As happens to most professional sports teams, injuries have befallen the Calgary Flames throughout this season. Currently on the shelf is the Flames’ pair of Czech forwards: Jiri Hudler and Michael Frolik.
Hudler played just 5:26 in the Flames’ first game of the year before leaving in the second period with a groin injury that is expected to keep him out at least a week, if not longer. Frolik, meanwhile, has been out since Dec. 15 when he suffered a shoulder injury against the Nashville Predators.
It would be fair to say one has been missed more than the other, but of course, you hope both guys will be back sooner rather than later.
While Hudler is expected to miss at least a week, that’s the absolute minimum, and it sounds like he could be out even longer than that. Essentially, he has to stay off of the ice for a week in order to heal his groin. If you can’t skate, you can’t play, after all.
But even if you can skate, that doesn’t mean you can play. It would be best to ensure Hudler is at 100% before trying to rush him back into the lineup.
Hartley on Hudler: “Huds will be off the ice for basically a week. We have no target dates yet on his return.”
— Aaron Vickers (@AAVickers) January 6, 2016
It’s assumed his injury was suffered during the game against the Colorado Avalanche, as Hudler was playing anywhere from 17-20 minutes a night in the games leading up to it; however, it is possible the injury occurred at some point in the preceding game against the Los Angeles Kings, when Hudler played just 15:09 – a dip in ice time he hadn’t seen since two weeks prior.
Hudler missing a week means he misses at least two games: the Coyotes game on Jan. 7, and the Sharks game on Jan. 11. The first game he could possibly return for is the Panthers game on Jan. 13.
All three games are home games, so if Hudler isn’t back by then, keep an eye out for if he’ll be joining the Flames on their upcoming five-game road trip, which kicks off in Edmonton on Jan. 16.
While Hudler’s presence in the lineup isn’t necessarily missed – he has not had a great season as he did in 2014-15, when he posted a career high 76 points in 78 games – Hudler is still important to the Flames, if only for trade value. He’s the Flames’ most prominent unrestricted free agent, thanks to that aforementioned career year, and it’ll be a huge loss to the rebuild if they’re unable to get anything in return for him before he – presumably – goes to free agency. (Hudler will, in all likelihood, cost far too much for the Flames to re-sign. Considering he’s 32 years old and almost certainly on the decline of his career, there may be no desire to re-sign him, anyway.)
Frolik has missed the last nine games with a shoulder injury, and his loss has been felt. A perennial 40-point scorer, he would be the perfect option for the Flames’ lack of options for top-six right wingers, but alas, he cannot play.
That should, hopefully, be changing soon, however.
Hartley on Frolik: “You should see him in the near future on the ice with us. Probably in limited contact drills.” #Flames
— Aaron Vickers (@AAVickers) January 6, 2016
Not as soon as we’d all like, but this is a good sign of progression. Frolik was the Flames’ big free agency signing this past off-season, and since joining the team, he’s been exactly as advertised: an extremely solid player in all situations, but particularly great on the penalty kill, who can chip in on the scoring (despite missing the last nine games, his 16 points have him seventh in overall team scoring).
Frolik, who signed a five-year deal with the Flames worth an annual average value of $4.3 million, is already a big part of the Flames’ present, and projects to be a big part of their future: if not in a scoring role, then as a shutdown player, presumably alongside Mikael Backlund, with whom he has excellent chemistry.
The Flames have definitely been missing him in the lineup, so hopefully limited contact goes well, and he is also back sooner rather than later.
If Frolik will soon be joining the Flames in practice, then it’s possible he, too, could go on the road trip; if not, Jan. 27 is the first game the Flames will again play at home, against… the Nashville Predators. How ominous.
What comes next?
As it stands, the Flames currently have one extra forward: Brandon Bollig. Only Frolik is on the injured reserve, so they can’t call anybody else up, nor do they really need to, considering the team has all the personnel they need to ice a full roster at the moment.
When Hudler returns to the lineup, nothing changes, other than somebody probably losing their spot. For this, keep an eye on Mason Raymond and Josh Jooris’ play, as they’re the two most recent healthy scratches, and probably the most likely to return to the press box.
When Frolik returns to the lineup, somebody will have to be sent down (barring yet another injury). Markus Granlund is the easiest candidate, as he does not require waivers; however, he’s been playing anywhere from 12-15 minutes a game since his recall, getting scoring chances, and performing relatively well, so demoting him would be quite the act of cowardice. Again, keep an eye on Raymond, Jooris, and especially Bollig – particularly if the latter fails to draw back into the lineup.