Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

WWYDW: What about Jon Gillies?

The Flames are back on the road – a great thing, when you consider their home (13-14-4) and away (17-7-5) records. Of particular interest on this road trip, though – a little two-gamer, with back-to-backs in Vegas and Arizona – is that the Flames so happen to have three goaltenders with them.

David Rittich was a given, and Jon Gillies has been up with the team since being recalled in lieu of Mike Smith’s injury. But though he hasn’t cleared yet, Smith is on the trip, as well. Common sense at this stage says it’s Rittich and Gillies who get the two games, though.

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Aside from a subpar outing in Boston and a horrible game against Florida, Rittich has been lights out, largely responsible for three of the possible eight points the Flames have picked up since Smith’s injury. Gillies, meanwhile, has only seen two NHL games so far this season, both in relief appearances after the game got out of hand from the starter: once on Nov. 15, and later on Feb. 17.

The two opponents the Flames see on this two-game swing couldn’t be any more different: Vegas is in contention to be the top team in the NHL; Arizona, the worst. Though both Rittich and Gillies started the season in the AHL, Rittich got the call to replace Eddie Lack as the Flames’ backup, and he ran away with it. The call, then, is obvious: Rittich, who has looked like an NHL-level goalie more often than not this season, should get the start against Vegas.

Who starts against Arizona provides a little more intrigue. This will be the Flames’ first game in Arizona since acquiring Smith; in other words, this could have been his homecoming, were he healthy enough to play. But, seeing as how he’s on the trip, he very well could be by Thursday.

The Flames could have Rittich take back-to-back starts – they’ve done it with Smith before – but that seems counterproductive to one of two other possibilities.

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One, maybe Smith is close enough to being able to play and, combined with the emotions of being back in his home barn of the past six seasons, gets back into the swing of things against a team he has already shut out this season.

Or two, Gillies gets his second career NHL start, but against one of the NHL’s weaker teams. Not that that’s a guaranteed win, but it should serve as a good litmus test for him, especially in light of the confusion surrounding the Flames’ goaltending future: will Smith’s play hold up next season? Will Rittich’s? Gillies was previously such a highly regarded prospect; can he regain that standing within the organization?

Injuries to both Smith and prospect Tyler Parsons may have put pause on the idea of using Gillies as a trade asset, but this two-game road trip could be his chance to work himself back into the conversation of future Flames netminding.

Where it could get really interesting is if Smith won’t be at 100% (or as close as one can get during the season) for a while yet. The Flames will have a matinee against Colorado on Saturday, and after the trade deadline, another back-to-back on the 27th and 28th in Dallas and Colorado – which could be another possibility for Gillies, depending on Smith’s status.

How would you like to see the Flames play it with Gillies? Does he still have a future with the Flames? And would it be better to play him a little more if Smith needs more time off?

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  • Justthateasy

    I say play Riddick both games as if he was our number one. Unless you want to showcase Gillies; it could blow up in your face though. He seems to spend an awful lot of time on his knees.

    • KKisTHEproblem

      I would play Rittich both games for a couple of reasons (unless he s__ts the bed against the Knights): 1) this is do or die time for the Flames. All 3 Cali teams have won 3 in a row and have created a little separation from the Flames. If the Flames want to be a playoff team, they have to stop the separation and at least stay with the other teams until they can start to close the gap. That means play your best players. The next few games are not experiment time, they need to play their core guys and see if they can play well, get some wins and catch up to the Pacific playoff teams. 2) Rittich has been the better goalie for 2 years now (not saying that will always be the case), as was better last year and has clearly been better this year. Because of reason 1, play your best….

  • Stockton's Finest

    I know this sound weird from me, but I would not move Gillies. Looking at this strictly from an organizational outlook, he is our 3rd best goalie.

    Smitty will play for another two years. During that time, his games should be decreasing a bit. Rittich should get 20 to 25 starts next year and between 25 and 30 the year after that. Barring injury, Calgary is set.

    In Stockton, you would have a 1A/1B situation with Gillies and Tyler Parsons. Currently, Gillies is your 3rd best goalie and he will remain that next year. Parsons needs a full season in Stockton, maybe two, to get ready. Remember, he has only started twice for the Heat this year. So expecting him to jump to Calgary as first emergency call up goalie is unrealistic.

    Then you have Kansas City. Mason McDonald either does not get signed or gets a minor league contract at best. Is Nick Schneider ready for ECHL action?

    Barring a trade for a minor league goalie, Gillies stays in Stockton. I believe he is an RFA this summer, so all bets are off if there is someone else out there who can tandem with Parsons for the Heat. But my money is “Glove Side High” remains a Flames prospect.

  • CherryIsSenile

    Subpar against the Bruins? No dice. He played well and got the Flames a point against a superior opponent. Both goals were direct causes of bad plays by Brodie and Frolik. No PP goals against. Not sure how he played subpar.

  • The Real Slim Brodie

    Definitely play rittich. On another note I like the wwyd over on oilersnation. Something about seeing them debate over tanking or not after all the chirping during the off-season brightens my day.

  • Off the wall

    I doubt very much that we see Smith play in goal. I believe he’s traveling with the Flames to work on his rehab.

    Rittich makes sense for both games, he’s playing well and believe it or not, Arizona has won 4 straight and seem to be playing well. We can’t afford any more losses.

    Of course knowing GG, he will do the reverse of anything we suggest.

  • Vernon30

    Rittich both games. He seems mentally tough, and I like the confidence he shows. Agree with all here saying these are MUST win games. Can’t risk Gilles or a possibly still hurt Smith.

  • cjc

    How would you like to see the Flames play it with Gillies?
    -Be the backup. Rittich is not overworked, so I have no problem seeing him play back to back (unless Vegas routs Calgary tonight).

    Does he still have a future with the Flames?
    – Sure. He is one Rittich cold streak away from being the starter. He would not fetch much on the trade market alone (maybe a 2nd or depth forward)

    And would it be better to play him a little more if Smith needs more time off?
    -Go with the hot hand. If Smith can’t play and Rittich struggles, give Gillies a start.

  • SeanCharles

    Rittich starts both games. We are in the thick of it and I’m unsure if Gillies is up to the task with such high stakes.

    I’d still hang onto him for his potential but he isn’t ready to be an important factor in our drive to make the playoffs.