Handicapping the Roster Races With A Game Left

The 2015-16 National Hockey League season begins on Wednesday.

Like, the Wednesday coming up after the weekend. On Monday, everyone and their dog will be thrown on waivers, and every team has to declare injuries and starting rosters to the league by 5pm ET on Tuesday.

So the Calgary Flames really have trim their roster down in a hurry. With that in mind, here’s how we think things sit right now in terms of the Flames trying to cram their 34 current players into 23 spots by Tuesday afternoon.

GOALIES

The Flames have two spots for three goalies: Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo and Joni Ortio. All three have been good in the pre-season and all three require waivers.

  • Hiller has given up 2 goals over about 120 minutes (for a GAA of around 1.00), but all three starts he’s had were at home with largely an NHL defense in front of him.
  • Ortio has given up 4 goals over about 150 minutes (for a GAA of around 1.60), and outside of the first game in Calgary (against the Oilers) he’s played road games with AHL-level blueliners.
  • Ramo has given up 4 goals over about 130 minutes (for a GAA of around 1.80), and he’s played two road games (with inexperienced defenses) and half of a home game (with good defenders).

I would say that Hiller and Ramo would clear waivers. I think Ortio would also clear, but I’m far less confident, and I know many smart people in hockey that swear up and down that he wouldn’t clear.

I WOULD KEEP: Jonas Hiller and Joni Ortio

I THINK THEY’LL KEEP: Jonas Hiller and Joni Ortio

I don’t think they risk losing Ortio, but I have no idea what they do after Ramo clears waivers.

DEFENSE

The Flames have 13 defenders in camp and 7 spots. Here’s how they shake down.

The Locks are Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, Dennis Wideman, Kris Russell and Deryk Engelland. They take up 5 roster spots.

Injured are Ladislav Smid and T.J. Brodie. Neither take up roster spots, at least to start.

The Bubble Guys are left-handed shots Brett Kulak, Ryan Wilson and Tyler Wotherspoon, and right-handed shot Jakub Nakladal. Wilson can be cut outright (but would require waivers to go to the AHL if he was signed to an NHL contract), while the other three require no waivers. Two of these guys probably start in the NHL.

The Filler Guys are left-handed shot Patrick Sieloff and right-handed shot Kenney Morrison. Both are on the roster so that the veterans can rest, and they don’t have a realistic chance at beginning the season on the main roster – though Morrison could be up eventually.

My gut says the Flames probably want some left/right balance on their team, so at least one of the lefties are getting a spot. Up until the last two games, I thought Wilson was going to be the #6 guy (and play with Engelland) with Jakub Nakladal as a swing body. Now? I’m thinking his spot is much less secure. If they want a puck-mover, the spot might go to Kulak. If they want a stay-at-home body, maybe it’s Wotherspoon. Either way, I think Nakladal starts in the NHL.

I WOULD KEEP: Jakub Nakladal and Brett Kulak

I THINK THEY KEEP: Jakub Nakladal and Ryan Wilson

Even with as bad as Wilson has looked at times (he’s mostly struggled with the pace of the games), I think they want a veteran body to (a) jump into the line-up or (b) sit in the press box. Kulak’s young and needs to play, while it doesn’t really matter that much if either Nakladal or Wilson have to sit out from time to time given their ages and levels of development.

In a month, pending more injuries, Brodie and Smid return and Wilson and Nakladal go down to the AHL (Wilson after clearing waivers).

FORWARDS

The Flames have 18 forwards on their roster, and 14 roster spots.

The Locks are Mikael Backlund, Sam Bennett, Lance Bouma, Micheal Ferland, Michael Frolik, Johnny Gaudreau, Jiri Hudler, David Jones, Josh Jooris, Sean Monahan and Matt Stajan. (That’s 11 bodies.)

The Almost-Locks are Paul Byron and Brandon Bollig. I think they’re very close to being on the team – for Byron’s versatility and Bollig’s physicality – but I don’t think they’re 100% on the team for-sure. Both would require waivers to go to the AHL.

That leaves potentially just one roster spot for The Bubble Guys: Joe Colborne, Markus Granlund, Garnet Hathaway, Mason Raymond and Drew Shore. Colborne, Raymond and Shore would require waivers to go to the AHL.

There are two right-handed shots in the entire locks/almost-locks group, which probably helps both Hathaway and Shore. Granlund’s struggled at face-offs but been pretty good otherwise. Colborne has played three road games and been decent, but he’s been largely out-shined by the younger players. Same with Mason Raymond, who was quite good against Winnipeg but was largely invisible in the other three games he’s played this pre-season. Hathaway’s been good, but he’s the easiest guy to cut because he doesn’t need waivers and can’t play center. Granlund’s also easy to cut because he doesn’t need waivers and his face-offs haven’t been good – on a team that desperately needs guys that are good at face-offs. Raymond definitely clears waivers if he’s put on, as does Colborne. Drew Shore probably gets claimed because he’s reasonably inexpensive and a pretty decent bottom-six option on most teams – and he’s right-handed and can win face-offs.

I WOULD KEEP: Drew Shore

I THINK THEY KEEP: Mason Raymond

I prefer to keep players that give my team options, so I keep Shore because he gives the team another center for right-side draws. But again, I don’t know what they can do with Colborne and Raymond, and burying Raymond’s cap hit in the minors may be tough for Treliving to do considering he’s the one that threw a three-year contract at him last summer.

Garnet Hathaway has done enough to be with the big club, but it’s his waiver status alone that sees him punted back to the AHL for now.

(Also, and you’re probably thinking about asking: Byron doesn’t clear waivers if he’s put on, but Bollig probably does.)

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Sound off in the comments! Who stays? Who goes? And what are the odds that there’s a trade in the works that will throw everything into disarray?

    • Greg

      Which teams still have cap space, open spots, and a desire to add players (as opposed to giving their prospects a chance or outright tanking)? I haven’t looked but my assumption is a) not many and b) still a lot of capable UFAs out there they could add for free instead. Might be wrong though.

      Sure seems like there’s room to add another expansion team or two. Too bad it’s not on track for 2016-17, cause that could really help our cap situation.

  • Burnward

    “Colborne would for sure clear waivers”

    Not so sure about that Ryan, he’s young, big and on a cheap deal with only one year left.

    That doesn’t sound like a bad “free pickup” to me for a team looking for depth up front.

    It’s all likely a moot point tho as he’s injured now

  • everton fc

    Once Smid comes back I would suggest that they send him to the AHL first to get back in game shape and demonstrate he still belongs at this level.

    Also signing Ramo makes no sense if they prefer Hiller. Trying to trade Hiller is probably still plan A.

    I have high hopes for Wilson. The last couple games were disappointing. I really want to see him in some regular season games.

  • RickT

    I don’t think they should keep Shore. I do not think he has looked particularly great. He has improved, sure, but not to the point where I think he usurps Raymond.

    However, I would prefer Granlund. That shot is lethal. With a little bit of confidence and a decent passer on his line – I expect good things.

      • piscera.infada

        The problem with Granlund is that he plays centre very well positionally. It’s just the damn draws that really hold him back. I think on a line with a centre who’s better at draws, can also finish, but is better suited to the wing positionally (Jooris?), you could have the makings of a great pairing where you could tailor their usage to their strengths. For example, Jooris takes the draws on his strong side, then kicks out to wing, Granlund takes over at centre.

        Hartley did something similar in the D-zone in Monahan’s first year, where Colborne would play centre coverage when the puck shifted into his own zone. Slowly, they weaned Monahan into that responsibility. This may also be an option for Bennett, if he struggles in coverage in his own zone.

    • piscera.infada

      I would also rather Granlund over both, but I would much rather Shore over Raymond. Sure, Raymond played well last night, but for me, it’s too little too late. We all know he has the potential to go balls-out and be an impact player, but the problem is, he rarely does it–and that’s been true the majority of his career. I’d rather use his roster spot to properly develop a younger player.

      Frankly, I think you could sell Raymond to Carolina or Phoenix in a package with Shore–and that’s something I would definitely consider. As a former advocate of trading Granlund, I’ve seen the light. Kid’s a keeper.

    • everton fc

      Is Shore better than Hathaway on the right side? I don’t see evidence of this, in terms of all-around play. Like I said in a prior post, for big guy, Shore seems to get pushed around at times. No one’s doing that to Hathaway. If Shore doesn’t clear waivers, so be it. And I do like Shore. But again, we have Hathaway, who out-produced Shore in terms of goal-production in the “A”, and had one point less, total. I’m talking strictly from the right-side. Shore doesn’t usurp Raymond, as Raymond’s on the left-side. Byron and Bollig make Raymond problematic. I think Bryon, with the right line mates, out scores Raymond, and plays a grittier game, for a “small guy”. Of course, if Bennett starts on LW, then a cente spot opens, which may save Shore, though Byron can play centre, as well. If Bennett stays at centre… Simply too many centres. Granlund will return, soon enough. Shore’s saving grace may be his ability to win face-offs… (How’s Byron on face-offs?)

      Colborne’s almost lucky he got injured (not meant w/malice), for I think he may have been on the waiver-bubble. And I think he gets picked up. I think Byron also gets picked up. Perhaps Shore. “You never know,” on Raymond, but highly improbable, I agree.

      I think you waive Ramo (who I like better than Hiller), and see if he clears. He may not. One year deal. I think he might get claimed.

      On defence, I’ve been pulling for Wilson, but Kulak has earned a spot on the big club, for now. Nakladal’s right-handed shot probably puts him on the team for the season as the 7th man, unless he caves.

      Still pulling for Wilson, in a Masterton-type way…. But I really like Kulak. He’s earned it.

    • Greg

      Raymond is at the bottom of the pile. He hasn’t done anything except skated well last night. Both the others clearly better. I’d send Granlund down (because I can, and face-offs), and keep Shore.

      • RickT

        That’s fine. I agree that Raymond hasn’t shown anything, but it also has to be considered that organizations, as much as we prefer the opposite, are reluctant to bury that kind of money.

        I would also hazard that there are very few teams right now that are willing, or able, to pick up the salary that he is commanding for the player he is.

        If the Flames are able to showcase him, and give him starts a la the Sedins under anyone but Torts, then he becomes trade bait and we can bring up another winger.

        I disagree with keeping Shore over Granlund. Sure, you can send him down, but who makes the team better? If we lose Shore to a team through waivers, that’s fine – we have Arnold. It sucks to lose an asset for nothing, but he does not command money that the org. wouldn’t want to pay in the minors, nor is he irreplaceable.

        Granlund makes the team better. He plays the same size as Shore is, he is no worse on the dot that Shore (who was just as terrible this preseason), and has a better shot. The only reason I would keep Shore over Granlund is if we are playing a very role-oriented game (which we should not – we have the depth to run four lines).

  • piscera.infada

    Why would anyone do a trade now, before the waiver wire, when they know all teams have to cut down and some have hard choices to make? Teams can get help, maybe, without giving up anything.

    If the Flames protect someone another team really wants, maybe a deal gets done later.

          • everton fc

            Hathaway will go down next. We have no needs on the right-side. It’s the left-side we need to add bodies.

            I actually think Bollig’s going to surprise a of us. And I agree burying Raymond in the “A”, with that payroll, probably not happening.

            If they waive one of the goalies… Is there room for Byron/Bollig/Raymond??

          • hulkingloooooob

            HAHAHHAHAHAHAHAH!!! Holy hell.

            Bollig, FRICKING BOLLIG is going to surprise us? You have got to be kidding me. Bollig is 28 and a fourth line grinder who can’t play more then 10 minutes a night without being a detriment to his team. Even at 10 minutes a night, he IS a deteriment to his team. He will NEVER be more then what he is now, which is a marginal NHL player better suited to the press box.

            But thanks for the laugh, i needed one this morning.

          • KACaribou

            Essentially I agree with you on a skill-only level. But I believe Coach Bob-The-Builder likes having Bollig’s size and toughness in the line-up.

            Obviously Coach Bob doesn’t think he’s that much of a detriment and nobody seems to want to scrap with him so I consider that to mean the other players know his reputation and are bothered by it.

            If Ferly is moved to the first line to add toughness and protection to Mony and Johnny Hockey, we can’t expect him to be scrapping with the 4th liners.

            Without him we have Stajan – Jooris – Byron – Raymond. In other words our 4th line will get the crap beat out of it.

            If Tree makes a trade during the season Garnet Hathaway could find his way to the 4th line and that would make a huge difference.

          • KACaribou

            I picture you saying this in the voice of the Guard from Aladdin. “You were born a grinder. You’ll die a grinder. And only Brian Burke will mourn you.

  • piscera.infada

    At what point do you start thinking of 7th defensemen in the NHL as better for development than top pairing in AHL?

    Wotherspoon is 22 and as much as I’d love to see him top 4, i just don’t think he’ll ever reach that level. So why not prepare him for the bottom pairing role? If not now I understand but when do you make that move? 23, 24?

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Goaltending:
    If a goalie is waived (and I don’t think that will happen immediately), I think it’s Hiller. Logic: the Flames signed Ramo for a reason. Whether it’s because Hiller requested a trade, or the Flames have soured on him, it doesn’t matter.

    Defence:
    I agree I think the Flames keep both Wilson and Nakaladal. I also believe it’s the right move. This limits loosing anyone to waiver, long and short-term. IF Smid is ready in a few weeks, Wilson has hopefully proven to be useful.
    Hell, if Wilson really becomes something notable, maybe just maybe we the Flames will be forced to waive Engelland (as Wilson becomes the big body the Flames wants/needs). – I can dream can’t I.
    If Wilson doesn’t pan out, he’s easily waived. No assets are lost.

    Offence:
    I agree with your locks and almost locks (which is sad, because Bollig staying threaten’s the loss of an asset (and therefore depth.)

    The best thing that may have just happened is a short-term IR to Colburne (mostly for his sake).

    From the Asset Protection standpoint:
    Keep Shore up. Waive Bollig, Raymond and send down Granlund, and Hathaway.

    EDIT: Looks like with all the waivers today, Shore should pass through without being claimed. That’s a good thing! They should keep Raymond and see if they can pump up his value for a trade. Bollig is not an asset with much value, waiving him up and down all season where needed can be easily done. Too bad the Flames won’t do it.

  • CofRed4Life

    In some ways Colborne getting injured helps with deciding who stays and goes, but also could make it more complicated. How long is he out? And what do you do when he comes back?

    I think Granlund has done the most to take the last “bubble spot” Ryan mentioned, but his waiver-exemption could mean he goes back, and becomes the first call-up. I would much rather have him in the NHL on opening night though. He has a high ceiling, and the faceoffs will come with time. Most rookies struggle their first season in the dot.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    So Hathaway cut, Shore on waivers, Colborne on IR (most likely)..

    That leaves Granlund and Raymond.. tough call.

    Raymond can play either wing.. so I think they will stick with him.. and there is no value for him on the trade market anyway.

    Gaudreau – Monahan – Hudler

    Ferland – Bennett – Frolik

    Bouma – Backlund – Jones

    Bollig – Stajan – Jooris

    Byron – Raymond

  • hulkingloooooob

    Well…Pike was wrong again with his prediction that Shore would make the opening night roster as one of the remaining 14 forwards…and that’s with a forward (Colborne) going down to injury and opening up a forward spot for someone that wasn’t available 24 hours ago.

  • hulkingloooooob

    I take a lot of offense to the title of this article, coming from someone who has a child with a severe handicap and disability.

    Flames Nation staff – Please attempt to be more professional and politically correct when phrasing things of this nature go forward that people may take offense to in the year 2015.

      • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

        Team Brayden, words have many meanings my friend. If you took offence to the use of the word handicapping as in a horse race because you have a “handicapped” child, then I would venture to say that your child’s biggest handicap will end up being you.

      • wot96

        It is offensive and it was unnecessary, you would not understand this given you haven’t dealt with the hardships that handicapped people have every single day, its not a laughing matter or something to make light of.

        The article could have easily been titled “Assessing the Flames roster races…” or “gauging the Flames roster races” or a million other verbs and it would have captured the essence of the article.

        Please be aware of the words you choose and the impact it can have on people.

        • KACaribou

          Like many words in the English language Handicap has many different meanings. Just because you only know one, doesn’t mean there aren’t many more. I will help you out:

          1) a condition that markedly restricts a person’s ability to function physically, mentally, or socially.

          2) • a circumstance that makes progress or success difficult: a criminal conviction is a handicap and a label that may stick forever.

          3) • a disadvantage imposed on a superior competitor in sports such as golf, horse racing, and competitive sailing in order to make the chances more equal.

          4) • a race or contest in which such a disadvantage is imposed: [ in names ] : the trophy for the $75,000 Ak-Sar-Ben Handicap.

          5) • the extra weight to be carried in a race by a racehorse on the basis of its previous performance to make its chances of winning the same as those of the other horses.

          6) • the number of strokes by which a golfer normally exceeds par for a course (used as a method of enabling players of unequal ability to compete with each other): [ in combination ] : his game struggles along in the 20-handicap range…. etc, etc.

          You may want to check your facts before you start coming down on people who meant absolutely no insult to a person with a condition that markedly restricts a person’s ability to function physically, mentally, or socially.

          The bad part is you know they didn’t mean any harm and yet you still tried to make an issue of it… which makes you the bad person here.

          I will requote: “Words have many meanings my friend. If you took offence to the use of the word handicapping as in a horse race because you have a “handicapped” child, then I would venture to say that your child’s biggest handicap will end up being you.” – Johnny Gooooooooaldreau, FN

        • KACaribou

          Geez man, chill! There was absolutely no more intent to slight handicapped people as they refer to handicap in the game of golf. I hope you are trying to get the PGA to change that reference as well. No one was laughing at the connotation you are referring to & I’m sure no one would have even connected the two until you decided to make it an issue. The English language is full of multiple meanings & as much as I respect what you may experience on a daily basis, I find your objection in the context of what was being used in this article a little over the top. We all take the things we are blessed to have for granted, we should be giving Thanks more than 1 time per year, but being over sensitive isn’t the solution to the problems in the world we live in.