168
Photo Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

WWYDW: What holes in the roster need to be fixed?

With the way the Flames have played this season – to say nothing of how they ultimately bowed out of the postseason dance – there’s little to look forward to but next year. So, while the corpse is still fresh, we ask: what changes need to be made to this roster so that this time a year from now we’re all excited and not disgusted?

Here is a rough composite of what the Flames looked like throughout the 2017-18 season:

Johnny Gaudreau Sean Monahan Micheal Ferland
Matthew Tkachuk Mikael Backlund Michael Frolik
Sam Bennett Mark Jankowski Garnet Hathaway
Troy Brouwer Matt Stajan Curtis Lazar
Mark Giordano Dougie Hamilton
T.J. Brodie Travis Hamonic
Brett Kulak Michael Stone
Mike Smith
David Rittich

Players that are decidedly not problems are: Gaudreau, Monahan, Tkachuk, Backlund, Giordano, and Hamilton. That’s two-thirds of a first line, another elite winger, a shutdown centre, and a top defence pairing.

That also leaves two full lines, the entire right forward side of the ice, two defence pairings, and two goaltenders that need help. Yikes.

Hope

Frolik typically has better years than this, and is in the midst of posting his worst shooting percentage since he was buried in defensive zone starts in Chicago five seasons ago. It’s reasonable to think he’ll have a better season next year.

Hamonic had to adjust to a new team, but has looked increasingly steady as of late. Perhaps, after his first full season in the Western Conference, he’ll look even steadier over the course of the 2018-19 season.

Jankowski has held his own rather well as a rookie, though of course more scoring would be nice, especially considering the offensive zone starts he gets. But also: rookie. Plenty of potential to have a better season next year, now that he’s experienced the rigours of the big league for almost a full season.

Kulak is in the same boat as Jankowski: plenty of potential, even if, in his position, he isn’t expected to score as much. At worst, the Flames do have a bottom pairing defenceman who isn’t a liability out there.

Concern

Ferland is a pretty good player, but is he cut out to be consistent first line material? If he isn’t frequently putting his effective shot to use, then no, probably not. That doesn’t mean he has to be jettisoned, but it does suggest that if the Flames can put him in a position where they’re less dependent on him having constant success, they may be better off.

Bennett was chosen fourth overall for a reason, and we’ve seen that reason in flashes over the course of his first three seasons. But that’s all they’ve been: flashes. When he’s gotten the chance to perform in the playoffs, he’s been outstanding, but he’s got to help his team make it there first. Is the player who made himself a top draft selection still in there?

Brodie has gone from being a perfect partner for Giordano to flailing whenever he’s paired with anyone else. He’s still an excellent skater, but short circuiting has led to far too many questionable decisions this season, a number of which have resulted in goals against. Is there any hope he regains his prior form, or is it time to cut bait?

Smith has been outstanding for half the season (27 games with a save percentage of .920 or above), and atrocious for almost the whole other half (22 games with a save percentage of .910 or below). Smith helped win 17 of those first 27 games (and ensured at least a point in 23 of them); in the worse half, the Flames were only able to win eight out of 27 times. Can Smith be more Jeykll than Hyde next season?

Rittich is along the same lines as Jankowski and Kulak: a rookie who hopefully has more to offer, though when it comes to goaltending, there’s no safety net. Either he sinks or swims. Jon Gillies is in a similar boat.

Abort

Hathaway should not be playing on the third line. He’s probably alright as a 13th forward occasionally filling in on the fourth line, but nothing more than that.

I’m loathe to say “abort” to the fourth line, because they haven’t been the worst part of the Flames as of late, but they don’t quite fit into the other categories. Brouwer and Stajan clearly can’t play at the levels their salaries dictate, but that won’t be a concern for Stajan much longer; meanwhile, though Brouwer is one of the weaker Flames overall, in reduced circumstances he isn’t all bad.

Lazar is a mystery: while he’ll probably never turn out as good as the Flames must have hoped when they traded for him, as a depth player, there are certainly worse options to have.

Stone simply isn’t adding much to the Flames, and when you take his cap hit and the number of defensive prospects the team has waiting behind him into account, he isn’t providing much value.

What’s most pressing?

The Flames need more scoring power up front. They can improve on Ferland; if that involves Tkachuk playing on the top line, then they’ll need to find someone else capable of playing in a shutdown role. The Flames also need both Bennett and Jankowski to take a step forward; if they don’t, then they’ll be left with an underwhelming bottom six, again.

Brodie has to figure out what’s going on; if that isn’t possible, then the Flames will still be looking to fix their top four – though this time, they may have internal options at the ready.

Goaltending is a total mystery. Do you put your faith back into Smith, Rittich, and Gillies? Can they improve on this season? Because if they stagnate, and the Flames can’t fix their scoring woes, the team may be in trouble next season, as well.

What would you do?

How do you fix the scoring problems up front? Try to sign John Tavares? Trade for Mike Hoffman or Brendan Gallagher after all? Ship out Bennett in hopes of someone better? Hope and pray a prospect will be ready in six months?

What about forward depth? Is what they have adequate? Will Nick Shore make for a suitable regular centre? Would it make sense to re-sign Kris Versteeg?

Can you clear up the defence at all? Is it time to trade Brodie? Or could Brodie perhaps find a new home on the bottom pairing, and make way for, say, Juuso Valimaki alongside Hamonic?

Do you go after Antti Raanta on the free agent market? Do you try to trade for someone else? Or do you maintain faith in the goalies the Flames currently have in their system?

What would you do? How would you plug the holes in this roster?


WWYDW Brought to you by Arctic Spas

Arctic Spas is a proud partner of the Nation Network. Looking for a way to stay warm during hockey season? Check out a local dealer near you.
  • buts

    If you listened to Craig Button on the radio last night he said that the team doesn’t play with speed, it doesn’t attack the opposition, the passing is not good and he’s blaming it on the coach. I agree with him 100%, the holes in the flames are in some cases personnel but it’s personnel used wrongly. Players ice time, systems, position and who they play with on the ice is all decided by GG. He drives the ship, he is the motivator, he’s the guy to give em a kick in the butt or lift them when down. Button says it’s a badly coached team yet BT stuck with him 40 games too long, hopefully he learns from this. This team needs a couple of personnel moves and with a good coach can go far.

    • Rudy27

      I’ve said this before. Tre was between a rock and a hard place. Canning GG mid season and having him and Hartley on the payroll would piss off mgmt. And not giving him a full 2 years might have a good replacement shy away from the Flames if they think the GM has an itchy trigger finger on coaches.

    • tbone

      If everyone, including Mr. Button, feel that GG is the problem here, then you all have your heads firmly stuffed up you AH!
      I’m not saying GG is a good or bad coach. What I see is a guy trying to get a job done with only a handful of NHL caliber players. There is no depth of consistency between the Heat and the Flames. Make no mistake, GG wants to develop as a coach who can help build a team at the NHL level but if you don’t give him NHL caliber players from the farm to plunk into the lineup when injury or circumstance necessitate then you get chaos at the NHL level! You get failure.

  • Raffydog

    So you’re saying if Tkachuk isn’t playing on the first line he has to be used in a shut down role. Why? He is one of our most talented players who can actually put up points and you want to groom him to be a defensive specialist. What can’t he play on a second line with Jankowski and Bennett? The few times they played together they looked amazing, even scored a couple times if I remember right. I don’t understand this infatuation with the 3m line, it’s getting ridiculous.

    • Chucky

      I think that there is a real danger in regarding it as first second and third line.
      Top offensive line is Gaudrea, Monahan and somebody for now Ferland.
      Second scoring line should be Tkachuk, Jankowski and Bennett.
      Top shutdown line should be Lazar, Backlund and Frolik.
      Energy line does not matter much but it looks like Shore has earned a look, however the qualification should be fast and eager not ponderous and wise.
      Give this a twenty game trail and adjust as required.

    • JoelOttosJock

      I semi agree with you Raffy. The 3M line would have been great to keep together if the Flames had 2 legitimate scoring lines ahead of it, not with GG or this roster. Ferland is not a top 6 player. The sooner this is put into action, the better. But why couldn’t he play wing on 3M-2.0? He would add some toughness to Frolik and Backlund. This would allow Ferland to be better ised to fit his role of toughness, and the ability to chip in with sevondary scoring. I am true believer that Bennett is the beat option for center on thia team. But, depending on who the coach is, and how chemistry is in camp, that leaves Bennett, Gaudreau, Monahan, Janko, and Tkchuck for the top two lines. Leaving the Flames eith one opening there, fill either trade, free agent, or maybe from within? Now that brings us to the 4th line. I eould have Lazar anchor the line and have Hathaway etc rotate in.

      I would like to see Frolik, Stone and Brodie moved to open spots for kids from within. Brouwer bought out.

      Gaudreau Bennett Monahan
      Tkchuck Janko Freeagent/trade
      Ferland Backlund Prospect
      Prospect Lazar Hathaway

      Gio Hamilton
      Kulak Hamonic
      Andersson Valimakki

  • Heeeeeere's Johnny!

    I think my overall strategy would be “less is more” based on a first move of new coaching staff. We don’t entirely know what we have until we use them right.

    First priority for me after that is scoring punch from the right side. Two things there. There isn’t much available in UFA’s unless you are a Grabner fan so I think this has to be trade (Brodie is my bait and I would add Bennett to get a top line option.

    Next D has to get sorted. Phat Ras has to have a spot so Stone has to go. Kulak moves up to Brodie’s spot with Hamonic. That leaves 3rd pair LD as open. As much as I’d like to think that Valimaki can slide in there I think that is optimistic. TSpoon is worth the shot but somehow I think we would find that lacking so perhaps we go UFA on a short term contract. Could Cody Franson fit on a one year deal? He’s a right shot but could be a good investment until Valimaki or Kylington can roll. Trade Stone for a pick. With his salary it’s probably a 3rd maybe a 2nd.

    Third, depth forwards. We need some spaces for kids. I think one goes beside Backlund just not sure who is going to grab that. Could be Klimchuk, Foo, Dube. Move Byng and Ferly with Janko to make a beast line. 4th line I’d like to see Shore get the shot at centre. Mangiapane on LW and perhaps Foo or Lazar on RW. Ideally Brouwer is bought out.

    G is an issue. I don’t want to go shopping again but it might be necessary. The kids don’t seem to be ready yet Smith isn’t a rock either. I would want to check out what’s available before deciding here.

    • ThisBigMouthIsRight

      Agree almost 100% …. Just No to Cody Franson, I’d rather go with youth, thus Spoon. or someone with bite like Ian Cole, but I’m not sure he is UFA.
      IMO…

    • Bawcos

      I also almost agree 100%. It took me 2-3 years to fall in love with Brodie and 18 months to fall out of love. My prob with trading Brodie is Gio. What happens if he (Gio) falls off a little, or a lot. Brodie is a safety net ’till a LD is secured beyond Giordano. In terms of the WWYDW goes…Get Kovalchuck for a prove it contract (meaning 1 year – whatever the price) No need to buy out Brouwer ’till next year – rather have the 1.5M carry two years not four (They have a lot of cap space in 2018/19). Trading Stone (hello Ottawa) is a must – coaching change is a must. But who? Tippet?

      • Bawcos

        Sorry, lines w/fantasy pick up Kovalchuck look like:
        JG – SM – MT
        IK – MJ – SB
        MF – MB – MF
        who care’s
        MG – DH
        TB – TH
        BK – RA
        G- stay with it – hope that Smith gets some help(workload)
        I’d love to keep Wotherspoon at least as a #7