You know how you don’t want to start your season? With a broken leg. That’s what happened to poor Lance Bouma just three games into the 2015-16 season, though. His first of three years with a $2.2 million cap hit, looking to build on what was a career year dating all the way back to junior, and it was derailed almost instantly.
Bouma was supposed to be out for at least three months. We’re at the two-month mark now, and Bouma is joining his teammates on the Flames’ upcoming four-game road trip.
The Flames kick things off in Nashville tomorrow night before hopping over to Dallas, St. Louis, and Detroit all over the upcoming week. That’s a pretty lengthy road trip, so there’s no guarantee Bouma steps into the lineup right away (or even at all, potentially), but it gives him, and the team doctors, plenty of time to make sure he’s ready to go.
But when T.J. Brodie joined the Flames on a three-game road trip back in the final week of October, he made his season debut. When Jonas Hiller joined the Flames on a three-game road trip in late November, he made his return from injury.
So yeah, Bouma’s probably getting back in the lineup over the course of the next week or so; a chance to get his legs back under him before the Christmas break, and set the tone for a good 2016.
He’s the only Flame on the injured reserve at the moment, but with 23 players on the roster, someone absolutely has to go. This means someone is almost certainly getting sent down to Stockton (a trade is another possibility, but there have been next to no trades this season, so probably not).
There are four prime candidates for this move: Brandon Bollig, who has played once since Nov. 24; Josh Jooris, who hasn’t played since Nov. 28; Micheal Ferland, who was almost a healthy scratch, and whose ice time has dropped below 10 minutes the past two games; and Markus Granlund, the only player who does not require waivers.
Sending down Granlund would be the coward’s way out, full stop. He’s taken on a role as the team’s second line centre, and has clicked with Sam Bennett and Jiri Hudler. There’s no reason to remove him from the NHL roster just yet, if at all.
It’s unclear just why Ferland’s ice time has dipped as of late, but it’s only been recently, so that’s hardly grounds to demote somebody – especially when he’s a 23-year-old physical forward who can actually play the game. He probably wouldn’t make it through waivers.
And while Jooris has gone the longest without playing, he’s only 25, and is a pretty good penalty killer when he actually gets in the lineup. It would probably be Paul Byron all over again.
Besides, what is Bouma if not a vastly, vastly, vastly superior Bollig, anyway? If the Flames are serious about giving kids a chance – and as a rebuilding team, they should be – he’s the only logical option.
Bouma probably isn’t going to be able to go from 0-100 immediately, so it’s easy to see him taking over Ferland’s spot when he returns to the lineup. Mason Raymond has found a home on Mikael Backlund’s wing, now, and Ferland’s already been receiving less playing time. Slotting Bouma in on the fourth line makes the most sense for the time being.
Of course, that’s for when he actually returns – which we can now realistically expect some time over the course of this week.
In other news
It sounds like everyone else is good to go. Sam Bennett and Dennis Wideman both missed practice with maintenance days. Bennett’s absence was briefly concerning, considering how he took a hit from Mats Zuccarello in the third period against the New York Rangers that left him temporarily unable to put weight on his leg, but he was able to return to the game, and he’s expected to play in Nashville.
Also expected to play in Nashville is Karri Ramo, who missed the past two games with the flu. Two healthy goalies are better than none, so hopefully the flu has finished making its way through the dressing room, and the team can get back to that occasionally-hitting-.900-save-percentage goaltending we all know and love.
Everyone’s healthy, except for Lance Bouma, who almost is.