I’ve received a question with some variation on “why is Brouwer…” every week. You may not be able to say this about every Flames game, but at least there’s some consistency with this team.
What will happen with Hathaway when Jagr finally comes back? Remain on 3rd line or demote to Brouwer and company?
— Sebastian (@Despo_Hockey) December 10, 2017
Garnet Hathaway has had a couple of good games since being recalled, but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves here.
Hathaway was fortunate enough to jump on the Flames’ hottest line at the right time and is reaping the benefits. There’s nothing wrong with that for the time being, but it’s not something to bet on long term. His NHL career isn’t that long, but previous results indicate that he’s a fourth liner. Twenty-six-year-olds rarely ever change from “energy guy” to “top nine offensive weapon” in one offseason and Hathaway is likely not the exception. You can look at his AHL numbers for optimism (inflated by 27% shooting) but he’s likely never going to do that in the NHL.
Of course, we can always stay optimistic. In a small sample size, he’s been in the black for possession numbers and has a goal and two primary assists. He’s playing next to a team peppered with first round picks, but he’s at least looking like someone who can play along. We can hope he can keep it up, but previous numbers suggest that he’s riding the high of the wave. There’s the argument that he was miscast last year on the fourth line, so we’ll see how much water it holds.
Who knows how long Jaromir Jagr is out for, but I’d bet by the time he comes back, the real Hathaway will have entered the building. We’ll see if he’s good or bad.
Why does Brouwer get so much pp and pk time?
— goat (@cpgauthier83) December 10, 2017
PP time is easy – he’s a right-handed shot in an organization that sorely lacks right-handed shots. I know Glen Gulutzan’s infatuation with righty-lefty balance is frustrating, but it is not without reason and you especially need one on the powerplay, lest you want to shut yourself out of one side of the ice. Is it a good decision? Nah, there’s plenty of others that can probably do better, even on the off-wing.
The PK? I’m not so sure. Handedness has a bigger impact on defence than offence, which could be a factor. He also has had a history as a PKer, which probably plays into their decision (and, to answer every “why is Brouwer…” question, getting paid $4.5M for three more years probably also factors in somewhere). But from every other angle, they could really do better. There’s faster and smarter guys on the roster who can probably do much better than he can.
Is it realistic to expect Smith to play 65-70 games this year? Can Rittich realistically take on more of the load?
— Khalid Keshavjee (@KMKeshavjee) December 10, 2017
Mike Smith, if anything, has been a workhorse his entire career. He’s played in 50+ games three times this decade (four times, including the lockout where he played in 34 of 48). He can certainly play in those games, yes.
Can he handle it? That’s something that remains to be seen. Smith has peaks and valleys with regards to GSAA throughout his career:
We’ve already seen a period of Bad Mike Smith this season. He put up a .916 in his first 12 games of the season, and then stumbled out with a .901 in his next 12 games. He’s been up and down throughout his career, and has the potential to suddenly lose his form at some point (stay tuned for January).
So if Smith falls off a map, can David Rittich pick up the slack? Less likely. Sorry it’s not a fancy chart, but here’s what he’s looked liked in the AHL when he had the opportunity to make multiple starts in a row.
That’s a pretty good streak! So, what’s the problem?
Oh, an equally bad one.
It’s just two samples of games, but it’s all we have to work with. Rittich’s issue is that he will slide in and out of hot and cold streaks. That’s not necessarily a quality you want to have in a starter. If Smith is off his game, Rittich isn’t a sure bet to take the pressure off.
Rittich has been pretty good in his two NHL starts. Is that a guarantee that he’s going to keep it up? Not at all. It’s probably not a safe bet to hand the net over to him when the going gets tough, because his AHL numbers suggest he’s not necessarily going to be a solution. If you need a guy to win you a game every two weeks, you have one. If you need a guy to fill in for a disappointing starter, you’re probably going to get disappointed again.
(You also certainly have to wonder if playing the 35-year-old goalie in 60-70+ games is a good idea, given what’s happening to Cam Talbot this year. That’s a can of worms for later, though.)
Which prospect(s) are most likely to make their respective WJC teams? Who will be most interesting to watch?
— Khalid Keshavjee (@KMKeshavjee) December 10, 2017
Adam Fox, Dillon Dube, Adam Ruzicka (although the Slovakia roster has not yet been released) and Juuso Valimaki are locks. Linus Lindstrom and Eetu Tuulola have their shots, but we’ll have to wait and see.
That also answers the most interesting section. The four locks are locks because they’re some of the bigger names their country can offer, they have previous experience at the tournament (minus Ruzicka, who was only at the U18 WJC), are all on teams that have the potential to go deep (again, minus Ruzicka), and all four will have top billing on their teams. No offense to Lindstrom and Tuulola, but they’re likely to be depth guys on not particularly deep squads. It will be cool to see them live and among their peers, but it’s just not the same as the other four.
You probably will have to try hard to watch a game where a Flames prospect isn’t making an impact though, and that’s a great thing.
Is Bart’s time with the team over?
— Dave Camwell (@davecamwell) December 11, 2017
Hopefully? I never thought he would even make the team in the first place. I can’t remember the last time he played a game, so I think that’s a good sign.