The Calgary Flames had a rough road trip in a couple ways. First, they lost three of the four games they played. Second, they lost both Kris Versteeg and Lance Bouma to injury. With the Flames only carrying 13 forwards to begin the season, that meant they had to recall Hunter Shinkaruk and throw him into the deep end right away. Due to their injuries they still only have a dozen forwards, giving them zero extras to work with.
Will the Flames call up a body from the American Hockey League’s Stockton Heat to give themselves some flexibility or, better yet, a jolt of energy? If they do, who should come up?
Here are the contenders, and what their call ups would mean.
The Flames are at 12 forwards and are right against the salary cap. They don’t necessarily need to call anybody up. They’ve placed Ladislav Smid on the long-term injured reserve and thus got some cap relief, but they might not want to use it all right now. There are still 68 games remaining and other injuries will undoubtedly happen.
But these are their lines from last night (which scored just one goal):
Johnny Gaudreau – Sean Monahan – Alex Chiasson
Hunter Shinkaruk – Sam Bennett – Troy Brouwer
Matthew Tkachuk – Mikael Backlund – Michael Frolik
Micheal Ferland – Matt Stajan – Freddie Hamilton
It would probably be nice to have another forward around to spell off some players and give the coach the ability to sit guys to rest or motivate them. Which Heat player is summoned depends on what purpose they’re trying to serve with the recall.
Bouma was playing in Calgary’s bottom six, so they could replace him with a player from Stockton to play that role. Presumably that person would play with Stajan and some combination of Ferland, Hamilton or perhaps Chiasson. The challenge here would be finding someone that can keep up with Ferland and Stajan, who have been among the Flames’ most consistent tandems this season.
A third year pro (in his second year in the NHL system), Hathaway was one of Calgary’s last cuts. He plays physical and with a lot of energy. A right shot winger, he has six points in eight games with Stockton. He was also up last year for a good chunk of the season, is familiar with the team and its systems (from last year and this year’s camp), and could be a good fit for an energy role.
Previously in the Los Angeles and Vancouver systems, Vey has played in the NHL before and plays with energy. He’s also able to take faceoffs and play center or right wing, which adds some versatility to the team’s lineup. Not generally thought to be a sniper, Vey’s been quite effective for Stockton with nine points over eight games.
A TOP-NINE WINGER
The Flames have scored once in the last two games and have five goals on the entire road trip. So call up somebody that can help generate offense, effectively replacing Versteeg on the left side of the top nine. Adding one of these bodies would allow the coaching staff to drop someone from the current top nine onto the fourth line or into the press box for a spell.
One of the most controversial draft picks in franchise history (from 2012), Jankowski has emerged as a really good AHL player. He has 10 points over the first eight games of this season, tied for the team lead in scoring. He’s got size, he moves well, and he’s been able to consistently put up points this season (and dating back to his AHL debut last spring). He’s a left shot and played the wing in college, but he’s primarily been a center over the past two or three seasons so there may be a bit of an adjustment for him if he’s used on the left side.
Another past first round selection (from 2013), Klimchuk had a rough 2015-16 as he dealt with injuries and the growing pains of becoming a responsible 200-foot AHLer. Now a top six fixture in Stockton after spending last season in the bottom six and killing penalties, Klimchuk has already exceeded his points production from all of last season: he had nine points in 55 games last year and has 10 points in seven games so far this campaign. Klimchuk can play either wing and perhaps could emerge as a Frolik-esque utility player who can slot in anywhere.
(Imagine Klimchuk playing on the left side of Bennett/Brouwer, Backlund/Frolik or Stajan/Ferland. All of those sound like decent fits.)
If it were up to me, I’d probably bring in Klimchuk. He’s performing really well and it would send a good message to the locker room in Stockton about performance and rewards. He’s versatile and seems like he could be a good fit basically anywhere but the top line, so his presence would provide Glen Gulutzan and the coaching staff with some flexibility when it comes to making their lineup.
Plus, several Flames veterans have described the energy that a brand new NHLer brings to the locker room – the veterans get excited that a kid is getting his first taste. After playing two fairly flat (and bad) games in Los Angeles and Anaheim over the past weekend, an injection of youthful exuberance could do them some good. Brett Kulak and Tkachuk are already bringing some energy, and a debuting call up from Stockton could help bring even more.