Flames 5, Coyotes 2 post-game embers: Good job, kids

If the Calgary Flames are going to pick up two points at times through the rest of this season, the very least they can do is make sure it’s the future of the club driving it.

And last night, it was! Hooray! The Flames may now be up to the sixth worst team in the league, but at least it was players 25 and under forcing it.

Four of them were called up, and we’ll have more on them later today. But as for the rest…

En route to 2 x 30, 3 x 20

Sean Monahan scored his 27th goal of the season last night, bringing him within just three goals of reaching 30 for the second season in a row. Johnny Gaudreau, who had to sit out due to a bad case of Duncan Keith’s Immaturity, is sitting at 28 on the season. So five more goals between the two of them, appropriately distributed, and the Flames will have two 30-goal-scorers who are just 21 and 22 years old.

But wait! It gets better! Sam Bennett busted his 18-game goalless drought (but just three without a point) with a two-goal night. That puts him at 17 for the season, meaning another three goals from him and he’ll have hit 20 as a rookie. He’d be the third Flames rookie in a row to accomplish this feat, the other two being the guys mentioned in the paragraph above. They’ve got six games left to do all this.

Bennett is now sitting at 35 points through 71 games, which puts him at juuuust under a half a point per game pace. Monahan scored 34 points in his rookie season, though, and that clearly hasn’t stopped him from turning it on (he’s now the leading scorer out of the 2013 draft with 155 career points to Nathan MacKinnon’s 153, but he’s also played 13 more games than he has, so grain of salt but still pretty dang awesome).

And what of the other young’uns? Micheal Ferland had a two-assist night playing alongside Bennett and Joe Colborne, so that line had a good night – and Ferland did in particular, since he broke off a 13-game pointless drought. 

Colborne continues to have a career year, and while his 17.8 shooting percentage should raise a few eyebrows, at least his points are split pretty evenly between goals and assists. He’s not going to be a top player, but if he can play modest minutes (his 14:33 last night falls under this category) and chip in some points here and there, it’s hard to be displeased with him in the big picture (they key is to not overuse him, but hopefully the Flames will soon enough have players that will force this).

T.J. Brodie’s shooting percentage is roughly on par with his career average, so he may not be a double digit goal scorer on the regular, but he’s approaching the 40-assist mark this year so that’s just fine. His partner Dougie Hamilton, meanwhile, has hit the 40-point mark for the second season in a row, so the high-end future of the backend looks to be in very good, always-ready-to-score-but-also-defend-well mode. They could combine for 100 points next season. Toss in the older Mark Giordano and it could be 150. That’d be neat.

Four lines: rolled

Brandon Bollig, it should come as no surprise, got the least amount of ice time with 11:55. He passed the 10 minute mark! Matt Stajan and Ferland had 12:42 and 12:59 respectively, and forward ice time topped out at Mikael Backlund’s 17:03, with Derek Grant’s 16:45 and then Monahan’s 16:01 following up. 

So while the Coyotes aren’t a high caliber opponent, it’s still nice to see everyone getting a chance, particularly with four call-ups playing in one game. Brett Kulak is a bit different, being a defenceman and all, but Grant got the game he wholeheartedly deserved following his kickass time in the AHL this season, while everyone else was given as fair a shot as the other players on the team. This is, after all, the time to let the kids roll with it; that’s why you brought them up in the first place, presumably.

Kulak played the least out of the defencemen, but was only short of Jakub Nakladal by a minute. Also we’re talking about a game in which Deryk Engelland played more than Giordano, which is all kinds of not-particularly-expected, so I’m not reading too deep into defensive ice times for the sake of my own sanity. It’s the end of the year, he’s been better this season than the last, his second kid just entered the world, do whatever, nothing matters anymore, whatever.

Our friends, the special teams

The Flames’ special teams have been a horrific artifact throughout the season. At least it was only power play goals that went against the Flames, but yeesh, killing two of four definitely leaves room for improvement, as their season-long league-worst 74.5% success rate can attest to. It was actually almost three power play goals again, except falling on top of the goalie is a no-no and good way to get it waved off.

On the plus side: two power play goals for the Flames brought them all the way up to a 16.5% power play, tied for fifth worst in the NHL! Considering how they were on the verge of falling into single digits earlier, there has been a marked improvement over the season; still, the Flames literally have a top five scorer on their team, so it’s not unreasonable to hope for more. (It’s actually a requirement if this team is going to get out of the rebuild phase.)

So… goalie?

The only pucks that got past Joni Ortio all night were ones on the power play. So mark that two games in a row in which none of the four goals that have gone against him can really be held against him.

Basically, he’s done enough. To be the starter? Probably not if the Flames are serious about getting back into the playoffs next year, but to have a regular NHL shot without two other goalies clogging up his space and forcing him to have basically zero chance and set him behind the eight-ball for months through the season in two different leagues? Well, he didn’t deserve that to start with, but he’s pretty much the best goalie on the roster at the moment so he certainly doesn’t deserve that next season.

Cheap contract, games here and there and throughout the year, and see if the then-will-be 25-year-old from Turku has enough in him to maintain NHL-level play throughout the year, whether it be as a starter or back-up. There’s nothing wrong with giving him that much. And if the Flames decide to have a more competitive camp – say they decide to sign both James Reimer and Jhonas Enroth, somehow – then at least don’t mess around and cut the cord with someone before the season starts.

Ortio in a comfortable environment looks to at least be capable of something worth pursuing.

  • Derzie

    When you see fresh troops it makes you wish you could turn the page sooner rather than later. Stajan, Bollig, Bouma. Thanks but it’s time. Colborne. Time to sell high. Wideman, Raymond. It’s been swell. Let’s hope this summer puts a dent in this and moves us closer to younger, hungrier depth players. Not all of the young ones will work out but it’s their turn to try.

    • Kevin R

      Nope but I sure would love to see Shink with Gaudreau & Monahan to finish off the year. I quite liked the Bennett, Colborne & Ferland line. Where the heck was that kind of play out of Ferland earlier in the year!!!! If he can play consistently like he did last night, we have found a winger for Bennett.

      • GriffinJeff

        Ferland and Bennett with their tenacious forecheck looked great last night! Ferland was reeking havoc and creating chances. This is the time of year to experiment and that one is working out great so far.

        • Kevin R

          Experiment yes, but also remember what worked. I think both Ferland & Bennett really compliment each other. If anything, I think Bennett will need a heavy guy like Ferland on his line the way Bennett plays (he tends to piss people off). Colborne actually looked pretty good on that line, that kid is sure playing for a contract. Do we keep him or sell high? He has such a tantalizing package.

  • deantheraven

    I still maintain the best thing for the Flames to do about the goaltending situation is to sign Backstrom on for another year and let him mentor Ortio. Ortio gets the starter’s job, Backstrom fills in now and then and educates the younger Finn on what it means to be a pro. I can’t think of any better examples, after all he’s been and done. Guy’s already had a Flames mask made and everything, fer gosh sakes!

    Don’t laugh, this serves many purposes. First, two cheap contracts in a year when cap n crunch is more than just a great breakfast. That frees up enough money for the pending re-ups and maybe even leaves a little room for a Top Six winger.
    Best case, Ortio shines with consistent starts and we win more than we lose, challenging for a playoff spot. We’ve seen how even league- average ‘tending can get us to the dance.

    Worst case, in a rebuilding year weak(er) goaltending provides a plausible excuse for keeping the team closer to the Draft Lottery while continuing the development of the young forwards & defence. Personally, I’d love to see lots of 5-4, 6-5 games, win or lose…

    I say give ’em both 1-2 year deals at less than 2 mil each. They’d both take it. for sure. This makes the most sense for another rebuild year.
    Unless Anaheim is willing to give us Andersson for a vet, a prospect and a pick (or any combination thereof). Then all “Finns for full time crease-duty” bets are off, and we’re gunning for the playoffs.

    • Cfan in Vic

      I agree with everything other than the Backstrom part.

      If you want to defer the acquisition of a long-term goalie solution, and further Ortio’s development, why not give Ramo another year. With his injury and slower start this year, I highly doubt he’s going to command a salary like he did this year. Not as many teams are going to be after him. Backstrom is done in this league. He’s been a good tender for most of his career, but the last thing we need is to fall back on a 39yo netminder if Ortio gets on a bit of a bad run next year.

      • wot96

        The problem with using Ramo is that he just had what may be a career limiting injury. You are proposing to use a guy who may not be in game shape by Christmas as your back up with what amounts to a rookie as your starter in the interim. That’s not just a gamble, that’s a potentially career ending gamble by BT. It may be that Backstrom is not the answer but I struggle to see where Ramo is either.

        Flames cannot afford c. 8m for a couple of goalies giving them league worst tending. Ortio, yeah sure, re-sign him below $1m. See who else you can get in the less than $3m range and preferably $2m or less range, which maybe really is Backstrom, though I bet there are others.

        Flames simply cannot afford one of the high end/high cost starters at this stage of the rebuild. Next year, yeah maybe. This year, nope, not without a ton of other pieces getting moved or bought out.

        • Cfan in Vic

          I honestly think that the “Ramo Injury Gamble” is a far safer bet than the “39yo Backstrom Gamble”.

          There’s no way that guy is going to be providing league average goal tending next year. Nothing against him, but his ship sailed long ago and that’s not a prediction, it’s a certainty.

          • deantheraven

            C’mon, the guy’s been 3rd in Minny for over a year and never griped, quit or demanded a trade. He came here because he was told he’d get another chance to prove he still belongs. In some ways he’s already my Masterton candidate. And did you see his mask?

          • Cfan in Vic

            They agreed to play him, because they needed to, in order to gain a pick from Jones. There’s no way he’s in the plans for next year. Tre knows better than that. He’s never griped, because he’s a seasoned professional. He never quit because he had a contract that payed him a bunch of cash.

            I’ll be ticked right off if Backstrom is the best Tre can do for next year. Again, nothing against the guy, but he is not the answer.

            Also, not to pick knits, but Ramo had better numbers last season than this one. And you can’t tell me that Ortio is better now, due to Backstrom being involved. He was playing well as soon as he got a chance, post Ramo injury. He had Hiller as the 2nd keeper at that time, and was still solid. There’s no relation to be made from Backstrom coming in to “mentor” Ortio. I’m not saying mentorship doesn’t happen, but that’s a pretty big reach.

          • wot96

            As I said, it may be that Backstrom is not the answer.

            But there’s no way you want to sign Ramo unless the plan is to start him on LTIR and, possibly, leave him unprotected in some future draft. If his knee was as badly hurt as it appears, he won’t be ready for training camp barring a near miraculous surgery and rehab.

            There must be other alternatives out there that won’t break the bank and have a chance to be mediocre to above average behind an active Flames defence.

      • deantheraven

        Ramo was having a career year until his ACL got shredded. The prognosis for his return already looks to be beyond training camp. Nobody is going to be after him. For any money. There are way too many sub-to-average-to- slightly above average guys out there already.

        Of course, if his rehab goes exceptionally well and he’s ready for training camp, a tryout wouldn’t be a waste of time. I suppose even a 1-year deal for low dollars wouldn’t kill either. But putting him into a new contract is just as risky as Backstrom IMHO. That’s a tough injury/surgery to come back from, especially for goalies. And like I said, Backstrom’d be such a good influence on Ortio- veteran countryman and consummate pro.

        Look at the difference in Ortio already- relaxed, confident, engaged- since Ramo went down, Backs came in and Joni got the keys to the crease. I just think he’d have a better chance at realizing his potential if he was given the starter’s job and support that Backstrom would provide. I’m guessing that a lot of the ‘tenders out there in FA land this summer will still be available in October-November, too.

      • RedMan

        we can assume that the “master plan” for rebuilding included actively ‘rebuilding’

        next season due to the fact that the placeholder contracts all drop off the books at the end of next season, so the question is then, how much has the fast maturation of JG and Monahan changed plans?

        There is no doubt Treliving can move some of the placeholder contracts if they feel they are actually ahead of where they projected, or, they can use this one more coming season to ripen the younger crop in the minors…

        My guess is that the Flames will make some space for at least one new forward and one new defender at the beginning of the next season, and add a couple more of each by the end of the season.

        The Flames lack at least one legitimate top six forward (A 1RW)and a legit starting goalie. Either can be picked up through free agency or, for my guess, at next seasons trade deadline.

        So, unless the Flames find a good deal on a legitimate starting goaltender, i expect they will start the season with a Ramo/Ortio tandem, and depending on performance from these two, pick up a goalie and RW at next years trade deadline.

        As much as people get excited over college players that can sign anywhere, i don’t see that as the Flames answer for RW.

        Who knows, maybe next season is the year Iginla comes back and wins a cup in Calgary? :-p