WWYD Wednesday: Who sits for Versteeg?

It’s been a while since the Flames were completely healthy up front. If nothing happens in the interim, the approaching return of RW Kris Versteeg is going to force Calgary’s coaches to make some decisions among the forward group as a result. 

Who is going to sit in the press box once the 31-year-old returns from the infirmary? And perhaps more importantly, what are the lines going to look like?

There’s a short list of obvious candidates who could be bumped to the pressbox: Garnet Hathaway and Lance Bouma. Both guys are at the end of the rotation and both guys have some of the worst underlying numbers on the team. They are suited for their role, if you believe that the fourth line has to be staffed by crash and bangers, but their utility is limited. 

For the sake of argument, there’s another scratch option: Troy Brouwer.

Brouwer’s early returns on the surface are just okay (13 points in 31 games). Below the surface, however, they are ugly. Amongst regular Flames forwards, only Hathaway gets outshot and outchanced more than Brouwer at even strength (and Garnet starts way more often in the defensive zone).

Brouwer has also been inefficient at producing at even strength. His 1.16 points per 60 minutes of ice at 5on5 is the third lowest up front, ahead of only Freddie Hamilton and Lance Bouma. That’s fourth liner production, despite playing with many of the team’s better players. We’ll likely have more on Brouwer’s struggles down the road.

For now, we can assume that Brouwer won’t be taking a seat in the pressbox for various reasons. What should probably happen, though, is less ice time at even strength for now. He’s not scoring enough to play in the top six and he’s getting completely outplayed defensively as well. Time to drop him down the rotation. 

Assuming Hathaway takes a seat to accommodate Versteeg, here’s how I’d like to see the line-up shake out:

  • Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
  • Gaudreau – Bennett – Chiasson
  • Ferland – Monahan – Versteeg
  • Bouma – Stajan – Brouwer

Monahan can play relatively sheltered minutes with a two-way force (Ferland) and a savvy puck distributor (Versteeg). Backlund’s line can continue to take the toughest minutes, leaving Gaudreau and Bennett to take on second liners. 

That’s how I see things. What do you envision for the roster when Versteeg returns?

  • Parallex

    Brouwer to the fourth line is probably ‘Plan C’ territory for the team. Plan A being ‘let him work out his struggles’ Plan B being let’s move him around.

    I see two possibilities…

    What probably happens:
    Versteeg plays LW with Monahan and Brouwer, Ferland goes to 4th line, Hathaway sits.

    What (IMO) should happen:
    Versteeg plays RW with Monahan and Ferland, Brouwer plays with Bennett and Gaudreau (I’m not quite ready to demote Brouwer to 4th line duty), Chiasson to 4th line, Hathaway sits.

    … I think what should happen is a nice mix of talent but functionally, given that the team is on a winning streak, the coach is going to be more apt to make as little disruption to the status quo as possible. Either way Hathaway is sitting and (barring any further injuries) probably hangs out in the press box for the next two weeks (Doubt the Flames demote the guy right before X-mas).

  • pcj42

    Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
    Gaudreau – Bennett – Brouwer
    Ferland – Monahan – Versteeg
    Hathaway – Stajan – Chiasson

    – F. Hamilton
    – Bouma

    • RickT

      I agree with you, this lineup makes the most sense to me.

      Chiasson has been alright, but I think he’s more suited for the fourth line.

      I might swap Hathaway for F. Hamilton though, I think he is much more serviceable than either Hathaway or Bouma.

      Bennett and Brouwer had chemistry at one point – and I liked Ferland seeing time with Monahan (and Versteeg with his smooth passing ability).

  • jakethesnail

    Assuming Hathaway takes a seat to accommodate Versteeg, here’s how I’d like to see the line-up shake out:

    Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik;

    Gaudreau – Bennett – Versteeg;

    Ferland – Monahan – Brouwer;

    Bouma – Stajan – Chiasson

    Copy/pasted with changes to lines 2 to 4 :}

  • Craftmatic4.0

    I am not a huge supporter of Chiasson, but I recognize the fact that he is better to watch than Joe colbourne for the small Windows of time that he played on that line. Big and Local made me wanna throw beer bottles at the TV! But we still need to upgrade that spot!

    • Derzie

      I have yet to see Chiasson make an offensive play that doesn’t make me cringe. Plays die with him. Almost every single time. He’s not lazy but he is terrible.

  • Derzie

    My first choice to come out would be Chiasson. Then Bouma. Then Brouwer. I would not take Hathaway out. He gets under the skin of the opposition, even though he is flawed.

    • wot96

      For me it would be Bouma, then Hathaway. I don’t think Brouwer or Chiasson enter into it.

      You are dead right about Hathaway and I suspect he draws a lot more penalties than he takes (and I’m too lazy to look it up) and that is a very good thing with the PP looking up.

      But I disagree with Chiasson. I think he plays a straight forward, North South game that is uncomplicated but not easy to play against. Should he be paired with Bennett? No, probably not, that’s what Brouwer was brought in for (and who is the much bigger disappointment relative to salary).

      If Chiasson had talent the Flames wouldn’t be paying him what they are paying him.

      • Parallex

        See here’s the thing about Hathaway… you’re right in that he draws a lot of penalties (He has the best penalty differential on the team) but the problem is that he’s amoung the worst in many other catagories.

        Corsi For%: Worst on the team
        Fenwick For%: Worst on the team
        Scoring Chance For%: 2nd worst on the team

        So then the question of whether to keep him in the line-up should be whether his ability to draw penalties offsets his deficiencies in other areas. I don’t know how to value that particular skill (I’m sure there’s something out there that breaks it down but I haven’t seen it if it exists) in raw or relative terms.

        • EhPierre

          You don’t play Hathaway with expectations that he’ll go dancing through everyone scoring a beaut. Are his stats the worst on the team? Yes. He does after all get started mainly in his own zone and he doesn’t have raw skill like JG or Backlund to push play. Does Hathaway make any costly mistakes? From what I’ve seen I haven’t seen any boneheaded play that costed the Flames a game

          If Hathaway isn’t part of the team what are you going to do when you have players like Domi and Byufglien take liberties against our players? Hathaway is a beast. He plays a rough, effective, typical 4th line player game that brings much needed energy to the team and I absolutely love the kid. I’d much rather have a kid like Hathaway than a guy like Bouma who’s first instinct is to drop on the ice and think he’s a goalie

          • Ole YELLEr

            Versteeg is also a righty, I’d rather he play RW with Monahan and Ferland, put Brouwer with Gaudreau and Bennet and bump Chiasson down to the fourth line and sit Hathaway. Presumably if Bouma sits Ferland drops to the fourth line in favour of Versteeg on his off wing and Chiasson stays on the the second line.

            Bouma’s contract is irrelevant as to wether or not he plays he costs the same in the pressbox.

          • Parallex

            Who said anything about having expectations that he’ll go dancing through everyone scoring a beaut? Yes, he does get crappy zone start assignments… it would be impressive if he had neutral or plus possession/Scoring chance differentials with the assignments he’s been given. But he doesn’t.

            He’s currently also riding an extremely high PDO. So sure… you don’t notice any costly mistakes but that’s largely because the only costly mistakes people are apt to notice are mistakes that result in goals and Chad Johnson has been doing a very good impersonation of Carey Price while Hathaway has been up.

            So again we’re back to having to wonder if his ability to draw penalties (which I’m not denying, he does it and it’s a skill) offsets what he gives up. Either way he doesn’t really have the player cred to make Bouma a healthy scratch.

          • EhPierre

            Obviously someone on this team is gonna be the worst in terms of Corsi for, Fenwick For, Scoring Chances for. I’d much rather have it be my fourth liner who is cheap, versatile and has NHL experience of less than 40 games.

            I’m not sure what you meant by “what he gives up” because once again I’m not expecting my fourth line, especially a kid who has been undrafted and has less than 40 games of experience to be pushing play or to be scoring. Garnet gives his all every game, he plays for the team, does whatever they ask of him, and isn’t afraid of stepping up if another team is getting physical. That’s all I expect from a fourth line. Plus he has a great ability to draw penalties so that’s a bonus too

          • The Fall

            Hathaway is not ‘a beast’. He’s any ivy league (Brown) college player who’s smart enough to know the only way he’s getting paid NHL money is to take punches.

        • OKG

          Hathaway’s Corsi last year was pretty good (50.0%) in a bigger sample size (155:42) than he has played this year (123:38) on a worse possession team.

          Do you not think it’s possible his poor corsi this year is due to reasons outside his control, like quality of teammate and maybe even the brutal schedule tanking everyone’s possession?

          Anyways, based on eye test I would look to sent Brouwer to the moon. He has been less effective than Hathaway.

          • Parallex

            Well… let’s be honest about sample sizes. His are small in their totality (last year and this year combined to say nothing about individually). They are however all we have so we work with them as best we can.

            Regarding it being possible that his poor corsi this year is due to reasons outside his control… well sure. But such is the case with everyone and doesn’t make an argument for him over someone else. More to the point it’s equally plausible that his relatively better corsi last year was due to reasons outside his control. You can parse that either way so it’s best left aside.

            Really whenyou get right down to it the answer to the question “Should Lance Bouma or Garnet Hathaway sit out this game?” is probably “It doesn’t really matter”.

      • Derzie

        Good points. So it’s Chaisson’s defence that’s good? I admit I am judging him on watching, not his numbers and he seems way out of his depth. Skates hard but he repels the puck. Its never near him for more than a fleeting second.

  • Stu Cazz

    Agree with Kent the right decision would be to demote him the fourth line but it will never happen. Brouwer was the prize off season signing and was given a huge contract. BT would never make himself look this bad nor would he de-value the asset…after all it’s a business and politics will prevail over actual performance/results …sad….

  • Agreed. The Brouwer demotion likely won’t happen. Playing him with Bennett and Gaudreau is the other option I guess.

    I don’t much like Alex Chiasson either, but I can’t argue with his decent results so far, which is why I didn’t personally tab him for demotion in an ideal situation.

  • Kevin R

    I too am in the camp that Brouwer should go to the Bennett/Gaudreau line. Versteeg with Ferland/Monahan & obviously the 3M line stays intact. Rotate that 4th line all they want, Bouma Chaisson, Hathaway should take turns playing with Stajan on the 4th line. Maybe it’s time for Tre to pull the trigger on a trade as we seem to have lots of depth for 4th liner’s that can tween up to the 3rd line & do an acceptable job.

  • ComeOn

    Rotate Hathaway and Bouma sitting, play em like goalies, have a great game, get another, play like crap and the other guy gets in.

    My expectation is Hathaway wins that battle.

    Is decent to have a couple serviceable guys sitting, although Bouma’s days are numbered.

  • Lucky 13

    I think I’d agree with Kent on this. Chiasson has been good with JG and Bennett, has 5 goals and 6 assists = contributions to that line with his simple but effective N-S play.

    I like Brouwer, but he’s looked invisible. 4th line minutes would put a burr in his saddle and get him motivated. Ferland deserves Brouwers spot right now, he’s earned it.

    Is Bouma an upgrade from Hathaway, I don’t believe so.
    Here again lies the problem.

    Sitting a 2.2 M player?

    I’m glad I’m not GG.

    Side note: Max Domi out for possibly 6 weeks , (hand surgery)
    Hathaway is a beast

  • Craig

    I don’t know who comes out, my vote would be Hathaway, however what I would like to see is Versteeg with Monahan. I like how that balances out the lines and creates three scoring lines, instead of overloading two. Monahan needs a playmaker, and Versteeg can fit that bill.

  • kid presentable

    agree w/ your lineup, kent. brouwer has been pretty much useless. doesn’t generate anything, plays die on his stick, tanks whoever he plays with. the most worrying thing is that he hasn’t shown the ability in the past, really, to be any different than he is now. ferland is much better in every way and yet gets 10 minutes a game.

    hope he gets taken in the expansion draft.

  • KiLLKiND

    I say take Brouwer out for a game and give his head a shake. He was brought in with to be the 1st line RW alongside Johnny and Monny. Historically he has never been a 1st liner and he has only gotten older, so the Flames did make a bad decision on him. That doesn’t excuse his horrible play this year. He has been easily the biggest disappointment this year. Wideman this year has been fair, Brouwer has been horrible in almost every aspect. He historically is better than this, but having him drag down our actual stars is silly. Fans need to get out of their heads that he is some sort of savior as he has proven he isn’t and playing him against competition he can’t handle is doing no favours for Monahan, who is also having his worst season. Also this is for 1 game out of 82 is Brouwer is a real pro he will come back and play like the player he was in St. Louis, if not this is going to be a long 4 years.

    Brouwer and Wotherspoon for Iginla and a 6th. Avalanche need defense, and we need a real RW. Also I miss Iggy.