Ducks 5, Flames 2 post-game embers: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before

The whole thing with the Flames being completely unable to win in Anaheim would be much more annoying if Anaheim wasn’t a good team.

They are, though. They’re doing what many hoped the Flames would this year: recover from a horrific start and go on a tear to cement themselves as a team with a solid chance in the playoffs. They key difference here being that while the Flames were a fluke team last season, the Ducks actually are a good team, and didn’t magically stop being one when the seasons turned.

A loss in Anaheim was to be expected, naturally. Good teams tend to beat bad ones.

Preparing for life after Hudler?

The power play aside, Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan barely saw any of Jiri Hudler.

Their most frequent linemate? Micheal Ferland. Their second most frequent linemate? … Brandon Bollig.

I have no words.

(Just kidding, I have lots of words. I always have lots of words.)

I understand the obsession with size when it comes to a contact sport. I’m all aboard that train; one of the reasons I’d love the Flames to be able to draft one of those giant Finnish kids is because, well, they’re rather large. Size is important. Big, physical players of top-six abilities would be awesome to have.

Here’s the key phrase: of top-six abilities.

I don’t doubt Bollig tries his heart out, but let’s be honest with ourselves: there is no good reason for him to ever, ever, ever be on the same line as Gaudreau. Ever.

So while the Flames will one day, hopefully very, very soon have to prepare for life after Hudler, that wasn’t what last night’s game was about. It was about putting a physical presence alongside Gaudreau, and it worked out so well Gaudreau got a point! On the power play. With Hudler.

If the only answer Bob Hartley has against the Ducks (a team that has thoroughly outwitted him since, well) is “put Bollig on the top line”, then that says pretty much everything you need to know about last season’s Jack Adams winner.

Gaudreau, with Bollig, was a 0% CF player. Monahan, with Bollig, was a 0% CF player. That’s great if he somehow “protected” them or whatever, but what good does protecting do if you’ve completely destroyed your top players’ abilities to even so much as get a single shot attempt off? What are you protecting them for, exactly? Conceding that you have no way to defeat Anaheim and just trying to take the loss without injury and move on to the next game? What a confidence-inspiring strategy.

Gaudreau, with Ferland, was a 50% CF player. Monahan, with Ferland, was a 42% CF player. Better, though it didn’t take much. And at least with Ferland – who, depending on what happens at the trade deadline, should probably be first in line to be Hudler’s replacement – you know he has some top-six potential. It may never come to fruition, but there’s only one way to find out. And at least he was capable of being well over a point-per-game in junior.

But at least this was funny? 

The definition of insanity…

… doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

SCENE: The Flames’ fourth power play of the game. It is not too long after their third power play, in which Mark Giordano scored a goal, assisted by Gaudreau and Hudler, with Monahan and T.J. Brodie also on the ice. The Flames are now down 2-1. You have a prime chance to tie the game.

You deploy:

  • Giordano and Brodie, your top defencemen
  • Sam Bennett, one of your greatest hopes for the future
  • Mikael Backlund, who has produced as of late, including on the power play
  • Joe Colborne, who remains the most-used Flame with the man advantage who has yet to record a single power play point this season

That’s now 76:39 spent on the power play without anything to show for it. And true, Colborne only went out for 1:33 this game, but at this point, is that not 1:33 minutes too many? At least most of the players who deserve more of a chance than him with those minutes are above him in power play ice time.

Except maybe Ferland.

And.

Did you forget Frolik?

To this date, Michael Frolik has played a grand total of 17:27 on the power play: 15th on the Flames. He has 23 points this season: ninth in Flames scoring, with fewer games played than everybody above him (and every regular below him, too).

I just don’t understand.

“Hey, let’s give one of our best players in all situations a grand total of 10:56 in ice time! Seven more seconds than Bollig! Because… reasons!”

He’s 6’1 and 194 lbs. Does he just have to put on another six pounds to be worthy of a go on the top line? Somebody get the trainers on that.

The most heartbreaking ping of them all

The Flames hit a couple of goalposts last night. Gaudreau. Brodie.

Tyler Wotherspoon, who is still looking for his first NHL goal.

Here’s the thing: he had some serious jump to his game. He played 14:08, more than Jakub Nakladal, even. He got a fair shake at minutes – something he hasn’t gotten since, like, March 2014 or so – and he was doing the best he could. And here’s the thing: his best was a lot better than what we’ve seen from so-called established regulars who make a couple million every year.

The ping off the goalpost; another chance later on where he broke through to go in on the slot. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ladislav Smid do that? I probably saw Deryk Engelland do that once, I think there was something like that on Bennett’s four-goal night back in January, but he had Bennett with him and Wotherspoon just singlehandedly created his own chance.

It’s really, really easy to write a player off when you never give him a chance, isn’t it? Not to say Wotherspoon is the hope for this defence group’s future, but to say: just how long have we been sitting on this? Just how close were we from letting what looks to be a solid bottom pairing guy slip away for no reason?

Wotherspoon and Nakladal looked good. Wotherspoon, in particular, had three shots on net. Played 1:19 on the penalty kill. Should probably get to play out the rest of the season in the NHL and re-sign with the Flames as a good option for cheap depth next season.

Okay, it’s too early to proclaim that just yet; it’s been two games. But I was holding up a healthy level of scepticism after the first game: it was against the Canucks, and they are bad. But this game was against the Ducks, they are good, and Wotherspoon was a minimum 50% CF against every single Ducks player at even strength. He led the way for the Flames with 72.73% 5v5 CF. 

At absolute minimum, he deserves to stay in the lineup for the next game. Maybe the Kings kick his teeth in, but we’ll never know if we don’t try, right? And he’s giving us good reason to keep trying.

  • brodiegio4life

    anyone else think the flames could manage a first rounder for hudler, after seeing spaling go for a 2nd. Even if the flames had to throw in a late pick with hudler to get a first i’d do it…

    also colborne played 8 minutes more than frolik… my god

    • Backburner

      Possibly a late first round pick, but the Flames would have to throw in a pick or a prospect going back.

      If anything it makes me think that the Flames can really cash in on Russell.

      I’m starting to realize now that Treliving has to make it his goal to find a line mate for Gaudreau, and obviously a goalie. Wouldn’t it be nice if the Flames could draft in the top five this year.

      • Christian Roatis

        A Top 3 pick makes the Flames a serious contender within the next few years, because you’re either getting that superstar RW (Laine, Puljujarvi) or another superstar C (Matthews). It would really be a dream.

  • Theo4HoF

    Jeez, why even play the ducks in there arena. Miles well just take the day off and rest up.

    Bollig on the top line, what a genius Hartley is. Any time management wants to move on from this guy is totally fine by me. I imagine we will have to struggle next year before they fire Hartley though.

    • KiLLKiND

      If you think we might as not play in Anaheim, then why not have Bollig on the top line? You say the game is already over then having Bollig doesn’t cost us the game that is already lost but last time Calgary played the Ducks they took some cheap shots at our top line. This time they didn’t say what you will against Bollig but if the game is already lost why let the other team get away with dirty plays on our top players? Also Bollig got under Kesler’s skin which is pretty much worth losing a game itself(I despise Kesler)

  • TheRealPoc

    Really liked the Wotherspoon-Nakladal bottom pairing look. Big, mobile guys who can both move a puck. Giving them a good run here in the final 20 or so seems pretty important; hopefully it allows them to properly acclimate to NHL speed, which can only help heading into the summer.

    • Christian Roatis

      Both need new contracts so hopefully the brutal way they’ve been treated/used up to this point by the coaching staff doesn’t affect their decision to re-up.

  • wot96

    I was impressed by Wotherspoon and Nakladal. What was their quality of competition? Anaheim is a four line team so I would expect that if they did well, even against the third and fourth line, that augers well.

  • KiLLKiND

    On a completely separate note with no corresponding page.. yet

    The Leafs just traded Polak and Spaling and got TWO 2nd round draft picks! Yes the picks are in 2017 and 2018, but still that’s way more value than they should have gotten. If the Flames are willing to accept draft picks in the future we could potentially get more value out of Hudler and Russel. We can probably agree that getting a 1st this year is doubtful with the trade market being what it is but maybe a 1st in 2018? I would take it. That’s an extra 1st round player for when we are hopefully competitive, which we could potentially even flip for a goalie or a RW.

  • FlamesFan1489

    I agree Wotherspoon’s gotten a rough shake from Hartley, but I don’t know if he was ever ready to step in to that role like he is showing now. The thing is, he should have been kept in the minors if that was the case. He’s still very young so I’m excited to see he’s starting to come into his own as a bottom pairing defenseman. This is a much improved version of the Wotherspoon we saw in the playoffs last year.

    People seem to want to crap on players who are 21-23 years old forgetting that very few players are elite at those ages (save for Crosby, Ovechkin, Toews, Kane… you know, the best in the league). I get with Dougie’s contract there is going to be some gripe but he’s still very young. Same with Monny. We won’t know exactly what we have in these kids for another 2-3 years.

    • RickT

      If he wasn’t ready a few months ago, what changed to now?

      Don’t apologize for Hartley. Nak and Wotherspoon are the same player right now as they were last time they got called up. Sitting in the pressbox every game does not make you a better NHL player.

      If so, I would be elite. I sit in the press level a lot.

      • supra steve

        T-Spoon is on record as saying he is playing a more aggressive game now. That would indicate that something has changed.

        As for Nak, he now has a good body of experience in North America.

        Claiming nothing has changed, does not make it so.

      • FlamesFan1489

        I wasn’t apologizing for Hartley, I said they shouldn’t have been here if he wasn’t going to play them.

        Nak also had to adjust to the smaller ice in the minors. Wotherspoon seemed to play very hesistant in the playoffs last year, this year he seems to be more assertive.