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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

What are the odds?: Micheal Ferland edition

Two and a half seasons into his NHL career, Micheal Ferland has an uncertain future.

It’s not a bad thing. It isn’t a case of Ferland underperforming; rather, it’s a case of not knowing just what Ferland’s actually capable of. We know he belongs in the NHL. We know he has a good shot and decent hands. We know he’s tough and physical. He doesn’t play at an elite level – unless he’s a late bloomer, which I suppose is possible – but we know he’s good.

The question is, just where does he actually fit in the lineup in 2017-18?

Claimed in the expansion draft

Technically, it’s possible. Though he finished the previous season on a line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, Ferland isn’t at the same untouchable level they are. There isn’t any guarantee the Flames choose to protect him in the upcoming expansion draft.

… But if they don’t, they’re certified idiots. If Ferland goes unprotected, he gets claimed. It’s that simple. It would take two major forward additions to see him left out, and that just isn’t likely to happen. Ferland will probably be a Flame to start next season.

Traded for an upgrade

Unless he’s able to provide just a little more value off the ice than on it.

Ferland is a fantastic player, and the kind of guy any team would love to have on its roster – as a support level player. But fact is, he’s not elite. He’s good, but he’s not someone you build around.

If the Flames can find an upgrade at forward with favourable trade circumstances – if, say, the expansion draft forces someone else’s hand, or cap concerns do – then they should pull the trigger. But if it’s a meaningful upgrade, then even with the other team being put in a position to make a trade, you still have to give to get. And Ferland is probably the most likely forward to fall in this category. He isn’t a core player, but he’s a good enough player that his inclusion in a trade offer wouldn’t be an insult, and might actually succeed in getting something done.

And if something is going to happen this offseason, well, it’s possible the Flames’ lack of picks will force them to move a roster player to further build up instead.

It’s not that anyone would want to see Ferland go – but if he’s the key to upgrading the overall forward group, it has to be done.

Back on the fourth line

Throughout his time on the Flames, we’ve seen Ferland consistently undervalued. Even when he was promoted to the first line for the final quarter of games this past season, he still wasn’t playing as much as he could have been, and only got powerplay time once the games were meaningless.

It should be hard to see the Flames go back to undervaluing Ferland, but unfortunately, it’s not. And depending on how the future lineup shakes out, not to mention which bottom six players remain (will Lance Bouma be in the NHL or AHL? Will or Troy Brouwer Alex Chiasson or Matt Stajan be in Calgary or Vegas?), it’s possible he might end up back on the fourth line.

On the one hand, if Ferland is on your fourth line, you’ve probably got a really good one. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine the Flames picking up and promoting enough forwards that Ferland would be the 10th best option for them – and that would indicate poor usage of him once again.

His shooting percentage spike and overall play with Gaudreau and Monahan to finish the season shouldn’t see this happen, though.

Comfortably in the top nine

Throughout his NHL career to date, Ferland has proven he’s better than what he’s been allotted. And since the Flames won’t be switching coaches over this offseason, their current coach – Glen Gulutzan – knows what he has in Ferland. And he should know he has a player who can slot in throughout the lineup and be trusted with more responsibilities.

If the Flames want to experiment with their roster configuration, then one way to do it would probably be to remove Ferland from Gaudreau and Monahan’s line. Technically it’s a demotion – but if, say, the replacement is the higher level Matthew Tkachuk, then why not slot Ferland in Tkachuk’s old spot to form an all-Mike shutdown line? Ferland’s scoring isn’t on the same level as Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik’s, but there’s good reason to believe he can keep up with them. He doesn’t get his head kicked in possession-wise. He could be a good part of a shutdown line.

Or what about giving Sam Bennett a linemate upgrade? Two physical players with offensive talent – though Bennett has more than Ferland – who are also willing to drop the gloves on the same line could be a mess for other teams.

Even if Ferland doesn’t stay with Gaudreau and Monahan, there are still good players in the lineup for him to play with. And while powerplay time may not be a thing, depending on how the forward unit is restructured, perhaps the penalty kill could be an option.

Status quo

How likely are the Flames to find a significant upgrade at forward? How likely are they to pull the trigger on it? It’s fun to dream of acquiring big names, but Dougie Hamilton-style trades aren’t all that common. That’s what makes them so special to begin with.

So sure, maybe the Flames are able to add a notable name to their forward group, but it isn’t exactly something to bet on.

And considering just how long it took for the team to find line combinations that actually worked – they weren’t finalized until very late in the season, when Brouwer and Chiasson switched lines – how inclined do you think Gulutzan is to mess with his group out of the gate?

The Flames have been searching for someone to fill out Gaudreau and Monahan’s line since Jiri Hudler’s play dropped and he ultimately departed a little over a year ago. Ferland has had two kicks at the can already: one in a season he shot 3.3%, and the next at 14.2%. Both are extremes. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. But Ferland visibly kept up with Gaudreau and Monahan, and barring any clearcut upgrades, it should be his spot to lose.

What’s going to happen?

Ferland is probably going to stay a Flame, and he’s probably going to start the season with Gaudreau and Monahan, barring something awesome happening. If that’s the default move, then you’re in a pretty decent place.

Whether he finishes the season on that line is another question entirely – my bet would be on no – but I do think Ferland’s time being underestimated in this organization is over.

  • freethe flames

    The Flames need to change what in means to have a 4th line. The new 4th line needs to be defensively responsible, tough to play against, fast and physical, capable of playing on the PK and maybe even the PP. and finally as a unit able to produce between 30-45 goals. The only way to do that is to go young. Ferland as that kind of 4th liner is fine but if he is buried there with the likes of Brouwer/Bouma/Stajan then it is a waste of an asset. Of the $10m only Stajan offers anything that helps. 4th liners need to be guys who want to play up the line up and are cheap. Everything the Flames 4th line was not.

  • Puckhead

    Ferland is one of my favorite players because of the intangibles he brings to the table, namely character and heart. These types of players are hard to replace and not the kind of guys you want to play against.

    Hopefully management gets rid of some of the puffballs while keeping ‘core’ players with grit, heart and skill. Teams can’t succeed without guys like Ferland sprinkled throughout the lineup.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      Unless Tree is just posturing, Ferland is highly regarded by the organization. Tree feels that Ferland is just touching his potential. Tough to find players that you can move up and down the line up and can play both a skilled and rugged game. Lazar would go long before Ferland.

  • Lucky 13

    What I’d really love to see this year is Ferland, Bennett and Tkachuk line. Tough to play against.
    So let’s speculate potential forward lines given what we currently have;

    Gaudreau- Monahan-?
    Frolik- Backlund- Janko
    Ferland- Bennett- Tkachuk
    Lazar- Stajan- Brouwer? Chiasson?

    Once again, we can ask our Selke Backlund to help Janko with the transition to the NHL… provided of course he graduates this season. He’s definitely made a strong case for himself and I hope they give him a decent chance.

    3rd line would be formidable.. imho… grit factor x 10

    Am I way off base?

    • Puckhead

      That 3rd line could be insane. If it worked out it would almost be a shame to have it as a 3rd line. It highlights how ‘soft’ 2/3 of our first line is.

    • freethe flames

      If you could fill that first line with a effective RW and get keep Brouwer off the last line you could have a team that plays 4 effective lines which is what I have been preaching for awhile now. Your line of Janko/Backs/Frolik is also something I have been advocating for a while now. Janko’s game sounds like such a match for the two vets.

    • Matty Franchise Jr

      I’ve thought about Janko on Mickis’ line before, and like the idea that he learns to play at the NHL level by watching Backlund play C.
      The change I’d make to your lineup to start the season is Versteeg-Bennett-Tkachuk, with Ferlund on the top line. And Brouwer in VGK, so Chaisson on the 4th.

  • Gfountyyc

    What more does he need? The man clearly has chemistry and can finish. Give him time to develop with Johnny and mony.
    When he played on the top line, the whole line played better, and he never even got power play time.

    It’s funny how quick people write off players. Remember Patrick sharp was almost an ahl player and almost out of hockey, chose to put the work in and reinvent himself, then was a top line forward for the hawks for years.

    • Puckhead

      It’s not about writing him off at all. It’s about playing with line combos and trying to come up with 4 tough lines to play against. Ferland is an integral part to that equation.

  • Skylardog

    Not sure how far up the attitude goes, but I get the feeling that GG and possibly BT just don’t think that much of Ferland. Chaisson and Brouwer had more minutes per game than Ferland in the playoffs. He seems to get the short end of the stick, even when he his performing at a high level.

    Last season he was number 1 on the Flames in PP points per 60 minutes of PP time. NUMBER 1. Yet in the playoffs he gets 38 seconds of Powerplay time. Brouwer gets 12:38.
    During the season he get 6.77 PP points per 60 minutes of PP time, Gaudreau 4.15, Monahan 4.11, Brouwer 3.69. Chaisson (51:58) gets more PP time than Ferland (35:27) over the season, and puts up 2.3 PPP/60.

    Flames staff just doesn’t see his value. He is my favorite Flame. Just hope he doesn’t go somewhere else in a trade (or get picked up by Vegas) and come back to haunt us badly.

  • calgaryfan

    Hartley was a bad judge of hockey talent and had his favorites and GG appears to be the same. Anybody could see Brouwer was not playing well and yet he gets power play time. (reputation as a playoff performer?) I don’t understand these NHL coaches playing guys who are not performing, the coaches job is on the line why not go with the player that gives the team a better chance to win. Afraid of the GM or told by the GM who to play?

    • Stu Cazz

      Respectfully your comments do not have a grasp of hockey on the business side. Maintaining asset value is a huge factor in determining ice time. It is also not just on the coach…decisions are made collectively involving management. Like it or not that’s the way it is.

      • calgaryfan

        Poor hockey decisions are why the Flames have won 1 cup. So you play players based on salary earned? The Flames have been one of the worst run franchises since their cup win in 1989. They just got rid of Wideman’s contract and now are saddled with Brouwer. Treliving keeps selling good in the room and playoff performer. The coach should be able to play the players that give the team the best chance to win!

        • Jumping Jack Flash

          Every team has a Brouwer contract or worse. I am pretty sure that players like Brouwer can see the need to Re-invent their game. Brouwer could drop some mass like Maroon did last year to improve his skating and it could make all the difference in his game. I expect guys like Bouma and Stajan see the importance of busting their ass this summer so the can stay relevant.

        • Stu Cazz

          Every team has bad contracts. That’s simply part of the business…how you manage these bad contracts is critical. Although Wideman was no longer marketable after the linesman incident Brouwer’s may be a contract that Treliving can do something with. Playing the asset with hopes of improved play is a good strategy for a possible move at some point in the future.

          • freethe flames

            Not if it hurts the teams chances of winning. At some point you have to know when to stop. But I’m also willing to see if he has reinvented himself; it’s harder to do as you age.

  • Ktop

    Gaudreau- Monahan-Versteeg (Offensive Line)
    Janko- Backlund- Frolik (Defensive Line)
    Tkachuk- Bennett- Ferland (Checking Energy Line)
    Lazar- Stajan- Brouwer? Chiasson? (Leftovers)

    I don’t look at it like a number 1,2 ,3 ,4 line. I also think we don’t have to go after a 1st RW unless it’s a good deal.

    Just get a goalie!!!!! I told everyone all year Elliott was no good. No one would listen. I was right bigly!

  • Garry T

    Your lines should be
    Johnny Monny and Hayes
    Jankowski Backlund Frolik
    Ferland Bennett Tkachuk
    Porier Lazar Klimchuk
    Spares… Stajan and Chiasson. Move the rest.

    Your D should be

    Gio and Hamilton
    Brodie and Jack johnston
    Kulak Wotherspoon

    Goalies

    Gillies and Rittich

    Tell GG to play these guys asses off and they will perform.
    If GG says I am not doing that, fire his ass. Get rid of the dead weight
    And save cap space for a rainy day.

  • Garry T

    And another thing ….
    We need
    1 Pressure forechecking to produce turn-overs
    2 punishing defence that makes it hard for teams to enter our zone
    3 back checking, back checking and more back checking.
    Everybody picking up their man and playing the game right.
    4 Good Communication … Do not allow offensive players to take ground behind our D. Those guys need to be cleared away from the net. They are getting easy goals on us
    5 Improve the breakout patterns
    6 Play extra hard in our zone to recover pucks

    Do all of this and our goals against are going to come down big time!

  • NastyOleBuzzard

    Is Michael Ferland the best fit on the first line. Well, he had good junior numbers. He’s tough enough to provide a bit of deterrence when it comes to bullying Johnny Gaudreau or Sean Monahan. So why not? At least give him a chance at the start of the season.

  • Jessemadnote

    I agree he should be given every opportunity on that number one line. I really think the forward unit will be status quo minus Stajan who’ll be an expansion pick, I’m okay with that.

    Jonny – Mony – ferland
    Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
    Versteeg – Bennett – Chiasson
    Bouma – Lazar – Brouwer. (It’s now become the 7.7m fourth line!)