Things are going pretty well for the Flames.
They have one of the top scorers in the NHL, and three lines that are creating chances (plus a fourth line that can at least play a regular shift). Their starting goaltending is making saves, their top defensive pairing is shutting opponents down, and their third pairing has been, for the most part, reliable.
With so much success up and down the lineup, that makes the one key problem that much more glaring. So it begs the question: what do you do about T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic on the second pairing?
We’re 20 games into the season. Brodie and Hamonic have not been poor all 20 games; their faults have become much more evident since Hamonic returned from injury four games ago. But since it’s so early in the season, trading someone this early is probably off the table; you don’t ship a player out because of a poor couple of games. Furthermore, barring an injury it seems unlikely someone gets scratched; the Flames don’t really have anyone better to take either Brodie or Hamonic’s place.
That leaves two other options: you leave things well enough alone and let them work themselves out (i.e. what the Flames did with their third line, once all respective personnel were in Calgary and healthy), or you change up the pairings.
When it comes to the Flames’ current defensive makeup, it looks like there’s only one real option: switch Hamonic and Michael Stone. Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton are playing well as the Flames’ top pairing, so why break that up? And even ignoring the handedness conundrum, it’s difficult to see Brett Kulak being promoted from a clearly defined sixth defenceman role to play in the top four alongside Brodie.
Besides, so far this season, Brodie has really only played with Hamonic and Stone. All stats from this season so far at 5v5, via Natural Stat Trick:
|Partner||TOI w/ Brodie||CF w/ Brodie||Brodie CF w/out||Partner CF w/out||OZS|
For context, over 2016-17, Brodie and Stone played 286:58 together, posting a posting a shared 46.49% CF with 41.79% offensive zone starts.
Even from just a snapshot, though, it looks like Brodie and Stone are a better combination this season. Switching up partners could be the answer, at least for now.
Hamonic hasn’t played much with Kulak – just 11:34 – and they only had a 35.29% CF together, but the sample size is so minuscule, it shouldn’t play much of a factor in the decision-making.
So what would you do? Hope Brodie and Hamonic can work things out? Switch things up, and reunite Brodie and Stone? Or go even further with the defensive mixing and matching?