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.
@Kent_Wilson Who gets sent down when Frolik eventually comes back?
— Leah (@leahflame) December 27, 2015
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.
@Kent_Wilson what is Gaudreaus ceiling? Every time I see him play he blows away my expectations and raises the bar to another level.
— Scott MacMahon (@Scott_MacMahon) December 27, 2015
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.
— jebus (@rocktown_9) December 27, 2015
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”.
@Kent_Wilson Did we have to wait this long for Monahan to get a shot with The 1st unit pp as we have waited for Bennett? Handled the same?
— Cameron Hilton (@cameron_hilton) December 27, 2015
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.
@Kent_Wilson who will be the first roster player traded and how soon?
— Colin (@DragonsDeck) December 27, 2015
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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