The Flames have already seen their regular lineup rocked by a number of AHL call-ups and graduates this season. Brett Kulak was the first to officially make it, but Mark Jankowski wasn’t too far behind. A long-term injury to Kris Versteeg brought up Garnet Hathaway, and now, with Michael Frolik out for the next few to several weeks, it looks like it’s Andrew Mangiapane’s turn.
Lineup speculations have been common so far throughout this season, but as Stockton’s highest scorer, Mangiapane adds a new dynamic. If he’s going to be in the NHL until at least February or so then it would stand to reason that, at some point, he gets promoted from the fourth line.
For Mangiapane’s debut, the Flames rolled the following lines:
As much as Mangiapane pretty much singlehandedly made the fourth line better, one thing that immediately stands out is that he played alongside Jankowski and Hathaway in the AHL. While Sam Bennett has been no slouch, it could be tempting to reunite the Stockton Heat’s top line in the NHL. Not only are the three of them in the big league based on merit, but they were all near the top of Heat scoring at the time of their recalls. If the players are good enough, why wouldn’t their chemistry transfer over?
That then leaves the question of what to do with Bennett, since it doesn’t seem fair to bump him to the fourth line. However, it’s worth noting that Bennett spent a lot of time being centred by Mikael Backlund as a rookie, which has been his most successful year in his (admittedly short) NHL career to date. With Matthew Tkachuk capable of playing both wings, it could open the stage to have Bennett join Backlund and Tkachuk on the second line.
Alternatively, one could avoid the fiddling and simply bump Mangiapane up with Backlund. After all, Backlund does have a track record of benefiting rookies, and Mangiapane seems like exactly the type who could play well alongside him, even if heavy defensive zone starts would be expected, as opposed to the likely easier ride he’d get alongside Jankowski.
This would all likely result in Jaromir Jagr rejoining Matt Stajan and Troy Brouwer on the old guys fourth line, which hasn’t necessarily been a great one for the Flames. But in the end, somebody has to play there, and is it worth sacrificing the fourth line’s quality to give Mangiapane a greater role?
I think most of us can agree that, over the course of his recall, Mangiapane’s role should increase. There are, however, a multitude of ways in which that can happen. So of course, because it’s Wednesday: what would you do?