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.
@Kent_Wilson Of the three Flames goalies currently on the roster, which one would be the best fit for a trade to the Sabres?
— AlyFox[lwCoyote] (@lw_Coyote) October 9, 2015
@Kent_Wilson What’s the over/under on Cgy moving a goalie in October?
— Cameron Hilton (@cameron_hilton) October 9, 2015
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.
— Chris Stockley (@CSStockley) October 9, 2015
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.
@Kent_Wilson which two defenseman in the AHL would you give the most significant minutes to developmentally.
— Joel Henderson (@dathockeydoe) October 9, 2015
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.
@Kent_Wilson Given it is unlikely we add another elite youngster via high pick in the draft, is the rebuild ‘over’?
— Cameron Hilton (@cameron_hilton) October 9, 2015
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.
@Kent_Wilson mailbag question: when Calgary is fully healthy, how do you see the lines for fwd and d?
— Dave Camwell (@davecamwell) October 11, 2015
Good question! Let’s go with this:
- Gaudreau – Monahan – Hudler
- Bennett – Backlund – Frolik
- Ferland – Stajan – Jones
- Bouma – Colborne – Jooris
- Giordano – Hamilton
- Brodie – Wideman
- Russell – Engelland