The life of the emergency recall: you’re only available for as long as somebody else isn’t. Sometimes, that can be an extended period of time – take, for example, Dennis Wideman’s seemingly never-ending suspension – but other times, it’s nothing more than a game or two.
Jakub Nakladal taking a high stick to the face and having his eye fill up with blood was scary, but it was also cause to sit him for just one game. Down to five defencemen without him, the Flames brought up Tyler Wotherspoon.
But wait – Nakladal may be back in the lineup, but now Deryk Engelland is unable to play tonight, and is considered day-to-day with a lower body injury. You know what that means? Wotherspoon gets to stay up – and we have a whole new-look defence, with a completely revamped bottom three guys.
The Flames’ top three of Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, and Dougie Hamilton are indisputable; they’re the guys who are (or at least should be) getting the big minutes, and they’re the guys who are going to form the backbone of this team’s defence core for years to come, if their contracts, at minimum, are any indication. (There’s also the fact that they’re all good, which helps.)
The Flames’ bottom three, however, have been in flux all season long – and occasionally, over-played. Too-big contracts given to not-great players (Dennis Wideman, Ladislav Smid, Deryk Engelland) have seriously hindered the team’s chance to see other bodies take on the role – and, as has been the case at least as this season ticks down, perform better.
Case in point: two of the aforementioned three names are injured, keeping them out of the lineup, and Wideman is still in the midst of a 20-game suspension (game 19 is tonight! Do we even care anymore?).
It took the most dramatic suspension in recent history, an undisclosed day-to-day injury, and poor Smid’s horrendous luck when it comes to scary hits to knock out three of the Flames’ most inefficient use of cap: and bring in all of Nakladal, Jokipakka, and Wotherspoon instead, a far more mobile group with significantly more upside, even just by going off of age alone.
Wideman, Smid, and Engelland combine for roughly $11.7 million on the cap. Nakladal, Jokipakka, and Wotherspoon combine for a little over $2.6 million.
Hopefully it’s more of the latter we’ll see in the future. They may prove to be better options on the ice – but at absolute worst, they’re far more intriguing ones.
This also means we’ll get to see someone new partner with Hamilton in the top four. My guess is it’ll be Nakladal: he’s older, more experienced, and it’s time to see what he can do in a bigger role, particularly if the Flames are entertaining thoughts of re-signing him.