Kris Versteeg’s injury should be Andrew Mangiapane’s chance

Losing Kris Versteeg isn’t the worst blow that could be dealt to the Flames, but it’s still pretty bad.

With Versteeg officially deemed out month-to-month – a pretty daunting sentence – the Flames have not only lost one of their top powerplay contributors, but one of their top players on the bottom six, as well.

Let’s start with the powerplay. Versteeg has clocked in 71:43 minutes, fourth most on the team, behind Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, and T.J. Brodie. Without him, the first unit has a very big hole it has to fill, and a handful of options with which to do it.

I think the Flames would prefer to have a four-forward first unit, so Michael Stone (and his shot) probably won’t be the long-term solution. Jaromir Jagr could see himself bumped back up there, though – he was playing on the first unit before his extended late October, early November absence – or perhaps Matthew Tkachuk could get the call.

Inevitably, this leaves a hole on the second unit, but another forward could slide in and take the spot. Maybe Sam Bennett (23:43, 12th on the Flames) gets another chance. Or Mark Jankowski gets the opportunity to further show he can contribute offensively. The Flames do have options.

Versteeg, with eight points over 22 games, is ninth in Flames scoring. He’s the highest scoring forward outside of the usual top six group. Admittedly, five of his eight points have come on the powerplay, but he’s still one of the better depth weapons the Flames have at their disposal.

Which brings me to my main point: it should be Andrew Mangiapane’s time to make his NHL debut.

Mangiapane is probably the closest thing the Flames have to a Versteeg in the system. True, he’s a left-shot, left winger, but Versteeg was playing the left side, anyway. They’re roughly the same size. And if you need to try to replicate Versteeg’s offence – and let’s face it, the Flames need to get more out of their bottom six – then Mangiapane is the best bet.

With 22 points in 20 games Mangiapane isn’t just the leading scorer on the Stockton Heat, he’s one of the top scorers in the AHL, period. He does that as a sophomore in the league; of the five players above him in scoring, two are younger than him by about a year. The rest are all older.

And age is key, here. Mangiapane is 21 years old. That’s the big difference between him and Garnet Hathaway, who is tied with Marek Hrivik for second in Heat scoring. Hathaway is 26, and he wasn’t capable of performing at the level Mangiapane is until he got much older. That Mangiapane is putting up the numbers he is now, despite being just 21, is a testament to the potential he has – and that’s a potential the Flames need now, more so than an energy player, which is more what Hathaway is.

If Mangiapane doesn’t work out, then he’s easy enough to send back to the AHL; he doesn’t require waivers. But the Flames will need some kind of long-term replacement for Versteeg. And barring a trade, Mangiapane is the closest thing they have.

  • Just.Visiting

    I agree that Mangiapane should be brought up to take on the 4th line minutes and move up the lineup as appropriate for the inevitable injuries. This would be a good choice for this year, but also a very prudent move to facilitate the transition into an enhanced contribution next year, which is when the real window of contention opens.

    I disagree on the PP. I wasn’t crazy with Versteeg on the first unit because of all of the perimeter passing, the absence of a big shot that offers opportunities for deflections and juicy rebounds and the frequency with which he was being caught deep on a breakout from the opponent.

    I’d move Gio and Dougie to the first unit, and I’d have Brodie and Stone on the second unit, with a flip so that they would change sides for the PP in the offensive zone. Then I’d have Stone bomb the net with regularity to give the PP unit more unpredictability than is currently the case and mitigate the potential for breakouts because the point man is caught around the middle of the circle.

    I’d look at keeping Hathaway around too and send either Freddie or Lazar down. In Lazar’s case, that would be to get him minutes, so that the Flames can understand his potential more fully. The current approach is not helping his development, and, from what I’ve seen to date, regular minutes aren’t helping the team.

  • HAL MacInnis

    Great article, Ari. The Flames have nothing to lose by bringing up Mangiapane. Let’s see what the boy can do! He’s also +15 so I think he can show the Flames a thing or two. And, as a bonus, we’ll get to hear some announcers/commentators mess up the pronunciation of his last name. What’s not to love about this situation?

    I’m trying really hard not to make a snide comment about Gulutzan right now, by the way. How am I doing so far?

  • JusAFlamer

    While i agree he deserves a look this year, i disagree that now is his chance.
    While it could be the position in question is a 4th line role, with limited minutes and to bring energy.
    (Hathaway earned another look and that what he was called on for)

    If he had laid a turd last game i could see finding better option(s) but IMHO he actually helped bring brower (who has been playing well in role lately) and stajan into the game. Question becomes do you really want to bring Mangiapane up to stick him with those 2, or let him continue in top line in stockton.

    Only way i can see bringing him in is on 3rd+ which is not what is open slot at moment. (unless looking to shake up lines etc.) 4th line opening = Hathaway, IF by some miracle was 3rd with Janko then Mangiapane but for now they brought the right person up

  • Flamethrower

    One would hope the Flames would pay attention to this article. Still though the likes of Brouwer and Stajen will be detrimental to the club. We have all seen that youth and speed is the game of today and Mangiapane fits this perfectly. Also allows the Flames the diversity to change up the lines more so than they can now. Chemistry has been created by some of these players in the AHL and should be tried at the NHL level. Who knows!
    GFG Kick some oiler butt tonite.
    This is just my humble opinion.

  • Jeremy

    Johnny/ Mony / Ferly
    Benny / Jankow / Chucky
    Mangy / Backs / Frolik
    Hathaway / Stajan / Jagr
    Lazor/ Brouwer

    Bing needs to play with kids his own age , and Backs and Frolik can break in another Rook. They’re good at it.

  • WillyWonka

    if the Flames were to take the entire top line from the Heat (Mangiapane, Jankowski, Hathaway) and play them as the 4th line, I’d be totally down with that.
    However, if they idea is to bring Mangiapane up to play with Stajan and Brouwer for 9 minutes a night, I say leave him in Stockton.

  • WillyWonka

    why don’t we just put a “sticky” on the top of all comments that says, “Glen Gulutzan sucks”
    because, seems like many commenters here forget that they say this every time they post, in every article, every time, always. have i mentioned yet that GG sucks?
    and don’t forget, GG sucks. and on another topic, GG sucks, and about the Oilers, GG sucks.
    hmmmm, seems like we might be forgetting something?

    • Primo

      Managing hockey assets (players) is a strategy the GG naysayers cannot understand. For them it is a complex topic so they revert to the philosophy of playing the best players at all times. Sadly it does not work that way…..

      • class1div1

        It is a complex topic.I have been patiently waiting for someone to shed some light on the system GG employs.I have been keeping in mind those 10 games last year where the system looked stellar.I have to admit though, i have started to believe those 10 games had little to do with the system,and more to do with Hamilton and Gio playing there best hockey, and a hot goalie.If GG is icing a team based on chemistry and utilizing the individual skills of players,it isn’t apparent to many fans.It appears that his system takes away those elements .I cannot see how a system that utilizes Brouwer on the 1st PP and Bart on defense will ever find success.GG obviously does and he’s not doing a very good job of proving it.

  • class1div1

    The average age for a teenager to receive his or her first kiss is 15 years 4 months.If said teenager has not received kiss by this time ,his or her ability to become a good kisser diminishes
    How ridiculous does that sound?The same ridicule should be given to NHLE.
    I’ve yet to hear from the stat crowd on Jankowski.
    In his 3rd college year KW doubted he ‘d ever be offered a NHL contract,because of NHLE. Fail.

  • Fan the Flames

    The Flames could use the injury to test a number of prospects . Mangapane, Klimchuk are two that I would like to be given a try and maybe Hrvnik and Porier deserve a look maybe somebody will surprise us .

  • RKD

    Just because Hathaway was dominating in the AHL doesn’t mean he should be called up, he’s playing well down there and should stay in Stockton. We need some offense from the bottom six outside of Janko so let Mangiapane come up and show his stuff. There’s talk Versteeg is out until the playoffs.

  • BendingCorners

    Any arrangement of players on the PP and PK against the Oilers needs to take McDavid into account. It’s virtually certain that GG will want 3M on the ice whenever McDavid is out there, so assuming McDavid is on right after an Oiler PK ends, we want 3M on after our PP rather than during. Since McDavid could be on a PK unit – shorthanded goals being fun and all – we probably also need two D on the ice during our PP, even though a 4/1 split is usually more successful than a 3/2 split. On top of all that GG will probably want a smooth transition from PP or PK to ES so that lines don’t need to be shuffled a lot after the two minutes are up. So, for the PK we have Backlund-Frolik-Gio-Hamilton and Bennett-Jankowski-Kulak-Stone, to be followed at ES by Johnny-Mony-Ferly-TJ-Hamonic, since McDavid will probably be off the ice at that point. Also, Kulak-Stone are better defensively than TJ-Hamonic. For the PP we have Johnny-Mony-Ferly-Gio-Hamilton and Bennett-Jankowski-Jagr-TJ-Hamonic. I’m not sure those would be best against all teams but with McDavid in mind it seems important to minimize the line shuffling and to keep 3M fresh for when McDavid is likely to be on the ice.

  • BendingCorners

    It would be great to see Mangiapane in a Flames uniform but it probably will only happen if Hathaway stinks or if somebody else is injured. I don’t wish for either of those events. If he continues to tear up the AHL then he could be pencilled in for next season though, along with whoever looks like a good bet to be a new 4C (Stajan won’t be back I don’t believe). If a miracle occurs and Lazar finds his hands, and if Hathaway plays well and Brouwer deteriorates then our 4th line next year could be Mangiapane-Lazar-Hathaway. That might be fun to watch.

  • Squishin

    I think there’s a very clear and deliberate reason that Mangiapane is still in the AHL, while Jankowski and Hathaway are playing with the big club. Make no mistake, the Flames are well aware of his potential and already impressive contributions, but have chosen to keep him with the Heat for very specific reasons. Although I will agree that the Flames need more depth scoring, I don’t think that >10 min per night on the 4th line will really make much of a difference between him and Hathaway. He won’t get third-line minutes (barring an injury), since the Bennett-Jankowski-Jagr line is finally starting to click.
    Mangiapane is also still in his development phase; he needs to be playing big-time minutes and on special teams, gaining as much experience and ability as he can while still at this age. The Flames made the right choice by calling up Hathaway, and I don’t think Mangiapane will see the NHL this year unless there are some more health issues.