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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports

When are the Flames going to rest their regulars?

There’s going to be playoff hockey in the Calgary Flames organization! The big league Flames have clinched a playoff spot. The ECHL’s Adirondack Thunder have clinched a playoff spot and currently lead their division. The American Hockey League’s Stockton Heat are currently in a fevered battle for the final playoff spot in their division, which may complicate how the Flames use their final two “regular” recalls and potentially how they may use emergency recalls prior to the final few games of the season in an effort to rest their regulars before the playoffs.

SO, WHAT’S UP?

The Flames probably should rest some guys, especially if they’re going to try to not get clobbered in the first round of the playoffs by whomever they play. They’re currently carrying four extra bodies (Dennis Wideman, Rasmus Andersson, Curtis Lazar and Freddie Hamilton) and can rotate some players out, but depending on how widespread or substantial the “bumps and bruises” are throughout their lineup it may be a good idea to sit a bunch of players to keep them healthy for the postseason.

Sitting a ton of regulars in the final game of the season is a bit of a tradition, regardless of whether the team is headed to the playoffs or not. The Flames were missing 11 regulars for their final game of the year in 2015 and seven in 2016. Those absences resulted in a ton of short-term call-ups and a bunch of players making their NHL debuts. The experience of a short-term recall is actually considered beneficial for a player’s development, because it gives the player a taste of the NHL and gives the club an idea of how close they are to actually being ready for the big time.

(If you’re curious, what usually happens logistically with all these mass recalls is the Flames would tell the NHL that a particular group of players are injured, which would allow them to use a combination of their remaining “regular” recalls and emergency recalls to bring up enough players to field a team.)

THE STOCKTON PROBLEM

If you ask hockey people what helps young players develop, the most common answer is “playing a lot.” Right now, the Heat are very close to a playoff spot – and making the playoffs would extend their season by a couple of weeks, at the least. Playing for a couple more weeks is probably more valuable from a development standpoint than playing in a garbage game in the NHL so the Flames can rest some players. But the needs of the NHL club have to be prioritized above all else.

Let’s presume that the Flames rest eight players for the last game (or two) of the season. They have two defensemen and two forwards as extras right now, so let’s guess that they recall another defender and three forwards. The most deserving call-ups right now would probably be Mark Jankowski, Morgan Klimchuk, Oliver Kylington and one of Garnet Hathaway and Hunter Shinkaruk. The problem is that once you’ve recalled those guys, you’ve basically gutted Stockton for a game or two during their push for a playoff spot. Whoops.

Even if the idea is the Flames will simply bring up depth guys from Stockton – guys like Brandon Bollig, Austin Carroll or Kenney Morrison who are long-shots for NHL jobs – then you have to replace those players with effective AHL depth guys to keep things rolling along in Stockton. The Flames only have three skaters under contract in Adirondack, and they’re not exactly world-beaters: Brett Pollock, Keegan Kanzig and Ryan Culkin.

THE TIMING ISSUE

As we mentioned the other day, here’s how the final few Flames games line up with Stockton’s games next week:

  • April 4: Calgary at Anaheim
  • April 5: San Diego at Stockton
  • April 6: Calgary at Los Angeles
  • April 8: San Jose at Stockton, Calgary at San Jose
  • April 9: Stockton at San Jose

If you’re the Flames, you probably want to sit some players against Los Angeles (a non-playoff team) prior to playing a playoff tune-up against San Jose. The nice thing is that the Flames are in California, so potentially Flames brass can watch Stockton’s game and decide who to bring up for the next day. The call-ups could play against Los Angeles and still have a day to rest before their home-and-home series with the Barracuda.

In terms of timing, though, the Los Angeles game is the only one that really works if the Flames want to try out good players from the Heat, because otherwise they’ll have to miss key AHL games. Heck, even in this “ideal” scenario they’re still playing four games in five nights (in two leagues), which is far from ideal.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN?

My best guess? The Flames probably are going to try to strike a balance between what’s best for the NHL team right now (resting some regulars), what’s best for the AHL team right now (keeping that team rolling along in the playoff hunt) and what’s best for the future (figuring out which of the AHL stars are ready for prime time).

Expect the glut of call-ups to happen on Thursday morning, prior to the Los Angeles game, and for the Flames to bring up a handful of prospective “black aces” such as Jankowski, Klimchuk, Shinkaruk and Kylington to assess if they’re almost ready for NHL jobs.

  • redwhiteblack

    The games are still very meaningful position wise. You ice the best team you can to get the best first round match up that you can for the team and your fans.

    • Kevin R

      Disagree. Nothing to gain but potential injury to valuable players we will “need” in playoffs. We can’t get home ice advantage even if we win out these last 3. As for the Anaheim curse, I would rather break it in the playoffs than tonight, when it will hurt the Ducks the most. Take Gio out, take Gaudreau & Monahan out & insert Freddie & Lazar & Fat Ras. Call up Bollig & Hathaway & sit out Backlund & Ferland (he’s probably not 100%) as well as the others.

  • class1div1

    Stockton’s schedule has been terrible. There have been large gaps between games all year. How can a team gain any kind of momentum sitting for 3,4,5 day stretches. Look forward to seeing some AHLers in LosAngelus.

    • Greatsave

      Pretty sure that’s just the nature of AHL schedules. It’s the same for all teams. Just a quick glance at Albany’s schedule, for example, shows that they play around 3/4 of their games this season on the weekend (Fri/Sat/Sun), with a majority of the remaining 1/4 on a Wednesday. That’s just how it is. For all teams. Stockton’s isn’t necessarily worse than any other’s.

  • Burning Ring of Fire

    It would be great to watch the players you mentioned get a chance. I would like to see if any of them look ready for the show. I expect (hope) that a few positions will be up for grabs next season.

  • kid presentable

    the time to rest our some of our so-called regulars was yesterday. especially since a few of them (engelland, bartkowski, etc) hurt us whenever they’re on the ice. free rasmus

    • The Doctor

      Nice one! I’d love to show up at the Saddledome wearing a Free Rasmus T-Shirt. With a cartoon of Rasmus sitting bored in the press box while Bartkowski gives the puck away on the ice.

  • Parallex

    Bollig is gonna be called up I wager. So he can show off the ring and talk about deep playoffs runs and such. Wouldn’t be surprised if they dress him against L.A. given the extracurriculars last game… personally I think the sideshow is why they lost that game but I wouldn’t wager against the Flames falling into that trap again.

  • The Sultan

    I say tonight will be the last game some of the regulars play. Don’t want to risk anyone getting hurt in the game against LA. They’re probably still bitter we got their playoff spot, plus thrive proven to me that they are a dirty team. My guess is Gio, Hamilton or Brodie, maybe all three, Monahan, Gaudreau, Backlund, maybe Brouwer and Ferland.

  • The Penn

    Bartkowski needs to be sat out .He has been a liability in the last few games.With Kulak hurt or being hidden the option is Anderson even though it means playing on his off wing .This would give Bart some time to rest for the playoffs if that’s the only option we have .ld also sit Brower although he hasn’t been that terrible on the 4th line were he belongs

  • everton fc

    I could see them rewarding Jankowski w/a call-up. Hathaway will be another. These two make the most sense – and if someone goes down, Hathaway’s NHL-ready. Here’s hoping Klimchuk and Shinkaruk get a call.

    Wotherspoon would be my first pick if they call up a defender. And play him. He’s +31. Kylington next.

    Bollig may get a recall simply to protect guys on the ice for the playoffs. Not saying I approve, but he can’t really hurt us, and has been playing a more normal forward role, with increased minutes, in Stockton. Vey and Frattin seem to have earned at least on NHL game. Neither are really prospects anymore, so that may hold them back. Would love to see Carroll up here, but that’s a long shot.

  • Oilerz4life

    They’ll rest up after getting punted by the Ducks (again) in the first round. Then Johnny Jock Strap can jet set out of Cowgary with his extortionate contract and it’s back to mediocre time Lames as per usual…