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Christmas Wish List for the Flames

As the NHLers take a break from hockey to pour eggnog down their gullets and stuff turkey into their guts, we look back and truly digest the first few months of the 2017-18 season.

The Flames are hanging around in the playoff hunt in the Western Conferece, but they certainly aren’t overly impressing anyone. And as the big guy in red (no, not Brian Burke) gets set to make his trip around the world, we’ve got a last-minute list for Santa to check out.

Here is a look at what every member of the Flames should be getting for Christmas. 

Johnny Gaudreau — A time machine

With a pair of goals and just seven points in his last 14 games, the team’s leading scorer could use a trip back to November to rediscover the high-flying offense from earlier in the season. Gaudreau had 11 goals and 34 points in his first 22 contests this year.

Sean Monahan — A spotlight

I’m sure The Quiet One would say he prefers things this way, but the sniper deserves more recognition around the NHL for his ability to put the puck in the net, especially when the game is in doubt. Monahan’s 17 goals have him tied for seventh in the league, but he leads the loop (along with four other players) with six game-winners.

Matthew Tkachuk — A slack line

The super sophomore needs a little extra practice balancing his nasty side with his skill. We all love the fact he plays on the edge but need him to avoid crossing lines. He’s an incredible player and extremely effective on the ice, but has already been suspended twice this season. The absences will get longer with every unnecessary infraction.

Mikael Backlund — A pen set

Just sign on the dotted line, Mikael. Set to become an unrestricted free agent, Backlund needs something to scribble his name on as well. The 28-year-old is one of the team’s most important pieces as a shutdown centreman who also happens to put up a decent number of points. Among the top 30 possession players in the league, he’s the third best at his position among those who’ve played at least eight games.

Micheal Ferland — An unbreakable stick

Ferland’s 14 goals are as many as Sidney Crosby has this season. On pace for more than 30 for the first time in his career, we wouldn’t want him to go through the awful superstitious slump that comes after one snaps his favourite goal-scoring twig. Ferland’s consistency on the top line this year has been a storyline not getting enough attention given the uncertainty he would hold off people like Jagr or even Tkachuk or Bennett.

TJ Brodie — A compass

The 27-year-old has been totally lost this season, and just when it looked like he and partner Travis Hamonic were starting to find their way, Hamonic got hurt and as was the trend last season, Brodie didn’t look good with Michael Stone by his side in the loss to the Montreal Canadiens before the break. Brodie is a much better player at both ends of the rink than he has shown under coach Glen Gulutzan.

Dougie Hamilton — A new last name

Dougie has been the team’s best defenceman this season and showed once again on Thursday night when he scored the game-winning goal in a big victory over the St. Louis Blues at the Saddledome. But if we have to see even one more “Alright Hamilton!” headline in ink or online…

Michael Frolik – A rabbit’s foot

Not sure if the Czech Republic considers these lucky, but Frolik could use some luck the way things have gone for him this season. As usual, his underlying numbers are stellar. But his shots aren’t going in at the same rate they are for most players this year. He doesn’t get much in the way of powerplay time and so his numbers seem a bit disappointing until you take a deeper dive and see it’s basically tough luck and a low shooting percentage. Just ask the post he hit on Friday.

Sam Bennett — A promise from his coach

Yes, the Flames envisioned the fourth overall draft pick as a centre when they selected him in 2014, but can we shelf the idea he’ll become a pivot at least until the end of this season? If not forever? Bennett has flourished on the wing since the team made the shift and brought up Jankowski at the end of October. The points have been coming more regularly in the last month, too, with 12 in his past dozen games before the break.

Mark Giordano — A sip from the Fountain of Youth

It’s a bit tragic there are no NHLers in the Olympics this year and that it’s very likely Giordano will never get to experience them. He was on Team Canada’s short list in 2014 and would likely be right there again this year. The 34-year-old isn’t having his best season offensively but has three goals and six points in his last 10 games and has been part of one of the NHL’s best two-way top pairings this year.

Mark Jankowski — A house plant

After putting up six goals and 11 points in 28 games since his recall from the AHL, Jankowski recently got the news every NHL rookie dreams of, according to the Sun’s Wes Gilbertson: “You’re sticking around, kid.”

His play has given the third line the two-way centre it needed with linemate Bennett struggling at the position early in the year.

Troy Brouwer — Body armour

Everybody’s favourite Flame to criticize, the veteran could use something to deflect the verbal bullets. Truth is, Brouwer has plenty of value to the Flames inside the locker room and is probably as good or better than anything the Flames have on the farm to the fourth line. If it wasn’t for the hefty contract and obvious overcompensation, the voices wouldn’t be as loud calling for Brouwer’s demotion.

Kris Versteeg — A healthy return

Hip surgery has put his season in doubt, and the team’s powerplay hasn’t been the same since. (Five of his eight points were with the man advantage before the injury). Still, at 31, he shouldn’t be rushing back. Versteeg has a history of dealing with a hip injury and there’s no sense in putting his career at risk by returning too early.

Jaromir Jagr — Some magic peanut butter

You’ll have to watch the link to understand the healing powers of peanut butter according to the mulleted Jagr of the 1990s. The 45-year-old needs something to get healthy after starting his NHL finale in Flames silks with just 19 starts in the first 36 games and looking like a shadow of his former self when he’s out there. The long Christmas break should help.

Garnet Hathaway — A Jaromir Jagr voodoo doll

It’s possible Hathaway already has one. He’s been the guy to benefit most from Jagr’s nagging lower-body injury thanks to a reunion with AHL linemate Jankowski, and arguably the team’s most impressive forward over the past couple of weeks, Bennett. The spark plug has a goal and six points in 13 NHL games this year, all in an eight-game stretch in December.

Travis Hamonic — A chemistry set

Maybe playing with some alchemy will help the newcomer on the underperforming Flames defence figure out how to mix with partner Brodie. Granted, Brodie is having a terrible year himself and is tough to skate beside thanks to an unpredictable risk instinct, but Hamonic hasn’t adapted very well coming over after seven seasons with the New York Islanders.

Brett Kulak — A door knocker

Kulak has worked his way into a fairly regular bottom-pairing role, but shouldn’t have to look over his shoulder and wonder if he’s coming out. Especially given the competition he’s faced in Bartkowski. Opportunity has knocked for him and Kulak has answered.

Curtis Lazar — A lifetime supply of toothpaste

Has anyone seen Lazar in a bad mood? Like, ever? This guy faces among the most negative scrutiny of any Flames player after the team gave up a second round draft pick for his services and has seen very little potential for much more than a fourth line role. And yet he smiles. All the time. He’s so damn happy. He clearly knows something.

Michael Stone — A re-do on the contract

A $3.5 million contract is a bargain for a second pairing guy. But Stone was brought in to play bottom pairing minutes with the possibility of bouncing up if needed. That has been needed at times this year but the results have not been worth of those dollars. He’s got three points in 36 games. It’s looking like his six points in a 19-game stint with the team last year was a glitch.

Matt Stajan — A front-office job

By now no one should be expecting Stajan to land another NHL contract. But his presence in Calgary has been felt on and off the ice and his role as a mentor to so many young prospects turned professionals has been invaluable (in case you wondered how he has escaped buyouts and demotions all these years). He’s Craig Conroy-like and would be a great fit in a role that works with the kids.

Freddie Hamilton — More quality time with his brother

It seems inevitable that Freddie and Dougie will eventually be separated. Freddie has suited up for just eight games this season and 38 total over parts of three seasons with the Flames. There is little doubt that without the family ties, he’d be playing more often in the AHL, so every day up here is a blessing for the elder Hamilton.

Matt Bartowski — A plush seat cushion

The chairs up in the press box aren’t the most comfortable. And he spends a lot of time up there. There’s no way he plays more regularly — even a significant injury would likely just mean Rasmus Andersson would get first crack at sticking in the top six. So some padding for his buttocks is a necessity.

  • Pizanno

    I am disappointed that the team is where it is. Never are they an upper echelon team. Now we have the Oilers breathing down our necks after they have righted their ship. Let’s see if the Flames can right theirs. Pressure’s on, guys.

  • Pizzaman

    A book for GG- Lateral Thinking, or How to Break Bad Habits
    For Curtis Lazar 20 minutes per game of ice time IN STOCKTON
    For Freddie: a valet to carry his brother’s bags for him
    For Dave Cameron: a new city to live in
    For the Flames TOP 4 defencemen- new pairings Gio and Brodie, Dougie and Hammy
    For BT – a first rounder in 2018

  • The GREAT WW

    On behalf of all FN posters; I wish that the comment section is returned to its old format and permanently remove everyone involved in “creating” the new format from the Nations network…..

    WW

  • Stu Cazz

    Great article Steve….time for a few moves. 1) Retire Stajan 2) Waivers Freddie-Lazar. 3) Promote Ras-Mangi-Hrvit 4) Trade Brodie for elite RW 5) Play Rittich more……

  • Calgarycandle

    My Christmas wish list for the Flames is fan perspective.

    We all had really high expectations heading into the season and even the goal of 100 points (a solid playoff position) raised the bar.

    On nights like the 3-2 loss to Montreal it is easy to scream change the coaches. I am also very frustrated with: a) the Flames’ inconsistency from game to game(although they played 5 good games in a row before Montreal) b) their inability to simultaneously get all facets of their game together (when the 3rd line finally clicks the 1st line disappears etc.) c) their awful pp and previously awful pk (but which has dramatically improved).

    Is this all coaching? The guy most of us would have loved of those available when GG was hired is Bruce Boudreau. His record with approximately a team equally talented to the Flames in Minnesota is an identical 18-15-3 with 39 points and one of the many playoff bubble teams in the West. If we had the other GG–Gerard Gallant–as our coach I have no doubt we would be in a playoff position, but I don’t think he was available then.

    Maybe the awful truth we need to face is this team is still very young and need to mature to find consistency. Peak age statistically for hockey performance it has been argued is 26-27. Of what I would think of as the Flames core of JH, Monny, Sam, Byng, Janko, Ferland and Hamilton we may still have to wait: Byng is 20, Bennett 21, JH, Janko, Monny and Hamilton 23. Only Ferland is 25 and he is having his best year scoring this year, by far.

    So is this just a team this needs to mature and reach its true window of contention in two years or one that needs to change coaches right now? I am not sure bringing in some authoritarian, old school guy like Tippett or Suter would help in the long term. This might turn things around short term, but when the Flames are truly ready to contend say in 2020-2021 has lost the room.

    As with GG it takes 2-3 months to adapt to new systems. If BT could find a clear upgrade for the long-term he should definitely go for it, but hopefully he is less emotional than we are about the Flames current mediocre play.

    As far as trading away the 2nd for Lazar and the 1st and two seconds for Harmonic, I see these as tactical errors not necessarily strategic ones. The farm is still stocked probably with more credible players than will actually be able to secure NHL jobs: Mange, Klimchuk, possibly Hrivik and Foo as forwards with Dube, Phillips and maybe Gawdin coming up. Andersson and Kylington on D with Fox and Valamaki in the wings and Gillies and Parsons in goal. Harmonic was playing way better in the Flames recent strong stretch and I am not willing to throw in the towel that he and Brodie won’t find chemistry.

    So perhaps what I and other Flames fans need to do is just accept that this year is the first one when a window of contention opens and that window is probably open for another 4-5 years. BT pushed a big pile of chips to the center of the table when he gambled on Lazar and Harmonic, but he did not mortgage the house. Unfortunately, I may need to be patient. All the teams fighting with us for those last couple of spots in the West–Chicago, Anaheim, Minny, Dallas even Deadmonton now, probably have fans just as frustrated as us.

    • Anonymoustrollpolice

      Didn’t mortgage the house? What do you call having no draft picks left? What’s left to mortgage. The prospects are not nearly as good as earlier reported.

      • BringtheFire 2.0

        I don’t understand this concern about picks. If the arse flies out of ‘er all together BT has plenty of trade fodder to recoup picks. Plus, picks are used to get promising young players and we have a nice handful of those. It’s not ideal to have no picks, but we do have depth.

      • ThisBigMouthIsRight

        When your farm team is First in their Division, 7th in the league (with minimum 3 less games played than the 7 teams above) you have 6 young players in the WJHC = 3 of whom are wearing Letters…. The future is looking pretty good! Or your farm team could be Last in their Division and 27th out of 30 teams in the league (after games played equalization) Even with a Decade of bottom 5 High Draft picks… That should be a Major concern! By the way, How Good Is Mathew Barzal??? LMFAO…

  • Trevy

    I think you’re being far too generous on Brodie. Maybe he’s the problem with a Hamonic or anyone else he plays with. He seems to adlib when he’s on the ice and I think it confuses whoever is his partner at the time. I agree with pretty much everyone’s response, but WW summed it up best. I would just add tweaking the back end by putting Brodie on the block for more offensive help and bring up Ras.

  • BringtheFire 2.0

    My wishes:

    Johnny gets the Art Ross, Hathaway becomes Ferland 2.0 and half the commenters on FN stopping wishing for my team to lose.

    Go Flames, baby!!!!!!!

  • Off the wall

    I’m trying not to be greedy as it’s holiday season, so here’s my 5 wishes:

    1. Beat the Oilers for the remainder of this season

    2. Build a firewall so trolls can’t comment here, Make FN great again

    3. FN gets an EDIT function

    4. The Flames get at least 3rd place in the Pacific

    5. The Flames get a new arena deal done that is a win- win scenario for both the City and the Flames

    Happy Holidays!

    • BringtheFire 2.0

      Baggedmilk wrote in the comments of an Oilers article about a month or more ago:

      “An edit button is coming, I promise you that.”

      Still waiting.

  • Vernon30

    Got to agree with Candle, in that this year may be the first of a window, and expectations should be slightly not lowered. However, this team should have that up-and-coming feeling, with excitement and youth and fun. GG’s system gives off a stagnant, dull, boring vibe, and the team is starting to feel the same way. My wish is for speed, energy, and fun…and of course, wins.

  • Lucky 13

    As is my custom I have 3 wishes during the season of giving,

    1. That we all remember to donate to the less fortunate, food banks, parents who are single with children- children with no parents, or even if it’s just a few dollars to charity. It will make this season a little brighter for those that find this a difficult time of year.

    2. To remember not everyone has family members to enjoy the season with. Please include them in your family, if you are able. It’s a lonely time for them, and you truly benefit from giving your time. It’s what makes us a caring nation.

    3. The last one is a bit selfish, but I hope we make the postseason and preferably past the 1st round.

    Cheers FN!

  • Chucky

    What a telling comment. “Brodie is a much better player at both ends of the rink than he has shown under coach Glen Gulutzan.”
    The question that needs to be answered is: Do the Flames want an elite defenseman or a mediocre coach? It is pretty obvious that the can’t have both with Brodie and Gulatzan on the same team.

    • Kevin R

      My Wish that I think will make a difference for all the Flames & fans is that coach GG gets a notebook like Badger Bob used to have & take notes in the game that will make him more than just a coach but a battlefield tactician. Word was Badger would take notes on tendencies of key opposition players & prepare for future match ups with players he would assign to address & exploit of other teams best players. Now granted, he probably didn’t have the video tools coaches have today hahaha, but a true General’s eye on the battlefield during battle is worth many eyes scouring video. Long & short of my wish, I hope GG can be more prepared to win & that is evident in not just rolling out the same friggin line game after game, but preparing a plan to defeat each team individually. That takes flexibility.

      Best wishes for all the writers & posters on FN! This is a fun site to come to. Thank you!

  • Blackgold

    As a Christmas wish it would be for the Flames and Oilers to meet in a second round of the playoffs. That would take it back to the old Battle of Alberta. As for the trolls on FN, there are as many trolls (if not more) on ON that are clearly Flames fans.

  • Mike Kennelly

    Fantastic article Steve. A lot to think about and hope for without a doubt. My biggest wish for the Team is that they all get the Fire in thier bellies and Hearts to solidify a spot in the playoffs. It seems we have only seen limited flashes of thier capabilities this season. Hopefully they can consistently play with this Fire in the New Year.

    GO FLAMES GO