.