The many recalls of Markus Granlund

The clock is ticking in a lot of ways for Calgary Flames forward Markus Granlund.

The 2011 draft pick is in the third and final season of his entry-level contract, after which he’ll be a restricted free agent. And once his deal expires this season, he’ll be subject to waivers. More urgently, the recovery of Michael Frolik’s shoulder in a few weeks means that somebody has to head to the American Hockey League’s Stockton Heat to free up a roster spot for the Czech veteran. The most obvious candidate is the still-waiver-exempt Granlund.

But after splitting time between the big-time and the minor leagues over the past three seasons – including 85 appearances for Calgary’s AHL affiliates in Abbotsford, Adirondack and Stockton – you get the impression from listening to Granlund’s coach that he might not be going anywhere else quite yet.

“I think in his mind there’s a huge change [from previous recalls]. He feels that he’s a regular
NHL player,” said Hartley of Granlund’s demeanor following Calgary’s 5-3 win over Edmonton. “And
that’s always the danger with players that what I call kind of stuck
between the American Hockey League and the National Hockey League, after
a few call-ups sometimes you kind of start wondering if you’re an
American League player or a National Hockey League player, and there’s
always a danger. Brad sat with Granny, I sat with Granny [after training camp], and we told
him ‘You dictate where you’re going to be,’ and obviously he’s talking
on the ice to us and he’s playing great. I have lots of confidence in
Granny. He’s playing great. Offensively he’s generating. Defensively
he’s a very strong centerman, very smart, so he’s a big part of our
team.”

Of all the players in the organization aren’t yet NHL regulars, you can make a case that Granlund is the guy that’s made the best case for a full-time gig – with Derek Grant probably being the other guy in that race. You can also make a strong case that he’s been given the most chances to prove himself, as he’s currently on the ninth recall of his young pro career. The 22-year-old Finnish product’s NHL career can be characterized thusly: he’s circled the airport a few times, but he hasn’t quite landed yet.

“When you go up and down, mentally it’s hard. But every time when I come here I want to do my best and be on this team,” said Granlund prior to Sunday’s game with Edmonton. “Every time when I’m here I’m thinking ‘this is my spot.’ I know I can play here, and I don’t want to think about that this is my last year of contract. Of course I know it and I know it’s a big opportunity to be here and play and do my best.”

For whatever it’s worth, the Flames seem to be doing their damnedest to give Granlund a chance to succeed. While his face-off numbers are still not amazing – he’s won 38.5% of his draws in the NHL this season – he’s been playing an offensively-skewed role alongside Sam Bennett and a rotating cast of right-wingers (compared to Mikael Backlund’s line, which seems to be getting the scraps), while in previous recalls he’s primarily received third and fourth line duties. And when Hartley waxes poetic about the importance of the young players on his team’s roster, he includes Granlund in with the Gaudreau/Monahan/Bennett/Hamilton grouping. That may be just an age-category thing, but Hartley’s utilization of the player – offensive zone starts, good linemates and zero press-box time on this recall – makes me think he’s serious about teaching him the NHL game.

When Granlund’s getting more reps at center than Bennett is, it seems like an indication that the team really wants to utilize him at that position rather than use him as a tool to develop the more highly-touted Bennett there instead. But with the Flames carrying roughly seven players that can play up the middle – almost all of whom are better at winning draws than Granlund has been – the clock may be ticking on his chance to earn a full-time NHL job. However, Granlund shared that there haven’t been any conversations with him as of yet in regards to converting him to a winger, and his usage on this recall seems to indicate that the team has designs to use him as a center.

While Granlund has yet to reach the lofty heights of fellow 2011 draft pick Johnny Gaudreau, he’s established himself as a really strong AHL player and seems to be well on his way to cementing himself as a full-time NHL player. That’s not just good news for Granlund, but also for the Flames from an asset management perspective; if he ends up getting sent back to Stockton it might be a challenge to give him a tenth recall given there’s not much left to learn about him as an NHLer after nine trips up.

Not every prospect is ready for the NHL right away. But aside from his face-offs, Granlund looks on the ice (and carries himself off the ice) like an everyday NHLer. If he can figure out faceoffs, he could be a very valuable depth player for the Flames going forward.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I don’t quite understand why Grandlund needs to develop at centre, while Bennett learns his trade at LW. I like this player, he possesses a good, accurate shot and quick release. If he doesn’t improve in the dot, why not convert him to a winger?

    • Nick24

      What bothers me the most is that there was never a reason to do it in the first place. Oh, you have six points in four games playing as Gaudreau’s center? Enjoy playing Left Wing for two months for no reason whatsoever.

      Brilliant.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I dont buy the premise of this article that “the clock is ticking on Granlund”.

    There are always injuries… just the “clock was ticking when Bouma was coming back”.

    The Flames can use waivers on Raymond if Granlund has truly earned his spot.

    FN writers do this from time to time… try to convince the readership here that they should worry about something that is not even a concern. Im sure BT and BB arent sitting there biting their finger nails over this one.

    Just we were supposed to be oh so worried about Brodie’s bridge deal and now he is locked up on a great contract.

    Oh no… the clock is ticking…thats crap.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Granlund, Poirier, Klimchuk, Smith, Wotherspoon, Sieloff, McDonald…all 1st and 2nd rounders….trying to be patient but now starting to get concerned…

    • Derbyherb

      Not gonna lie, I don’t like our drafting lately. Yes we took studs with top 10 picks. Yes we found a 4th round gem in 2011 and 2007. Outside of that, looks like more career average, mediocre scouting out of Tod Button.

      • Nick24

        Not sure what your issue is. It’s too early to make a call on Jankowski, and sure, he wasn’t the guy most people would have picked, but he could still be an NHLer. Don’t forget we also got Jon Gillies in the 3rd round that year, Brett Kulak in the 4th, and Ryan Culkin in the 5th. Now I’ll give you 2013 wasn’t a good year outside the 1st round, but we got Hickey in 2014. This past draft was also good, too.

        Its ridiculous to think that every prospect is going to turn into an NHL player, let alone an impactful one, but we’ve got a strong prospect group here. If we are able to get a couple players out of this crop it would make for a pretty good last few drafts.

        • ChinookArchYYC

          Aside from Kanzig, I haven’t given up on anyone else from the 2013 Flames draft. In particular Poirier, he hasn’t been great this year, but he was very good last season.

          There’s lots of time and way too earlier to judge anyone from the 2013 draft class.

          • Nick24

            I was speaking more to players picked outside the 1st and 2nd rounds of the draft. I haven’t given up on Klimchuck or Poirier, and obviously Monahan is already a big part of the NHL team.

  • KACaribou

    And on the entry level deal… we probably stand to either resign him to a bargain contract or trade him in a package. With the deals we need to hand out to Gaudreau and Monahan, having Granlund around on a cheap deal ala Ferland could be a great benefit. In the cap era you need some young skill on the cheap.

    I dont remember the “clock ticking” on our RFAs from last year. All I remember is the worthy ones being resigned. I imagine this to be the same this year.

    I dont have a problem with the actual content of the article… just the way the premise has been framed.

  • KACaribou

    Blah, blah, blah on Granlund.

    Ortio, BTW FN writers, won last night with a .963 save percentage. The game before he stopped 42 with a .955 save percentage.

    Thought you might make note of that.

  • RealMcHockeyReturns

    Maybe Flames are grooming Granlund to be third Centre behind Monahan and Bennett (or Backlind) as they contemplate possible trade ideas with other teams where we trade away Backlund or Stajan or the unlikely move of Bennett (Bennett only in a bring-in-Stamkos move).

  • KACaribou

    I know Bollig isn’t a great player, but could the haters tell me specifically what he did so poorly last night.

    I thought he was working hard, hitting guys, skating pretty well, got a couple of chances, and had a fight.

    There are a lot of supposedly talented guys on this team that never seem to rack up any points and nobody is on them. Plus they get twice the ice time as Bollig.

    • MontanaMan

      There are any number of players in the NHL with Bollig’s grit that can actually do something positive in a game. Playing Bollig means that Stajan’s line plays less minutes or somebody gets double shifted.

      Exactly what did he do to spur on the Flames? He fought (and lost) to Lucic. He had as many hits as Gaudreau. With Bouma playing reduced minutes, we had less available blocks.

      Overall, we have a losing record with Bollig in the lineup. We just went 0-2 with him in.

      Give me a Hathaway or an Freddie Hamilton or a Grant any day and every day.

      • KACaribou

        Actually I asked you specifically what he did so poorly? I am saying you can’t blame the LA game on Bollig. He was okay. He, Stajan, Bouma are on the 4th line. Bouma’s reduced minutes might have something to do with him playing like crap too, not just because Bollig is on the line.

        Bollig’s fight: He fought Lucic! Any takers here? Many takers in the NHL?

        “Any number of players with Bollig’s grit?” There are a few, but we don’t happen to have them. Some other team does. And those guys aren’t exactly star players either. Anyone with the tools you speak of who can produce and be tough, that’s Lucic and he’s worth millions a year.

        The point being, the worst thing about this page is the continuous piling on certain guys. It’s boring. When Bollig doesn’t play bad, I give the guy credit. I am not his illegitimate brother or anything. Just trying to be fair.

        If Hathaway or Hamilton or Grant were up, it wouldn’t be long before people here would be running them down. Kind of like this article dissecting young Granlund.

        • RedMan

          Having a player just take up space is not a great way to win games. They have to have some purpose out there. Did he throw 3 or 4 checks? Did he take PK minutes? Did he play on the PP? Is he a great skater? Did he block shots? Did he score?

          Guys like Bouma and Jooris can do at least two out of that list. You can roll 4 lines with them out there. If you want to play a guy to fight, then bring in a goon. Give me a Ferland instead, every time.

        • Kevin R

          You know it’s funny, there was some rumours & talk about Flames wanting to acquire Lucic last year & most were up in arms. He goes to LA & he has looked pretty good on a team that were big enough already. LA are talking extension with him & last I saw, LA is a top contender. For the life of me I don’t know why there is a tendency to point the finger at Bollig. Really, my only complaint would be he is probably over paid by about $300K. He knows his role, he knows he will be press box watching on a lot of nights, I see no problem having him on the roster.

          Our problem is in the top 6 & how it is being utilized. Our cost of our cap utilization is a huge roadblock. You can’t pay #5 dmen 5.25 mill/year(Wideman). You can’t pay #4 centres 3.5 mill (Stajan & Backlund)
          They are either way over paid or not properly utilized or everyone is expecting the Cap to go way up. With the Flames, it’s probably a case of the first two.The other problem all the teams & GM’s have to face is the inconsistency of human/player performance from year to year. I know every GM will tell you the problem is pretty simple, Guaranteed Contracts but there isn’t an easy solution to that one, so I just suggest the best GM’s have crystal balls that work.

    • MontanaMan

      You need to get in line with the FN crowd. Hate Bollig, Russell, Colborne and Hartley regardless of what they do. Love Backlund, Bouma, Brodie and Monahan even if they struggle. Once you understand this, life will be so much easier. By the way, love the Kenta photo.

  • KACaribou

    See what losing season after season does for a hockey fan? If you flip to ON, you will find comments suggesting:

    1) Oilers have PR guys that go onto ON for the sole purpose of promoting MacT and Lowe and general Oiler management against negative comments on the fan blog!

    2) MacT and Lowe are still running things. PC was only hired as a cloak to give the impression the team is trending in another direction, when in reality nothing has actually changed with the new management and coaches.

    Paranoid conspiracy theorists have taken over!

  • flames2015

    ^ completely agree. Without Bollig in the line up, we consistently roll 4 lines with everyone playing over the 10 minute mark. He gets an average of 8 to 9 minutes per night than 5 to sit in the box, throw 3 hits, then on a good opportunity turn it into a weak wrist shot from the outside. Bouma and Jooris, can skate faster, take faceoffs, hit and are on the PK. Fighting just doesn’t spark teams anymore. There’s no role in the NHL guys for guys who are strictly enforcers. We already have Ferlund and Engelland if we want guys to drop the gloves. His cap hit could be used to get much better elsewhere.

  • everton fc

    Bollig didn’t cost us anything vs. The Kings. Look at the Kings lineup – Lucic, Clifford, Nolan, Andreoff – all these guys bring the same “grit” Bollig does. One could argue Nolan and Clifford bring the same offence, or lack of it, as Bollig. But I’d rather have Clifford over Bollig, and maybe Nolan, as well.

    Jordin Tootoo’s another guy w/grit. People hate him. But he’s still able to pitch in on both ends of the ice (though -16 this season, probably due to power play usage). All the guys I’ve mentioned in comparison to Bollig,scored in juniors, showed offensive skills at lower levels. Bollig never has, and never will be a point producer. Even Tim Jackman put up points, and goals, at lower levels.