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Photo Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

What to watch at the World Hockey Championship

The Stanley Cup playoffs are going on, but the Calgary Flames aren’t playing in them. But before the crushing disappointment creeps back into your heart, consider an alternative: the 2018 IIHF World Hockey Championship.

The tournament begins today in Denmark. Here are a few Flames-related things to hold your attention over the next few weeks.

Bill Peters coaching a stacked Canadian team

We’re probably as guilty as the rest of the hockey world for crapping on the Carolina Hurricanes. But let’s be honest here: the ‘Canes underspent and were a tad under-manned during Peters’ time in Raleigh. Now that he’s been lured home to Alberta, he’ll get to coach a fully-resourced NHL club. For a preview, check out what he does with a Canadian team that boasts the likes of Connor McDavid, Bo Horvat and others. (Oh, and former Flames backup Curtis McElhinney!)

If you’re a fan of savouring someone else’s misery, Latvia’s being coached by former Flames bench boss Bob Hartley. They play Canada on May 14 and it should be a tad one-sided.

David Rittich chasing an international medal

Rittich had a big year in 2017-18, making the jump from American Hockey League starter to NHL backup. He struggled a bit during that month when Mike Smith was injured and Rittich had to be the de facto top dog, but the World Championship tournament might be a chance for him to get his swagger back. The other Czech goaltender is KHLer (and Colorado Avalanche signee) Pavel Francouz, so there’s every chance Rittich can cement himself as the starter in this tournament and make a push for an international medal – something he’s never gotten.

The first big test for the Czechs will be their May 6 date with Sweden. If they can get through that one unscathed, they may be destined for the podium.

Mikael Backlund chasing a gold medal

Backlund has been a regular on Sweden’s international teams since he was a teenager. He’s been to two Under-18s, two World Juniors, four World Championships and a World Cup. He’s won many medals, but he’s never captured a gold at any of those events. Oh, and it looks like Backlund will be the team captain for this tournament. If you’re hoping for Backlund to make a bold declaration of his excellence at an international event, this might be where he does it.

The biggest game for Sweden is likely the finale of the round robin on May 15 against Russia.

Johnny Gaudreau doing Johnny Gaudreau things

Gaudreau seems to excel at international tournaments. His big breakout as a prospect was at the 2013 World Juniors where he led the tournament in goals and captured a gold medal. He also performed well at two previous World Championships and was part of the scrappy upstart Team North America at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Gaudreau is a gamer and jumps on these types of situations. It’ll be fun to see if he can push the Americans into medal contention.

Can Gaudreau elevate the Americans? Their May 4 opener against Canada is probably the best litmus test for how good the United States can do in this event.

  • oddclod

    Calgary is not a fully resourced team. Looking at Nash, Win, SJ, LV, Pitt, Wash, TB, Bos & I don’t see a reflection in Calgary. Get me Tavares and a bottom 6 to play with Bennett & Jankowski and you’re fully resourced. We’ve seen what it looks like for Smith to fall off a cliff. Dude getting older? #loweredexpectations

    • oddclod

      Brouwer gonna get a chance to play under Peters like the Brouwer play wasn’t enough. This team got issues beyond coaching which was agreeably a nightmare.

  • Mickey O

    Five minutes left in the second in the Can-Usa game. It could have been 5-0 Canada early.
    Kinkaid standing on his head, crud goaltending the other way. Sounds like the Flames season.
    Rebar got Canada coming out flying at least.

    • rusty_shakleforde

      I mean, likely easier to get RoR anyways!

      Since its the off-season for us, and I’m chomping at the bit for some flames action, I wonder how RoR would fit on our team. I would rather not trade any of our centres, or have to put Janks on the fourth line, and RoR plays centre…so maybe a top line of

      JG-RoR-SM?

      I dunno if Mony would play RW tho, or if RoR would play wing. Anyways, just speculation

      • Sterls

        RoR has played wing a lot, he might be the better fit on the wing then Monny in a situation like that. He can still take the faceoffs and might bring be Hudler 2.0 for that line. But, if we get a guy like RoR he should center the 2nd line with Byng on his wing. It should make for another defensively sound 2nd line, with Backlund being a sound 3rd. If we move a Center to the wing, due to the addition of either RoR or Tavares it should be Janko. I would start next season with these lines:

        Gaudreau-Monahan-Janko
        Byng-RoR/Tavares-Foo
        Bennett-Backlund-Frolik
        Ferland-Shore-Lazar

        • rusty_shakleforde

          I’m still not sure about Foo. But other than that I like it. I think Ferland would be good on that second RW-it would be such a beast line!

          Would love to see Janks get some top line minutes, and of course ideally flourish into an elite offensive producer

          • rusty_shakleforde

            Or at least put ferland on the third line to replace Frolik. I dunno, but I just would hate to see a 20 goal scorer on the fourth line, who has the potential for close to 30 goals per season (if he plays the whole season/can be healthy).

        • everton fc

          To me, Foo is, at best, a 3rd line wing. Maybe no more than a 4th line wing. He’s certainly not a 2nd line RW. Ferland may be. And probably “is”.

          • rusty_shakleforde

            I mean, we’ll have to see right? He had some great looks in his few games in the chel this last season. It doesn’t look like he’ll be a good bet to be a reliable top 6, but who knows. I liked what I read about him this last half of the season in the AHL. But definitely agree on Ferland above Foo.

          • cberg

            you two just being negative because there’s not much else going on? Ferland WAS a very fine 1RW for most of the season until multiple injuries cratered the line. Foo turned out to be a very good RW in the AHL and when he got his four game try-out did very well, on the Gaudreau line. Maybe start the conversation out with the facts?

  • BlueMoonNigel

    How come no Flames on Canada? Wonder how many Flaming Canadians were invited to join but declined in a silent protest to the hiring of Billy Peters. Hammy really should be there and Brodie too. No excuses for those two unless they were dealing with injuries or they weren’t invited [ouch!].

    • Cfan in Van

      If they’re going to use the shootout in international play, they should at least scrap the rule that allows teams to use the same shooter more than once. The shootout turns a team game to a few players vs. goalies, but that rule turns it into a clown show. Atkinson score both shootout goals… What a load of BS.

  • oilcanboyd

    McDavid takes a lazy tipping penalty on Johnny and McJesus has to sit in the pen box for the entire shootout….Johnny scores in the game; +2. McD 1 asst, +1.

    • Flint

      McDavid has that stink of losing stuck to him. Hasn’t been out of Edmonton long enough. Now he’s taking bad penalties and bringing Canada down too. Oh wait, but he’s MVP of the universe….

  • cberg

    Interesting that Canada killed them in the Corsi game but sunk with sub-par goal-tending. Canada great on PK and aggressive on the forecheck which I also liked. Peters also not reluctant to change things up to try and get some guys going. Overall I think goaltending the difference. Where have I heard this before?

  • rusty_shakleforde

    How bout this Elias Pettersson kid? He is the real deal. We will get to see a lot of him when we play against the Canucks, and likely as soon as next year.

  • Zorn

    While we are in Fantasy land, not with Tavares but with the more likely and affordable Ryan O’Reilly:
    Gaudreau Monahan Tkachuk
    Ferland Jankowski O’Reilly
    Bennett Backlund Frolik
    Mangiapane Dube Foo
    Spares: Lomberg, Brouwer
    Giordano Hamilton
    Kulak Hamonik
    Valimaki Fat Ras
    Spare: Wotherspoon or Kylington
    Brodie and Stone gone for RoR
    Like I said – just fantasy but something new needs to happen!

    • freethe flames

      How much a fantasy is it? Very doable with plenty of cap space left even be better. Our current cap space is @$12.5m moving Brodie and Stone cancel out the RoR contract leaving the same cap space. Lazar seems to have been moved S1m gone. $13.5m Janko & Kulak @$1.5m each; still $10.5m Valimaki/Ras/Dube all under a million leaving $7.5m to upgrade a few other positions and meet the needs like more depth at center and even look at getting a RHS that could play in the top 6.

        • freethe flames

          Like you I would buy him out as well. BT could significantly change this team if everything fell together. Say we can trade TJ(it might cost more) for RoR and Stone for a 2nd/3rd round pick and buy out Brouwer this team could become significantly better next year. There are FA’s who could add depth at center and improve our face offs and as BP says improve both possession and quality scoring chances. They might even be able to find some more offensive help with the cap space. I would also be willing to let Foo and Phillips see if they can make the squad.

  • freethe flames

    Until BT does something all we do is speculate but there is a good chance to add to this team without sacrificing the core. Looking forward to see who they hire as assistant coaches and then add to the depth and talent level of the forwards.

  • freethe flames

    Dear BT: Now that you have hired your new coach it’s time to try and build the type of team that he wants and at the same time create an identity that can compete in today’s NHL. After listening to a few interviews with BP here are some things that are clear:
    1. He wants to be a possession club that can play 4 lines
    2. He believes possession begins by winning face offs
    3. He believes in pairings and is willing to shuffle the moving parts
    4. He wants his club to play fast or is it quick

    So lets begin by looking at the forward parts you currently have. IMO here are your pairings:
    a. Johnny/Monny/????
    b.Tkachuk/Janko/????
    c.????/Backs/Frolik
    d.Bennett/????/Lazar

    That leaves you currently with one forward who can play throughout the line up that being Ferland and he could clearly fill the ???? on a/b/c and with some shuffling could also play on d. (Bennett could also be a floater too) The question is do you really believe that Shore/Hathaway/Brouwer are good enough to fill these wholes and make you team a playoff threat. IMO the answer is no.

    Then ask yourself the question are your top prospects ready to fill the ????, are Mangiapane/Foo/Dube/Phillips ready? I have my doubts but would rather watch them than the other guys up top. You could add Lomberg/Gawdin to the list but they are even further away IMO.

    BP stresses the need to winning face offs as both a way to create dangerous offensive chances and gain possession. Winning face offs for this team has been a problem for awhile now. Last year of the guys who took the majority of our face offs only 2 of them were around 50%; Monny I believe was 50.4% and Backs at 50%. Not nearly good enough. You will need to address this issue. Basically you have no depth in your organization at center and that needs to change.(IOM that is one of the reasons the Heat did not make the playoffs)

    Us fans have been kicking around the idea of you landing one of the two big fish: Tavares or RoR; both of whom would replace Janko in your second pairing and make him either your center with Bennett or additional floater. Both T and RoR(very good at faceoffs) have advantages and some possible disadvantages. I would be happy with either. I would also suggest you look at the FA market and sign some centers to short term deals; there are several who are pretty good at face offs that would be good fits on the fourth line in the short term(also RHS).

    Good luck.