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.