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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:

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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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  • TheGrimRipper

    Fire all coaches except Gelinas. Move one or two D for a scoring right shot RW. Don’t bring back Versteeg or Stajan. Promote some young D. Buy out Brower if you can’t find a way to get rid of him.

    • 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.

      • 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.

      • 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

          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.

        • 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.

          • 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.

  • withachance

    Gaudreau – Monahan – ???
    Bennett – Jankowski – Tkachuk
    Ferly/Lazar – Backlund – Frolik
    Lazar/Ferly – Shore – Mangi/Foo/???

    Gio – Hamilton
    Kulak – Hamonic
    Prospect/FA – Andersson

    Make 2nd line wholly scoring focused. Third line will be one of the best third lines in the league (shutdown or in general). I’m still holding out that Lazar can be serviceable in bottom 6 (being the most snakebitten player ever – energy guy at the worst a la Paul Byron). I’d trade Brodie if the new coach wont play him on his off side, perhaps with Stone we can get some RW in. I don’t think the management should be going for picks right now, as that means we need to wait even longer (through the primes of our core) to get an impactful player. Dump the garbage (Brouwer, Bartkwoski, Glass, Stewart) and get a new coach. Stay the course and don’t panic.

  • Flames fan since 83

    There is a lot of concern for all the 4th liners we have. Yes, too many, but they are not what is ailing this team, now or going forward.
    Only Lazar and Brouwer are signed. Stajan, Glass, Hathaway, Stewart, Versteeg, Stewart, Shore are all done if we so choose.
    Our main concern is our middle guys, and one top right wing.
    We all agree on finding a top RW.
    For me, our middle D pairing is a problem. Unfortunately, Brodie needs to go. His value on the trade market out weigh his value on our second pairing. Plus we have internal help to fill in. I too am ok with moving Stone if the opportunity presents itself. (maybe in a package to bring in a top line RW).

    Unlike WW, I really like Backlund. The Fall said (and I agree) that salary can be based on about 1-1.2 million per point scored. If Backlund reaches mid 40 then he is in the ballpark of what he is worth. It’s tie for Backlund to be seperated from defensive specialist Frolik. Frolik is not a very good goal scorer. (not that Backlund is). But Backlund is a very, very good set up guy. He see’s the ice and makes great plays. If he had another “finisher” along with Tkachuk, Backlund will be easily in the 50’s for points.
    Wondering if that RW for Backlund is internal? Maybe Bennett or Ferland (I don’t think Ferland is first line material). Or maybe convert Jankowski?
    I think I like Shore, but I haven’t seen enough yet to be sure. Hopefully they play him more so we can get a better idea.
    Last, I agree with everyone that we need a coaching change.

    • Stockton's Finest

      Hathaway as 4th line RW. Trade a defenseman for picks, re-sign Wotherspoon as 6/7, move Kulak to pair with Hamonic, have Andersson and Wotherspoon as bottom pair.
      Think Bart is done, so maybe Goloubef as 6/7.

      • Flames fan since 83

        good suggestions. We forget that Hathaway is basically a rookie. He scored in the AHL. Maybe he finds a bit of offence and is a good fit on 4th line. I like his physicality even if he loses more fights then he wins. Unlike Troy, he’s not afraid to drop the gloves.
        I also agree that Spoon can be a 6/7.

  • 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.

  • BendingCorners

    Handedness matters. Not just on the PP where a mix of RHS and LHS lets the puck be moved more easily and makes one-time shots more likely, but in all situations. The coaching staff made things worse and should be replaced, but the team has eight top nine forwards and none of them are RHS. It would be great to get rid of all the 4th line guys and bring in four top-nine RHS and have twelve top nine forwards, but I think that’s a fantasy. The cap gets in the way, so picking up the missing RHS means moving out some LHS. And yes, cleaning up the 4th line so it has young cheap guys instead of overpriced old guys is also necessary, not least because it helps with the cap issue. Johnny, Mony and Chucky are here to stay and Backs is probably not going anywhere for the next three years. That means replacing two of Bennett, Frolik, Ferland and Jankowski with middle-six (or higher, if possible) RHS and probably getting one more top-line RHS by moving a defenceman or two, possibly with a prospect attached.
    That adds up to a fairly significant makeover of the team and some good players will get moved out, but standing still won’t bring the Cup to Calgary.

  • flames2015

    We really need to clean house of the over abundance use of 4th line players. The team is going nowhere if we don’t. The first change is obviously coaching. I am reluctant on giving up on Brodie and Bennett until we see what they can do under a different regime. But if dealing brodie can get us a impact forward, I’d do it. Hathaway should stay in the AHL, no to resigning Versteeg (prone to injuries), would trade Stone and possibily Frolik. He had an off year, but at this point I don’t see him producing what’s worth his salary. Better money spent elsewhere.

    We need at least 2 more impact players upfront to add to the offense. Get someone like JVR for the first line. And trade/sign for a right shot RW that can replace Frolik on the 3M. Or try Benett with backlund and tkachuk, and sign someone for Janko and Ferland. I would resign Shore for 4th line center. Bring up someone from stockton for the LW on 4th line. ( Dube, Klimchuk etc) and have Brouwer/Lazar rotate on RW/pressbox. Anderson is a no brainer to replace stone.

  • Jessemadnote

    We need right handed forwards who can score goals and we have for quite a few years now. I don’t know how you go about getting that but I know our right handed forwards combined for 11 goals this year.

  • 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…

  • Trevy

    That’s an excellent assessment of who’s deemed our actual core going forward and who we can either trade or cut bait. IMO, and I’ve said this all along, I would try and secure a true RW for the top line for sure. The 3M line has fizzled and run it’s course. Clearly Tkachuk drives the play and Backlund feeds off that, whereas Frolik is only along for the ride. Therefore, he must go and be replaced with Bennett and give them a long look. Janko and Ferly can be two cogs of the third line along with someone with some offensive abilities, such as Mangi or Foo, worse case, Lazar. The fourth should be Shore and Brouwer along with either Hathaway or Versteeg, if we resign him. He would be cheap and possess some good skill. Trade Brodie and Frolik to find the help up front along with a prospect, after all, you’re not going to get a true top six player with these two as bait. Keep Andersson and try and sign Raanta for sure. Finish that off by hiring a veteran coaching staff and away we go for 18/19

    • Nick24

      Backlund is far from a player that feeds of Tkachuk. Both are very good. How are people still questioning Backlund’s value at this point? Yes, Frolik has had a rough season, but he isn’t going to shoot under 5% again next season. Seems more reasonable for Frolik to revert to his career norms, next season. Putting Jankowski and Bennett on the second line in place of Backlund and Frolik is insane. How does anyone see that as an improvement? Both have struggled against 3rd Line competition this year, so what evidence is there that suggests they’ll be more prolific against better opposition?

      • canadian1967

        Backlund had 24 NHL games played in his first 3 years after being drafted 1 G 9 A 10 Pts
        Backlund had 73 NHL games played in his fourth season after being drafted 10 G 15 A 25 Pts
        Backlund had 41 NHL games played in his fifth season after being drafted 4 G 7 A 11 Pts
        Backlund had 32 NHL games played in his SIXTH season after being drafted 8 G 8 A 16 Pts
        Remember that in his 6th season after being drafted he got to play 1/2 a season in Sweden (effectively 1/2 a season in the minors) during the lockout. This will have played a big part in his future progression I’m sure (too bad Sam couldn’t benefit from something like that, like our Captain did?)
        Backlund had 76 NHL games played in his SEVENTH SEASON after being drafted 18 G 21 A 39 Pts
        Backlund had 52 NHL games played in his EIGHTH SEASON after being drafted 10 G 17 A 27 Pts
        Backlund had 82 NHL games played in his NINTH SEASON after being drafted 21 G 26 A 47 Pts
        Remember that “Backs” played with Frolik and quite often with Bennett in his BREAKOUT 6th NHL season as a 27 year old.
        #Draft+9

        Bennett had 174 NHL games played in his first 3 years after being drafted 36 G 33 A 69 Pts
        Bennett HAS 77 NHL games played in his fourth season after being drafted 11 G 15 A 26 Pts

        Forget the Corsi argument for Backlund’s first 6 underwhelming NHL seasons. We’ve seen what use Corsi is this year.
        There is NOWHERE in the standings where they they give you a point for out “muffinig” the other team.
        You need to outscore the other team. PERIOD.
        Backlund is MINUS 20 this season and got signed to a 6 year $30M contract! UNTIL HE”S 35!!

        Mikael Backlund is now a good (NOT great) NHL player; but it took him until he was 27 to become one.

        Don’t give up on Sam Bennett!!! His ceiling is still reachable and far higher than Mikael Backlund’s ceiling.

      • canadian1967

        Frolik is 30. Who says he isn’t in decline? He LOOKS pretty terrible out there. Way more brain farts than past seasons in our end and this is likely because he has lost a step and is now under pressure 1/2 a second earlier and isn’t coping well with the pace of the games.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • KH44

    1) Trade Stone for whatever you can get that isn’t a bad contract. Clear space to bring up Anderson.
    2) Find a right shot right winger for the first line – trade Brodie and/or Bennett if necessary to acquire this. Mark Stone, Brendan Gallagher would be ideal, but a player like Sam Reinhart would work. Riley Nash, David Perron could also fit.
    3) If Brodie is still around, move Brodie to the third pairing, and run three effective pairings
    4) Find another right shot right winger who can play on the third line but occasionally play PP minutes
    5) Going after Tavares is fine, but it would require getting rid of Stone for sure, and in 2019/20, with Tkachuk and Bennett needing new deals, and Brouwer and Frolik on the last year of theirs, and no goalie signed, their would be a cap crunch. Additional moves would be required if the cap doesn’t climb significantly.

  • Sterls

    If Tavares is available, Calgary should go hard after him. If it is a sign and trade, send anyone outside of Gaudreau, Monahan, Tkachuk, Hamilton, Gio or Valimakki. Brodie, Backlund, Fox and a first is a lot, but worth it. Slot Tavares with Tkachuk, and have Jonny and Monny as second line guys. If we sign him straight out of free agency, we need to shed salary to afford him, trade Backlund/Brodie/Stone for a Right shot Right winger and picks/prospects. Calgary should finally have two potent scoring lines. Buy out Brouwer I would role with:

    Tkachuk-Tavares-Bennett
    Johnny- Mony- Ferland (or RW acquired)
    Ferland/Frolik- Janko- Frolik or RW acquired
    Dube-Shore-Lazar

    Gio-Hamilton
    Kulak-Hamonic
    Wotherspoon- Andersson

  • 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.

  • For Flames Sake

    Has there ever been any consideration to moving Brodie to the wing? I understand this isn’t Pee Wee but his speed and hands could be an asset if protected with a physical linemate like Ferland. Ras takes his spot beside Hamonic and we have an internal fix.

  • RIPScorch (2014-2014)

    Has anyone considered promoting Hathaway and Jankowski to the first line next year? Hear me out. Jankowski is a pure scorer and has explosive speed, plus is adjusted to the NHL game better than most veterans! Hathaway brings it every night, and he’s not as much of a pure scorer as Jankowski, but still definitely a scorer. If we actually made those changes and maybe bumped Gaudreau and Monahan down to the third line (so they are not so exhausted and can really utilize their potential with 15 ish minutes per game), we will easily be contenders.