The Flames are on the verge of something they haven’t done all season: being completely healthy. From pre-season onwards, the Flames have consistently dealt with injuries to their lineup, particularly in the forward group. As soon as somebody gets healthy, somebody else goes down, and so it goes.
Except not this time. Heading into the All-Star Break, the Flames suffered no new injuries, undisclosed ones to Joe Colborne and Josh Jooris aside (it’s hard to imagine they’ll warrant a trip to the injured reserve). And with Micheal Ferland, the one Flame still on I.R., set to return immediately after, it means that finally, at long last, somebody will have to be sent down (assuming no Dennis Wideman suspension incoming, which remains unclear at this time).
The Flames have a couple of forwards they’ve alternated as healthy scratches, as well as one waiver-exempt player in Markus Granlund. So… who goes? Because somebody has to.
A lot has changed since Granlund was recalled back in late November. Since then, he’s played 26 games for the Flames, never being healthy scratched and averaging about 12:55 a game in a third line centre position, with some special teams time. He scored a couple of goals early into his recall, but they were 20 games ago; since then, he’s only put up two assists, for a grand total of three goals and two assists.
So the offensive numbers are putrid, but there’s more to the game than scoring. How is he doing, possession-wise?
Granlund started off rather well possession-wise before promptly falling off a cliff, apparently hitting his low point some time around early December. Since them he’s gradually climbed his way back up, but has been unable to get back in the graces of a positive possession game – 50% – until very recently.
Is that enough to send Granlund down? He’s consistently used, but he isn’t scoring, and despite consistent success at the AHL level, still seems to be struggling with the NHL game.
He doesn’t need to be an NHL player right this second; he still has a few months left of waiver exemption. There’s also still roughly a month to go before the trade deadline, which should free up some bodies among the forward group. Would a month in the AHL really be the worst thing that could happen to Granlund?
Of the non-injured forwards, Brandon Bollig is the most-often scratched. He’s been left out of the lineup for 23 games so far this season, which is more than he’s missed since becoming a regular NHLer (he played 82 games in his final season with the Blackhawks, and 62 with the Flames last season). Even if he isn’t sent down, he’s probably going to end up being a healthy scratch at least a few more times this season.
Bollig is the least-played Flame, his average ice time of 8:45 bottom amongst all players (even Derek Grant averaged 9:15 through his nine games up with the big club). At absolute best, he’s a 12th forward, and that’s on a team full of bottom six players. He would, in all likelihood, be the least-missed on the ice.
Bollig’s main value is his grit, truculence, what have you will. But is his particular brand necessary? The Flames have both Lance Bouma and Micheal Ferland who not only provide the same value, but are younger and have significantly more scoring potential. Bouma’s injuries have been a major reason why the Flames have carried a forward on the injured reserve throughout the year, but with him and Ferland back, where does Bollig even fit in?
After Bollig, Mason Raymond is the next most-often scratched forward, missing 19 games. Raymond has averaged 12:20 a game when he does draw in, and he’s scored four goals and one assist over that time: just a little more than Granlund.
There are a couple of key differences between Raymond and Granlund, though:
- He’s 30 years old. Granlund is 22.
- He has a cap hit of $3.15 million on the books until the end of the 2016-17 season. Granlund is an upcoming RFA.
- He is not waiver exempt.
If a team were to pick Raymond up on waivers, they would be doing the Flames a huge favour, because that would be a significant chunk of cap hit gone not only for the rest of this season, but for the next as well: when the Flames are going to experience a cap crunch due to Mark Giordano’s extension kicking in, as well as Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan’s entry level deals expiring. No Raymond means a lot more levity for Calgary.
But why would somebody pick Raymond up? He’s a fairly-scratched forward who costs more than $3 million and has five points this season. How many teams are willing to spend $3 million on a 30-year-old reclamation project?
And in that case: do the Flames really want to spend that much money on an AHLer? Which hurts less: that much money in the pressbox, or that much in the minors?
I’m only including Jooris on this list for posterity, because he fits the bill of being one of the regular healthy scratches. Jooris has missed 16 games in that position, behind Bollig and Raymond. He averages 11:37 a game in ice time, more than just Bollig out of regular healthy players.
At the same time, he leads everybody on this list in scoring, with three goals and four assists. Oh, and he’s 25 years old: young enough to prove he can, at minimum, be a competent depth player.
More competent than the other players on this list, evidently, as he’s the lone positive relative possession player, and that’s with the second worst zone starts. (Really, if anything, this damns Granlund further, as he’s being placed in the highest ground and yet struggling the most, potential recent turnaround aside.)
Jooris won’t be sent down. I can’t state that as a fact, but I can offer my opinion with a very, very high level of confidence in regards to it. Besides – when everyone is healthy, the Flames will still have two spare forwards; somebody will have to continue being a healthy scratch. It’s been Jooris for a lot of this season, and it might have to continue being him (though it probably shouldn’t be).