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WWYDW: How many prospects should be in the lineup?

The Calgary Flames are in the mix for a playoff spot, but by no means are they in a comfortable position. In contrast, the Stockton Heat, with a .648 points percentage, lead their division.

The Flames have a number of underperforming players on their roster; the Heat boast intriguing prospects, some of whom appear to be already knocking on the door to join the big league. It’s only natural to want to replace the under-performers with young blood. But even in a vacuum where such a thing would be possible, how much room really is there for them? How many prospects can a team with championship hopes fit in a regular lineup?

The Flames are on the edge of the playoffs and are middle-of-the pack in terms of odds to win the Stanley Cup. Sports interaction will offer valuable odds for sportsbook needs.

Asterisk

Much as anybody may want some current mainstays holding an NHL roster spot to just go away, it’s not going to happen. Troy Brouwer and Matt Stajan will be sticking around; their contracts alone ensure that. As for any vitriol directed towards Curtis Lazar and Freddie Hamilton – even ignoring the external optics of giving up a second round pick, or the internal optics of brotherhood – someone has to be a healthy scratch, and it’s better them than anyone in Stockton. The same goes for Matt Bartkowski.

There is an option to get another forward in: demote Lazar or Hamilton, sit Stajan, play whoever gets called up (probably a centre, then). But that’s about it.

Already present

Then, there’s taking into account the rookies and sophomores who are already playing a regular shift.

It took Mark Jankowski and Brett Kulak longer than it should have to earn a regular spot in the lineup, but they did eventually get there. Garnet Hathaway is up by way of Kris Versteeg’s long-term injury, and if he keeps playing the way he has until Versteeg returns, then he won’t be the one going down to make room for him.

Throw in Matthew Tkachuk, who has made such an impact in the NHL already but is only in his second year, and that’s four relative newbie skaters out of a possibility of 18. Roughly a quarter of the Flames’ current lineup is occupied by guys who had a combined 23 NHL games two years ago.

David Rittich makes five as the backup goalie.

Almost ready

Andrew Mangiapane leads the Heat in scoring with 29 points in 27 games. Marek Hrivik is a bit older, but his 28 points in 25 games, combined with a bit of NHL experience, makes him all the more intriguing. Morgan Klimchuk has come on as of late, with 20 points in 27 games. Tyler Wotherspoon and Oliver Kylington are playing well, as is Rasmus Andersson, who already has an NHL game this season.

That’s six players who one could reasonably make a case for right now. Whittle it down a bit – Klimchuk and Kylington are more on the fringes of this group – and there are still four players one would have reason to believe could step in the NHL right now, and probably outplay a roster player or two.

The Flames could, say, reunite the Mangiapane – Jankowski – Hathaway line (and the way Sam Bennett has been playing as of late, maybe he could ignite a fire in some new linemates). Hrivik could, conceivably, replace Stajan. Wotherspoon isn’t getting any younger, but would probably be a better depth option than Bartkowski.

As for Andersson, well, the Flames both trading for Travis Hamonic and re-signing Michael Stone has left him stuck – and there really isn’t anything that can be done about that at the moment, excluding any present or future injuries (likely of a longer term nature, if Bartkowski’s appearance against Montreal is anything to go by).

With all NHLers healthy, there isn’t room for all four. Maybe two, and even then, those two aren’t guaranteed to get a regular shift, if they even dress to begin with. A healthy defence group is pretty cramped; adjusting the forward group leaves for five of a possible 18 skaters.

Next year?

Expiring contracts next season include Mikael Backlund (should be re-signed), Stajan (probably not), Versteeg (probably not), Jaromir Jagr (probably not), and Bartkowski (probably not), plus restricted free agents Jankowski, Hathaway, Hamilton, Kulak, and Rittich, as well as a slew of current Stockton guys.

There are three forward avenues and one on defence with a clear path open for somebody to take. While they likely won’t all be open come next season’s training camp, it’s a fair bet at least one of them will. Remember, the Flames didn’t pull the trigger on Jagr until none of their prospects impressed them enough.

In the meantime: what would you do? Leave the roster as is? Open a spot for a prospect right now, by way of waivers or trade (remember, no refunds here – if it turns out the prospect to promote in question isn’t ready, well, too bad)? Or wait things out until the 2018-19 season?


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  • freethe flames

    FHamilton has already cleared waivers this year and in all likelyhood would clear waivers again and if he was claimed it would not be a big loss for this club. Jagr has missed how many games in a row with a nagging injury; if it’s not cleared up by now put him on IR and let it properly heal; that would create 2 forward positions. If Lazar is going to be an NHLer he needs to play ahead of Stajan and not be jerked around(let him play 10 games straight at center and then evaluate him). I said on a previous post that it is time juggle the lines. In order to do that you need to call up one of Klimchuk or Mangiapane; and play whoever you call up with Backs and Frolik. Yes, that means you break up the 3M line but it has not been as effective as it was last year; blame whoever you want but it has not been as good as last year. (Dzone starts for the new 3m line)Depending on Jagr’s health move him up the Johnny/Monny line and feed that line with as many ozone starts that it can handle; Jagr and Monny’s speed are made for each other as are Jagr and Johnny’s hockey iq. Leave the the Bennett/Janko/Hathaway line alone and create a line of Tkachuk/Lazar/Ferland and play it like the Janko line; no need to shelter it. This line could create rel head aches for other teams and would be a way to access Lazar; ten games and if it doesn’t work send him down and bring up Hrivik. Also send Bart down and bring Spoon up; maybe it creates some value in Spoon moving towards the trade deadline.

    • cberg

      I love the idea of bringing up deserving guys, but your wholesale changes to all the lines seems like a recipe for disaster. The obvious changes are to the fourth line and Bartkowski out and Wotherspoon in. That provides some potential games for Wotherspoon to see if he handles it well, for now and the future. For the 4th line we are not getting much, if any production out of them and although they mostly play PK and have been doing well recently, I’m not sure others could not accomplish the same. The top 3 lines are pretty set, for the moment, while Jagr is injured and I believe in-game juggling can shake things up adequately. That being said, if the Flames go on any sort of losing streak they’ll be in trouble and will need to try more desperate things….

        • cberg

          I agree with changing lines and your comment, but the suggestion above changed all the lines, at once, which seems excessive and unnecessary. How about two at once to see if a change works, e.g. switching Ferland and Tkachuk then later others…. It would be easier to evaluate and not upset the whole team at the same time.

  • Chucky

    Something needs to be done with defense or its value will disappear. The Flames have five left defensemen, Geo, Kulak, Kylington, Wotherspoon and Valimaki that should be ready to suit up next year. They have six NHL ready right defensemen Hamilton, Brodie, Haminic, Stone, Anderson and Fox.
    If they are going to make room for Kylington and Valimaki they need to get Wotherspoon in the NHL and see if he has some value either as a seventh guy or a trade.
    If they want to clean up the right side they need to get Brodie back to his natural position make a decision on who plays in the future and trade the rest, right defensemen are a valuable commodity in the NHL and the Flames have a surplus time to recover some draft picks.
    The answer is
    Geo / Brodie
    Spoon / Hamilton
    Kulak / Hamonic or Stone
    Hamonic or Stone eating popcorn for the first 10 games of the new year.
    Barkowski in the we don’t care area, maybe someone would claim him or the Flames could pay twice his salary to someone who would take him.
    This of course relies on a coach that has enough imagination and hockey sense to realize that Brodie is a right defenseman (like the 10 guys he played for before Gulatzan).

    • MontanaMan

      You are overvaluing the defence, at least their ability to play next year in the NHL. Kylington is not ready; Fox is not ready; Valimaki not ready; Anderson questionable. Just because a player excels in junior or even the AHL doesn’t necessarily translate to the NHL. I think we’d all like to see more youth injected into the team, but that much youth on defence would be a disaster.

      • Chucky

        Right now we the only defenseman that might not be back for the next 2 and 1/2 years is Kulak. He will probably earn a contrat for 2 or 3 years this year. So the Flames never get to see what they have in Wotherspoon because he sits in the minors until he becomes a UFA. The other guys sit in Stockton until 2020/21 assuming that Tre doesn’t come up with more draft picks to trade for a right shooting defenseman to replace Brodie because he is stuck stinking it up on his wrong side. Time to find out what they have and look for future openings rather than quake with fear of a rookie actually proving he should be kept on the NHL roster.
        Kulak was head and shoulders above Bartkowski at the start of the year but the idea that he could play was frightening to the coaching staff. So Bartkowki played the 2016 Grossman role.

      • class1div1

        Phillidelphia is a good example of a young defense that is struggling.You have to think management knew this would happen but decided to give their young guys prime time.That defence will be one of the best shortly.

  • FlamesFanOtherCity

    For the future, we need to seriously evaluate what the defense is going to look like. Fox, Valimaki, Andersson and Kylington are top 4 potential. Brodie is trending down, due to being used on his weak side for the last two years. Gio is only one or two years away from dragging down the top 4. Stone really hasn’t looked like a top 4 even when he gets those minutes. Hamonic is not being used in the right pairing right now. I could care about LHS-RHS pairs if their styles don’t mesh.

    Trade Brodie now, while he still has value. Bring up Andersson. Demote Bart. Waive Lazar and cuts your losses if he gets claimed, which very few teams would bother with. Waive Freddie again. Sit Stajan. Find the best usage for Tkachuk, as he’s getting buried right now.

    Gaudreau-Monahan-Tkachuk
    Ferland-Backlund-Frolik (3 Mike line)
    Bennett-Janko-Hathaway
    Jagr-Hrivik-Brouwer
    Ex. Stajan

    Gio-Hamonic
    Andersson-Hamilton
    Kulak-Stone
    Ex. Spoon

      • FlamesFanOtherCity

        Line them up anyway you like. Andersson on RD, Dougie on RD. Or just leave Dougie with Gio and play Hamonic on LD. This infatuation with LHS-RHS that Gully has is killing Brodie’s game.

    • Chucky

      Trading Brodie now is giving him away. He is a Ferrari that is being used as a pick-up truck. The buyer will pay bad pick-up truck pricing and then use the Ferrari as a sports car. Someone is going to look like a genius and somebody like a rube.

  • Puckhead

    Great, highly skilled, D prospects lined up in the queue but if they all worked their way into the lineup I’m concerned we would be too soft on the back end. It might be time to find a couple of younger big bruisers with some skill to give our more talented D men room to move.

    Talent is great but the playoffs are battles of attrition and there needs to be some beef with teeth in the lineup.

  • In the year 3 A.C.

    NHL rankings came out and said Calgary’s New Years resolution was to be more truculent.
    How long have we been talking about this? Until this actually happens the Flames will remain about where they are now. Very little toughness on this team

  • Jessemadnote

    They’ve done a terrific job graduating prospects, and there’s no room right now for more prospects to get meaningful minutes. The only thing I would possibly look at doing is a Hrivik/Lazar Swap. Hrivik seems to be better in his transition game than Lazar and has a good thing going. Maybe Lazar could rediscover his touch in the minors. Is it worth the risk of Lazar getting claimed on Waivers? He has 0 goals, 4 assists and a -8% relative corsi in 24 games.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      If I am Lazar, I would make a deal that I will go down to the AHL for a two week conditioning stint…. If I get top line minutes and given a 10 game streatch when I return to the NHL. Confidence is a funny thing, all you have to do is look at Bennett.

  • Stajanforadirtyboot

    What this team needs is an injection of coaching prospects. I dislike Gulutzan, just his face alone on the tv makes me Hulk up, but what coach is available right now….besides Tippet whom I also don’t believe is the answer. Tim Hunter?

  • Skylardog

    Hope for change as much as we like, it is not happening in the next 2 weeks.

    We have 6 tough games coming up that will define the entire season, all of them against Western opponents, and all of them against teams we are or should be battling for a playoff spot against (LA is already out of sight for us). We will play those games with the guys we have (barring injury).

    Going 500 in this stretch, while giving up any OT loss points to the opposition is not enough to cut it. We really need to earn 8 or 9 points in the stretch while only giving up 4 or less. That would keep us in the hunt. Anything less than 6 points and we are likely behind Edmonton as well.

    And the problem? BT and GG are going to play these 6 games with the current roster. And that includes a 1st line that is struggling, Backs line giving up more than they produce, and a 4th line that is just a waste of a shift. Even with that, I believe we have the potential to win all 6. The question is what team comes out on the ice.

    • cberg

      I think your assessment is spot on. Unfortunately, it is hard to foresee any scenario where the coaching staff gets the can before the end of the season as this team is likely to continue on as it has and “be in the mix” right up to the last couple of weeks. That, and the dearth of desirable coaching candidates means end-of-season before any meaningful changes. Much more likely is some movement with Backlund(should be re-signed, but who knows?), or possibly trades involving Brodie(possibility considering D prospects) or long shot Ferland(not desirable), plus vets if everything falls apart before the TDL and we’re in recoup the picks mode. If the team seriously falters GG should be replaced and BT might have some shaken days as well. That being said, I think we have the talent to make the playoffs, but you have to get beyond talent and the competition is pretty fierce.

      In another month we’ll know much more and what our TDL strategy may be. It’s also interesting that zero coaches have been replaced as of yet, first time in many years….. Who goes first?

    • Broken

      As I said in a response to you the other day, the 3M line has been the victim of poor Shooting % more than anything. I doubt you will find many lines in the league that have a 60.17% HDCF edge in play. The McDavid, Draisaitl, Maroon combo, as an example is at 50%.

      Goals should eventually come for the 3M line, but, obviously, no one can accurately predict where bad luck starts nor where it ends. The fact of the matter is, though, they are one of the best lines in the league.

  • Joeyhere

    We are 11th in the West, out of a playoff position and back three from a wildcard. You said it yourself Ari there are players in Stockton who would be an immediate upgrade. Bench Brower , sit Stajan- our current “always given never earned” philosophy of GG is taking the compete out of this team and burning a decent year. Some coaching and roster moves and This could be a top four in the west team

  • dodar

    Stajan out – Hrivik in, trade one of the duo stone / hamonic and replace by andersson, Bartkowski goodbey and 7D for Wotherspoon. Next season Lomberg in 4th line…

    • cberg

      Some good ideas, though your disdain for the playing D goes a bit far. I think we’re stuck with the current D till season’s end, unless they decide to make a major splash, i.e. trading Brodie which is hugely doubtful. I would hope that BT replaces GG before making any huge trades….

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    GG can save his job but not if he is reluctant to make changes. The team needs a jolt of offense. This should come in the form of moving Tkachuk up to the top line. Ferland drops to play with Janko and Bennett. Jagr moves to play with Backlund and Frolik. The fourth line is energy and grit with Lazar, Hath, and Brouwer.

    • supra steve

      Tkachuk, the hell raiser, with a pacifist and one of the smallest players in the league. I hope not.
      Jagr with our shut down line and all of the D zone starts that that entails. Sounds like a complete mismatch.
      Ferland with Janko/Bennett, that would probably be fine.

      Two out of three ain’t bad, but one for three certainly is.

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        I actually find that Monny disappears in games and now he won’t. Jagr is a better fit on the old 3M line than Brouwer from a possession standpoint. A healthy Jagr is more than capable to play these minutes while an unhealthy Jagr… Not so much.

        Hathaway is decent on the third line but Janko seems to create more offense than the other Centers so needs a finisher in Ferland.
        Brouwer is not going anywhere so he stays on the fourth line, Lazar and Hath would provide energy without being a defensive liability.

        • supra steve

          And if JG gets knocked over in a scrum (that Tkachuk creates multiple times per game) and pulls his groin, and misses significant time….then how does Tkachuk on the top line help with stimulating offence?

          • Jumping Jack Flash

            soooo…Johnny is elusive enough to avoid contact during a game but not after the whistle? He will likely grab the a player from the other team who is not interested in engaging or speed bagging one of the elite players in the league. I have always felt that we have the right players but not in the right positions. It seems that our best chances to create more offense lie with Tkachuk and Jagr.

          • supra steve

            You will not convince me. JG is listed as 5’7″, 157 lb. Marner and Dvorak are both listed as 6’0″.
            Perhaps it would never happen, but the risk is there because Tkachuk makes opponents ANGRY. That being the case, I’d rather see Tkachuk on his current line or with Janko/Bennett, that could be a nasty 2nd line in a year or two.

            Marner and Dvorak are both 6’0″, JG is 5’7″. A good coach will protect him.

        • Jumping Jack Flash

          I don’t recall hearing that Tkachuk dragged Marner or Dvorak into the battle with the London Knights on one of the most prolific OHL lines. I think Tkachuk is smart enough to know that being on the top line requires discipline.

  • Trevy

    You would have to leave the roster as is simply because of GG. It’s clearly evident he doesn’t have a lot of faith inserting rookies into the lineup. He has this stubborn quality about him that steers toward familiarity and being a veteran of the NHL. Example, Bartkowski. Once GG is inevitably gone, then I would bring up a Wotherspoon in place of Bartkowski, waive/demote Hamilton in place of Hrivik so he could transition into the 4th line center and bring up Mangiapane for a cup of coffee in place of Lazar

  • deantheraven

    I’ve pondered this here since training camp. That’s the crux of the biscuit- move a roster player to promote a prospect, or hold tight and settle for attrition. Backlund should be re-signed for term right now, full stop, and I hope it gets done before the TDL. I sure hope his agent isn’t dragging negotiations down to drive the price up…
    I can try to be logical but it’s as hard to deny as it is to prove that guys like Stajan and Versteeg (and yes, Brouwer) bring off ice value to the team and the city. Whatever ‘intangibles’ they bring would be replaced by the new dynamic, equally hard to quantify.
    Versteeg is done for the season, maybe playoffs, maybe… Can he be re-signed on LTIR? That would be good enough for me. I hope he plays again, if not this season then next, and I’d love it for him to remain a Flame in any capacity.
    Stajan can be a sitter this season (pressbox and chaperone/mentor for the younger replacements). He and Freddie would be fine as 13/14F- 1RC, 1LC. Lazar will probably have one of those seats next year. And if management sees the need, Stajan would come back cheap next year, even if they dealt him for picks at the deadline ( the most logical choice). He deserves to get the silver stick as a Flame (mathematically impossible this year) and could also help when his playing days are done.
    Brouwer
    I got nothing here.

    Those four would be moving out of the org, hopefully for a fair value, in order to make space for the prospects. That’s a tall order, and like you mentioned there’s no guarantee the new faces will add value on or off the ice. Hopefully Backlund stays and is re-signed and remains a middle six stalwart for years to come. So yeah, If Versteeg stays LTIR for the duration, there’s a spot. If you can move Stajan and/or Brouwer at the deadline (or the draft or Taco Tuesday), great! There you have two roster spots, but only one to play regularly.I’d be inclined to bring up the Czech or Klimchuk to play 4th line minutes, and wait till next year to bring up Mangiapane when he can challenge for more ice time.
    Even Kenny Rogers would have trouble with this one. Godspeed, Tre!

  • class1div1

    If this team can’t beat the Oilers in there January game,that would indicate that they not good enough.That alone should be the cataylist for change.We absolutely have to be better than that team.

    • deantheraven

      If the Flames play 60 minutes like that 3rd period in the last match, they’ll dominate the Oilers. But the rest of that game and other losses this year have seen the Flames get pushed around and out-battled. That’s what needs to happen. Play bigger!