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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?


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  • Fan the Flames

    The Flames are still lacking on the right side . Ferlie has flashes but he should be on the 3rd line . If we don’t have either Foo or Gawdin step up and we can’t trade for an upgrade without losing one of our top 6 we are in trouble again . I would like to see Brodie play forward and befor you go all ballistic he is dangerous at both ends of the ice now and he is a great skater. This would let Hamonic and Kulak and Andersson with either Valamaki or Kyshillington with Stone in the cheap seats or traded.

    • loudogYYC

      I agree, he has flashes of brilliance but he’s not consistent enough so that’s a player you have to shuffle between where he belongs (3rd line, no PP) and the scoring lines as his play dictates. Unfortunately I don’t think he’s a smart enough player to play as a shut down winger so now might be the time to cash in big on Ferly. One year left before UFA at a nice cap hit will be attractive to teams looking for scoring. Ferly to Buffalo for Sam Reinhart or to Ottawa for Mark Stone could probably be done but still wouldn’t address 1RW.
      Gaudreau-Monahan-??? = 80+ goals
      Tkachuk-Jankowski-Reinhart or Stone = maybe 60+ goals but not likely
      Bennett-Backlund-Frolik = 45 goals
      Klimchuk/Mangiapane-Shore-Lazar = 15 goals

      Stajan and Versteeg move on, Brouwer to Vancouver at 50% RS or bought out. What a terrible signing he was.

    • dontcryWOLF

      He can be when he wants to be. Very strange player that way. I think he’s been trying to imitate what Monahan does. But really, he’s a grinding power forward at his best. And Monahan is not that.

  • Craigster

    If they can find a first line RW, it would help immensely. Everything would trickle down from there. Leave 3M together, (I think they need Tkachuk there to provide offense) move Ferland down to the 3rd line and Brouwer to the 4th (don’t think they’re buying him out quite yet).

  • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • BendingCorners

      Late April is my guess. BT says every year that he wants to take time to evaluate after calming down. There’s a chance of course that he keeps GG and blames the year on not being able to find good RHS forwards and on Smith’s injury, instead of on weak coaching. Hopefully he sees what most of us seem to see, that this team would have made the playoffs anyway if the coach had been better.

        • BendingCorners

          I absolutely agree; to me the decision is obvious – remove Gulutzan and Cameron and probably Sigalet, but Treliving is very methodical so if it takes a few weeks I won’t start panicking.

  • Stockton's Finest

    I think Rittich will be fine as the backup. Remember last camp? He never got a game to prove himself. He was shipped off to Stockton at the first cut. So giving him an off-season to train with Smith, a full training camp, get him in as many pre-season games as possible, he should be fine giving you 20 to 25 games next season. He needs to work on his shootout out saves. I would expect somewhere around a .910 to .920 save percentage and a 2.30 GAA would give you a 10-8-1-1 record.

    • kirby

      I don’t want any of our young goalies “training with Smith”. The dude does not have good habits. He doesn’t have good technique. He does not have the kind of habits you want a young goalie to learn.

      I’m sure a bunch of trash is coming my way because people for some reason still think Smith is so awesome, but i want Smith GONE ASAP. He’s not a winner. He’s not consistent. He’s not sharp. He’s not dependable. He doesn’t give us the best chance to win. I don’t want his habits or style or technique rubbing off on any of our young goalies. No thank you.

      • buts

        He doesn’t look pretty like Ramo, Ortio or Gillies but he battles and battles and what most people don’t see is his puck focus or how they say it today “tracking the puck”. Smith is an elite #1 goalie who tracks the puck, anticipates the play and is the type of guy that will win you a game 7. There are many goalies that have bad technique yet they are great and many that have great technique that are bad. You know squat about goaltending. He was over used by our dummy coach.

        • kirby

          I’m gonna puke if i hear someone praise his puck playing abilities one more time. He tries to play like he’s Marty Brodeur circa 1999 and left himself exposed countless times because of it. The few nice plays he would make did not outweigh the unnecessary forced plays and turnovers and scramble drills and open net goals his penchant for playing the puck created.

          Elite #1 goalie? Man, you have got to be kidding me. Win a Game 7??????? He couldn’t even win game 70 in the regular season. He couldn’t even play well enough, especially on home ice, to even GET us to the playoffs. Yeah he battled, yeah he had some attitude which i liked. But he’s sloppy and inconsistent. He’s NOT A WINNER.

          And he doesn’t look pretty like Ramo? Ramo didn’t look that pretty. And put their numbers with the team side by side, you can’t tell which is which. Put Elliott’s home ice numbers next to Smith’s and tell me which one looks “elite”. I’ll give you a hint – it’s not the guy you’re making excuses for, it’s the guy who was crucified and railroaded for being a choker.

          Man some people are just so blind on this subject. I honestly don’t get it AT ALL. Makes no sense.

        • kirby

          People keep blaming EVERYTHING on coaching. And yeah, there was a LOT of head scratching baffling decisions on player usage etc. But it doesn’t blindly excuse everything else.

        • kirby

          By the way, if you thin Ortio and Gillies and Ramo “looked pretty” then you shouldn’t be insulting my understanding of goaltending.

          Elite #1, Game 7 lol i can’t stop laughing at that.

          • buts

            Type to win a game 7! Holy crap there Kirbs we know you hate him and your allowed your opinion and I’m allowed mine. Smith did beat the hawks in 6, preds in 5 in 2012. His biggest game I think was a gold medal in the world championships. Maybe father time has caught him since the injury but prior to that he was our mvp.

      • Director772

        We liked Smith at the start of the season, he won some games for us, but he got worse as the season went on.
        I believe he was over used and over worked to the point where he got injured.
        Throwing our rookie backups in and putting that kind of pressure on them was unfair, if they had more starts during the season and time to gain confidence and had been shown confidence by the coaching staff things might have been different.

        • kirby

          Yeah i said from the very start, we’re blindly playing Smith every night as if he’s Kipper in his prime and it’s not sustainable. Whether he was playing well or not, whether it was a back-to-back or not, he was in there game after game after game. It was poor coaching foresight to let him call his own shots like that, but they also came into the season with a backup (Lack) who they obviously had zero faith in and didn’t even wanna let him touch the ice. So we had an older declining starter on pace for a 75 start season and no backup.

          But even before the injury, he was still inconsistent. He was still sloppy. He’d have one great game, then a really bad one. He’d have a small hot streak, then melt down on home ice 3 nights in a row. He’d make a few nice plays on the puck, then make a completely inexcusable boneheaded turnover that led to scramble drills and open net goals against. A lot of it was his usage which is on coaches, a lot of it was the makeup of our goaltender depth heading into the season which was on management, and a lot of it was just sloppy lazy technique and unnecessary forced plays on the puck that he didn’t need to make which is on Smith himself.

          We could have found a younger more sustainable option to begin with. Giving up assets and putting all our eggs in a 35-36 year old declining goalie from a consistent loser team was not the best approach we could have taken. It was a failure from the top down.

          But it doesn’t change the fact that he was basically non-existent on home ice, even well before his injury. It doesn’t change the fact that in crunch time down the stretch, he was an absolute nightmare who couldn’t stop anything when it mattered most. It doesn’t change the fact that he was brought in to upgrade and stabilize our crease, but was actually more erratic and inconsistent than before.

          And i still to this very moment cannot comprehend how so many people wanna make excuses for him as if he’s our answer, either this season or next. He’s not. He doesn’t play with discipline. He doesn’t play with consistency. He has poor technique. He lets in countless soft bad angle squeakers because he’s consistently so weak on his posts (which is not the defenses fault despite so many people trying to use that as a be-all-end-all excuse for him).

          Management could have done better. Coaches could have done more to handle the situation. But Smith himself was not and is not the answer to any of our problems in net.

          • Bawcos

            You’re harsh on Smith. What you’re saying about inconsistency is true of almost every goaltender. 2/3 of the season this guy was heralded as team MVP but because he got injured then let in some bad goals when the team couldn’t score You’re blaming Smith. What you paid vs what you got worked out well in Smith. And was kinda the perfect stop-gap option ’till Gillies/ Radditch/ Parsons show what the are.

  • Day1-Cfan

    If it is not done the day after seasons end we may be stuck for another year , that has me worried. Get this feeling the owners will not spring for another coach with GG still under contract. Hope that feeling is wrong.

    • ThisBigMouthIsRight

      I’ve been trying to find out the length of GG’s contract… from what I can figure out, GG was on a 2 year with optional 3rd… As long as they don’t take the 3rd year option they can let him go/walk without any “bad image” attached to it… and man I hope I’m right about that.

  • Derzie

    One thing that is looming in all of this is expansion. Last go round with Vegas, we sweated over losing Kulak. With Seattle it may be compounded with Kulak and Ras. It definitely plays into who comes up and when. The expansion rules are quite unfair to the other team as Vegas has shown. Some teams are forced to give up too much. Thanks Gary.

  • Tkachuk'sMouthGuard

    James Neal is a possibility for a scoring winger, although he will probably want a long contract and im not sure I would want to give him more than 2 years…

  • Stockton's Finest

    Down 5-0 to a last place team. Yevenko has no business being on the ice. At least Texas lost, albeit in a shootout. Need to sweep Texas. Doubt Rittich comes out for the 3rd. He is ppppiiiiissssseeeeedddd. Bad defense in front of him is not helping him out.

    • ThisBigMouthIsRight

      Are you sure thats not the Flames playing in Heat uniforms?
      Sorry, but I’m a little skeptical about the heat making a come back this game….
      I’m also sorry that the Heat have decided to mirror the big club at the worst possible time of year…
      Someone needs to Reverse the Curse put on these two teams…. OK I’ll Do it!
      Reverse the Curse put on our beloved teams!
      Send it back to the sender and the teams to which they believe
      No more bad luck, No more missed opportunities, No more tips in front going into our twine
      This Curse is rescinded and past back yo the creator in his own dime
      Begone and never return but to good results will forever be in time.
      So let it be written… So let it be Done.
      Cheers~! 🙂
      (Hope that helps)

      • dontcryWOLF

        What we call “a curse” is really jyst a psychosomatic fabrication. It’s like a bad kind of placebo effect. You convince yourself you’ve been “cursed”, and your brain makes it happen. It’s a subtle, imperceptible change, where you start seeing the goalie, and not the net (one example). This organization needs to bring in coaches and leaders who see past that crap.

          • dontcryWOLF

            Once you’re committed to believing in curses, a counter curse can be effective. What you need to understand is that it isn’t the tiny fictional plastic toy making the change. It is the players believing that to be the case. It’s in their heads.

  • TheWheeze

    I suppose everyone by now has read this morning”s Sun article in which Tortorella is imploring the Flames to give GG another chance as he is an amazing coach and the one to do the job. If anything Tre is unpredictable. Who knows what is gonna happen here. Fans and management seldom see eye to eye in any professional sport.

  • Graham

    The Flames simply have to much money tied up in the ‘d’ corp, and need to move at least one of the big names.
    Use our strength to plug holes elsewhere. I think you move one of the d man as part of a package to add a first line RW, or to recoup our first rounder. Either way, our first off season priority is to add a first line RW and upgrade the bottom six forwards, starting with the 4th line. The Flames don’t like to buy out players, so Brouwer likely sticks around. New coach, upgrade the forwards, and bring in some of the prospects.

  • Craigster

    With regard to Brodie, I think he just has a confidence issue right now. I would like to see him simplify his game in the Flame’s zone (i.e. off the glass and out) to begin next season. Perhaps moving to the third pairing for a while would help.

    • Kronk

      I agree, it seems there is a reluctance to play the puck off the glass in case it lofts over the glass for a delay of game. That mentality leads to cross ice passes in the defensive zone and turn overs in the slot.