Flames 4, Maple Leafs 3 post-game embers: Jakub Nakladal edition

You remember Game 82 against Winnipeg last season? Both the Flames and the Jets had just clinched a playoff spot, and so, the game was totally meaningless. Healthy scratches abounded, guys who weren’t really getting the chance to play in the NHL got huge minutes, and the Flames got smoked 5-1 – but nobody cared, because the standings were set and the goal was more not to get hurt than anything else.

The Flames’ game against the Leafs was in a similar vein. It wasn’t meaningless, but it did provide serious roster deficiencies unlikely to repeat themselves. The Leafs were depleted from untimely injuries and a Dion Phaneuf trade, while the Flames laid down team law and scratched two big names (and, evidently, struggled at least in part for it).

In short, it wasn’t really a normal game for either side; and for the Flames, at least, it’s a situation unlikely to occur again. Two or three players from last night’s lineup will likely end up scratched next game, so there’s not really a ton to look at here.

Except for, well, one guy in particular.

Jakub Nakladal played 1:45. He was granted two shifts – one 25-second one and one 1:20-minute one – in the first period and that was all we saw from him in his NHL debut.

Nakladal probably didn’t come from his home continent to ride buses around California. He came because he wanted to be in the NHL. And okay, so just wanting to be in the NHL doesn’t mean you actually get to make it, nor should it. It has to be earned, and Nakladal has worked his way in Stockton to be worthy of being the Flames’ first recall when short a defenceman.

He has also been a healthy scratch for seven of the eight games he has been up in the NHL for. His first recall stint, which lasted for a week in October, saw him sit in the press box for four straight games, including a road back-to-back.

His second stint has now seen him sit for another three games, including another back-to-back that required travel. And then, when he finally gets to make his NHL debut, he doesn’t even get two minutes.

It’s embarrassing. 

Of course, Bob Hartley was asked about this. And his answer, from the presser, was:

The way the game was going, I would have liked to use Nakladal more. But at the same time, it’s not about how we use one player, or two players, or 10 players, it’s just… Behind the bench, you get a feel. Sometimes you’re right, sometimes you’re wrong. But you have to trust your instincts and I felt that the Leafs wouldn’t go away, and they didn’t. We wanted this win. It’s nothing on Jakub Nakladal, that he didn’t do right or stuff like this. it was just basically a coach’s decision from behind the bench.

So Hartley watched his defence play. He played them as he normally does: T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, and Kris Russell with big minutes, Dougie Hamilton in a reduced top four role for some reason (nevermind his being one of the better Flames on the night, if not the best one period; his poor October has apparently doomed him still to this day), and Deryk Engelland and Ladislav Smid bringing up the rear.

Not even when the Flames had a 4-1 lead and looked to be laughing the game away. Not when the Leafs made it 4-2 with Engelland and Smid on the ice. Not when their next shift lasted two minutes because they were hemmed in their own zone. Not when the the Leafs made it 4-3 – again, with Engelland and Smid on the ice – and were in danger of tying the game.

No. Clearly Nakladal would have provided a worse effort than the two veteran bottom pairing defencemen who posted even strength corsi rates ranging from 20-30% on the night: abysmal performances on a team full of them. Nakladal would have cost the team that got outshot 13-3 and out-corsied 28-8 in the final frame that much worse.

If Nakladal can’t be trusted, what’s the point of his being here? If it’s preferred to play 17 skaters instead of 18 if the 18th guy is Nakladal, what does that say?

I’ll leave with this thought. Remember Roman Cervenka? Like Nakladal, he was 27 when he decided to make the jump from the KHL to the NHL, and he went to Calgary. The lockout made it bad timing, but he was still used sparingly. Of the 39 games he played for the Flames, he played fewer than 15 minutes for 26 of them. Fewer than 10 minutes for eight of them. Fewer than five minutes for three of them. And then he went right back to Europe.

Maybe the Flames are just a really terrible judge of overage European talent. But maybe, after all of this, they won’t be in the bidding for any future European free agents – be they Cervenkas, Nakladals, Panarins or Zaitsevs – because I can’t imagine someone wanting to break into the NHL would look at the way this team has operated and think he has a shot here.

Nakladal’s NHL debut only happened because three 20-somethings acted like three 20-somethings. And before he could do anything with it, it was taken away from him, Hartley more content to play shorthanded and keep together a brutal defence pairing that struggled all night rather than give someone without an impressive draft pedigree even half a chance. (Maybe when he goes back to Stockton, Nakladal can compare notes with Tyler Wotherspoon.)

Nakladal may be 28 years old, and not really a prospect, but there’s no excuse to string somebody – anybody – along like this. It’s taunting, it’s disrespectful, it’s disingenuous. And it’s a really, really bad look, especially when it goes on as long and as far as it has.

  • Canrock 78

    Maybe he was out of position on the two shifts and the coaches felt there was to much risk. Later in the game when we were up by 3 I Thought we might see him again. but when they scored the next 2 I was not surprised he did not get more time.
    Your last 2 articles have been very direct in your hatred for the flames coaching staff. Did they do something to you personaly or do you just feel we can do better with a coach that is sitting on the shelf right now? If so who do you think can do better? If Hitch were come available at the end of the season I would consider that. But I don’t believe there is a coach available right now that is even close to our current coaching staff.

  • RedMan

    I think it’s becoming clear that Hartley shouldn’t be coaching the team next year. I’m not a big fan of the scratches, although at least they show him putting long-term development over short-term gains. But refusing to give Nakladal a chance to play because of two old guys it would be generous to call replacement-level, and not understanding that Russell can’t carry Hamiltion’s jock — that’s pretty ominous in terms of his ability to preside over a rebuild.

  • Derzie

    I wonder if Nak even showered after the game?

    If Calgary had signed Panarin, it’s possible that he might’ve been recalled by now. Doubtful, but possible. So that he could sit in the press box before getting in a few games on the fourth line at less than five minutes per night because Bob had a feeling that Bollig would give him more.

    Bruins just got embarrassed 9-1 by LA. Maybe they want Russell now that Wideman’s unavailable? One can hope. That way Nak can go to four minutes a night.

  • Derzie

    Treliving can’t be happy with Bob’s treatment of Nak (and other call-ups). I’d love to hear their meeting this morning. Bob is making Brad’s job tougher than it needs to be.

  • Parallex

    Yeah, Bob needs to go.

    They’ll probably be a job waiting for him in Montreal if the Habs season ends in a non-playoff situation (and frankly I think his system will work better in a place that has Carey Price in it) so no need to weep for him. But it shouldn’t continue here. He just falls back to easily into bad habits and doesn’t learn from his mistakes.

    He’s been a fine transitional coach for us (someone had to coach during the lean years) but it’s time to move on.

  • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

    Him and T Spoon can definitely curse Bob shortly together and you know they will.

    Saw this interesting article on my fb from the sportsforecaster. Com. Was called 15 bold trade deadline predictions. Only one involved the Flames but it was the craziest. It was a 3 way deal with anaheim trading andersen to calgary and their 1st to Boston. Boston trading Eriksson to the ducks and us trading Russell to Boston and a 3rd to anaheim.

    Thought it was interesting anyways. Thoughts?

  • The GREAT Walter White

    If Hartley can’t expand his horizon then it’s mismanagement.
    To sit a guy after 2 shifts smacks of punishment. Just tell us for what, Hartley. The fans are vested here as well. We are clamoring to see this guy so let’s see him. Somebody needs to go–either Harts or Naks . If it is the former it will be because he is making himself look obstinate or like an idiot. Too many preconceived ideas.
    If not the former then the latter because what’s the point of bench warming for 90% of the game?

    • supra steve

      My thought:

      As stated in the article; Nakladal’s first shift was 25 seconds, second shift was 80 seconds.

      If I was a player in my first NHL game and was taking 80 second shifts (and my name wasn’t Taylor Hall), I would not be surprised if I ended up on the bench.

      If Nak gets another game (after the third pairing laid their -2 egg), then I think he makes every effort to make his shift changes on time.

      • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

        Really? IMAGINE: At :25 into his shift the Flames are pressing, the other team gets the puck and breaks out, Nakladal should be thinking “uh oh, I better get off now because they might hold the puck in our end for :40 and I will get in trouble” or the puck is in his end and he changes because his :40 was up?


        • supra steve

          Hey, I confess to not having paid a whole lot of attention to that particular shift as it was going on…but what I heard afterwards is that he was trapped out there with Russell…which would indicate that his linemate made his shift change and Nakladal did not. I heard THAT was the reason for Bob’s benching.

          I’m not commenting on Bob’s reaction, just on what I heard precipitated the benching. If that’s what happened, then I can understand it. I do hope that Nakladal does get another chance soon, but knowing how these things sometimes go…I won’t be holding my breath waiting for that to happen.

          • TheRealPoc

            That’s not really what happened at all. Nakladal got caught earlier insofar as he couldn’t change responsibly, but then he spent about 10 seconds waiting as a safety valve outlet in the corner for Russell, who was parked behind the net with possession and time, and then spent the final 5-8 seconds of that shift receiving said outlet, gaining his own blue and firing a 60-foot breakout dart to Frolik at the opposing blue prior to changing. That shift also started with a textbook walking of the line to generate a chance from the point, along with looking active and opening up into passing lanes while the Flames cycled low. His first shift was quite shaky (two meh reads, looked unsettled); his second shift was quite good. And then we never saw him again.

            I’ll give Hartley small benefit of the doubt, because anyone who’s tried to roll 7 D (or at least played in that set-up) knows how hard it is to keep consistent, and consequently how easy it is to lose guys in the shuffle. But it’s pretty clear he didn’t trust Nakladal. That’s unfortunate but not exactly surprising. Hartley has 30 games to save his job; regardless of how you feel about the job he’s done (and I think the overwhelming consensus here would be “fail”), expecting him to exhibit big-picture priority thinking when his 7-figure salary is on the line isn’t realistic.

          • Parallex

            “expecting him to exhibit big-picture priority thinking when his 7-figure salary is on the line isn’t realistic.”

            It’s not on the line… if he gets fired then he’ll still get paid he’ll just be “relieved of his duties”. His salary isn’t on the line at all. Besides which given the situation in Montreal and their preference for francophone coaches I doubt he’d even be out of work for long (add the possibility of there being two new coaching staffs entering the league via expansion).

            Frankly, exhibiting big-picture priority thinking is exactly what we should expect.

          • Burnward

            Did you know it’s possible to rewatch old games?

            Russell never passes it to Nakladal; Russell tries a breakout pass that never reaches a Flames player, and is called a Leafs offside.

          • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

            Of course my first comment was purely conjecture on what could have occurred.

            Now that I’ve seen it, I don’t have any problem with what Nakladal did on the ice.

            He did have a chance to change 15 seconds or so into the shift, but in actual fact what should have happened was he shouldn’t have been sent out in the first place as Brodie had taken a double shift with Smid. Smid went off and was replaced by Russell, so when Brodie went off it should have been Hamilton going on instead of Nakladal.

            So either Nakladal or Cloutier messed up there, and judging by how much Nakladal played after that we can surmise who messed up the shift change.

          • supra steve

            “Of course my first comment was purely conjecture on what could have occurred.”

            “REALLY? REALLY?”

            I now have a fully formed opinion of you…and it’s not favorable.

          • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

            Easy little fella. If you look at my post it says “imagine” before I went through a couple of scenarios where it is entirely possible to be on the ice for longer than :40. Then I basically pointed out that he can’t exactly go for a change when the puck is in his own end.

            Your post that I was replying to states:

            suba steve wrote:

            My thought:

            As stated in the article; Nakladal’s first shift was 25 seconds, second shift was 80 seconds.

            If I was a player in my first NHL game and was taking 80 second shifts (and my name wasn’t Taylor Hall), I would not be surprised if I ended up on the bench.

            If Nak gets another game (after the third pairing laid their -2 egg), then I think he makes every effort to make his shift changes on time.

            Well, Johnny Goooooooaldreau is now writing:

            Hey Suba, “go take a flying “f@c%” in a rolling doughnut” and while you are there if you can concentrate on more than one thing at a time, have a look at a dictionary and look up the word “imagine” and then apply it in the context in which I replied to your own musings!

  • Burnward

    Coach in midst of playoff run is forced to sit three key players after they screw up.

    28 year old European UFA is sat in favour of established NHL’ers with hundreds of games of experience. Part of a defense corps that had allowed 1.5 goals per game or so since Wideman went down.

    Team wins.

    Fire head coach!!!!

    Excellent stuff.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      Combine this with Harltey’s love affair of Russell as the no 3 defenceman, the continual hesitation to play Hamilton more minutes, not giving Frolik a shot on the power play, not giving Brodie enough time on PP, insistence on Wideman on the PP over Dougie, hesitation to play Bennett at center, hesitation to play Bennett more minutes when he was clearly one of the best forwards….. on and on and on and on.

      It’s not just the Nakladal thing. His usage has been curious and I get the sense he is trying to keep his job with an inflated ego propped up by a Jack Adams winning year.

      • Burnward

        Hey, I’d love to see Nakladal a little more. Not sure that was really top of ol Bobby’s priority list last night though.

        Once the season is determined, one way or the other, and a couple of trades are made…at least Russell, anyways (probably?), I imagine Nak will see more minutes.

        In the meantime though, let’s not forget that this guy is replacement of replacement for now.

        And Smid-Engellend have been pretty good.

        Hiller had a couple whiffs that didn’t help their stats last night, either.

        • Cfan in Vic

          When you need the guy is not the time to have a look at him. We want to look at this guy now. Only the back-up goalie sits–not a guy that gears up for his big chance.
          I’m a Smid fan but like I said before, he needs to play one or two and take 2 days off to refocus or whatever it is that he needs to do to get back on track. He is a bone crusher.
          Engelland has enforcing qualities which is only part of the game.
          Yes, Hiller whiffed a couple as usual but so did Reimer.

        • Cfan in Vic

          EXACTLY, goal 3 was totally on Hiller, he missed a shot that a 16 year old midget goalie should stop and on the 2nd one he totally misplayed the shooter. There was no pass option so challenge the shooter. Bad goaltending on those two goals.

          • Cfan in Vic

            I watched the game, and was also none too pleased with the 2nd and 3rd goal against Hiller.

            After re-watching the plays, the second was a VERY nice release and well placed shot. The third was directed of the D-man’s stick, just after release.

      • Rock

        I have to agree that Hartley looked like genius last year with some of his decisions leading to a turnaround season but ultimately unrealistic expectations for this year. Some of his questionable decisions last year were overshadowed by an unsustainable shooting percentage by most of the team and an incredible ability to come from behind in games.

        In this challenging season, Hartley’s decision making and coaching is under the microscope. He may not be as good of a coach as he showed last year when everything he touched turned to gold but he is not as bad as we are seeing this year. He really has a different opinion when it comes to some players, Porier, Wotherspoon and know Nakladal. I don’t think the damage is irreversible but Hartley is losing the dressing room and tarnishing the image of the club for prospective players.

    • wot96

      Coach wasn’t forced to sit three key players. Bouma is not key – minor point, but there you go. More importantly, there are hundreds of ways to discipline players that do not involve scratching them. I’m firmly in the praise in public and discipline in private group and I think they could have been disciplined in ways that do not draw the public’s eye.

      As for the defence corps being stellar since Wideman went down – you are looking at it backwards. This was the opportunity to give Nakladal a look – playing a team tied for worst in the NHL, suffering injuries and which had just dumped their captain. There isn’t a bigger or slower beach ball to hit than that. And we missed the opportunity – more on this later. Plus, saying that defence is stellar, over the last, what, four games, is like saying that the Flames are now world beaters. Sample size matters.

      As for fire the head coach, yeah, why not? I haven’t been on that band wagon but I’m on it now. His deployments have sucked – no way Russell should be playing more than Dougie, no way. Need more? Hmmm, the Flames are down their best centre, golly, I wonder if there is a centre on the team that isn’t playing…oh wait..sure there is, Sam Bennett. Perfect opportunity to push that bird out of the nest and see what happens. What do we get? Nada. No, I won’t shed tears if we give him the punt. Not one.

      • Burnward

        Harts just should of made them fill bottles and clean up the room?

        They showed up late and hungover to work.

        Any employee can expect to be disciplined for that.

        • wot96

          I can’t tell if you are being sarcastic, or funny, or what. It’s not like I’m suggesting they be told to clean out urinals with a toothbrush.

          Of course they expect to be disciplined. They’re young and wealthy not stupid. I bet they would even be harder on themselves that Hartley would be if you asked them what the punishment would be because all three of them seem like decent young men with consciences.

          So why not ask them if they think their behaviour and the consequences of it was acceptable? If not, what should the team do about it? Let them tell you what should be done. Get their buy in.

          If they show no contrition, then that says something and maybe the team quietly starts looking for a way to jettison them. If they come up with something suitable, lesson learned and then you don’t hear about how this guy is mad because his bonus is impacted, or whatever.

          Let them figure it out; let the punishment fit the infraction; and match the punishment to the infraction, if you can. I find it unlikely that the only thing that could be done to these three was scratch or fine or bag-skate.

          So hey, assuming that what happened was they had serious 26 oz flu, then maybe do some serious community service dealing with people who have substance abuse issues. As a suggestion, maybe get them to do a hundred hours that way. That takes their time, which I’m pretty sure is valuable to them, they do something positive, and not one of us hears about how Johnny Hockey or Mony or Boums are all pissed with how they have been treated.

    • CDB

      Playoff run…???? They have less than a 25% chance of making it.

      We know the guys with hundreds of games of experience are at best 6th and 7th D man. Bob played them, and they got obliterated both to the eye test and by advanced stats. But ya, let’s not find out what the 27 yr old pending UFA who has been the best defenceman on our AHL team is. Keep riding the guys you know can’t play.

      Solid logic.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Agree 100% on Nakladal and was posting as much all night during the game.

    And for the notion that there are no other coaches out there to replace Bob is a bit short-sighted. Just because we know nothing of other coaches in the various leagues of the world doesn’t mean there isn’t something there.

    I’m sure there are many progressive thinking coaches that are like-minded with Treliving that can be found. Won’t take much to top Hartley at this point.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I remember a interview the Craig Conroy did about the Tim Erixon fiasco. He said, he and Feaster did there very best to convince Erixon that the Flames reputation for not playing young players was going to change. I’m not sure how much has really changed.

    Agents and players talk. If the Flames want good young talents to sign here, players have got to feel like they’ll be given a fair shake. Nakladal came to NA with an obvious eye to make the NHL, and has made the best of his time with the Heat. Last night was a perfect opportunity to see what he can do. Opportunity squandered.

  • FlamesFan1489

    Hate to be picky, but wasn’t it 18-3 the shots for Toronto in the 3rd, which only emphasizes your argument? I agree, this treatment of callups by Hartley is bizarre. He seemed to be right about Ortio though, but I thought Wotherspoon played pretty well last year and deserved more praise than he got from Hartley. The next few weeks will be interesting as a Flames fan, and I wonder if Treliving will go straight up Billy Beane to force Hartley’s hands into playing his guys.

  • smith

    Why is there such a love affair for Russel? He seems quite a bit less effective than one of these defence you can pick up every summer. Someone like Schlemko, Franson, Erhoff, Beauchimon, Oduya, Michalek, Jackman.

    Trade him when he has some value. If your youth are not better (which they may be) sign someone better if you need to.

  • FlamesRule

    Ari, have you ever stopped for a moment to consider that Hamilton’s resurgence since the beginning of the season is not in spite of Hartley’s usage but perhaps because of it?

    Your continued harping on this issue is becoming tiresome.

    • Southern_Point

      You must have some pretty good evidence other than your opinion to back up your assertion here. I’m assuming you’re in the process of writing an article on the topic with some comparative examples right now?

    • McRib

      Dougie Hamilton has been an absolute can’t miss future star in the making everywhere he has gone (Niagara, World Juniors, Boston). The only place he hasn’t been that is under Hartley…. When Hamilton has been given Top. 3 minutes he looks great, but more often than not he has been our 4-5 defender this season. The most insane thing of all is Dennis Wideman was getting more Power Play minutes most of this year (Dougie Hamilton was one of the most productive PP defenders in the league the last few years in Boston, his numbers on the PP are so impressive he should have been on every first unit PP all year)…. Let’s not even talk about Russel getting more time even strength.

  • smith

    How is Colborne still getting more ice time than Bennet? and Russel more than Hamilton? Starting to wonder why Treliving is not doing anything about the player usage. Surely he does not want Bennet playing wing?

    • TheRealPoc

      2nd shift, with just under 14 minutes left in the 1st period.

      – Frolik back to Nakladal at the point, walks the line, fires a shot, deflected away

      – After it’s dumped out, Nakladal recovers and makes a quick outlet to Russell, who then camps behind his net and waits for the change to happen. Nakladal in the corner as an outlet option.

      – This is where I confused the sequence of events and for that, I truly apologize (working off recollection): Russell’s first long stretch is broken up, and it comes right back to him in the zone.

      – Just over 13 mins left on the gameclock, Russell then moves up, finds Nakladal as his RD outlet; Nakladal gains the blue and fires a pass to FERLAND (again, my bad, was working off memory)

      So yes, I did not get the exact sequence of chronology correct. My bad.

      • DeadRedRedemption

        I went and watched the two shifts and for the life of me I don’t understand what he did wrong. He supported an offensive possession,(he could have gone off the ice which would have meant loss of OZ), he could have gone off when the puck deflected into the corner which might have created an odd man rush (that would have been bad), he could have left for a change rather than support Russell(which would have been bad). Considering the mistakes that Russell, England and Smid make on a regular basis I don’t get BH decision?

  • smatic10

    Other than his frustrating player usage, Hartley’s lack of willingness to make adjustments to on-ice strategy drive me insane too. Stretch pass after stretch pass leading to interceptions and icings. All a team has to do to beat us is clog up the neutral zone.