Lowkey rumours have been swirling the Calgary Flames. Nothing overt, and it doesn’t sound as though anything is impending, but there have been rumours.
Of course, this is a team that was expected to take a step forward and is currently sitting 28th in the NHL in points percentage. While they aren’t as bad as they were to start the season, and there have been flashes here and there, problems have persisted, and we’re about at that time where we start considering if the playoffs can even happen.
There have been rumours about Dougie Hamilton, about the Flames wanting another defenceman, about being “open for business” in general. And why shouldn’t they be? This is an incomplete team.
What do the Flames actually have?
Assuming everything goes right for the Flames, they have, in theory:
- A goaltending tandem (Brian Elliott, Chad Johnson, and Jon Gillies waiting directly in the wings)
- Three top four defencemen (Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, and Dougie Hamilton)
- Centre depth (Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett, Mikael Backlund, Matt Stajan, perhaps Mark Jankowski sooner rather than later)
- Two (potentially) high-end wingers (Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk)
- A couple of solid wingers (Michael Frolik, hoping Micheal Ferland can get there, and praying Troy Brouwer can stave off his inevitable decline due to age and Kris Versteeg can maintain some semblance of health)
But not everything has been going right. Monahan and Bennett have not been playing at the high-end levels this team needs them to, which has been crippling. Having just two high-end wingers – one of whom is 18 years old, the other injured – isn’t a recipe for success, either. The Flames’ leading scorer is on pace for 52 points this season, which isn’t good.
The Flames’ goaltending of the future is relying on Gillies to be a success, too. It’s pretty much him, or bouncing around hoping to strike gold with a younger free agent or waiting for one of the other prospects, all of whom are still years away.
What do the Flames need?
That said, for the meantime, goaltending should be left alone. That bridge can only be crossed when we get to it, and Gillies is 14 games into his professional career.
They need another top four defenceman, though. Dennis Wideman is currently filling that role, and Wideman’s best days are behind him. This is also the last year of his contract, and it seems unlikely he’ll be brought back – and even if he is, really, in a top four role again?
You can hope Brett Kulak or even Oliver Kylington step into that role sooner rather than later, but neither is there right now.
The upcoming free agent market does offer some potential pickings – Kevin Shattenkirk is far and away at the top of the list – but there are still 29 other teams to compete with on that front, and that’s assuming the good options even make it to free agency at all. The Flames could always try trading for someone and signing him before he hits the open market, but that requires giving up assets, something they don’t have too many of at the moment and can’t necessarily afford to part with.
They also need greater impact scorers. Centre is actually the least of their concerns; remember a couple of seasons ago when the Flames were asking their wingers to line up down the middle? (First line centre Alex Tanguay, anybody?) It isn’t that bad, at least.
Again, there’s hope for internal development – Hunter Shinkaruk, Andrew Mangiapane, Daniel Pribyl or a 2013 first rounder – and there’s hope for the draft, if the Flames continue to bottom out. Free agency offers really slim pickings, though; the only name that piques my interest is Jarome Iginla, and that’s just emotions over logic.
Gaudreau, Tkachuk, and hopefully Ferland and Frolik should not be for sale barring extremely good offers; anyone else, though? Well.
There’s still a lot of building left to do
It’s not as though all hope is lost. Maybe the Flames completely adjust under Glen Gulutzan’s system and go on a tear. Maybe the team figures out what’s ailing Monahan and returns him to his 60+ point self. Maybe Bennett takes that next step forward sooner rather than later, maybe Gaudreau returns to the lineup and plays at an above point-per-game pace, maybe Ferland gets a greater opportunity with more ice time and runs with it.
There are a lot of maybes, but there’s still plenty of reason to have glimmers of hope regarding all of them.
That doesn’t change the fact that the Flames definitely need another defenceman who can reliably play 20+ minutes, though, as well as more wingers of greater scoring impact, particularly on the right side. The holes are obvious, and the Flames should be open for business regarding anything that can be done to fix them, without creating new ones.
Preferably, while avoiding doing anything rash (which, admittedly, Brad Treliving has been good at) and without trading any player with potential under 25 (or Brodie or Backlund, who are on great contracts, or Frolik, because he’s young enough and the Flames don’t really have anybody else who could fill his role any time soon).
And while hoping things don’t go horribly wrong while considering what they already do have – in which case, they’ll be, well, kind of screwed for a while yet.