FN Mailbag – October 12, 2015

Mailbag

And we’re off. 

Well, sort of. The Flames stumbled badly out of the gates in game 1, but managed to turn things around and look like an NHL team in the rematch. Phew. It will be interesting now to see how Calgary matches up against someone aside form the Canucks, particularly because I think Vancouver is probably not going to be a playoff squad this year. 

It’s still very early to be making any judgements, but there’s a few issues that are already popping up. Today’s mailbag talks about goalie trades, Sam Bennett, line combinations and developing defensemen. 

I think it’s incredibly likely that the Flames move a goalie in October (aka as soon as possible). Kelly Hrudey noted on HNIC that he can’t imagine the situation lasting more than three months, but that seems excessively long to me. The Flames can’t continue to waste a roster spot on a superfluous goaltender once guys like Colborne and Brodie are healthy (it’s already cost them Byron) and they can’t have Joni Ortio withering on the vine. At 24, he needs to play somewhere. Or at least get a few reps now and then.

The Sabres’ Robin Lehner going down for two months gives the Flames their best opportunity to broker a trade. Buffalo now has an urgent need for an experienced puck stopper and they have a lot of cap space. I imagine Treliving has already opened negotiations.

As for which goalie the Flames should move, I’m sure regular readers can guess my response: Karri Ramo. He’s a completely average NHL goalie and a notch below Jonas Hiller. If Calgary can get any kind of asset for him, re-signing the 29-year old Fin in the off-season suddenly doesn’t look silly.

Actually, Bennett has the best face off win rate of any Flames centre so far at 62.5%. We’re only talking two games worth of information, but he certainly hasn’t struggled like he did in the pre-season.

The main reason to think about moving Bennett to the wing right now is to try to form a solid secondary scoring line. Calgary has scored four goals so far, all of them coming off the sticks of the top line. The other units have had their moments (particularly Bennett and Frolik), but the club looks very top heavy nevertheless so far. 

In addition, Mikael Backlund is being wasted on a 4th line with Bouma and Bollig. Backlund’s no offensive ace, but he’s worth more to the team than a few minutes a night next to an enforcer. I imagine Hartley might move Backlund up the rotation to play with Bennett and Frolik again if the rest of the roster continues to struggle to score.

Developmentally, there are two guys who are in their vital, formative seasons with the Heat: Ryan Culkin and Oliver Kylington.

Culkin, at 21, has a partial pro season under his belt. Unfortunately the former 5th round pick has battled injuries in the AHL which continue to limit his ice time. We’ll see how things go when he’s back in the line-up.

Kylington is the primary priority. High-end prospects tend to take their biggest developmental steps in their draft+1 and draft+2 seasons, so at just 18 years old the Flames will want Kylington to play and improve as much as possible. A guy with first round talent and possibly the highest ceiling amongst current Flames blueline hopefuls, Kylington needs to be a regular on the Stockton Heat active roster, or he needs to be sent to the CHL to get as many minutes as possible.

The three other considerations are Tyler Wotherspoon, Pat Sieloff and Keegan Kanzig. For Wotherspoon and Sieloff, they are at a point in their tenure with the Flames where they need to prove that they are worth playing time over other options. Neither guy is old enough where you could say he isn’t a prospect anymore, but neither guy has taken a meaningful step forward during their time as a pro. The club will likely take a “prove it” approach to both of them when it comes to doling out ice time. Moreso for Wotherspoon than Sieloff. 

Kanzig if a long soak prospect. He’s years away from being an NHL player, if ever. Right now, he’s probably better off in the ECHL.

As Edmonton fans can attest to, the rebuild isn’t over until it’s over.

Right now, the Flames are in a transitional phase in their rebuild arc. They need to assess just how close they are to contention, which will mainly depend on the development of the current batch of youngsters. If they take a fundamental step forward this season a la the Chicago Blackhawks, then we can start talking the rebuild being complete. If not, the team will need to figure out where its lacking and how to shore up those issues.

Good question! Let’s go with this:

  • Gaudreau – Monahan – Hudler
  • Bennett – Backlund – Frolik
  • Ferland – Stajan – Jones
  • Bouma – Colborne – Jooris
  • Bollig
  • Giordano – Hamilton
  • Brodie – Wideman
  • Russell – Engelland 
Feel free to share your depth charts in the comments though.

  • SmellOfVictory

    This has nothing to do with the mailbag, but I just wanted to let you guys know that I’m sad I didn’t see any postings for the NationDraft this year, and I totally missed it.

  • CofRed4Life

    I like those lineups, but I really want to see Kulak play with someone other than Engelland. I hope to see something like:

    Gio-Brodie
    Russell-Hamilton
    Kulak-Wideman
    Engelland (this, assuming we have already traded a goalie, which I really hope happens).

    I don’t mind Bennett on the wing, but I think he should still have stints at center throughout the first few months, and slowly push him towards full time center by the end of the year.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Goalie-Gate:

    I hope the Flames keep Hiller, but it seems the team for whatever reason wants to keep Ramo. I think Hiller gets moved and I also believe he’s easier to move at this point as well.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Gaudreau – Monahan – Hudler
    Raymond – Bennett – Frolik
    Ferland – Stajan – Jones
    Bouma – Backlund – Jooris
    x: Bollig, Colborne
    Giordano – Hamilton
    Brodie – Kulak
    Wideman – Russell
    x: Engelland

    Forget about line numbering, it’s all about function and who is playing the best.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I really like your forward lines, but my defence looks different:

    Giordano – Brodie

    Russell – Hamilton

    Kulak – Wideman

    Engelland – popcorn duty

    • CofRed4Life

      I don’t know that I would pair Russell with Hamilton.. although this is not bad. I do agree with Kulak moving up though.

      Giordano – Hamilton

      Kulak – Brodie

      Russell – Wideman

      Engelland

  • everton fc

    I think Kulak can generate offence if he has the right partner. As for Bennett with Backlund and Frolik, might as well, as our lack of scoring from our other three lines and our defenders, is a slight concern. I do think Ferland will get his goals soon enough, based on his style of play. Ditto Bennett, based on linemates. Hoping Raymond’s recent flashes are no longer flashes, and he can put some points on the board, as well.

    If we could move a goalie for a solid LW or RW who can score…

    One can dream, of course…

    The boys in Stockton may get a look sooner, than later, if goals don’t start happening.

  • Derzie

    Too many plays are dying on Backlund’s stick right now. He’s becoming this season’s Glencross, 2 games in (plus preseason looks). In April, Backlund was one of the best playoff performers. What’s changed? Is it simply linemates? Injured yet again? Slow starter? All of the above? He’s frustrating to watch swing from good to bad.

    • mattyc

      I suspect dragging around Bollig and Bouma isn’t conducive to making lots of offensive plays.

      I’m also skeptical much has ‘changed’. We’re also talking about 2 (real) games. I don’t think much stock should be put into the preseason (remember when Chuck Kobasew led the league in pre-season scoring!).

      • CofRed4Life

        Also, remember that time when the Blue Jackets looked really good and had the top 3 pre-season scorers, but then went 0-3? Oh yeah, that just happened. I agree, I wouldn’t put any money on pre-season.

  • Tomas Oppolzer

    With how well Raymond has played in his last two games (pre-season against WPG and last game in YVR)I think he’s earned a middle-6 spot for now. Ideally My lineup would be

    Forwards:

    Gaudreau-Monahan-Hudler

    Raymond-Bennett-Frolik

    Ferland-Backlund-Jooris

    Bouma-Stajan-Colborne

    Defense:

    Giordano-Brodie

    Russell-Hamilton

    Kulak-Wideman

    Goalies:

    Hiller

    Ortio.

    I think Kulak has played Engelland right into the press box.

  • I like your top-6 if they decide they want Bennett at LW. However, if they want him at C, what about:

    Gaudreau-Monahan-Frolik
    Ferland-Bennett-Hudler
    Raymond-Backlund-Jooris
    Bouma-Stajan-Jones
    Bollig-Shore-Colborne

    (Swap Frolik/Hudler as needed; maybe move Colborne to make room for Shore?)

    • CofRed4Life

      NO! NO! NO! You cannot split up last seasons second half number 1 line in the NHL! I am sure Bennett and Frolick (with anybody but Raymond) will find their scoring touch soon….hopefully tonight against St Louis.

      Shore hasn’t proven anything in the NHL; at least Colborne has shown progress…

  • Also, wouldn’t shock me if they ended up moving both Hiller & Ramo at some point before the yr is over; maybe with a Cam Ward or Kari Lehtonen coming back for one (didn’t say I necessarily like; just that I could see it).

  • Jeremy

    The Flames management has stated they see Bennett as a centre. Most of the nation want him as a winger at least for now.

    Could Backlund be the winger instead? Then the Flames would have Monahan, Bennett, Stajan and maybe bring up Arnold as the 4th line guy

    • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

      Backlund will be traded before trade deadline day 2017.

      Arnold will be brought up as a bottom 6 winger to work into the rotation with Stajan.

      Bennett is a stud and Backlund will be a too expensive 3rd line C, so will be traded along with a B prospect for a piece we can afford to pay to play in the bottom 6 or bottom pairing.

    • jonahgo

      Bennett makes a better winger than Backlund does IMO. Not that I want Bennett to play on the wing, but there’s something about Backlund’s game that just doesn’t translate.

  • jonahgo

    i’d like bennett to centre a (mostly) sheltered second scoring line. i’d also like backlund to get more icetime, with better (non-bollig/bouma) wingers. his line could be tasked with facing the toughest competition and given the toughest zone starts. let stajan centre the fourth line…

    cc: bob hartley

  • Gaudreau – Monahan – Hudler

    Raymond – Bennett – Frolik

    Bouma – Backlund – Colborne

    Ferland – Stajan – Jones

    Giordano – Brodie

    Russell – Hamilton

    Kulak – Wideman

    My two cents assuming Raymond can continue to be the threat he was Saturday and Kulak can continue his mature play