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Photo Credit: Matt Kartozian / USA TODAY Sports

WWYD Wednesday: The Flames’ lineup down the stretch

There are just 13 games left in Calgary’s regular season. Thirteen games left to cement their place in the postseason, but also to iron out any lingering issues or make last minute tweaks.

Curtis Lazar still hasn’t made it into the lineup. The third line still can’t drive play or score. The first PP unit is struggling. On the other hand, the Flames are winning despite these issues. Why rock the boat?

So what you do? Tinker down the stretch or leave well enough alone?

Fixing the third line

Although Calgary’s record over the last 10 games is perfect, there are still areas of concern on the roster. Sam Bennett’s line continues to be relatively ineffective, for instance. During Calgary’s winning streak Bennett, Troy Brouwer and Kris Versteeg have managed just three even strength goals and a below average corsi of 47.7%. Bennett has just two points in his last 12 games, Brouwer has four in his last 27 (a stretch going back to December), and Versteeg has managed just four points in his last 15.

If the third line could shut down other top lines or at least break even against other third units, the lacklustre offensive output wouldn’t be as big an issue, but they can’t. Most evenings they have some of the worst chance and shot numbers, despite being the most sheltered unit up front.

So what would you do? Shift Bennett to wing? Dress Lazar and play him on the right side? Bump up Alex Chiasson? Or status quo?

The first PP unit is really the second

Then there’s the first PP unit featuring Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Brouwer, Versteeg and T.J. Brodie. There’s no question the so-called second unit featuring the 3M line has been consistently more dangerous recently. Aside from Gaudreau’s spectacular individual effort against the Penguins Monday night, the first unit has been stagnant, relying on the same tactic of feeding the puck to Versteeg and jamming the front of the net.

Should the Flames coaching staff mix up the first unit? Move Johnny back to his off-wing? Try Micheal Ferland in front of the net? Swap in Dougie Hamilton for Brodie? Or should they leave well enough alone?

So what tweaks would you make Flames fans? Mix up the third line? Alter the first unit PP? Or do you opt to keep things the same given the winning streak?

      • Burning Ring of Fire

        It’s unfortunate because when you look at his stats he should not have been signed. If they can’t unload him I don’t know what they are going to do but he does not appear have the toolset needed to propel the team forward to the next level. As far as playing him it’s one of those damned if you do damned if you don’t scenarios.

        Bennett and the third wing could use a young, high energy, guy.

  • everton fc

    Regarding the 3rd line; I’d simply swap Chiasson with Brouwer. And I’d swap Brouwer w/Ferland on the first PP unit. Simple adjustments that won’t hurt us. Surprised the latter hasn’t happened yet – Ferland may reach 20 goals by seasons end, if they park him in front of the goalie.

    • Rocket66

      I would sit Brouwer for 8 games like wideman Maybe he will realize it’s time to play hockey. Put lazar in third line. He will be playing hard for the first few trying to keep Brouwer sitting

      • al rain

        Well, we think they tried to showcase Wideman but we can’t be sure. But yeah, it worked out terribly in that no one wanted him at TDL. Brouwer may be different in that the stakes are higher (3 years remaining) and the opportunity is rare (expansion) and the possibility is stronger (still might have good reputation). I’d do it.

        And you’re not confusing correlation with causality from a sample size of one, are you?

        • piscera.infada

          If the possibility of Vegas selecting Brouwer at the expansion draft is premised on “might still have a good reputation”, than “showcasing him” probably isn’t the best move. You’d hide him, so reality doesn’t cloud the narrative.

          The only real hope for the Flames regarding Brouwer as expansion fodder is that they make the playoffs, and he returns to his historically average self. Then maybe the (false) narrative of him being a premier playoff performer piques Vegas’ interest.

  • class1div1

    It would sure be nice to see some of the leadership that Brouwer was supposed to possess.He cant even fit in as a footsoldier.Drop him to the 4th line{although Hathaway would be better}Chiason to the 3rd.and Ferland/Hamilton on the 1st pp unit.

  • dontcryWOLF88

    I cant see the reason for Brouwer on 1st line PP other than blind faith it will someday work out, or trying hard to get this guy some points to raise his value. Certainly nothing results based is justifying that.

    Get Ferland in there. He can do everything Brouwer is doing, with some finish as well (kind of the point on PP)

    • Parallex

      Great! I was just thinking that what I needed in my life was Roger Millions or some other generic SN on-air personality shamelessly brown-nosing Gary Bettman by kissing his arse in the form of a softball question “interview” while he weaselly makes veiled threats/insinuations.

      What would make my life complete would be if he then acts like a huffy and indignant tweenager with the actual real local media.

  • redwhiteblack

    Brouwer is dragging down the potential of Benny and Versteeg to be better. Sit Brouwer for a game or two (or move him to the 4th line and sit someone else) and try Janko in there as a winger?

    • Stickhandler

      I watched that oiler game last night and that building is deathly quiet. Rumors are going around the ice is horrible. We get a new rink when we do, does butter buns bettman really have any say in that? I thought he only approved dumb new rules and procedures?

      • reidja

        The worst thing about the Edmonton building is the seat width. I’m an average sized person and you are literally shoulder to shoulder in there, it’s fairly uncomfortable.

        Mix it up by giving Lazar a shot, try Sam on the wing, sit Brouwer, and bring up Jankowski for a coffee to reward him (and light as fire under Brouwer ass). I think Chaisson is exactly where he should be right now.

        • reidja

          I almost forgot, the bathroom situation in that Edmonton building is also terrible. It’s inexcusable for a brand new building to have 15 minute line ups for the washroom. I’ve been to a bunch of rinks and Oilers barn has some of the worst bathroom problems I have seen.

          • dontcryWOLF88

            Part of the problem with arena washrooms is they make the washrooms 50/50 male to female. It’s not that ratio at hockey games though. I understand the dilemma since these arenas get used for more than just hockey. During fames though, it’s mostly men. Same problem at the dome.

  • Stickhandler

    A bit perplexing the 3rd line woes. Brouwer is here, can’t really sit the guy for an extended period when we have won 10 in a row. Gulu will insert Lazar in Troy’s place for a game or 2, or he switches it up with Bouma or Chiasson. If playoffs are in the cards, then hopefully Brouwer shows his value, but right now, what an overpayment. If he ends up staying, all it does is replace Wideman deal with another anchor, although not a penalty magnet. Keep it going Flames, setting the all-time Flames record would look good on this group and be another boost in confidence.

  • Skuehler

    I prefer a more proactive and less reactive approach. It is clear this team has issues and is riding a hot streak. Fix what is not working but leave the parts that are clicking alone. Chad needs to get a game in to stay involved. Bring one of the kids in for a few games to benefit from the success and confidence happening right now.

  • aye

    It appears Bruins are playing Khudobin tonight. If there’s anything to take away from this incredible streak it would be the Flames does seem to be getting a lot of the other team’s “lesser” goalie during this run, Reimer, Lack, Montoya, Khudobin. And eventhough Bishop, MAF are still no.1 quality, they are at least “lesser” to their counter parts, and I would even put Rinne in this category too.

    • piscera.infada

      Bit of a red-herring argument there. I mean sure, lesser quality goalies in theory. I’m not sure you can make a 1-to-1 equivalency here, and say “wouldn’t have won those games if they played the other guy”. I mean, Lack, Bishop, and Fleury played really well in their games, and I’m not sure even Price was stealing the game for Montreal last week (that was a straight-up beatdown all over the place).

  • FlamesFanOtherCity

    There are some problems with the design of the #1 PP unit compared to the #2 unit. The 2nd unit has a traditional 2D setup with a threesome that can drive the play from the d-zone to the net. The defense can hit the net. It’s pretty simplistic. The 1st unit is too much passing up high. Would like to see more work below the goal line. I would be happier with Stone on the point and move Versteeg to RW, leave Brouwer off. Alternately, you could leave Brouwer and Versteeg off, put Ferland on LW and Johnny on RW. Stone and Brodie on the point.

  • Flaymin Frank

    Torts was quoted as saying that the downside to a winning streak is that it allows bad habits and flaws to develop and they aren’t addressed in a timely manner. Maybe he’s right, I don’t know. But the players on our 1st p.p. unit is a bit of a head scratcher. When the current streak ends I kinda hope it ends with a loud thud. Not an o.t. shootout. That may get management to take some action on this 3rd line situation. Right now they’re happy to stand pat during this flurry of wins. Its gut wrenching to see Benny playing his heart out & having Brouwer pumping the pooch beside him.

  • Greatsave

    I actually saw Gaudreau and Versteeg swap sides on the PP a few times the past couple games. I don’t know if it was by design or not, but I was encouraged.

  • Lucky 13

    As much as it pains me to watch Brouwer on the PP, I get that GG wants a big body for screening purposes. I would much rather see Ferland in his place. I won’t hold my breath though.

    Anyone know Stone’s status?

    I honestly think if they can have Gaudreau and Versteeg switch sides it will give the 1st PP a different look. Versteeg is great at one- timers and we all know his soft touch with those hands
    ( shootouts)

    When you’re winning it’s difficult to tinker with lines, especially having matched a franchise record and all.

    Bennett has been working hard.. ditto Versteeg. We really can’t fault them for effort. I don’t want to bash Brouwer today, I’m in a great mood and it feels counterproductive right now.
    Plus I’ve did my fair share of spewing already. I’m not going to beat a dead horse.
    I just hope he gets the monkey off his back and gets a greasy goal to help him outta this elongated slump …

    Sounds like Johnson is in tonight. I love Johnson too. I hope he hasn’t lost any confidence being on the bench for so long. Our D need to be fully engaged to help him out.

    Regardless, I’m still proud of this team for what they’ve accomplished so far.

  • Rudy27

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The so called 1st PP line needs a heavy shot from the point. You don’t get that from Brodie, Gaudreau, nor Versteeg (that’s probably why they seem reluctant to take a shot from the point – because they know it too) . So you need either Hamilton or Gio on point. I’d go with Hamilton and re-unite Gio and Brodie for the other PP unit.

    • Lucky 13

      @Rudy27
      I concur with you that they need a heavy shot on the 1st PP unit.
      Stone has fit in nicely there (when used) and I hope he’s back soon. If he returns soon, I doubt GG shuffles D pairings just for the PP alone.
      Hamilton and Giordano are crucial to that (2nd ) unit IMHO

  • cjc

    The other elephant in the room is that third defence pairing. Whatever combination of Bartkowski/Engelland/Wideman they use in the playoffs, they will only get about 5 minutes/night.

  • Jessemadnote

    It gets a bit frustrating seeing 1 in 3 comments ragging on Brouwer. Is he overpaid and underperforming? Yes. Is he useless player and dragging his teammates down? No. He leads the team in hits, he made two game saving defensive plays late in the Penguins’ game, and he has a long track record of being a key piece on some elite teams. Bennett was slumping with Johnny and Chiasson and now he’s slumping with Brouwer. Not saying I’m against a Brouwer shakeup maybe to the fourth line maybe even sit him out a game, but take it easy on the guy. We’re on a ten game win streak and that is not despite Brouwer, he’s a part of this great play and this team.

  • Just.Visiting

    The “first unit” PP is not working as shown by the number of points Gaudreau has on the PP this season. Given the chemistry with Ferland and that Ferland would fill the big body in front of the net role, I’d move Ferland to the PP instead of Brouwer. I’m not crazy about the Versteeg on the point approach either, so I’d probably put Stone (Wideman for the moment) with Brodie on the points.

    As things stand, the “second unit” is actually the first unit by results. Perhaps flip the D pairings, so Hamilton and Gio are with Gaudreau?

    The current approach of continuing to try things that don’t work has been my biggest beef with the coaching all year (e.g., anchoring on Chiasson and Brouwer with Monahan and Gaudreau for way too long, Wideman with Brodie as second pairing for an extended period, leaving Ferland on 4th line forever, not providing Kulak sufficient minutes earlier in the season). I will, however, give them credit for putting the 3M line together and not tinkering with it, for not panicking earlier in the season and for moving Hamilton with Gio. The latter has worked out far better than I ever thought it would, as I was getting very concerned about Hamilton’s play in his own end before that change.

    Otherwise, I’m fine with the lines for the moment, and think that the Bennett line is playing a lot better lately.

    Special shout out to Brodie too. Playing at the recent level has been a key part to the transformation of the team.