FN Mailbag – December 28, 2015

flamesnation

Happy holidays FN readers! Thanks for making 2015 one of the best ever for the blog, not to mention consistently providing the weekly mailbag feature with ample fodder for discussion. 

For the final edition of the FN Mailbag of 2015, we look at Flames roster decisions, Gaudreau’s ceiling and whether the club should keep Mikael Backlund or not.

While Markus Granlund seems to be the pragmatic choice due to waiver issues, the probable answer is Brandon Bollig. The Flames enforcer has only dressed for 18 contests this year and has played just a single game in the month of December. Fights are increasingly rare in the NHL and the role of designated fighter seems to be coming to an end.

If the team needs to send someone down to make room once Frolik returns, Bollig is the most obvious candidate for a demotion.

We talked about this in a recent mailbag and saw that Gaudreau will join a very select group of modern players if he manages to score 140+ points over his first two seasons in the league. That suggests his ceiling is elite.

In addition, Gaudreau is perhaps the only prospect I can recall in recent memory who has consistently improved since he was drafted. Gaudreau’s ascendence has been uninterrupted, growing from a longshot middle round prospect to Hobey Baker Award winner in the space of three years. And that pattern has continued since he made the NHL. At some point he’s going to level out of course, but the plateau doesn’t seem to be anywhere in sight yet.

My only frustration with Backlund’s usage this year is how Hartley has seemingly designated the Stajan line as the “shut down” unit whereas Backlund (and Frolik, when he was healthy) is the superior option for that assignment. As such, that has relegated him to a kind of amorphous 4th line/tertiary scoring/PK role. 

Years of evidence suggests that Backlund’s the best guy for the shut down role, so I kinda wish Hartley would forget about the first round series against the Canucks (which seems to be what has cemented the idea of the Stajan unit as the best “checking” line) and get back to a deployment that buries Backlund versus the top guns. This could potentially help both the Stajan and Monahan lines get out of the red.

That said, I don’t think the Flames will trade Backs unless someone demands him in a package for some bigger piece. Otherwise his contract and age are too good to move “just because”.

It doesn’t seem like it, but the two player’s 19-year old season ice times are similar. Monahan averaged just over two minutes of PP ice time and 16 minutes per night overall by the end of his rookie season. In comparison, Bennett is at 1:48 in PP ice and 14:59 per night overall. So Bennett is lagging, but only marginally.

Sean Monahan scored six goals in his first eight NHL games which catapulted him up the Flames depth chart pretty rapidly at the time, but Hartley still handled Monahan with kid gloves for the first 3-4 months of his rookie season. It was only near the end of his first year that Monahan started to get consistent PP and ES ice.

That said, this might seem discordant because Bennett looks by eye to be a better 19-year-old player than Monahan (though the latter was a better finisher). Perhaps, but the Flames were also in “win optional” mode when Monahan was stretching his legs and there was less depth for him to compete with relative to Bennett.

That said, if Sam has more performances like the one he showed against the Oilers, I’d like to see him get more ice time at both ES and on the PP. Although the puck isn’t going in for him currently, he shows a great proclivity for driving play and scoring chances. Eventually the points will come.

I don’t think anything is imminent. The league operates in a sort of trade gridlock for most of the season due to cap concerns and because so many clubs still have a hope of making the post-season.

The one thing that may shake loose earlier than that for Calgary is a move for a goalie if the org decides it has to do something about the net situation sooner rather than later. If so, then expect one of the net minders to be involved in the deal, most likely Jonas Hiller.

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  • Tomas Oppolzer

    Way off topic but anybody interested in watching Mangiapane or Andersson can watch Barries game for free today. Use the promo OHLHOLIDAYS on ohllive.com.

  • Kevin R

    I don’t think Hiller is tradeable. I do agree with Clyde, I think Hudler is first. Would a team like Montreal who is scouting Vrbata consider Hudler. Late 1st round pick will look very nice next June?

    • CofRed4Life

      Hiller would be tradeable if only for goalie insurance for the remainder of the season at the TDL, or if a number one gets injured and team backup is iffy.

      But…if the Flames are in the thick of the playoff race, we would need him too! No reliable option beyond Hiller here either. 🙁

      Hudler? Does Montreal need another smallish forward? How about Detroit?

      • Kevin R

        Just hear Montreal are looking for offence as they feel their window is open but this losing streak has them a little desperate. Not sure why Hudler wouldn’t be a candidate for them, he was top line winger a year ago & I would imagine a late 1st round pick is not unreasonable. But who knows, maybe Montreal would rather miss playoffs than hang on to a pick in the twenties. Not many teams would pick up Hiller unless they have serious injury issues. Probably best Flames just keep him if we can’t get a goalie back. So very remote chance of Hiller going anywhere.

        • everton fc

          If not Hudler, who I think they’d scoop up if a deal could be put together that nebefits both sides, perhaps the Habs would be interested in one of Colborne/Jones/Jooris/Granlund/Bouma? Personally, I don’t see Granlund going anywhere, and I don’t see him ever playing in the “A” again. He’s proven himself, has made the jump. Colborne has size, but never seems to use it. Jones is someone I hope we re-sign, cheap. Jooris is another I hope we keep. Bouma… What would he fetch? (Hope we keep him, though)

          Hiller for Bernier, I’d still look at. Bollig is destined for the California sun, and should be there now. I see Backlund as part of the rebuild, part of the core. He’s done well this season. When Frolik returns, we’ll have everyone in place for a playoff run.

          When is Poulin back from injury??

      • Willi P

        Well let’s look at some numbers – Gaudreau produced at 1.47 PPG during his three years at Boston College. Marner is producing at a higher clip of 1.60 PPG so far for the London Knights. Gaudreau is 5’6″ at best and Marner is 5’11”. Similar skill sets. But Marner is trending to become the better player.

        • Willi P

          Firstly, NCAA is a much tougher league, playing against men and not boys. But that being said, many hundreds of prospects have projected much higher numbers in Junior only to not translate those numbers in the NHL. Good example, Sven Bärtschi, 2.00 PPG. JG is doing it in the NHL and keeps getting better. Marner et al may be trending but they have to deliver. Don’t count your chickens.

        • The Last Big Bear

          It takes a special kind of stupid to go to a rival team’s website and post something so inane.

          “1.60 points per game?!? Jesus, Marner is already producing at a higher clip in the CHL than Joe Thornton in his prime did in the NHL! He’s trending to be the highest scoring NHLer since Jagr!”

    • ChinookArchYYC

      Great another delusional fan base in a perpetual decades long rebuild coming to FN to educate us on how good their future over-hyped prospects will be.

    • Derbyherb

      Should’ve picked Ehlers in 2014. Nylander is trending to become his dad at the NHL level. Nice secondary scoring I guess.

      Watching Marner at the World Juniors reminds me of Drouin. Overplays the puck trying to be fancy. All flash no substance, doesn’t use his line mates well.

  • Jeremy

    How about Sammy’s hits last night. They posted the hits in the 3rd period, about 4 minutes in, and it was 14-4 for the good guys and Sammy had 5 of those 14. All were good but my favorite were 2 on the same play when he knocked Hendricks down twice. The next time that we play the Coilers at the Dome, someone should have a “Hendricks fears Benny the Badger” sign at the ready.

    • CofRed4Life

      [ First visit to Lames site, probably last]

      If Sammy was running around doing all the hitting, it only means he didn’t have the puck most of the night…. can’t score if you don’t have the puck.

      • BurningSensation

        “That guy who destroyed Hendricks twice in the same shift in a game we lost badly, well he never scored!”

        Trolling of that caliber is really quite precious

      • Derbyherb

        I hear this reasoning a lot, lots of hits = not possessing the puck. Simply garbage. There is no correlation between puck possession and hits. You have possession monsters like the Kings who are very physical. On the other hand there are teams like Chicago and Dallas who are very strong and don’t hit at all.

      • MontanaMan

        I would agree that Hendricks doesn’t “fear” Bennett, but the important thing is that after getting knocked on his can twice, Hendricks (or any other Oiler for that matter) had no push back for the Flames physical game. You shouldn’t be concerned about the hits but what should concern you is the Oilers lack of response.

  • I agree that Backlund’s line should be the shut down line. But I’m not sure if they’re capable of being that line with Colborne and Ferland on his wings. They’re not as suited to that role. We saw Ferland get frustrated when playing that role on Stajan’s wing… It didn’t go terribly well. And Colborne can’t play that role because he can’t transition out.

    Once Frolik is back maybe we’ll see it change back. Or swap Colborne and Jooris and hope Ferland can sort it out.

  • Jeremy

    @Kent_Wilson what is Gaudreaus ceiling? Every time I see him play he blows away my expectations and raises the bar to another level.

    NHL MVP that’s his ceiling.

  • Ari Yanover

    Bennett did a pretty good job leading the Flames in dangerous scoring chances for somebody who never had the puck because he had a small hitting session apparently.