It’s a long weekend and someway, somehow, the Calgary Flames managed to wrangle three days without games into their schedule. Between this and all of their opponents these days being teams playing on the second half of back-to-backs, somebody at the league office must love ’em. The long weekend means that much of the FlamesNation crew was available following Remembrance Day festivities to dive into the topics of the day. Let’s dive right in!
Ryan Pike: Heading into Saturday’s games, the Flames were 16th (league average) in points percentage. That’s… something?
Vintage Flame: It’s kind of cliche to say but it feels like a start. Rather than muddling around, they seem to be playing with more purpose lately. More purpose, more enthusiasm rather than sitting back watching Smith and waiting for an opportunity to do something offensive. If they can get their special teams on track, they could make some waves.
croatis (Christian Roatis): Good news is the PDO still has a little ways to go (aka SH%) and they’re Top 10 in CF at ES.
ctibs (Christian Tiberi): They’ve looked much much better over the last five games or so.
taylormckee (Taylor McKee): Absolutely, it’s been night and day. I do worry a bit about Smith’s workload though.
croatis: Is Smith hurt?
Vintage Flame: Lol. It is polarizing with Smith. Initially we we worried how much he would play as a 35 yr old, now we worry that we can’t play him enough or that Gully is burning him out.
Ryan Pike: Anybody who hasn’t seen Gulutzan’s media scrum from Friday, check it out; he discusses Smith quite a bit. The gist is: he doesn’t think Smith’s hurt.
croatis: He’s been everything they’ve needed, which is positive. Does he hold up? Who knows? But that’s been the risk since the day he was acquired.
arii (Ari Yanover): I mean, he may not be hurt. But Smith has started all but one game so far and we’re 16 games into the season. That’s kind of a lot?
Vintage Flame: Good! I honestly have to say Smith has been a more than pleasant surprise, and I have been surprised.
taylormckee: It’s reminiscent of the Kipper days, Re: workload.
arii: I get the schedule has been spaced out so finding opportunities for Lack to come in is a little odd at the moment but like… is the plan to ride Smith with a 70+ game Kipper workload?
Vintage Flame: Remember when Kipper complained about workload and Keenan told him to go look up Glenn Hall. Poor Kipper.
croatis: Yeah its tough to justify starts for Lack when they have a 7 game homestand that lasts nearly 3 weeks… the sked has been whack.
arii: The most games Smith has ever started in a season is 69, back in 2011-12, when the Coyotes made the third round, so maybe we’re on to something here. But, more likely, we are not.
croatis: .930 SV% that year too.
arii: When dude was 29.
croatis: That whats I call causation! He’s always been good in stretches, from the NHL to IIHF with Canada.
Vintage Flame: Mike Vernon was the same way… Play me, play me and I’ll deliver. Was at his best when he was busy.
ctibs: He has also been very poor in stretches. And i think we’re going through a bad Mike Smith stretch right now.
taylormckee: My memories of Kipper’s backups was that they’d start like once an eon, then suck, thus necessitating more stress on Kipper
croatis: question is which Mike Smith do we get in the playoffs assuming they get there
ctibs: remember Henrik Karlsson
Vintage Flame: If you can recognize his ebbs and flows then you can temper that with Lack starts maybe?
arii: Did Kipper have a backup that had a pedigree anywhere close to Lack’s though? … Toskala? When Toskala was old?
croatis; cause out of his mind Mike Smith could carry this God forsaken team really far… Toskala had his only good stretch in like 5 years with CGY too
Vintage Flame: Toskala was terrible
croatis: no he wasn’t. had nearly a .920SV%
taylormckee: I guess what I wonder is that perhaps the problem might not have been the goalies exclusively but who can be expected to be good starting once a month
croatis: imagine if Elliott and Johnson in their current forms returned
arii: Toskala was younger than Smith when he played all six of his games for the Flames and here I am calling him old
croatis: I hated Curtis McElhinney more than anything when he was here
Vintage Flame: I didn’t mind Turek under Kipper.. Didn’t last long though
ctibs: im surprised McElhinney still exists in the NHL. never been concerned about Mike Smith’s injury history. his age though? concerning
Vintage Flame: McElhinney was terrible too… Like Trevor Kidd bad, worse even.
croatis: oh god so bad. he won like twice as a Flame
Vintage Flame: That much?
croatis: at a time where they were trying to get Kipper rest so he played more than he should’ve IIRC
arii: He had such cool masks
Ryan Pike: McElhinney’s first win was in that weird stretch where Sutter had to dress 15 or 16 players.
croatis: nightmares. 4 wins in 29 games as a Flame
arii: COOL MASKS
Ryan Pike: Here’s my thought: is age the only reason we’re more concerned about Smith’s injury history than say Backlund’s or Hamonic’s or Giordano’s?
arii: I’m not concerned about Smith’s injury history at all. Smith was targeted in part because he was a proven starter
Ryan Pike: I just find it kind of astonishing that Smith has a few muffins because he’s catching slappers wrong in his glove hand and everyone’s worried about injuries because of his age, meanwhile there’s also Jagr’s old groin and whatever soft tissue thing is wrong with Hamonic. It seems like an odd thing.
Vintage Flame: I was at the Jersey game and was less than impressed with two of the goals he let in. Is that being over worked and tired or is he just sloppy sometimes.. Cause it pokes into a few games now?
Ryan Pike: I’ve seen every start he’s made and I’d observe that his mechanics are a bit off.
arii: I mean when you get Mike Smith Is A Great Puck Player you’re bound to get Mike Smith Let In Some Goals Because He Was Too Busy Failing At Playing The Puck. Skaters get to make mistakes with playing the puck because they always have another line of defence behind them. goalies… don’t
billtran (Bill Tran): I don’t think anyone expected Smith to keep up his SV% though. In fact I’d argue many people were waiting for it to return to the norm. He carries with him the notion of having great fluctuations.
arii: Seriously he was at .931 before his little bad stretch here. Now he’s at .924. That feels a bit more sustainable, though I’d bet on it dropping a little more
billtran: His puck handling has been less than stellar to be frank.
Vintage Flame: He seems a little unsure of where he is on the blocker side. Positioning seems off.
arii: Honestly being at every home game I have a much greater appreciation for his puck play. I don’t know how much of it gets captured on TV but he does waaaay more than I was ever expecting
Vintage Flame: I don’t want to see him drop much more than .924
arii: His best season ever is .930, his second best season is .916. I mean… It’s not as big of a deal as long as the Flames’ SH% regresses and they actually score goals now.
billtran: From what I’ve seen a lot of tries to thread the needle with a pass ends up going off an opponent and not hitting the intended target
Vintage Flame: I’ve tried to pay attention to his puck play and I thiiiink I’m okay with it, I’m not one to criticize it by any means.
taylormckee: I just feel like we acquired Lack so that Gulutzan could trust a backup, right? If not, what is the point of this goalie logjam?
arii: Elliott is .903 right now. Johnson is .878. I can live with .915 Smith.
billtran: Though Smith has gotten a lot of good dumps to the neutral zone going off the glass.
Ryan Pike: I think the challenge for Gulutzan is that Smith’s good enough to allow the Flames to figure their other stuff out, and until they do that fully they basically have to ride him given the quality of their game right now and where they are in the standings.
arii: Smith takes away the dump-in option, he clears the puck from his zone much quicker, etc. There are still a few hiccups (and maybe this is another area where losing Hamonic is not ideal, because then you’ve got Andersson out there playing mostly pretty well but occasionally Smith does a thing and you can just see Rasmus going “?????“) and then there are at least two goals directly against because of it (could’ve been three were it not for Fiala not being able to corral a bouncy puck) so it’s more like… how much does this add up to over the season, is it a net positive or negative?
Vintage Flame: His normal play of the puck seems fine to me, where he frustrates is when he’s trying the thread the needle passes. He seems to take unnecessary chances
Ryan Pike: I would argue net positive.
billtran: One thing I’ve definitely appreciated about Smith’s puck handling though is that he instantly frees of a defender by drawing pressure towards him. Obviously watching it happen is not great for the heart rate, but it seems to at least give the Flames a good shot at maintaining possession through their transitional play
arii: same but we’re not even at the quartermark yet so
Vintage Flame: He is for sure net positive right now
arii: So going through the schedule right now, it looks like it stays mostly spread out until February when it’s suddenly ALL THE GAMES AT ONCE, but it feels like maybe Lack should get in a little more regularly before
Vintage Flame: I would think, like Ariisaid, we are at the quartermark. If he’s net positive now, he should stay that way and I would think with some tinkering, he even improves that area.
billtran: There’s a couple of back-to-backs on the road in November and December
arii: Lack gonna start four games until February, aw yiss… Well at the quartermark the Flames are also one of the worst goal-scoring teams in the league. Should they stay that way? Is that what we’re expecting?
Ryan Pike: I want Gaudreau to have all the assists this year, but it’ll be primarily on Monahan, Ferland and Jagr goals.
taylormckee: Good lord I’m sick of talking about Bennett. Surely he’s due for something now. 3rd line scoring would be amazing.
ctibs: they got one and 2/3rds goal last game! (the 2/3rds is because Jagr and Janko was on the ice and not Bennett)
Vintage Flame: Monahan is playing unreal right now… I love his game. Guy seems to have all the confidence in the world.
arii: First line is unreal right now
Ryan Pike: Imagine how this team could be if they got secondary scoring. Bonkers.
ctibs: Ferland is playing out of his mind right now
taylormckee: He looks like he mayyyyyyyy be worth that contract 😉
arii: if Monahan and Ferland are unreal/playing out of their minds then what is Gaudreau lol
Vintage Flame: That whole line is firing and not one of them is dragging along the others.. It’s great to see.
Ryan Pike: I’ve gotta say, we’re close to seeing actual chemistry on that third line. The Flames with three good lines and adequate goaltending could be scary good.
arii: Gulutzan was saying on… Wednesday, I think, that 93-77-68 had only played one game together, let’s give it some time. And then next game everyone gets some points. So let’s keep giving it time
ctibs: Johnny might be mvp level right now if he keeps it up
Vintage Flame: Monahan is just thinking goal with every shot, you can tell in his placement and how he snaps the puck. Johnny looks like he can just go anywhere he wants on the ice and he’ll make plays happen. Ferly looks unstoppable.
arii: everybody ever yes
billtran: I have those comments tattooed
arii: “Johnny is going to win the Art Ross every single year if he feels like it” – Jagr, roughly
billtran: One thing about the roster right now is it’s inching towards its ideal composition, one player transaction at a time
taylormckee: Absolutely. It’s just frustratingly slow sometimes and confusing as to why it had to happen at all (Bart, Glass)
billtran: I think Kulak is here for good now
arii: There is no way he cannot be
Vintage Flame: He should be
arii: like… just watch the games, nerds. I don’t need no fancy stats to tell me god damn Kulak is a very good hockey player. but then also the fancy stats tell me Kulak is a very good hockey player so that’s nice too
croatis: I enjoyed Andersson
taylormckee: Definitely. Let’s trade stone, right? Right?
arii: sure why not. Stone for Marner. or Galchenyuk I don’t care.
Vintage Flame: When they interviewed Jags the other night, it was in front of Bartkowski’s stall, i was like, “You’re still here huh?”
billtran: Who says no
arii: Someone’s gotta be scratched every night!
taylormckee: We’ll throw in Hathaway. Dude’s a supermoon or something
arii: Like there’s no room for Andersson right now unless Stone goes away pretty much
taylormckee: And there’s no *real* way that happens right? 🙁
billtran: Hathaway is a waxing poetic supermoon for some folks
arii: Though there’s also no real need to rush Andersson right now (see: hey look Kulak is pretty good and that came about in an okay way!!) but maybe the trade deadline will be interesting?
croatis: Byron Bader suggested Valimaki and Bennett for Marner on a Twitter poll. Overwhelming “no” from the populace.
Ryan Pike: No goddamn way Treliving trades Valimaki.
Vintage Flame: is Marner available?
arii: I don’t pay attention to the Leafs so I’m just going to say yes
croatis: the rumour that Toronto might look to deal Marner popped up this week from Kypreos I believe
arii: They don’t wanna care about Calgary needs with their inane Dougie rumours, I’m gonna not care about their needs. Marner for Wideman
Ryan Pike: And it’s Toronto, they rumour about everything and they very rarely have a basis in reality.
arii: Marner only has one goal this year so pretty clear he’s bad and we should take him off their hands imo
Vintage Flame: Stajan, Mayers, Reese, Hagman, Leeman… Need I say more?
arii: man Stajan ain’t gonna make it to 1,000 games is he
karimkurji (Karim Kurji): Sorry to just chime in now, but I legit think Marner is available. Elliotte said he’s fallen out of favour with Babcock and Babs runs that town so he’s likely available
Vintage Flame: We’ve seen our fill of Leafs
Ryan Pike: Stajan’s been useful.
arii: Stone for Marner solves so many problems though. I mean for us. Probably not for them. I don’t know.
billtran: Aren’t they in the market for a d-man?
arii: Then for them too!!!
karimkurji: 13-23-Marner could be ridiculous though
Vintage Flame: I would deal Stone for Marner, but if they come sniffing for another Phaneuf-like deal, then beat it.
arii: Well it’s not like they’re getting anyone from the top four. or Kulak. don’t nobody even think of coming sniffing for Kulak.
karimkurji: What about something like Stone and Andersson
Ryan Pike: Long-term, the best strategy may be just swapping the Stones of the world for picks or prospects as the existing kids get good and slide into the lineup as cheap depth options.
croatis: Stone for Marner would be an inane deal to make for Toronto. Stone and Andersson guts the Flames’ depth on the right side
arii: if you deal Stone + Andersson who plays 3RD tho.
croatis: Bart would have to make an appearance
Vintage Flame: I wouldn’t give Rasmus or Valamaki in the conversation
taylormckee: Stone + Kylington?
croatis: I will part with my son
karimkurji: They’re not making that deal though
taylormckee: The Leafs won’t yeah
arii: If Rasmus isn’t ready now he will be very, very soon by the looks of it
karimkurji: Flames have to part with something actually good to get someone definitely good
arii: like again I’m saying by trade deadline. based on absolutely nothing
Ryan Pike: Rasmus is this year’s Kulak.
Vintage Flame: Give Stone and Bartkowski, throw in Brouwer if they cry
arii: listen if the Leafs think Stone is good then he is good
croatis: Brouwer’s NTC apparently expires on July 1. bet they 50% retain and ship him to somewhere that appreciates *good* leaders
Vintage Flame: If Babcock wants to get rid of Marner, it’s for a reason. That means I’m in no way giving him Valimaki, Andersson or Kylington
karimkurji: Do we actually think Brouwer will get moved? I think a buyout is way more likely
arii: I think it’s pretty clear to everyone league-wide now he is a fourth liner at best
billtran: There are real GMs who think Shipachyov was the worst C on a team that ices Bellemare and Eakin
arii: Even when Jagr was injured and the Flames were short a forward he was playing fourth line minutes. plus powerplay time for some reason. But otherwise, fourth line
billtran: Tre might yet still be able to convince someone Brouwer has decent value
Vintage Flame: GM of the year if he does
arii: I think that ship has sailed
Ryan Pike: Brouwer has a modified NTC starting July 1. And very low trade value. He’s here until his deal expires or he’s bought out.
arii: “Hey Vegas want a free Brouwer??” “sorry I can’t hear you over the sound of me taking this defenceman who’s about to become a free agent anyway”
karimkurji: Yeah Brouwer isn’t going anywhere and it sucks
Ryan Pike: Brouwer being exposed got Vegas to claim Engelland which got Calgary to re-sign Stone
arii: ENGELLAND HAS NINE POINTS IN 16 GAMES THIS YEAR? WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN??? HOW did this happen. my world is spinning. I need to lie down.
ctibs: He’s a sniper. Also his PDO is stupid high
arii: All of vegas’ pdo is stupid high that doesn’t mean NINE POINTS IN 16 GAMES
Vintage Flame: I was disappointed to see the Flames expose Englland over Bart
Ryan Pike: They needed to expose Bort because of expansion requirements. I’m glad Engelland’s good in the room has turned into good on the scoresheet
Vintage Flame: Same.. That first home game was ridiculous. Who didn’t wish Engelland’s goal was the winner?
arii: Engelland is tied for sixth in Vegas scoring
croatis: Well when Maxime Lagace is winning games with an .812SV%…
Ryan Pike: Vegas is the hockey team equivalent of playoff baseball; dingers all the time and no defense. But it’s really fun and probably helps that market long-term
Vintage Flame: Haha.. Juiced pucks in Vegas?
arii: I find it funny that the Flames’ two visits to Vegas this year are the first of back-to-backs. No staying overnight for them!
Ryan Pike: No Vegas flu.
arii: This is another conspiracy against the Oilers, probably.