Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Flames’ roster already appears improved in early offseason overhaul

Standing idly by was not an option for the Flames this offseason; not after they set expectations for 2017-18 and failed spectacularly to meet them. The team’s faults became increasingly apparent as the season went on, leaving the Flames with really only one choice: big changes would have to come before October.

Mere days into the official start of the 2018-19 season, the Flames appeared to have already done just that.

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The prototypical lineup for the Flames through 2017-18 often looked something like this:

Gaudreau Monahan Ferland
Tkachuk Backlund Frolik
Bennett Jankowski Hathaway
Brouwer Stajan Lazar
Giordano Hamilton
Brodie Hamonic
Kulak Stone

Only a small handful of forwards were particularly great. The good news is that they were mostly younger guys: Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Matthew Tkachuk. Otherwise, the Flames were relying on everyone to have a career year. The depth was dependent on both Micheal Ferland and Sam Bennett proving they were the real deals; they did not. When the top players inevitably cooled off – or required four surgeries, such as Monahan – there was nobody capable of stepping up. Season over.

The depth was supposed to be in the defence; it failed to live up to expectations. The top pairing did a great job, but TJ Brodie floundered throughout the year, Travis Hamonic required an extensive adjustment period to playing in the west, and Michael Stone is still making $3.5 million in a bottom pairing role while being the team’s worst regular defender for some reason.

The Flames have been struggling to find consistency at the goaltending position for years, and this past season was no different. Mike Smith started out so great the Flames saw it fit to play the then-35-year-old every single night, leaving no chance for any backup to find his footing, forcing the team to eventually turn to an untested rookie. Then the then-35-year-old playing every single night got hurt, the untested rookie couldn’t handle being a starter, neither could the other untested rookie, and the season was really over.

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Sure, injuries hurt the Flames. That forward depth looks a lot better with a healthy Jaromir Jagr in place for Garnet Hathaway, and a healthy Kris Versteeg dressing 70- or 80-something times instead of just 24. But injuries hurt every team, and the Flames weren’t prepared for it.

Now, compare last year to what the Flames may have to work with this season (so far):

Gaudreau Monahan Neal
Tkachuk Backlund Lindholm
Bennett Ryan Frolik
Czarnik Jankowski Brouwer
Giordano Brodie
Hanifin Hamonic
Kulak Stone

The Flames have focused almost exclusively on the forwards so far this offseason, and it looks like it’s paying off. Granted, we won’t know much until the puck actually drops, but both James Neal (even at his age) and Elias Lindholm are substantial upgrades on Ferland. Mark Jankowski will have to fight with Derek Ryan to get more minutes. Michael Frolik no longer has a guaranteed spot in the top six, and any justification for playing Hathaway every night is officially gone. Bennett could have Austin Czarnik – or any prospect who succeeds, really – nipping at his heels constantly. There’s more competition with a higher quality set of players, and more options when things just aren’t going right (more on that later).

In the immediate, the defence is a little worse. Noah Hanifin probably isn’t going to step in and replace Dougie Hamilton’s performance immediately; even Hamilton’s numbers in his first three years in the league beat out Hanifin’s. If Brodie is unable to return to form alongside Mark Giordano and Hanifin isn’t able to pull off a miracle of being beyond astounding right away, the Flames may have shot themselves in the foot. It’s a risk.

Goaltending is the exact same perilous adventure as it was last year, except this time around, both David Rittich and Jon Gillies have more NHL experience, which may help. On the other hand, Smith is another year older.

What’s left to do?

All that said, it’s hard to imagine the Flames are already done reshaping their roster, barring re-signing RFAs. The lineup looks better on paper, but as this past season showed us, one can never be too careful.

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Is there a lot left to do at forward? Maybe the team could go after someone else, but that top six actually kind of looks like a real one now, and there’s still a chance for prospects who really impress at camp to work their way in there – though it may have to force some difficult decisions for management (i.e. waiving players who are worse, but already have a sunk cost attached to them).

The defence is still clogged. Assuming Dalton Prout is indeed the seventh defencemen, then there’s no room for prospects there at all, and the backend is likely where the Flames are most ready to plug somebody in. (What I’m getting at here is please make room for Rasmus Andersson. How can he not deserve it at this point. Please free him. And that’s assuming Juuso Valimaki doesn’t try to force his way on the team, too.)

And goaltending? Well, Bill Peters never had anything good to work with in Carolina. And goaltending is really the one position that can sink or swim an entire season singlehandedly like no other. There is a lot of cause to be anxious if the Flames don’t make any moves in net; while it could work out, is the current configuration a smart bet once again?


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  • Kzak

    Trade Janko and Brouwer (and his contract) for a decent draft pick next year and use the cap space to sign Maroon.

    • Parallex

      Frolik is still a quality player and Rittich is dirt cheap. They’re fine.

      Stone should be moved though. C’mon, Ottawa will probably want him if for no reason other then to help induce the other Stone to sign longterm (and oh boy will they ever need inducements).

      • DoooieStevens

        Fine isn’t going to win a cup. Rittich is not fine. Did you watch him last season? As soon as his safety net Smith went down, he was worse than Elliot! Smith is suspect at his age, injury issues and just general inconsistencies. Frolik did have a ad year and I am sure could rebound, but why not shop him around to see if the Flames are able to play say Mangipthere there or Foo? Save some wasted cap money, frolik would pencil in on my 4th.

        • Parallex

          So? He costs nothing. No risk at all in keeping him, no risk at all in losing him. He doesn’t “need” to go away (in that there is nothing to gain from his absence) he’s good org depth. I’d rather have a better back up as well but the word “need” implies that he’s a hinderence and he’s not.

        • The Beej

          @ Doogie

          Why would you move frolik just to save cap space when we have no one to use it on? Save cap space for what.

          And why would a team move assets for frolik when they can just go out and sign a Maroon without giving anything up?

    • everton fc

      Keep Rittich. But the other two are (Stone) and “may be” (Frolik) expendable. But I’d take Frolik over the unproven Czarnik. So would most GM’s, me thinks…

    • Honkydonk

      I think it goes without saying that when you break your jaw and then are back on the ice after a month that your year isn’t exactly going smoothly. Frolik will do well on the third line and penalty kill.

      I won’t be surprised if Frolik and Brouwer are gone after this coming season. Brouwer forsure though.

      I like the roster. At the end of the day it’s about what our division has done this offseason. Everyone thinks they are getting better don’t forget.

      The Sharks will be the same, Anaheim I think regresses, LA is going to be better no doubt this year and it looks like they will add Voynov now. Edmonton will bounce back somewhat but I still think they failed to address their roster issues especially in possession. Russel is a boat anchor for not clearing zones, they are weak on the right side. Vancouver will keep sucking air.

      I predict we will be top ten in possession, goals for and against, top ten penalty kill and power play.

      • Honkydonk

        I don’t see Vegas making the play offs having lost 50 goals and 100 points although can’t count out Fluery.

        So out West I see it as LA, Sharks, Flames, Winnipeg, Nashville, St Louis, Dallas as the seven forsures.

        I would hate to be LA in 2020 with most their players being 36 then. Every team got better but beyond next season we seem to Be much better core wise.

        • Derzie

          Dreams are 10 a penny. This team has more forward depth and less defense strength and a coach who has never won anything in the NHL. They are far from locks. Kool aid is tasty in July and there are some big drinkers partaking.

  • Heeeeeere's Johnny!

    The purpose of this post is to explore how to make space for prospects.

    Top three most expendable forwards are Brouwer, Frolik and Bennett. Top three most expendable D are Stone, Kulak and Brodie.

    The question is who are we trying to make room for?

    As the article says Andersson is a no brainer. He has to find a spot. If Valimaki makes noise then Kulak has to go as well.

    At forward it is less obvious. I think we are hoping someone in Stockton makes a very loud noise in September. Most likely is Mangiapane. Next most likely are Dube and Foo. Solutions are to send Lazar and Hath down (and we might lose them to waivers) or make a trade. I don’t believe the team would try to bury Brouwer or Frolik.

    If we’re going to make a trade the only thing I think we need is a backup goalie. Bennett may be too good a chip for that and Stone isn’t good enough. I think creativity may be required to add a desirable like Bennett to an undesirable like Stone to get what we want. I just don’t see a team with both cap space and a goalie we would want to deal with.

    So then if we want to clear space do we trade for picks? I’d trade Stone for a high 3rd, I’d trade Frolik for a high 2nd. Bennett is trickier. While I admit I’ve soured on Bennett I’m not sure I would trade him for anything less than a 1st (likely a Low 1st) and even at that it feels like we might want something more solid than that.

    • Heeeeeere's Johnny!

      Should have added sending Lazar and Hathaway down doesn’t fix much … we don’t want prospects eating popcorn and Brouwer/Frolik/Bennett won’t sit all the time if at all.

    • everton fc

      Keep Bennett. Keep Kulak. Lazar has no value. Hathaway can at least draw penalties and PK. And, he’s got better results offensively, than Lazar.

      Mangiapane, Foo, even Kylington… All may have value, as part of a package. I personally think Foo looks more “ready”, than Mangiapane. And Dube will be ready, by the time Ryan is ready to be moved, or play 4C his last season (or two).

      Move Stone for “whatever”. Explore moving Frolik, but I’d take him over Foo and Czarnik. Try to add Kapanen. Make sure at least Andersson is on the opening day roster.

  • Garry T

    I have funny feeling that Parsons might rock the boat during this camp and surpass Gillies and Rittitch. Say your concerned somewhat about our backup then, , you have to go out and get someone forcing you to trade one and possibly two of our system goalies. I do not think they can hold Anderson back. So give Treiliving and his group a month to sign our RFAs
    And then they will resolve our goalie and defensive issues. This new coaching and management team gathered over the last four years has some very good minds. I cannot wait for camp. By then we might have a few more new guys vying for spots. In this management team, I have faith.

    • Snitch

      I had been advocating since prior to the draft that we need to go find a reliable back up. Maybe one of Rittich or Gillies surprises me, but I wouldn’t count on it. I believe Parsons needs another year in the minors to play lots of minutes and become more seasoned, even if he has an awesome camp. Putting a young goalie with relatively limited pro experience in a back up position might be detrimental to his development. Again, just my opinion.

      • RealMcHockeyReturns

        I think Gillies deserves more chances, maybe Rittich too. But Gillies has been highly-touted and developed slowly and goalies take awhile to ripen AND maybe Parsons does surprise and quickly matures….so as Quick Draw McGraw says: “Hold on there Bobaloee”. If Flames in contention at trade deadline and backups sucking, then maybe trade for a 1B or 2 option who is experienced

    • SoCalFlamesFan

      Several of these centers will be playing wing next season. When I look at the lineup and play around I often find it one good center short. Jankowski was a good rookie but is not young. He’s a 3/4 tweener. A goal scorer who just is not quite good enough. Lindholm is penciled in wing. Ryan could also fill the huge right wing holes. Backlund is good, and Monahan is good. I still see one center short.

      • SoCalFlamesFan

        Our depth on RW and the bottom six in general was so poor last year, we really needed an upgrade. Tre has done great things, but I’m not sold on all the forward ‘depth’ that’s been groomed and coming from Stockton.