WWYDW: Broken Hand, Broken Heart

Flames fans must have stepped on some sidewalk cracks or kicked some black cats or broke some mirrors or combed Brian Burke’s hair or something, because they got some seriously bad news today with the announcement of Brodie’s broken hand.

Away from the Flames, well, plainly put, it’s been a crappy day in the hockey world and that has absolutely nothing to do with T.J Brodie’s injury. But alas, What Would You Do Wednesday is back and we’re talking about possible arrangements in order to cover for Brodie’s injury. Come have your say!

For the past five seasons or so, the love for Brodie has been well-documented on this site and it will come as no surprise to anyone who follows this team to know that his loss is a big one for the Flames. Even with the acquisition of Dougie Hamilton (dear god, can you imagine the top-four without Hamilton or Brodie?! I don’t want to live in that world), the Flames now have a massive hole in their top-four.

Over the past two seasons, Brodie has missed exactly two games. Two. Over those 162 games, he has scored 72 points and emerged as a core member of the Flames moving forward. If the initial estimates are accurate regarding the healing time, this injury could mean missing a pretty big chunk of games:

Let’s assume that the Flames don’t rush him back, and he misses the full 15 the question becomes, who can fill that role? Well, the short answer is no one. I think most Flames fans realize that. So let’s make the best of a bad situation.

THE KIDZ(ish)

The possibility of a youngster filling any sort of role seems remote but let’s explore the chance of a younger player filling a role in the bottom pairing and promoting one of the bottom pairing guys to the top line. 

There are a pair of Swedish defencemen from the most recent NHL draft still in Camp with the Flames and it is exceptionally unlikely that either of them spends the whole year in the NHL. Rasmus Andersson, despite being very impressive throughout the Young Stars tournament in Penticton and in the preseason so far, will almost certainly be returned to Barrie of the OHL eventually. This is the most prudent course of action so let’s all enjoy him while we can. Also: Arii did a great piece on Andersson earlier this afternoon.

One thought I have seen bouncing around the interwebz is that if the other Swede, Oliver Kylington, continues to impress, he earns an audition at the NHL level even if just until Brodie recovers. Due to his exceptionally complicated contract status that allows him to play in Stockton, Brandon, or Calgary, it may make sense to give him some sort of shot in the NHL even though he is super, super young. This possibility is one of the most interesting to me, though his preseason play would have to merit this opportunity.

I would think that Culkin and Kulak, who remain inextricably linked together in my mind forever, are not real considerations, Culkin due to injury and Kulak likely due to a lack of polish in his game. This year will be an important year for the both of them to get big minutes in Stockton and develop their professional CVs. 

Kenney Morrison will need to seriously blow the doors off in the next few preseason games if he is going to supplant one of the veteran bodies or prospects like Kylington. Morrison is another candidate for big AHL minutes as this would be his first year as a professional.

The last case is Pat Sieloff, who has had an interesting career trajectory since being included as a part of the 2012 Janko draft extravaganza. In limited action in Penticton, I thought Sieloff wasn’t looking half-bad, despite the fact that it was against mostly teenagers. It will be interesting to see how long Sieloff sticks around camp but I would classify him as another long-shot to make the team out of camp.

There is also Tyler Wotherspoon as well. This may be one of the best shots he’s going to have at cracking the roster full-time and supplanting a more senior Flame. More on him a bit later on.

Oh, and there’s Keegan Kanzig. Who is not good. He’s WHL or ECHL bound I would think. 

THE VETS

As has been documented earlier by Kent, there are a few extra bodies hanging around Flames camp at the moment and the blue line is no exception. Many have mentioned that Brodie’s injury all but paves the way for PTO Ryan Wilson to earn a contract and an opportunity with the Flames. However, there is also new Czech dman Nakladal vying for a spot on the bottom pairing. 

The way I see it, whether or not the vets fill this role depends on the amount of trust Flames management and coaching staff has with youth on defence. To this point, unlike at some forward positions, Hartley often defers to experience on the back end, often regardless of merit. 

Last season, as was observed by Arii, Tyler Wotherspoon was jerked around near the end of the season as Corey Potter saw action instead of him down the stretch. Many have defended Hartley’s reticence to play younger dmen in favour of grizzled veterans like Potter, but often such a policy doesn’t allow much sunlight to reach the forest floor. At some point the Flames need to see what they have in these prospects or move on from them. Perhaps this is that time. 

Assuming that Smid won’t be ready for the start of the season, and that is a big assumption as he was cleared for light contact today. Here’s a look at how I would arrange the seven Flames Dmen when all the camp dusts settles, or until there is another injury:

Giordano – Wideman

Russell – Hamilton

Wilson – Wotherspoon

Engelland (Smid)

I think at some point the Flames will have to make a tough call and waive either Engelland or Smid, but that will be because Wotherspoon or Nakladal or some bright, shining star has forced their way onto the roster. A man can dream.

Let’s see how you would divide up the pairings now that our beloved Brodie is out!