After seemingly eons of arena talk, let’s focus on hockey! We assembled our motley crew of writers to chat all things Calgary Flames and training camp. I was driving home from the rink at the very beginning of the chat, so I jump in late. It’s a super-sized Slack Sunday! And 100% arena-talk free!
Like our takes? Disagree with a fiery passion? Add your thoughts in the comments!
Ryan Pike: Camp’s open! Anybody we’re particularly keen on seeing in preseason?
karimkurji (Karim Kurji): I’m keen on seeing how far Foo gets. I think he’ll make the team.
ctibs (Christian Tiberi): Being with Bennett and Versteeg seems like a promising sign. I really liked what i saw from him in Penticton, maybe he takes it to another level in the NHL preseason.
billtran (Bill Tran): Finally figuring out our 3rd and 4th lines would be nice. There’s a good number of players competing for those 6 spots.
taylormckee (Taylor McKee): One thing was abundantly clear: kid can shoot.
ctibs: Could he be the best right handed right winger in our org? Quite possibly. Reading the tea leaves, Brouwer’s in the mentorship role with Janko and Mangiapane, so his days with bennett are likely done.
taylormckee: That is good stuff. I wonder how line four looks then: Stajan – Janko – Brouwer?
billtran: Definitely have a feeling one of the vets will get usurped.
ctibs: But then Lazar is playing nowhere I guess. What line has he been on in training camp?
ctibs: Interesting. I guess that suggests that they’re telling the kids to earn their spot. Earned not given or whatever.
karimkurji: Except Lazar it seems
taylormckee: Do they have Lazar in mind for 3L RW? If I am Freddie Hamilton, I am seriously considering going Tonya Harding on Lazar.
ctibs: Early results say no. Poirier’s on with backlund and tkachuk. Even though he’s not getting that spot, it kind of suggests that they want to see what Poirier and Foo can do in top nine spots.
karimkurji: How do we feel about Hrivik?
arii (Ari Yanover): nobody else is really a solid LW and his time with the Rangers, even if he cannot score worth a damn, is rrrrreally interesting to consider.
ctibs: He feels like a better Freddie to me. usable, good, but low impact relative to the team.
arii: I looked it up earlier, he was something like 55% CF, 48% OZS with the Rangers, +6.5 Rel, albeit in only 160 or so minutes of ice time. Like I don’t care if he doesn’t score… if he’ll be that responsible on the 4L I’m all for it.
ctibs: They probably want a kid to steal that spot first, but Hrivik is a good backup plan.
taylormckee: Hrivik – Janko – Lazar would be a cool line to see in preseason.
arii: 40 points in 56 games in the AHL last year. Or he’s a good top six guy for Stockton.
billtran: That’s true. The number of bubble players we have going into camp would just about sort out the Flames’ bottom six and the Heat’s top six.
Ryan Pike: Hi everybody, just back from the building. Interesting line from first two days: Klimchuk, Hrivik & Brouwer.
karimkurji: Is brouwer bouncing around a lot?
Ryan Pike: 90% of the lines have been consistent through the first two days.
ctibs: What are your impressions so far, Ryan?
Ryan Pike: It was mentioned by a few people from the media horde (primarily our 960 friends), the pace is really good. Not a lot of stopping.
arii: Something I am really curious about is just where Brouwer and Lazar end up. Every time I do a roster construction it’s hard to find a home for them unless I’m cutting out any and all prospects trying to make the team.
Ryan Pike: Lazar’s been with Stajan and Shinkaruk so far.
ctibs: I’m having the same problem too. I draw up some nice lines, and then think “oh dang, i left off Brouwer and Lazar.”
arii: So if Foo sticks with Bennett and Versteeg and say Shinkaruk gets bumped for Brouwer, where does Jankowski go?
Ryan Pike: I think Jankowski is fourth line LW or center.
ctibs: Someone is going to get screwed over because of it which is not good.
taylormckee: Is it realistic to imagine Brouwer eating popcorn?
arii: I get it all sorts itself and there will be some tough cuts to come but… those two are real head-scratchers for me. I would be surprised
ctibs: i think they give him a chance to redeem himself.
karimkurji: 9 games. send him back to junior.
ctibs: They can sell an easy “veteran presence” narrative with him because of all the youth in the bottom six, so why not?
arii: Brouwer needs to be louder, angrier, and have access to a time machine.
karimkurji: In all honesty, we can’t ignore his “in the room” intangibles. He wore an “A” for a reason
croatis (Christian Roatis): Why did he wear an A? Because of his paycheque?
billtran: Imagine if his calendar said April every month, eh?
arii: Better question, why didn’t Backlund???
croatis: No kidding, 3rd longest tenured Flame.
Ryan Pike: My guess is Backlund and Stajan don’t wear letters because they don’t need to in order to be leaders in the room. Goalies don’t wear ’em either. Versteeg didn’t.
croatis: So what you’re saying is Brouwer’s leadership is useless unless validated by a letter stitched onto his jersey.
arii: Why have letters at all then?
ctibs: Yeah I don’t get the logic either. They signed him because he’s a leader, but he can’t be a leader unless he has a fabric letter on his jersey.
Ryan Pike: All letters “mean” is “this guy is respected enough that we’re good with him bitching at the officials for us.”
croatis: Thing is, Brouwer’s season was shit and he was gifted tons of opportunities on the top line and PP. what sort of season would he have if he just played fourth line minutes with minimal pp time. (Answer: horrendous)
billtran: Seeing Hunter Smith play the PP in Penticton brought back shades of Brouwer.
ctibs: Tkachuk should get an “A” but it stands for “asshole” instead. I would like that.
croatis: Also nice to see the NHL crackdown on slashing for the regular season. I assume all will go back to anarchy come April.
arii: April seems generous
Ryan Pike: I think players are hacking at each other by American Thanksgiving.
karimkurji: Or as we like to call it in Canada… Thursday. What would you place the over/under for brouwer’s games played at?
Ryan Pike: 60.
billtran: I’d take the over on that.
croatis: Too much egg on face still if he sits a lot.
taylormckee: Unless Versteeg finishes him off in their blood feud, I’ll have the over.
ctibs: He sits after the deadline, in my opinion.
croatis: Cause for whatever reason, national media hasn’t clued in that Brouwer is hot garbage.
Ryan Pike: Brouwer’s smart enough to know what happens to older players with big deals that get bought out.
croatis: He’s mentioned in like every Flames preview done by non Flames people.
Ryan Pike: National media doesn’t pay attention to the Flames, though.
croatis: Exactly. Or any team but Toronto. “National Media” is essentially Leafs media.
Ryan Pike: And Edmonton.
arii: Sorry did you mean McDavid?
karimkurji: How does the upcoming Brouwer situation affect the Leafs?
Ryan Pike: Until games start counting, there’s no Brouwer situation.
croatis: My mentions featured some people telling me the Oilers have a window to win but the Flames don’t. You can guess whom they cheered for
arii: Who do the Oilers have on defence other than Klefbom? Like… who? Sekera is dead until the new year
karimkurji: There’s this guy Kris something…
croatis: And that’s all but a lost season for him after that. Like yes you have McDavid and Draisaitl and Talbot but what else???
arii: I think we really need to appreciate the sheer depth the Flames have built up. if any of their forward bets (Lazar/Jankowski/Foo) pan out then dang.
croatis: Also was told Flames need help up the middle.
Cause Monahan-Backlund-Bennett-Stajan-Jankowski-Lazar is mediocre for whatever reason.
ctibs: Not to turn this into Oiler chat [editor’s note: too late], but I’m suspicious of Talbot being good after having played 80+ games last season.
croatis: We can bash them on the 6 other days of the week.
karimkurji: The Flames could have a really solid top 9 this year.
Ryan Pike: The Flames are really shallow on center after the NHL level.
arii: Bennett isn’t even bad. He’s disappointing considering where he was taken, but he’s still very clearly NHL-caliber. The Flames are shallow on centre after the NHL because the centres they drafted are already in the NHL.
karimkurji: And they keep drafting defensemen in all 7 rounds.
arii: it’s like “Flames have a bad prospect pool!” 19-year-old matthew tkachuk isn’t a prospect because he scored 48 points last season as a rookie so…
ctibs: I could go both ways
taylormckee: I’ve kinda been banging that drum for a while re: the Flames at C outside the NHL though, It’d be great if Ruzicka or Lindstrom turns out.
ctibs: The Flames have a good number of prospects that could play at the NHL level, the problem being that the majority of them aren’t going to be good outside of the bottom six.
croatis: But that again, like Ari said, is because they’ve converted their top prospects into NHLers.
ctibs: They got depth in the prospect pool, not elite level talent, but that’s okay because the latter group aren’t prospects anymore.
arii: They are hurting for maybe one more real top six player, depending on Ferland.
karimkurji: Actually going off that, do we expect Tkachuk to regress a bit this year? Or will he improve?
Ryan Pike: He could improve.
taylormckee: I figure he could definitely score more, right?
arii: Top six by age:
24 – 23 – 25
19 – 28 – 29
billtran: If I recall, Stimson’s radar charts basically showed all Tkachuk needs to become elite is more goal scoring
arii: And I don’t see an avenue for Tkachuk to regress – he’s already gotten the toughest assignments on the team and thrived. He scored 13 goals at a 9.2% SH, 10 at ES. 35/48 points were at ES. Where is he supposed to regress?
ctibs: I think Tkachuk gets better. Scoring depends on how Glen uses him.
arii: His rookie season provided zero red flags.
croatis: Worse linemates is the only thing I see.
ctibs: If he gets (rightfully deserved) PP time, he could be 60+ points.
arii: Yeah, if 3M gets broken up he could take a hit but he added to Backlund+Frolik and made them a super line.
croatis: He was safe and warm under Backlund and Frolik’s wings.
Ryan Pike: I think he could improve because he has a much better idea of what parts of his game need to be tweaked to work at the NHL level.
ctibs: His game last season was mostly hockey IQ, so if the physical tools (which are already pretty impressive for a teenager) come around, it could bring him to that next level.
croatis: Top 3 possession line the in the NHL. Crazy when you think about it.
taylormckee: Insane. And I think we all saw flashes of his hands as well throughout last year.
ctibs: He just needs to shoot the dang puck more.
arii: True; Tkachuk only had 142 shots on net last season. 1.87 per game. I’d be surprised if that didn’t go up. maybe he and Ferland switch places, top line is filled with 60+ point players (and has an average age of 22), shutdown line has modest contribution – probably two players hovering around ~40 points and Ferland maybe around 30 – while suppressing top lines. Also: all Mike line.
croatis: I could definitely see that being an experiment midseason if things don’t go super well with the top line. He didn’t get any time with Monahan and Gaudreau last year did he?
ctibs: No. 19-93-36 to start, 3M the rest of the way.
croatis: Frankly, the room for him to grow IS into the third member of that line, an elite 1st line winger. If we’re talking absolute ceiling.
karimkurji: He’s LW though, he’d have to switch sides.
ctibs: He can play both. Did that in London.
karimkurji: That’s intriguing.
Ryan Pike: Most wingers can do both.
croatis: Yeah pretty sure he was drafted as RW wasn’t he?
ctibs: I think they just listed him as a winger.
Ryan Pike: Central Scouting is notoriously spotty with positions.
croatis: Regardless, that’s a helluva top line if it all pans out. Brouwer might even stay above water on 2M. Or as mentioned, Ferland or even Foo. 1st line forward Matthew Tkachuk opens up a Pandora’s box of possibilities.
taylormckee: Or..or..Sam Bennett? Because the Flames have Duchene right? RIGHT?! RUMOUR MAN SAID SO.
arii: At the draft Tkachuk said he could play all three forward positions.
Ryan Pike: Possibility I want to mention: Valimaki spending time in the NHL this year.
karimkurji: From what Pat has been tweeting, Valimaki and Andersson has been a consistent pairing. And they looked great in Penticton.
arii: Valimaki and Kulak switch spots with Stone for a bit and then Valimaki goes down before nine games? i can see the merit to it; he looks great and this way he gets an eye for what it’s like in the NHL.
croatis: Maybe last question for today, cause I’m personally curious of all your opinions on it, how would you rate Glen Gulutzan’s first year with the Flames and is he the right guy in your minds to lead the team into their supposed window of contention? I’d give him a B+ for how he turned things around and his system (I quite enjoy it).
ctibs: Well he has an Actually Good roster to work with now, so if the team stays in neutral, it’s on him.
arii: He turned them into a top 10 CF% team after a horrid start; i am cautiously optimistic.
croatis: I’m also cautiously optimistic.
ctibs: They can go top five in possession without Wideman, Engelland, Kevin, Bartkowski, etc in the bottom four.
Ryan Pike: If they get buy-in from the roster, I think he is.
karimkurji: Players seem to like him.
taylormckee: If the goalies don’t drag the team to hell, I am on the optimism train.
arii: Yeah I think everyone already being in place this training camp is huge.
billtran: So everything is contingent on everyone performing as expected.
arii: Like we were pretty much done writing about the team for the summer once Stone and Versteeg were re-signed… It’s the same roster.
billtran: In which GG has a good shot at elevating the Flames.
croatis: I like how he hasn’t tried to do useless line experiments. He went straight to what we perceive to be optimal line combos. Also: Kulak-Stone thank heavens
Ryan Pike: Grain of salt. Pre-season practice lines.
croatis: Not really. Last year’s regular season lines plus new additions.
Ryan Pike: Pre-season practice lines mean nothing. Pre-season lines mean nothing until the roster is down to, like, 35 guys.
croatis: You can’t tell me Gio-Doug/Hamonic-Brodie means nothing.
Ryan Pike: Sure I can.
karimkurji: Gio didn’t win the fitness testing this year, is he even gonna make the team??? Who knows?
Ryan Pike: Saying pre-season practice lines matter is like saying Penticton lines matter.
croatis: Not when they look like this. You’re being a little paranoid I think. Tre said as much as Gaudreau-Monahan-Ferland are starting. And he talks with GG so don’t say “Treliving doesn’t make the lines”
Ryan Pike: Pre-season means very little until the rosters pare down; right now it’s about hoping key guys don’t get hurt.
croatis: I contend you can read much more into these lines than any other random preseason line combo in the past. Given all we know.
Ryan Pike: Given the importance of a good start, I’d agree with you.
croatis: We have found common ground. Unlike the City and CSEC.