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FlamesNation Mailbag: Powerplays and patience

We’re probably at the most frustrating part of the Flames’ season (hopefully). They look so good but can’t score.

Sometimes, that happens. Rarely, it happens all during the same week or two. Some of it has been comical to watch (that 5-on-3 versus Nashville went predictably horrible. I must admit that I wasn’t even mad because I knew that the team would flail and flop). It’s a part of the game, but when the team is dropping points left and right for the same backbreaking reasons, it’s a cause for concern.

Some of that is just the randomness of the game. Some is manmade. Let’s find out which is which.

A bit of a loaded question when made vague. I really wouldn’t do it from just the basis of defence for offence. The defence hasn’t been the disaster it was just a few weeks prior, so I feel that the team would be very hesitant to break up a defence corps that is just starting to find its footing. They paid a hefty price to have three strong pairings; they aren’t going to get rid of it this early to handle an easily solved problem.

The Flames could stand to improve their forwards, but the solution can likely come from inside (hello Andew Mangiapane and Marek Hrivik) without having to sell a quality defenceman at a cut-rate price. GMs can smell blood in the water and if Brad Treliving comes offering a defender for forward help, it’s going to seem desperate and many are going to try and rip him off. I would avoid that situation.

If anyone gets moved, it’s probably Michael Stone to make room for a prospect, but that’s probably the only benefit. I can’t see why any team would give up a quality forward for defenders that, fairly or not, have been maligned through the season.

On the topic of trading defencemen.

The Flames have a surplus of prospect blueliners, which makes for interesting trade speculation, but they’re probably very hesitant to trade any of them. Rasmus Andersson could probably be a strong third pairing defender right now at age 21, and Oliver Kylington isn’t that far behind. Adam Fox has Zach Werenski numbers in the NCAA, and 2017 first round pick Juuso Valimaki is looking very promising, too.

It’s hard to want to trade any of those players. The Flames have a potential to create a top four (with righty-lefty balance too!) that’s completely homegrown. I feel that Kylington could be the one that is moved first due to some perceived uncertainty about his ceiling, but it would take a decent haul to make Treliving trade him. The Flames didn’t part with Brandon Hickey (maybe a second pairing guy) until they could get a starting goaltender.

Speaking of goaltenders, the only goalie they’re certainly not going to trade is Tyler Parsons. He’s been very promising on a bad ECHL team, and could probably take the helm of the Stockton Heat if the Flames didn’t have such depth at goalie (not to say Jon Gillies is bad, just a bit more expendable). On the forward side, the only untouchables are probably Mangiapane, Dillon Dube, Glenn Gawdin, and Matthew Phillips. I feel everyone else is fair game.

Another vague question, but we’ll assume you’re talking about the powerplay.

Dave Cameron was always a contentious choice for assistant coach, especially in the (presumed) role of PP coach. His powerplay numbers in Ottawa were awful at best, which still seems generous considering he was working with weapons like Erik Karlsson, Mike Hoffman, and Mark Stone. He had some potent players and had nothing to show for results. Tell me if that sounds familiar.

But it’s not all his fault. If it is truly all is his work, what’s stopping Glen Gulutzan or any other coach from saying “this isn’t working”? How come there’s a situation where Troy Brouwer is the best right-handed forward shot on the team by default (you could make a case for Garnet Hathaway, but that needs to be tested)? Why is Dougie Hamilton, the best offensive defenceman on the team, not seeing powerplay time? The powerplay struggles aren’t just on one person.

Everything on the powerplay could improve. Cameron’s influence is certainly noticeable, but it’s not all on him. Sending him packing is probably a good first step, but it’s not going to solve the problem overnight.

Tyler Dellow had a great article over at the Athletic about the prospects of doing this. I didn’t necessarily agree with it, but there are some things to consider.

The reason to do this would be to spread out the offence. This was a concern earlier in the season when the third line was stuck in neutral and the first two lines were ripping it up. But with the third line coming along, it seems to not be a necessary action. Scoring has dried up recently (look below for that), but it’s not due to poor production from one particular line. Breaking up the 3M line is not the end of the world, but it seems to be an overreaction.

The Flames have been trying Matthew Tkachuk on his offwing with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau recently, trying to form an offensive superweapon on the first line. We’ll have to see if it works, but for now, it seems to be the idea heading forward. I can’t really disagree with the idea, but I’m not really fully on board with it.

This is kind of made redundant with Tkachuk being bumped up the rotation. You get the possession saavy of Michael Frolik with the shift-disturbing antics of Hathaway with a higher offensive ceiling than both of them. Tkachuk is the best of both worlds and you don’t really lose that much by moving him there.

Frolik is a steady option at the RW. He can provide a better all around game than Micheal Ferland, but doesn’t really add that much in terms of offence. I think it’s a slight improvement, but nothing that’s really going to move the needle. Hathaway is not an option I would consider right now. He’s been better than expected with the third line, but that’s not all that surprising given the sheltered treatment they get from the coach. He can succeed there, but it’s going to be different if he’s placed against first liners.

If they break up 3M, moving Tkachuk to the 1RW seems to be the best option available. Ferland could work well with the remaining two Ms while keeping the M balance intact (the 3Mikes line? The 3Mb line?) and the third line can continue to be a fine back pocket option.

Hockey memory seems to be more short-term than any other sport, so I don’t blame people for forgetting that we’ve seen nearly the exact same thing this calendar year. Here’s Kent writing about a poor Flames streak all the way back in January. Look how much of that still holds up to the Flames of the recent few weeks. They’re outshooting and outplaying their opponents but their shooting percentage is in the garbage can. It’s randomness, and it strikes every so often in the hockey season.

Look at how the Flames are performing relative to the league. They’re doing great at 5v5 in CF% (5th), FF% (8th), SF% (9th), SCF% (6th), and HDSCF% (2nd). They’re fifth last in SH%. The former is determined by performance and is demonstrably repeatable. The latter is random and shown to fluctuate with no real reason.  At 5v5, they’re dominating opponents. Shots aren’t going in, but they will eventually (see: Vancouver). Sticking with it is the best option forward and it’s going to pay off soon enough.

It’s not a blanket statement, however. We’ve already discussed the powerplay, which is also affected by shooting luck (it is really hard to go one for 24), even with a bad powerplay), but still certainly needs to change. The PK could also stand to get better. The Flames have most of the pieces in place and that’s what doesn’t need to change.

  • Dunk

    why is Ferly always the whipping boy? Mony has been horrible and if he is not scoring he can’t do much else. give him some 4th line duty and show him how to work hard to get the puck.

  • Lucky 13

    Just throwing this out there. Ottawa has been getting calls on Hoffman. It appears Ottawa may be open to trading him.

    What if we could move Michael Stone to play with his brother in Ottawa? The Senators won’t move Mark Stone, so there’s no way we even talk about him.

    Stone and Ferland package?
    I love Ferland, let me say that from the outset. His salary is great at $1.75M for 2 years.
    His value has increased .

    Stone has a M- NTC, however so is Hoffman’s. Hoffman carries a sizeable cap hit at almost $5.2 M until end of 19/20.

    Stone at 3.5M until end of 19/20

    Hoffman is a PP specialist who can play centre, but mostly on RW, although a left shot.
    He regularly nets 25-30 goals a season and quite capable of producing 60 points on a regular basis.

    Lines?
    Gaudreau- Monahan- Hoffman
    Klimchuk- Backlund- Frolik
    Bennett- Jankowski- Tkachuk
    Hathaway- Lazar- Brouwer

    Gio- Hamilton
    Brodie- Hamonic
    Kulak- Andersson

    I gotta say it looks promising, no? The 3rd line would easily get opposing teams into serious trouble with this kind of depth.

    Am I out to lunch?

    • MontanaMan

      Kulak and Andersson would get murdered as a third pair. Imagine on the road when the home team puts out their number one line against that defensive pairing. It would be ugly. Kulak’s slow progression to the bigs have worked out decently but you can’t rush a d-man and when they do make the move, you need to pair them with a stable veteran like Stone.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      I don’t mind the idea, but our top 3 RW’s would be left shots. I really, really want a righty. I’d be willing to pay a bit more to bring in Stone from Ott

      • SeanCharles

        I agree, if we make a move for a top 9 forward we need to prioritize getting a right shot. I’m sure that is the only reason the article mentions Gawdwin and Phillips as untouchable forward prospects.

        IMO Dube and Mangiapane are the only ones but I understand the logic. (Why no Foo then?)

        I do hope we hang onto all of Mangiapane, Dube, Andersson, Fox, Kylington, Valimaki, Parsons and even Gillies. You never know with goalies.

    • everton fc

      You don’t move Ferland. Ever. He’s part of our core. And should be. Not only that, he’s our physical presence.

      Hoffman would cost us defencemen, and maybe a goalie (Gillies?), as Anderson ages. If they want Stone’s brother, they’ll also want someone like Andersson, as Stone is a 5/6 defender. Or maybe they’d take Kylington, but I doubt that, as he’s unproven. The Sens are an old, aging team. They’ve made some bad moves. Bobby Ryan’s salary and term make me feel less angry about Brouwer’s – what a millstone! The Duchene trade hasn’t worked… And then there’s Dion’s contract. How they’ll retain Karlsson, I don’t know.

      Hoffman would cost a defencemen, and a prospect. The prospect would likely be a defencemen, or a goalie. But I doubt Stone would be the defender they’d want, though his salary’s not a bad fit.

      • The Doctor

        This year, if you’re ever despairing about any Flames issues, just remember they pale in comparison to Ottawa’s. And a number of their wounds are self-inflicted. BTW patting myself on the back here for warning about Duchene. I always liked Turris better. Disastrous player personnel management.

    • BendingCorners

      Not horrible but … Hoffman I think is weaker defensively than Ferland. Klimchuk is definitely not as good as Jagr. Stone is playing well; I’m not sure Andersson is ready for regular duty every night yet. All in all it isn’t clear that these changes would make the team better.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I like some of the suggestions. Ferland is the wild card. When he plays rugged he is a difference maker especially in the playoffs. I have noticed him fighting the puck and some of his offensive explosion is attributed to some PP time which he has never had. I don’t think he will score at this rate without Gaudreau. However, he is trending to become a player like Simmonds which most GMs would love.

      I don’t know much about Hoffman but I have heard that when he is not scoring he does not contribute in other areas similar to what some say about Monny. He has a one-timer that is sorely missed on this team especially the PP. Would Stone be an upgrade to Ottawa’s top 4. Not sure they would look at a player with his salary for a bottom 6 player if he could not crack the top 4.

      • everton fc

        There’s are many good reasons why GM’s want players like Simmonds and Ferland. Which is why our GM should keep Ferland. And Stone is not a #4 defender. Stone and a prospect might get you Hoffman. But it’d have to be a very good, almost-ready prospect. On defence.

  • Why do you want my name?

    Me thinks keeping Kieth Tkachuck 2.0 permanently locked in to a line with Backs and Frolik is a detriment to 19’s progress and potential. Frolik and Backs have reached their ceilings long ago. They are effective two way D minded forwards, well, is that what Mathew was draftet number 6 for? To effectively be a third liner anywhere else?
    Who knows how many points haven’t been scored by 2.0 at this stage by being stuck with two players who aren’t as offensively gifted or creative? That experience has likely taught 2.0 how to play the game at both ends of the ice, but c’mon, He’s a future star power forward, (already is to me) Get him on the top unit playing with the top point producers already.

  • Derzie

    As usual (and rightly so) the mailbag questions are about team management.What adds fuel to the fire is when the coaches finally do what fans have been begging for, good things happen. With coaching so suspect, the only player moves should be with the farm until we get coaching sorted (i.e changed). Continue to have zero faith in the coaches and a lot of faith in the players (exceptions being Brouwer, Bart, Stajan).

  • Lucky 13

    I agree with Christian, we have the pieces in place to be a great team. Some of our players were not being utilized properly and we do have some good prospects in the system to fill in should any injuries occur.

    Trading only makes sense if we’re filling a real void.

    Top 6 forward? Byng! I think the experience Tkachuk had with the 3M line proved to be a blessing. He’s defensively responsible and I’d like to see what he’s capable of in a offensive role. I think it would be great for Monahan to have such a shift disturbance on that line, as it would engage him more.
    He looks like he’s sleeping in the game at times.

    What if our 3 lines consisted of:
    Gaudreau- Monahan-Tkachuk
    Bennett- Jankowski- Hathaway
    Frolik- Backlund- Ferland

    Although I’m concerned a bit with Ferland’s defensive miscues the last few games, but I think it would definitely aid him in being a more complete player.

    The PP options could remain the same as we saw late in last nights game, we don’t need to switch up the players as they could go out in units of forwards.

    I know we have the players to get this ship turned around, I just hope we have a coach who’s willing to give it a try. It appears he’s making those steps. Will he stick with it or not?

    That’s the question!

    • Avalain

      So I like the idea of your lines, but I have a couple small points that seem out of place. First, why put both Frolik and Ferland on their off wing? Was that just a typo or is there a valid reason?

      Second, as great as Jankowski and Bennett have been, I don’t think that the shut down role is the best place for them. Feed Backlund to the wolves and give Jankowski and Bennett the high ground with a better chance of success.

  • cjc

    I think a little more line up flexibility could help. 3M can be reunited when we need the best shutdown line in the league, say when playing McDavid or teams that have a lethal top line but little else. It doesn’t have to be the same look night in, night out.

  • GodsGotSandals

    I like Ferland on the top line. I wouldn’t mind seeing Tkachuk and Hathaway switch spots. Not Becuase Hathaway has been bad (he’s been great) just to see what happens.

    • Rudy27

      I like Ferly on the 1st line too (and any defensive question marks raised by others on FN are primarily due to him fighting the puck a bit the last couple of games…. it happens, and I think Monny has been going through the same lately).
      I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I think Tkachuk’s antics may pull Johnny and Monny into too many scrums. And that’s the last thing you want. Matched with gritty and sizable players like Benny and Janko…now there’s a line that would give many a team nightmares!

  • Sensei

    Let’s go back a few years when the success started at the blue line. That was where the offense was generated – turning over pucks and a quick transition out of the d zone. Right now the defense isn’t playing tough and taking away pucks and it’s costing a lot of goals against. Sure Brodie has improved a little over the last few games but he’s been subpar all season. A trade for Dumba makes a lot of sense for both Calgary and Minnesota – Calgary gets tougher on the backend and still has a shooter. The front end is fine and are coming along great although I’m still not sold on Jagr chewing up icetime and using up all the oxygen.

  • Flamesfever

    I am happy with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd lines. The 4th line need a minor tweet. We need to improve power play. We have the tool, but needs to shuffle the lines around. Keep trying until resolve. Penalty killing are great.