Saturday night’s win against the Jets was the best and worst of the Flames. They fell behind early due to failures on all three units, but clawed back thanks to strong 5v5 play and an interesting change in the gameplan.
Gulutzan’s line shuffling during the 6-3 win has provided a lot of speculation moving forward. The season is still young, but with a major game against Anaheim tonight and a thousand newly opened avenues to ice the roster, a lot were curious about the ways the Flames could ice their optimal lineup, mostly revolving around three players.
Is it time to breakup johnny and mony ?
— Ryan (@RyanSmigg10) October 8, 2017
I would have to say yes.
After three seasons together, we’ve probably seen that pair at their best. It’s a nice and reliable pairing, but there’s certainly a more optimal way to arrange the lineup…
Should the flames swap Monahan and Bennett’s positions ?
— Abdu Hage (@abduhage03) October 8, 2017
… especially with Sam Bennett taking a step forward.
Building off of the last question, there’s been indications (albeit in small sample size) over the first two games, the preseason, and last year, that Bennett is destined for greater things than dragging around the third line. Whenever he’s been with Johnny Gaudreau, magic happens.
No disrespect to Sean Monahan intended – he’s certainly a fine option at first line centre – but you have to love what you see from Bennett and Gaudreau more than what you see from Gaudreau and Monahan. If Bennett is now reaching the potential scouts saw in him, why wouldn’t you put him with the team’s #1 offensive weapon?
However, I hold off on this actually happening. One of my criticisms against Glen Gulutzan is that he occasionally adjusts mid-game and gets it absolutely right, but then lays off for the next game due to circumstance or what have you. I have doubts that we actually see Gaudreau and Bennett during practice rushes tomorrow.
Do we see Lazar keep his spot on the team/line with Johnny and Versteeg?
— Summit Master (@PlanetKyle) October 8, 2017
(We’ll assume you mean Bennett instead of Kris Versteeg.)
On the team? Definitely.
On that line? Not so sure about that. I’m sure the team keeps it as an option in the back pocket, but I really can’t see them making that the go-to right off the bat, especially with Jaromir Jagr on the roster. They have some time to figure out what Curtis Lazar really is, and I’m sure they don’t mind giving him reps at centre on the fourth line when they can. They’ll give Jagr playing time up front and give Lazar sheltered minutes.
Solid game last night for Lazar, but is the Lazar experiment a bit far fetched? Can we really expect him to have 1st rounder production?
— Mr Kaplan (@Mr_Kap1an) October 8, 2017
Here’s the underlying problem with talking Lazar. It’s all hype after Saturday, but a lot do not remember to look long term.
He did have a great game Saturday, but it is just one game (playing alongside two of the team’s best young forwards, to boot). Over the entire course of his career, Lazar has been below replacement level and his numbers since his rookie season have been getting worse and less promising. It seems doubtful that he’ll be much more than a third line wing in the immediate future, but if the “Ottawa ruined his development” narrative proves to be correct, then perhaps he can reclaim a bit of that potential.
Lazar could be a Matthew Tkachuk type for Bennett and Gaudreau, becoming the final piece of that line, or he could be a Lance Bouma type that’s just along for the ride. Time will tell, but his career numbers suggest that he will be the latter instead of the former. That’s why acquiring him was risky and assuming he will better just because is a bad bet.
After the success of the Gaudreau-Bennett-Lazar line last night, do we see that line stick for a game or two? If so who’s Jagr in for?
— Tyler Cowie (@tcowie13) October 8, 2017
Who does/should Jagr replace in the lineup?
— Stephan (@stuhFAN) October 8, 2017
I’ll guess that Jagr is replacing Lazar, but just in that role on Bennett’s wing. Lazar should be getting in the lineup for the foreseeable future, but they signed Jagr for a particular purpose (filling the void on the right side of the roster) and placing him a fourth line role is probably not the best use. Lazar still needs to learn the game at an NHL level. Jagr’s mastered it since before Lazar was born.
Who comes out? Well…
Is there anything they can do with Brouwer other than healthy scratch?
— Steve-O (@saskyflamesfan) October 8, 2017
I’m struggling to offer an answer that isn’t “no,” mostly because I believe the team won’t healthy scratch him, but the answer is “no.”
Despite being in the best shape of his life, at least according to preseason reports, Troy Brouwer hasn’t shown any bounceback. He still looks out of place, both at 5v5 and on special teams. I haven’t minded him on the PK, but there are so many options there that would likely be better than Brouwer on that unit. It’s early in the season, but without any sort of improvement and one particular option waiting in the wings, healthy scratching seems to be the most optimal choice.
I guess they would want to keep him in the lineup just in case those trade rumours pop up again in order to boost his value, but if they really want to ice the best roster they can, it leads to Brouwer being off the ice.
How long will the Bartkowski mess last?
— Kyle Lewis (@vanlewis14) October 8, 2017
I kept insisting throughout the summer that it was probably over as soon as hockey started back again, but it appears that Matt Bartkowski has made the roster.
I can’t really see why he’s playing over Brett Kulak besides the fact that Bartkowski has played more NHL hockey. Given results from last year, we can probably bet that Kulak will be the better defender. Bart hasn’t looked great in either of the two games, but I feel that Kulak’s poor showing in the preseason combined with a weak all around defensive effort against Edmonton gives Bart a bit of breathing room. The experiment is probably going to go on until Kulak actually wins that spot back, which could be a while.
There's been a lot of hate for Freddie Hamilton this week. Do you see him staying with the flames as the 13th forward or somewhere else?
— Khalid Keshavjee (@KMKeshavjee) October 8, 2017
He’s Dougie’s brother, he doesn’t complain, he does his job, and he shoots right; what more do you need from a 13th forward? It’s better if he keeps the pressbox seat rather than any prospect who could use the playing time. He hasn’t even played yet, so you can’t even make the argument that he’s stealing someone else’s minutes. If you want to get mad at something, get mad at Tanner Glass occupying that fourth line spot when anyone else can.
I don’t know if he’s here next year but I really wouldn’t be mad if he came back to play seven minutes a night once every four games.
Both Dube and Phillips have been lighting it up in the WHL this week. Is it possible they make the big team straight out of Jr next year?
— Khalid Keshavjee (@KMKeshavjee) October 8, 2017
It’s certainly a long ways ahead, and there’s the likelihood of everything changing, but we’ll peer into the crystal ball anyways.
The Flames will almost certainly have Matt Stajan, Freddie Hamilton, Glass, Jagr, and Garnet Hathaway off the roster by next season, and will probably have found someway to ditch Brouwer. That’s four spots that immediately open up, and a lot less competition in the way.
The problem is that Dillon Dube and Matthew Phillips will likely have to battle guys like Mark Jankowski, Hunter Shinkaruk, Spencer Foo, Emile Poirier, Morgan Klimchuk, and Andrew Mangiapane for those four spots. Although both are younger and arguably more impressive than some of those names, there’s the situational reality of giving the older guys shots before cutting them loose for good. They’ve worked their way through the pros and will likely be more ready to slide in than Dube or Phillips.