Michael Frolik has returned to the Flames, restoring balance (and an M) to the 3M line. Troy Brouwer, who will always be maligned because that contract really sucks, has been pushed down to the third line, in turn pushing Garnet Hathaway down to the fourth line.
Fourth line minutes aren’t quite as important, so that begs the question. Do the Flames have the right guy on the third line now? Should they stick with Brouwer in that spot, or find someone else? What would you do?
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but Brouwer has legitimate claim to the third line spot, assist last night aside. He’s the most veteran talent available, and has a history of 40-point seasons, even if those days are probably over. He’s ninth in Flames forward points, which is a quick way to indicate he might just belong in the top nine. He’s the least likely to get overwhelmed with the minutes and responsibility and, if all else fails, there’s the probably unrealistic thought that maybe it can boost his trade value.
Hathaway was doing just fine on the third line. Wasn’t he? The line seemed to undergo a resurgence once he stepped in alongside Sam Bennett and Mark Jankowski. And six points in 11 games is a pretty good look! Two points in 16, uh, less so.
Hathaway reverted back into what he was suspected of being: a fourth liner. His scoring perked up in the AHL – a lower level – after a couple of years adjusting to it while already being in his mid-20s. There isn’t anything wrong with that, but it’s not exactly a hint at a future top nine player in the NHL and, well, lo and behold.
(Ryan Lomberg isn’t an option for pretty much the same reasons, except Hathaway is already better than him.)
I just want to double check that Andrew Mangiapane was recalled after the All-Star Break. He was? Oh good. He also hasn’t played in the NHL since Jan. 20, when he was gifted 7:27 against the Winnipeg Jets in a shootout loss.
Mangiapane has gone pointless through his first eight NHL games, but he’s also been asked to play exclusively in a fourth line role. He’s very young and a top line player on the farm team, so this isn’t a “call Marek Hrivik up and have him sit as the extra forward” situation. Mangiapane still has a lot of potential and he isn’t exactly getting any favours to try to show off what he can do. Playing alongside a couple of guys his age in Bennett and Jankowski could fix that.
A problem here is that he’s a left wing, as is Bennett, who already failed at centre. But maybe there’s some way of making it work.
… Curtis Lazar has to be good for something right? The Flames traded a second round pick and re-signed him to a two-year, $950,000 per contract for a reason right? He’s a right shot. With five assists in 36 games this season. He consistently gets the least ice time of any Flames player. If there was ever a time to find out if something, anything, happens to be there, this is probably it.
One of the reasons the Flames signed Jaromir Jagr was because the Flames were incredibly weak on the right side of the ice. His addition to that line kickstarted it into something acceptable, but his health didn’t hold up. Hathaway briefly took over, but then that fizzled out. Maybe Brouwer helps out again; it is an offensive zone start-heavy line.
Kris Versteeg won’t be available for another month and change, best case scenario. But there’s always another option: a trade. The Flames’ forward depth is still weak, especially on the right side, and perhaps bringing in some outside help would yield the real long-term solution. The trade deadline is just under a month away.