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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Three players looking at reduced roles in 2017-2018

The Calgary Flames have had a very busy offseason as the team tries to take a few steps forward after earning a playoff spot on merit in 2016-17. Thanks to Calgary’s wheeling and dealing this summer, a number of players will be looking at different roles for the coming season. A trio of veterans, specifically, could be looking at diminished responsibility once we get to October.

Matt Stajan

Stajan has turned into one of the most likeable members of the Flames over the course of his eight seasons with the team. But, as he enters the final year of a contract and gets set to turn 34 in December, Stajan could be looking at one of his smallest roles since joining the Flames in early 2010.

After averaging 12:40 per night over 81 regular season games, Stajan was down to 10:15 in the playoffs. He was also scratched along with Lance Bouma in Calgary’s final game, as Curtis Lazar and Freddie Hamilton made their postseason debuts with the team. With some interesting decisions to be made down the middle for 2017-18, I’m unsure where Stajan sits right now.

Johnny Gaudreau-Sean Monahan-Micheal Ferland
Matthew Tkachuk-Mikael Backlund-Michael Frolik
Kris Versteeg-Sam Bennett-Alex Chiasson
Lance Bouma-Matt Stajan-Troy Brouwer

Those lines were what the Flames went with in Game 3 against Anaheim,  Stajan’s final game of last season. With a few of those players gone, and with a couple new considerations, there are some important questions to ask here. Is Bennett a centre? Does Lazar play down the middle? And, does Mark Jankowski enter into this conversation at all?

If the answer is yes to one of the first two questions, then Stajan is likely set to reprise his role as Calgary’s fourth line centre. If the answer is yes to both of those first queries, though, then Stajan may not be looking at an everyday role this year. And, regardless of the first two questions, if the answer to number three is yes, then the result is likely the same: Stajan seeing significant time as a healthy scratch.

Over the last few years, Stajan has settled into a fourth line role after being used as one of the team’s top two centres in Bob Hartley’s first two seasons. I don’t see any real harm in Calgary using Stajan as their fourth pivot once again this season, because he can do the job just fine. The determining factor will be whether the Flames have better options for right now and, just as importantly, if it makes more sense to give someone younger those minutes with an eye to the future.

Troy Brouwer

As Brouwer’s first season with the Flames went on we saw his role gradually reduced, so this is something that’s already underway. After averaging more than 17 minutes per night in his first few months, he was down to just over 14 by the end of the season and into the playoffs. In saying that, though, Brouwer’s average ice time still finished fifth highest on the team at 16:13. Season over season, I just can’t see him being in that same ballpark to start 2017-18.

Even with one of the highest offensive zone starts on the team, Brouwer was one of Calgary’s least effective players last season. As much as he didn’t want to, head coach Glen Gulutzan didn’t have any choice but to reduce Brouwer’s ice time as the season went on. It’s harsh to say, but for most of last season Brouwer was ineffective at his best and detrimental when worse.

In fairness, last year was perhaps the worst season of Brouwer’s NHL career, so some slight improvement in the coming year won’t be a total shock. Even with that, though, Brouwer is very likely looking at a diminished role as opposed to where expectations were a year ago. For many, the hope was for Brouwer to slot in on one of the team’s top two lines. One year later, though, a third line role is likely his best case scenario.

Along with Brouwer, NHL right wing depth for the Flames looks like this as it stands right now: Micheal Ferland, Michael Frolik, Garnet Hathaway, Kris Versteeg*, Curtis Lazar*. The asterisks beside Versteeg and Lazar means they could play the right side, but there’s no guarantee that’s the direction Calgary will go; Lazar is a natural centre while Versteeg spent most of last season on the left side.

Regardless of where the Flames put Lazar and Versteeg, though, Brouwer just isn’t a fit in the top six. If Bennett starts the season at centre as we’re led to believe, then perhaps Brouwer could slide in on the right side of a third line opposite Versteeg. If things go in a different direction, though, then Brouwer could end up being a very expensive fourth line option. Regardless, his role is set to be much smaller than it was to start last season.

Michael Stone

For some, Stone’s arrival just before the trade deadline was a big part of Calgary’s torrid end to the season. After all, the team’s 10-game win streak started the same night Stone made his debut against the Nashville Predators. Of course, the addition of one player wasn’t the only reason why the Flames got as hot as they did (the 3M Line, Brian Elliott, and Giordano-Hamilton all played bigger parts), but it was a fun narrative. Now, regardless of how much credit you think he deserves for Calgary’s torrid finishing pace, Stone is looking at a much lesser role for 2017-18.

The main reason for that is the team’s June acquisition of Travis Hamonic, who’s penciled in on the second pair currently. The Flames gave up a first round and a pair of second round picks to pry Hamonic from the Islanders and the plan is to partner him with T.J. Brodie. With Giordano and Hamilton already an established duo, that drops Stone to the third pair and essentially makes him the team’s number five defenceman. Judging on the last few seasons, and the price Calgary paid to acquire Hamonic, this line of thinking makes sense.

Other than last season, when both players struggled, Hamonic has been the superior defenceman and seems better suited to play top four minutes on a regular basis going forward. With both Stone and Hamonic possessing right shots, Calgary’s back end is most likely going to look like this come October:

Mark Giordano-Dougie Hamilton
T.J. Brodie-Travis Hamonic
??????-Michael Stone

Those question marks could be filled by any one of Brett Kulak, Matt Bartkowski, or Tyler Wotherspoon, with other options potentially in play, too. Regardless, it’s a pretty good bet Stone’s ice time is going to come in under the 18:51 he averaged in 19 games with the Flames last season.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    100% agree with the line of thinking here and the 3 players. Based on last seasons results Brouwer should automatically be placed on the 4th line, but I doubt he starts there.

    • CussingTortoise

      My guess is the Flames try to get as much value as possible from Brower. Owners don’t seem to like paying players to not play and Treliving needs to show the league he has faith in Brower if he wants to dump him on some terrible GM.

  • Lucky 13

    Good stuff as always Pat.

    I’m hoping that those 3 mentioned have reduced roles this season.

    As much as I personally love Stajan, I think it’s imperative that we allow growth to continue from our youth. Stajan would fit the perfect role of mentor-player this year while giving up some playing time to assist our prospects. He’s a class act!

    Brouwer…. what more can we say about him?
    Please for the love of good things, let Ferland get PP time over Brouwer! If Ferland is expected to be 1st line RW at least give him a decent chance to prove himself by giving him PP time. Even with the little time he got last season he did remarkably well.

    I like Stone as our 5th D and from everything I saw of him last year, he was the physical element we need even if he’s on a reduced role.
    Kulaks really needs to be given a full season this year. I see him starting as the LD with Stone .

    Biggest question I have, who makes the team this season?
    Could be really interesting!

    • Just.Visiting

      Not playing Ferland on the PP after he showed how well he played with Monahan and Gaudreau was one of the more puzzling coaching decisions GG and his staff continued to perpetuate. Having Ferland on the fourth line for so long when he was playing well was equally puzzling.

      • Carl the tooth

        I wonder how much input Burke had in acquiring Brouwer ? In trevlings new contract I think he has full control of team now as a clause in his contract . Maybe trevlings not all to blame for any of his questionable signings .maybe trevling said hey that’s enough your making me look bad lol

    • Trevy

      I completely agree. I think Brouwer was given PP time last season in an effort to see if at the very least, he could contribute during that phase of the game. He was given ample opportunity in all situations and rightfully so at that salary, to show what he çan do. Sadly, we all seen the results and I’m sure GG did too. I also fully expect him to be a fixture on the 4th line in a minimum role this season until Treliving performs a miracle to get rid of him

      • Squishin

        Treliving is a total wizard! I hope he can do something soon. I’ve actually never been this happy with a Flames GM before. Let’s see if some of these risks pay off.

        • Carl the tooth

          Brouwer should have been throwing right hooks I thought that’s why he was part of that line to give those guys some protection epic fail !! The refs wouldn’t call the previous 16-20 slashes fright ridiculous….. wheres wideman!!!! All year every time I watched mcdavid play refs were calling penalties on players every time they even went near him the weakest calls I’ve ever seen and then watching Johnny get tripped slashed in the face and hauled down right in front of the incompetent reefs I’m beside myself Justicccce!!! I cry !! Where’s wideman!!!! Destroy that ref too lol no wonder the widedog got a bit edgy maybe do your job when a player gets a dirty hit right in front of you and you don’t call it maybe wideman was just showing him what it’s like .? Lololol jk be gentle lolol

      • Carl the tooth

        Trevling seems to learn from his mistakes and can’t really fault him for grabbing Brouwer .i thought he was overpaid a bit and ufas usaully are it’s the term that worried me and now yikes !! . What peeved me the most was his comment on johnnys finger being slashed and broken all he could say was ” I do it too ” are you kidding me there big guy in the room .like @$@”$ !!! From brouwers play last season it seemed like he wasn’t even trying with that stupid look on his face

        • Carl the tooth

          Would Vegas grab Brouwer if they had another chance on waivers ? Or maybe trevling will try to see if he can up his play . I’m sure he must be better this year ? Deadline trade bait ?

      • Carl the tooth

        If he plays like he did last season he must be sent down and hopefully someone grabs him off waivers ? Las Vegas didn’t take him for free but is there another team that he would fit into better . If we are a possession team he is not gonna fit in . How many more years 4? Let’s give him away eat some if his contract throw in 7 th rounder and move on quick

    • BendingCorners

      Who makes the team? Probably Brett as #6D and maybe Tyler in place of Matt as #7D. Up front, Alex and Lance are both gone and Freddie is unlikely to be claimed if he is sent to Stockton. For now at least we have 2 or 3 spots up front out of 14. Depending on how they show in camp and in the pre-season, I’m guessing that those three are Mark J (waiver exempt but ready) and Hunter S (not exempt) and Emile P (not exempt). Spencer (exempt) and Danny P (exempt) are options but I don’t think they stay in Calgary yet since Spencer has never played pro hockey and Danny keeps getting hurt and both are waiver exempt. I’m often wrong of course but I thought Hunter should have stayed in the lineup last year ahead of Lance and I’m optimistic that Emile still has it and has also put his troubles behind him.
      As to the subject of the article, a reduced role for Matt looks likely as does a better usage of Mike as a strong #5D. Troy is the wildcard since his hand injury may have bothered him from January onward so he could in fact play his way into a bigger role. He could also of course be a spent force and play his way into the popcorn box. The team is stronger in the first case so that’s what I’m hoping for but I’m not sure how likely it is, maybe 50-50 at best.

  • Just.Visiting

    I’d like to see Lazar tried as centre on the fourth line in camp and Stajan switched to the left side. I’d like to see Janko tried with the Mikes and MT moved with Bennett. (My original preference was to see MT moved to the first line until another comment noted that this would mean that Monahan and Gaudreau would be in a lot of scrums.)

    I fear that Brouwer will end up getting the Wideman treatment in which the salary and veteran status determine the ice time.

    I think that Stone will end up getting more time than a typical 5Dman. He can play up the lineup with injuries, can help out on the PP if needed and should be on the PK over Dougie to play the Engelland role with better results.

    • Lucky 13

      Agreed.

      I think it was Kevin that came up with the Tkachuk scenario .. was a great point!
      MT and Bennett would be great together. Heart and soul grit.

      Does Janko, Foo make the roster and if so where do they fit?
      I’m with you on seeing Janko playing with Backlund.

      Foo???
      I love summer, but I wanna see some hockey already

    • Carl the tooth

      If we are going with dou s and I think bennet and tkachuk will end up being top players on the team . Mony and Johnny. Backs and frolik. Tkachuk and bennet Ferlund lazar

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I just watched some video that was shared on another site and forgot how good of a slap shot stone has. This video also showed a montage of Ferland when he was on the top line… I realize this was a compilation of his best moments. But, two things really jump out, first with a little better finish on that line they could be one of the best lines in the league. Johnny needs to finish on his breakaways and Ferland needs to capitalize on his tap ins. Second, Ferland’s shot is an absolute lazer and requires very little room, so ideal for the PP.

      I found last year that Johnny’s shot after the injury was really soft. I am expecting that his wrist will be healed and that he has packed on a bit of muscle. With Johnny’s shot improved this will bring another element to to this line which already has the two best shots on the team.

      • Carl the tooth

        That was the first thing I noticed about ferlund is the cannon. When he had the worst shooting percentage in the league the previous year I said there’s no way with a shot like that it would ever repeat wrist or slat shot don’t matter . He handcuffs goalies more than anyone he needs to shoot way more .if they could set him up like they do ovi on his off wing …..?

      • oilcanboyd

        Excellent observations! I felt the same about Stone’s shot and Ferland’s excellent play on Monny/Johnny’s line. I think the Ove Glove that Johnny wore after the injury didnt help his shot either. Hopefully, someone can come up with better protection for his wrist and his wrist has completely healed.

    • Carl the tooth

      I got to post this again the more I think about it the more it makes sense Tkachuk bennet ferlund as a line . Teams would be soiling them selves . See if Connor cares to play against that line . Could end up even being flames top line in a couple years

  • I’ve been thinking about Stone.

    Yeah, the money was a lot, but we’re all assuming that nothing goes wrong with the health of the rest of the team. If-God forbid-we lose two d-men to the flu, we have a man in Stone who I think can step up in that situation, and be relied upon in that situation.

    More than that, I think there’s better hockey in him. Maybe the extra money makes more sense in that light. The light of management believing that as well. Maybe.

    Also, I watched him in the “welcome to the Flames” videos on the site, and I like him. He seems sincere and genuinely excited and bright. Character does matter. We often forget that these are people, workmates.

    So, maybe his role is not so much defined by what line he has to be on, but how ready he has to be to bear a sudden load of responsibility.

    Maybe, in that respect, he could turn out to be a secret weapon.

    • supra steve

      Yes, Stone will totally be a big asset as #5. Who would we rather have in that spot…Engelland at $2.9 million or Stone at $3.5? Seems clear to me that the Flames will be better off with a healthy Stone playing 15 to 20 minutes a night in that #5 spot, and moving up to the second line when needed.

  • oddclod

    Act like you care Brouwer. Even though you’ve moonlighted as a gritty guy in the past and your game and fortune followed suit, last year you looked like you could barely touch your toes you lazy eff. Stajan cares and should be your role model of refining a reduced role and being utterly adored by all.

  • oddclod

    PM me on instagram for more abuse Troy. I’ve lots of time to massage your ego to where it needs to be. Humbled. PS we love Stajan and he was set up to fail. He overcame unfathomable obstacles nobody would wish on anyone. Now it’s your turn. Do it or you’re mud. Last chance too. You don’t know how we ran Phaneuf out of town. The Hecklers will be relentless. This is Canada hockey. You live our dream and piss all over it. Double up on them protein shakes or get a blanket cause it’s gonna get real Cold.

  • McRib

    “Stajan has turned into one of the most likeable members of the Flames over the course of his eight seasons with the team.”

    The Dion Phaneuf trade was EIGHT YEARS AGO!?!?! Wow, time flys.

  • freethe flames

    The question is does GG agree with Pat and the majority of fans or will Brouwer be shown the veteran reprieve? Personally I think Brouwer will be given the benefit of the doubt to start the season; it’s not what would do but I suspect that it happens. It would nor surprise me one little bit to see a preseason line of Vertseeg/Bennett/Brouwer. Personally unless he has taken some skating lessons (hard to change at his age) I can’t see him helping the team and he will get the Wideman (post acquiring Stone treatment) pressbox and popcorn.

    Stone will be a solid 5 and a good replacement when needed to play on the top to pairings.

    Stajan is a solid guy who can be with the team as the 13th forward and play a variety of roles 4th line LW/C but this should be his swan song.

  • oddclod

    In my dressing room I’d be telling Brower to step up. I see all the trashing of my comments. I lay it om thick but it’s how it is. Stajan made himself an admirable player. Brouwer has much to be desired. Trash this too nerds. Real world nobody speaks anymore. Saddened by this. Calgary was once one of the say it like it is outposts in the world now it’s PC all day unless u can hide behind downvotes. Meh. You’ll never see me contribute again. Only to heckle the pretenders when they come along. Instead of hitting the breaks brouwer, next graveyard you see you better start shoveling or put up points commensurate with your salary. Jerk.

  • Danoilerfanincalgary

    Brouwer has been about as useful as the Brower kid in the movie “Stand By Me” but a player usually does play much better in their second season with a new team. I have oodles of respect for Stajan he has had a decent career but he is near the end as for Stone he is a good number 5 d-man and that says a lot about the Flames D. Looking forward to the BOA this season and watching the Canucks get clobbered.

  • Carl the tooth

    Jankowski is pretty much a lock in make the team we should be excited about this kid too .one of top players in ahl as a top line centre rookie . Name another flame prospect that done it .mangiapane hello draft steal pretty sure he was right up there with players like strome .tkachuck.marner.dvorak.etc in ohl think he had more goals than most of them though as well ooooops I think we got him in 6 th round .him and jankowski were the only two rookie teammates in Ahl to score 20 goals . Phillips oooops another roookie of the year junior at 6 th too pretty sure ? Could he be comparable to edm first round Yamamoto? That and the fact flames let the few and obvious maybe 3 rfas. Go …..so far anyway . There’s a more proof why flames can shed those picks for hamonic and stone and smith etc .that and there ahl numbers as most of the team are full of young prospects and not like days of old where the farm was stacked with 30 year olds it’s impressive two young rookie goalies at that . So Soilers fans can cry and moan all they want lol Here comes the train !!!

    • Carl the tooth

      Monahan draft steal . Tkachuck steal.parsons steal.dube steal.rasmus Anderson steal .klington steal .fox .steal Phillips.mangiapane .steal .still got to prove it in the NHL but I’d almost say it was the rest of the NHL that set up flames for future success .or is flames scouting and management trevling either got crystal ball or genious or a bit of all 3 .

      • Roger the Shrubber

        They all look pretty good (the ones not named Monahan or Tkachuk) but I wouldn’t say they’re steals yet. You also didn’t include Parsons who, I think, is gonna be a stud and a starter on this team in the next two years.

        • Carl the tooth

          Grammar!!! Lololol is that your idea of an intelligent response .thats cause you have nothing relative to say . No stats or facts to back up anything you say .your easy prey soiler troll . It’s narrow minded people like yourself that are clueless with a low level of conciseness that would be the first to be picked off do to alien invasion or Russians lol you’ll be to busy checking grammar lol your on the wrong site son grammar geek .com.is what.your.lookig.for……. .!’lfsibfcjjcgdohdvirs….. crack that code genious …. lol your not bald too are you?

      • Carl the tooth

        I agree I did mention parsons too though right after monahan and tkachuk . Parsons stole gold from team Canada as far as I’m concerned he was pretty incredible in that 3 Rd period

    • Mr. J

      Carl have another one or go to back to school. Either or. Yeeesshh that’s torture trying to piece your posts together. Ever heard of a period or a comma?

      No wonder no one on Oilers nation even acknowledges the hundreds of posts you put up on those threads.

      • Carl the tooth

        Just not in playoffs I wasn’t even sure if he playing in some of those games hmmm Sooo if mctrain only puts up 85 and Johnny puts up say 75 how’s that contract gonna look lolololol he’s gonna have to put up 100 point seasons now

  • TheoForever

    This is like a shooting gallery, responses to the wrong posts are comical but still, I wish they brought back the old style of replaying to posts, it is really hard to pick the new posts from the old ones.
    Hey mods, you do realize that there would be more responses if there was a sequential structure.
    Who wants to go back and scan every post.

  • OYYC

    “It’s narrow minded people like yourself that are clueless with a low level of conciseness that would be the first to be picked off do to alien invasion or Russians lol you’ll be to busy checking grammar lol your on the wrong site son grammar geek .com.is what.your.lookig.for……. .!’lfsibfcjjcgdohdvirs….. crack that code genious …. lol your not bald too are you?”

    Carl the tooth responds to Roger the Shrubber. Post of the Year candidate for sure

    • Lucky 13

      Wow…Carl the tooth represents 30% of all the posts on this blog. No less than 20+ comments from him… gotta love his enthusiasm though!

      He does make some good points, if you can filter through some of the gibberish.

      We have to remember he’s a fan just like the rest of us (probably could use some Ritalin) but a true fan nonetheless.

      He cracks me up!

  • Toofun

    Reduced role for Brouwer is addition by subtraction. Even if he is given a chance to prove himself this season it will likely be a short leash. Calgary will be better this year as this adjustment is made more quickly.

    Reduced role for Stone is addition by addition. Stone was an upgrade on defense when he was brought in and Hamonic will be an upgrade to the upgrade. Again Calgary is better for the move.

    Reduced role for Stajan is addition by promotion. If he’s beat out by Jankowski and he’s still around to mentor and play when needed, its a good scenario for the team. Not having to play him big minutes up the lineup shows team depth and creates a great opportunity for the positive development of a rookie.

    All of these reduced roles should position Calgary to be better this year than last year.

    • freethe flames

      Agree; I’m really hoping that Janko can earn a spot and adjust to the NHL also hoping Lazar can live up to expectations; he see’s himself as a center more than a winger. Only time will tell.

      • everton fc

        Stajan can move to LW, but I think we’ll see Lazar on the RW if Jankowski’s slated for centre, which I’ll assume he is. A 4th line of Stajan/Jankowski/Lazar or Stajan/Jankowski/Brouwer might be what we see…

        I still think BT will try and move either Brouwer or Stajan prior to training camp. Vegas could use Brouwer, hey?! 😉

    • TheoForever

      I like having some young blood in the system and wouldn’t cry if Stajan was traded, but there is no chance they will buy him out. Stajan is a quality guy, and he is still useful in a 4th line role.

    • oilcanboyd

      Stajan is the perfect “utility” skater for the Flames. Keep him on the 4th line, but he can move up the lineup in case of in-game injuries to our forwards.

  • snotss

    come on now there is nobody down on the farm which could do the exact same job at half the price……disappointed that stajan is still on the roster!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • TheoForever

      In terms of checking and making smart defensive decisions under pressure, while leading by example and mentoring the kids, ……probably not. In terms of offense, speed, youthful enthusiasm, and potential there is a few and at quarter of the price.