20Sam Bennett

With Micheal Ferland and Matthew Tkachuk out, what could the Flames’ lineup look like?

The Calgary Flames have been absolutely rolling as of late, and a big part of it has been their top six forwards.

We’ve witnessed Matthew Tkachuk, Mikael Backlund, and Michael Frolik work their magic all season long. The 3M line has absolutely dominated the NHL, putting up fantastic numbers while being tasked with shutting down the opposition’s top lines and sometimes going entire games without getting a single start in the offensive zone. Throughout much of the season, they’re what has been driving this team.

Then you have Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. Two key parts of the Flames’ core, they’ve had bumpier seasons than the aforementioned 3M line. Nevertheless, they’re still two of the top Flames on the scoresheet, and once Micheal Ferland joined them on the right wing, it was as if their game reached a whole new level.

So being down two of those wingers obviously hurts, and quite a fair amount at that.

Ferland may have the mumps. Tkachuk will miss the next two games due to suspension. The saving grace is the Flames will go four straight games without facing a divisional opponent – they play the Capitals, the Predators, the Blues, and the Avalanche before six straight against California teams – but the playoffs (and in particular, playoff seeding) are on the line, so this is still far from ideal.

The Flames still have to ice a lineup, though, and there are going to be some changes. It’s probably safe to assume Gaudreau and Monahan will stick together, as will Backlund and Frolik, so now, the question is: who joins them?

Available for a promotion within the lineup are:

  • Sam Bennett
  • Lance Bouma
  • Troy Brouwer
  • Alex Chiasson
  • Freddie Hamilton
  • Curtis Lazar
  • Matt Stajan
  • Kris Versteeg

Plus the possibility of a recall – though he would likely be of the emergency variety, so his chances of slotting in to the lineup against the Capitals are low.

Two names stand above the rest

If it weren’t for insurance snafus, Versteeg would have spent his season in Europe. The Flames snagged him right before the NHL season began. He started on Gaudreau and Monahan’s wing. He’s sixth in forward scoring. If anyone’s in line for an instant bump up the lineup, it’s him.

Then, there’s Bennett. He was expected to be having a much better season than he is now – just 23 points in 71 games, and has been more notable for his fights as of late than any actual scoring – but he was taken fourth overall for a reason. This is a kid with serious talent and potential, and the Flames need to get him going more than anyone else. And let’s not forget – he played his best hockey last season alongside Backlund and Frolik.

Gaudreau Monahan Versteeg
Bennett Backlund Frolik

Losing Ferland and Tkachuk hurts, but that’s a passable lineup combination.

Except then, your bottom six is left looking something like this…

Chiasson Stajan Lazar
Bouma Hamilton Brouwer

And all of a sudden, yikes, the Flames’ lack of depth becomes glaring. Not to say that losing two top six wingers wouldn’t hurt any other team, but we’ve known throughout the season the Flames just aren’t quite deep enough, and these absences really drive that point home.

What about last game?

Ferland already missed the game against the Kings. To deal with that, Glen Gulutzan bumped Chiasson back to Gaudreau and Monahan’s line, while Stajan centred Versteeg and Brouwer. Bennett headed up the fourth line, with Bouma and Lazar flanking him.

Let’s assume Chiasson ends up with Gaudreau and Monahan again, because “why mess with what worked” seems to be a constant among NHL coaches. Gaudreau and Monahan flew against the Kings, Chiasson was there, it worked, whatever.

This still, in all likelihood, leaves us with one of Bennett or Versteeg playing alongside Backlund and Frolik. If it’s Bennett, then you probably end up with a bottom six looking like this:

Versteeg Stajan Brouwer
Bouma Hamilton Lazar

In which Hamilton and Lazar, two right-shot centres, are probably interchangeable.

If, however, Versteeg gets bumped up and Bennett remains in the bottom six, you’re probably looking at something more like this:

Bouma Stajan Brouwer
Hamilton Bennett Lazar

Unless Bennett is moved to the fourth line wing, that has at least one player playing out of position – and three centres on one line, for some reason – so perhaps Bennett being promoted makes the most sense: both for cohesion throughout the rest of the lineup, and to hopefully renew his confidence with two of the best linemates he’s ever played with.

  • RedMan

    need to call up the beanpole… what’s his name? the tall kid that drafted in high school? oh ya, Jankowski.
    Ya, bring up Jankowski and Hathaway, leave Hamilton in the press box. sorry Hamilton.

    • Avalain

      Completely possible, though we have to remember that we would have to call them up with a regular call up instead of an emergency one for them to bump out Hamilton. I’m not sure that a 2 game suspension warrants that.

  • piscera.infada

    I might be crazy, but I actually didn’t HATE Chiasson on the top line in the last game. If it’s a temporary solution to a temporary lineup problem, I’m okay with it. He’s been there before, he’s played really well in the bottom-six for several weeks–give him a bit of a reward for his play of late.

    Now, with Tkachuk out, I don’t mind moving Bennett to LW on that line for the two games, but I want him right back at centre with anyone other than Brouwer. Again, he’s been successful with Backlund-Frolik in the past, and maybe you can get him going a bit. As I said though, I want him back at centre. To my eye at least, he’s getting much better at centre coverage in his own zone. He’s been generating a bit more offensively as well, but I feel he’s going through a bit of what Ferland went through last year–just not getting his shots off cleanly for whatever reason. I have liked Bennett’s game for a while now, I think it’s a matter of time. Just hope it comes before the end of the season, and with a better winger than Brouwer.

    Slot Hamilton in as fourth-line C, and he probably won’t hurt you.

  • Danoilerfanincalgary

    Versteeg has played well he has earned the chance. Tkachuk will play smarter as he gains experience he is a valuable player for the Flames. Let’s hope he does not become a Matt Cooke type of player but he is probably smarter than that and will have his dads guidance.

  • cjc

    Bennett on Backlund’s wing is a no brainer. Beyond that, I think the opponent needs to be considered – Washington has a pretty high-octane offense, so putting Versteeg up with Monahan and Gaudreau may make more sense than Chiasson.

    As the playoffs are not yet secured, I think Calgary should only burn another recall if it allows them to ice a better lineup. Not sure Jankowski>Lazar at this point, though Klimchuk, Mangiapane or Shinkaruk>Hamilton, as Hamilton hasn’t played in ages. We all know Brouwer will play regardless.

    • everton fc

      This makes the most sense… And causes the least amount of “chaos”…

      I could see them slotting Lazar in the pivot and Hamilton on the RW, but neither situation improves the other much. I’ve like Hamilton’s play when he gets his chances. He plays with a lot of unheralded grit.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I could see switching Brouwer with Lazar but that is about all. Is there any chance that Andersson gets into one of the road games? It seems a shame to have him sit while Bartkowski plays. There is little doubt who the better player is or who should have a better NHL career.