T.J. Brodie to join Flames on road trip

Do you hear that? That’s the sound of angels singing, getting ready to welcome our hero back on the ice. Everything will soon be okay.

Well, maybe not. The Flames’ problems are too much for just one person to fix, but if any one person can fix them, it may very well be T.J. Brodie. There was no question losing the 25-year-old in the pre-season hurt, but now, we’re seeing just how badly the Flames miss him.

He’s not back quite yet, but the fact he’ll be making the trek out to eastern side of the continent in just a few days is a good sign.

So wait, when’s he actually back?

Brodie suffered a broken hand in a Sept. 21 pre-season game. On Sept. 23, he was given a recovery time of about 3-6 weeks.

We’re at about the four week mark now, so this is pretty much right on track. The five week mark comes right at the end of the road trip, so there’s absolutely no guarantee we actually see him make his season debut out east, but it’s certainly possible.

The six week mark is Nov. 4, making it a maximum of seven more games without Brodie, assuming there are no further setbacks. And considering how he’s been skating this entire time and seems to be progressing well, there really isn’t any reason to expect any.

Now, it really should be stressed that Brodie likely isn’t going to fix anything immediately. He’s still a top pairing quality defenceman, but he’s also a month behind everyone else. Sure, he’s been skating, but he hasn’t seen any real NHL action since the playoffs this past May. He’ll help, but he’ll need some time in order to do so.

What does the defence look like in the meantime?

It’s… interesting?

It’s the return of Ladislav Smid! Although there is a chance Jakub Nakladal could take his spot; that’s something we’ll find out tomorrow. Nakladal already has three assists in two games with the Stockton Heat, but that’s the Heat: he hasn’t been with this Flames team.

On the other hand, while Smid has been practicing with the Flames this entire time, he also hasn’t played an NHL game since Jan. 19, 2015, and not with regularity since Dec. 12, 2014, when Simon Despres’ headshot started this whole mess. Even then, though, he was only playing about 10 minutes a game.

The Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton experiment appears to be over, and rightfully so, as the two were not clicking. We saw some of Dennis Wideman with Giordano in the third period against the Capitals – just over seven even strength minutes with, to be exact – and while the sample size is small to date, it’s still worth exploring further.

giowowy

Giordano is barely helping the struggling Hamilton, if at all; meanwhile, though he’s played about 75 fewer minutes with Wideman to start the season, hey, that pairing is worth looking into for the time being. Especially when you consider that Giordano and Hamilton have had 51.8% zone starts together, whereas Giordano and Wideman have only been at 20.0%.

Is this a demotion for Hamilton? Essentially, yes, but here’s the thing: we know he and Giordano aren’t clicking, and there aren’t really many other defencemen the Flames have available to pair up with him. If it means a drop in his ice time, so be it: it could be good for him, anyway, as he’s still learning to adapt to the Flames.

What’s really interesting is the idea of pairing Kris Russell and Deryk Engelland together. Russell is generally thought of more highly, but Engelland has been better to start the season. Neither is really known as a positive possession player, though. This is the pairing I’d watch out the most for, because it’s probably the one where things have the most potential to go wrong. The two played 99 even strength minutes with one another last season, and clocked in at a CF of 39.9%, so it’s probably best to not get any hopes up.

What does the defence look like when Brodie returns?

Assuming Smid is back and there are no further recalls, when Brodie is activated, he’ll be the 23rd man on the Flames’ roster, so nobody will have to be sent down. The Flames will be carrying 13 forwards, eight defencemen, and two goalies.

First things first: you put Giordano with Brodie and you never let them apart. Duct tape them together. Make them roommates. Do what you have to do, but get that top pairing back together and do not break it up, even if there are struggles to start with. That pairing has been absurdly, stupidly good over the past two seasons, and it’s the Flames’ best hope right now.

After that, it’s more of a mystery. The Flames will have Hamilton, Wideman, Russell, Smid, Engelland, and Nakladal fighting for four spots. Let’s assume Hamilton, Wideman, and Russell are in by default, since they’re more likely to play big minutes.

Hamilton and Wideman are both righties, so they probably won’t end up on the same pairing. Wideman and Russell have been tried together ad nauseam, and they’ve been brutal, so let’s suggest Hamilton and Russell end up on the second pairing together.

That leaves Wideman looking for a partner. Jakub Nakladal and Deryk Engelland are both righties as well, so the default choice seems to be Ladislav Smid, who should have a few games under his belt by the time Brodie returns and the Flames reshuffle their defence.

The number of defencemen up with the Flames gives them options, though. Russell is an upcoming free agent, so maybe you trade him. That could mean Smid up with Hamilton, or an all-righty pairing to go with the all-lefty on the top. 

The Flames have a lot of options to mix and match their defencemen when Brodie returns to bump everybody down the lineup. But the number one priority should be reuniting Giordano and Brodie. Number two is probably ensuring Hamilton is comfortable, and finding the ideal partner for him. Smid and Engelland have shown themselves to be not particularly suited for big minutes – maybe Nakladal is the answer.

  • RedMan

    If Giordano and Wideman continue to click, why not keep them together and pair Hamilton with Brodie? Assuming Hamilton starts to round into form while playing with Smid, of course.

    Brodie’s all-around game and near league-best scoring chance suppression should help Hamilton, especially if they’re the second pair.

    • Byron Bader

      If Giordano and Wideman can build something that would be a very interesting pairing. The elite skating alone on that one pairing would be something in itself to see.

    • Greg

      I’m with you… Assuming Hamilton gets back to what we were expecting I’d even give him and Brodie the tough minutes and let Wideman and Gio light it up on easier minutes.

  • CofRed4Life

    If gio/wideman works out, it would be nice to have Brodie/Hamilton as the second pairing, and that way you can split up the top 4 minutes pretty evenly. I’m not so sure that gio and wideman will work long term though. I guess only time will tell.

  • Rock

    Hamilton needs some press box time until he shows he wants to play or he can play on the bottom pairing with smid or England someone with some grit to make up for hamiltons lack of grit.

  • McRib

    Best short term way to repair this team…. Trade Russell (for forward depth), Waive Engelland (not even sure if he should be an AHLer)…. Insert Kulak, Nakladal full time. Waving Bollig as well for a Kenny Agostino is also advised (or with forward we acquired from Russell trade).

    Bob Hartley has always been far too loyal to veterans his entire career and this year it has really started to show. Kris Russell is this years edition of Curtis Glencross his game has fallen off a cliff (likely not an NHLer anymore), but for some crazy reason (“he blocks a lot of shots”) plenty of NHL teams would be suitors for his in a trade.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I’m very happy to get the Brodie news and I’m looking forward to seeing Brodie on the top pairing (where he belongs). On the other hand, I am already getting tired to see the lack of patience in Hamilton’s game. Hamilton has not been sharp, he has been victimized by opponents on more than a single occasion and just hasn’t been good enough as a Flame. But, it’s also only been 6 games and a bit more time is required to get a better understanding of his play. It’s one thing to get Oiler fans trolling for a reaction calling Hamilton a terrible defender, but to get the same comments from Flames fans is premature, and unbalanced. Patience.

  • Ari Yanover

    I don’t think Gio and Wideman see long-term success together, but Brodie and Hamilton together could be interesting (and considering Gio’s age, potentially the top pairing of the future). It’s especially interesting because Gio seemed to climb to the next level when he got Brodie as a partner – maybe he can do the same for Hamilton. (Maybe Brodie is the stealth team MVP?)

    Hell, if Gio and Wideman can keep it up until Brodie returns, it’s certainly worth a try. If things go south though, I think you gotta go back to Brodano.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      I have zero faith in Wideman’s game, I can’t see him working with Giordano long term (or short term for that matter). If it does work, it would go a long way to balancing the defensive pairings for the Flames.
      Now if Engelland keeps up his level of play, and Giordano/Wideman works the Flames are golden!

  • beloch

    Wideman/Giordano is basically a powerplay pairing. They might not drive possession at even strength the way Brodano did last season, but they should be terrifying for the opposing team whenever they’re in the offensive zone. Giordano should help this pair stay in the offensive zone more than Russel/Wideman did.

    Russel/Engelland is likely going to be a little bit terrifying (for us) when they’re on the ice. Then again, this will be our chance to see if Engelland really has improved his game since last season or if it was just Kulak making him look decent. Honestly, I hope it was Kulak because that bodes well for the future.

    Hamilton/Smid is a really puzzling pair. One guy is capable of playing top-pairing minutes, even if he’s off to a shaky start this season. The other is likely marginal as a third pairing defender, if we’re lucky. Together they’re… the second pair?

    “Chemistry” will likely determine how long these pairs stick and how they’re deployed. Hartley might just be experimenting in practice in an attempt to find something that will be less of a disaster until Brodie returns. We could easily see a return to the old lines on Friday if this doesn’t work out.

  • RKD

    Sure can’t wait for Brodie to come back, but still the Flames can’t play like garbage and give up grade A scoring chances. There are deeper problems with this team, they need to generate more offense outside of the top line.

    • RedMan

      ahhhh, yes…. EVERYONE believes you – everyone believes an Oiler fan is on a write-up about TJ Brodie, wondering if Sam Bennett is best served being sent to the OHL. totally believable.

      Funny coincidence, after McDiva’s slow start followed by a few fluke points, many are wondering if Edmonton is best served sending HIM back to the CHL for a few years, let him play his over aged year, then a few in the AHL to develop. easy to believe, right?

      • #97TRAIN

        I want to be objective right now about your McDavid comments but he has been getting better shift after shift game after game . You did watch him dominate last week in Calgary right?
        He had another sick set up against Vancouver the next night and screwed Mrazek into the ice on a beauty goal against Detroit.
        So I don’t believe anything you say about McDavid.
        However the posters comment about Bennett are silly . There is no reason whatsoever why Bennett would need to spend time in Junior.

    • #97TRAIN

      He has nothing to prove in junior ! I don’t see anything wrong with him going to Stockton and getting a chance to improve his game . Put him on the first line getting lots of ice time.
      I argued with FN on here in the summer saying I didn’t think rushing him to the second line was a good idea.

      • #97TRAIN

        The problem being that Bennett is a CHL draftee who isn’t in his 20 year-old season yet, and is thus ineligible for the AHL.

        Bennett has been the Flames’ best center so far this season, full stop. The points haven’t come yet, but that’s bounces. He’s been getting chances and generating chances for his linemates.

        Granted, I didn’t see the whole Washington game, and his Corsi numbers are pretty ugly. He was a +7 going in, -1 coming out.

          • #97TRAIN

            Same reason that Poirier could play in the AHL last season, but Klimchuk couldn’t. Draisaitl was born in 1995, Bennett was born in 1996. By the CBA and CHL/AHL transfer agreement, Draisaitl is considered 20 and Bennett isn’t.

            Seriously, this is prospect watch 101.

          • #97TRAIN

            You’re right he is a prospect .Thats why he should be treated as such. He is not a legitimate #2centre at the moment.
            What has he done to make you think he is ready for the #2 centre position right now?
            Why rush him into that role ? Just because there isn’t another legitimate #2guy?

        • #97TRAIN

          I don’t believe you when you say he has been thier best centre this year. I have watched 4 Calgary games and he was not the best centre throughout and at least one game he played the wing.

          • #97TRAIN

            Yes he’s played I believe two games on the wing. That was a mistake by Hartley apparently perpetrated by the Bouma injury (and bafflingly continued even after Colborne’s return). Bennett was the only center on the team who was keeping his head above water possession wise. Monahan and, oddly, Backlund are both getting their faces kicked in. The only center who has maybe been better than Bennett is Stajan.

            To say he’s the best center on the team right now is more a comment on how the rest of the lineup is performing, but even if they were all up to snuff, Bennett is an NHL player. Even if he was eligible for the AHL, there’s no reason to send him down.

          • #97TRAIN

            Well said.
            Regardless of how the other centers have played, do you personally think he is ready for that number 2 role?
            Simply asking for your personal opinion.