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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.

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
Smith
Rittich

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.

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
Smith
Rittich

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.

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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    • 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.

  • freethe flames

    Lots of options for BP to consider. This team now has the potential to build 4 effective lines. Only BP and his coaching staff can decide the future lines will look like. Now BT needs to get his other business done; locking up his RFA’s and extending Tkachuk. My question is how does the Hertyl extension impact the Lindholm contract discussion.(There are number of other RFA forwards who can now look at that deal as a comparable)

    • Parallex

      I think it means any hope we may have had of getting his number to start with a “4” is now kaput. I think he’ll be less the Hertl, because people are abnormally obsessed with round numbers and Hertl is a “20 Goal Scorer”, but not meaningfully so (closer to 5 then Hertl’s 5.65).

    • Korcan

      My guess is Tre gives him longer term in exchange for a lower number, but he will have to push hard to get it below 5M per, which wont be easy. Hertyl has more goals, but Lindholm has more points.

  • rusty_shakleforde

    I’m super glad for the competition this will bring. I would hate to see Janko on the forth line, but this will be a good challenge for him. I think he can do it.

  • Styxx

    Getting Neal nicely solidifies the Top9. The forward group is much stronger than last year and should be in the top 10 for league scoring, an absolute must to be a cup contender.

    Defensively the Flames were 19th in GA; if they cut 20 goals they can be in top 10 territory. As Babcock said back in his Detroit days, his primary goal is to ensure his team is top 10 in both GF & GA as his team is then assured to be in the playoffs

  • Mickey O'Reaves

    Treliving has got stones, I’ll give him that. The forward group is vastly improved, and has so many players that some of them have to get moved. There still has to be a move or two on the defence.

    The goaltending right now doesn’t look to get you far in the playoffs, but Treliving could be looking at upgrading and going for it already. BT has gone and stuck most of his chips in the middle again. He’s not afraid of risk if he thinks he’s right, but appears to really think things through .

    Thinking back to Treliving’s assessment of last season’s debacle, one little phrase stuck out. Treliving and Peters want players that, “aren’t intimidated.” Like when the stuff hits the proverbial fan, what’ve you got in ya. The player that came to mind for me right away was T.J. Brodie. He can easily be intimidated.

    There are more moves to be made, and it is fascinating to see what he’s got planned next. Let’s rock!

    • everton fc

      The Leafs want to dump Matt Martin. If they’d include Pickard, and maybe Kapanen, in some sort of deal that doesn’t impale us defensively, as they look very porous on the backend…

      I like Pickard.

      • Baalzamon

        The Flames can’t take on cap. They still need to re-sign Hanifin and Lindholm, and next summer need to extend Tkachuk and Bennett.

        The Flames need to move out salary, not take it on.

        • everton fc

          Agreed.

          And so do the Leafs. This year, and next. They’d have to eat some of Martin’s, and really don’t need both Sparks and Pickard. If anything, moving Stone (who is not any better really, than who they currently have, and Hainsey has a NMC, I think), would be really a dump, both ways. I can’t see the Leafs wanting/needing Rittich, nor would I move Rittich, whose days is coming, I think, to prove he’s a valid #2 here. But Kapanen may be “had”, if the Leafs are somewhat desperate, cap-wise.

      • Parallex

        No thank you. Martin is terrible and overpaid, Pickard isn’t any better then Rittich/Gillies, and Kapanen has’t produced in the NHL so he might just be a tweener.

        I don’t want the Maple Leafs garbage unless it’s for our garbage. For that package I would trade them Stone, Rittich, and Hathaway (which they would refuse… because our garbage is like their garbabge… AKA it’s garbage).

    • Honkydonk

      No one needs to be moved. With exception we always hope Brouwer is moved.

      Don’t forget injuries. You need fluidity in transitions for injuries etc. We forget we lost Frolik for a month? Versteeg for 60 games? Hamonic for 8 games? Chucky for 6 games? Mony could have missed 20 games but played thru it.

      Point is we will have injuries you need to account for. You need to maintain consistency in games won and when you are thin that’s impossible.

  • everton fc

    I thought Neal played LW… LHS…?

    I don’t see Stone here, when the season starts. And I still don’t see Jankowski being pushed down to the 4th line. Rather, either Ryan moves to the 3rd line RW, and Frolik’s moved, or Ryan’s the 4C. As for Czarnik, while I like this signing, he is a smallish tweener, who’ll be 26 when the season starts, has never made the big club and stuck. Perhaps there was no room for him in Boston, perhaps he was simply not good enough? We’ll find out, soon enough – but I just read Peters sees him as an “elite power-play player”, who seems to be already pencilled in to the Flames PP unit. He’s not a LW, so I see him either on the right-side of Ryan, or Jankowski, with Foo (perhaps) the other RW prospect who makes the team. But…

    I don’t see Brouwer on the opening day roster. Nor Stone. And maybe Frolik’s moved. Can’t think of a prospect we could move in a package to dump Brouwer, and other than our first next season, as I type, I don’t know how many picks we have to play with. Maybe the Sens could use Brouwer’s “character” in their “room”? Now that Neal and Ryan are at least signed here, long-term, and we’ll be able to add “ditto” to Lindholm, soon enough… If Bennett scores 15 goals/35+ points this season – which I think he will – he’ll also get some term… Where is the room for Mangiapane? (Czarnik may actually push Frolik out of the lineup, but I like Frolik on our 3rd line, over Czarnik). Hathaway can be that extra forward. I guess Lazar could, as well. But would anyone package Kylington and Mangiapane in a move that includes Brouwer? Also, to Mickey O/now Mickey O’Reaves point, of late (your getting a cult status like WW, with that moniker!), we have no one on the roster to deal with he likes of Roussel, Lucic, Reaves, and so on. Maroobn isn’t coming here. Brouwer won’t ever be that type of player (it’s why I wanted Roussel). But, Matt Martin’s available – if the Leafs ate some cap…

    I see more moves coming. Stone, for sure. Outside chance Brodie’s moved – Peters interviews have never given this fan the feeling Brodie’s safe. Stone’s name never comes up. If they feel Andersson is ready (I think they have to, or they should move him) and if Valimaki gets a dice-roll like Hanifan did, right out of college (he might – he’l be 20 when the season starts)… Then we could actually get deeper, and maybe moving Brodie is the other factor in the equation, that dumps Brouwer’s contract?

    Finally… I see a 4th line more like this; Hathaway/Mangiapane-Ryan/Jankowski-Foo/Czarnik (RW depends on Brouwer). Lazar either becomes an extra-forward, or is waived. I think Hathaway’s game is more valuable than Lazar’s. Or Brouwer’s. He draws penalties and is good on special teams, and to me, provides a smidge more offence, than the other two. The other forwards we signed, Quine and Graovac (not “Buddy”) could ealso push Lazar off the bench.

    Just random fan thoughts, on a Tuesday morning.

    • rusty_shakleforde

      Good points! Keep in mind Frolik is actually a LW mostly, so that adds flexibility. But yes, I don’t see much room on this team. We have a lot of bodies, which is likely precisely what Tree is going for–to have a real solid training camp where he can truly evaluate who gives it there all. The players all know how many people they will be competing with (even Backlund should be thinking about Lindholm), and so this off season should be a big one for everyone.

      I love these moves, and this outcome. I’m picturing something like in that Miracle on Ice movie when they do their training camp: we’re going for a true team, with real competition and chemistry, with ideally some good spirit among players.

      Also, Mangiapane is a top 6 winger in a year or two. I would be loathe to trade him. He will be putting up 20-30 goals a season soon.

      Go flames go!

  • Baalzamon

    even Hamilton’s numbers in his first three years in the league beat out Hanifin’s.

    You’re not comparing apples to apples here, though. Hanifin’s first year was in his draft +1, while Hamilton’s was his draft +2. Hanifin reached RFA (and was traded) a year earlier than Hamilton was, going by draft date.

    But their birthdates don’t quite line up either. Hanifin in year 1 isn’t a full year younger than Hamilton was in his year 1. It’s more like 6 months.

    Basically there isn’t really a direct comparison to be made here.

  • 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.

  • buts

    After last seasons debacle of poor performance it’s great to see BT address a change in personnel and hopefully culture in the team. We now have a legitimate top 6 group, Backlund can centre a Third line, we have depth. This Czarnik kid looks interesting and Brouwer will be put down to the 4 line or a scratch where he belongs. BT needs to get a backup goalie that can play 25-30 games, he needs to make some room on D and then he can take a much deserved vacation.

  • Mickey O'Reaves

    Question: What percentage of a player’s shifts are on the fly, or from standing start on a faceoff?

    That isn’t a trick question, honestly don’t know. Anyone?

    • Honkydonk

      The flames averaged 61.7 face offs a game last year which is top five per game. We won 49.4 percent of those face offs which tells you our problems especially on special teams.

      Do the math from there. 60 minutes games and we averaged 61.7 face offs

  • Kzak

    Trade Janko and Brouwer (and his contract) for a decent draft pick next year and use the cap space to sign Maroon.
    Johnny-Monny-Neal
    Tkachuk-Lindholm-Maroon
    Bennett-Backlund-Frolik
    Manger-Ryan-Czarnik

  • Burnward

    So, was listening to the Fan this morning and apparently Commie is rooming with Karlsson on a golf trip to Europe and is going to push Calgary on him.

    With Ottawa now listening to offers…let’s hope ol’ Redfro can push him out West!

  • T&A4Flames

    The Islanders, Rangers, Devils, Canes and for now Jets, are all under the cap floor and need to get to it. On Sportsnet, Brouwer is listed as the #1 player to be acquired by a team to reach the floor. That’s one way to shed some salary. But I’d also look to move Frolik as well.

  • 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

  • Jimmyhaggis

    Goaltending is next priority. I’d like to see Stone moved but doubt any team would take that contract. Going to be a different team, I like the moves BT made.

  • Flint

    At this point only one line in its entirety returns – that of 3M. And as a matter of fact, it appears that line could well be split up, and I think to great benefit.

    Most coaches, including Peters himself, prefer pairs. Johnny and Mony, Backlund and Frolik, and I’d suggest Ryan and Lindholm (they have great numbers together and know each other from Carolina)

    Lots of people get themselves all worked up about line numbers for no good cause, but I see the Backlund and Frolik being a true “shutdown” line… or a “third” line (don’t worry about the number dude).

    Depending on where Tkachuk lands I see he and Neal switching and playing with the other two pairs as scoring line 1 and 2 depending on the look.

    Fourth line is gonna have a ton of competition and good. Get the three hungriest and best guys on that line game in and game out and we’ll have a much better forward group going into the season.

    • withachance

      100% agree with the line “numbering”. The beauty of being able to roll 4 lines is that it is hard to distinguish if a 3rd line is really 2B line or if the 4th line is really 3B. People get really hung up if Backlund is listed as a second line C, but with the off season additions it gives the team so much fluidity and flexibility. Excited to see all the line combinations BP rolls out through the season!

    • Mickey O'Reaves

      Frolik looks to be getting shunted down the line-up through no fault of his own. If Peters wants to keep pairs together:

      Gaudreau – Monahan
      Backlund – Lindholm
      Bennett – Jankowski

      I think those could be the 3 pairs, and fill in the rest of the line-up around them.

  • Mickey O'Reaves

    Just about everyone seems to want Lazar gone, like it is inevitable. But remember Burke and Treliving’s long, long term plan for him? The 2017 version of Lazar was a lot different than the 2018 version of Lazar in the new year.

    The kid showed improvement playing with Stajan and Brouwer. “He’s a buzzsaw, but with stone hands”, is the popular refrain. Most fans made up their mind about him early. They stuck him in a box of what he couldn’t do and refused, or just through laziness, to change their minds.

    One thing about him, he won’t be intimidated. He knows what he’s doing in a scrap, and throws lefty. Want to give him the 4C job? Don’t know, but the way it looks to me right now there’s an opening there that isn’t currently filled. It might look like the Flames have a ton of centres, but they look to be playing the wing.

    • everton fc

      Lazar is, indeed, and like Bennett, willing to scrap. Agreed.

      Hathaway looked find, vs. Dillon last year. And we all know how Domi fared, versus Hathaway. But Hathaway’s value, on either the 4th line, or as an extra forward, is he knows how to draw penalties, and he’s good on the PK. I could live w/Lazar and Hathaway, as the extra forwards. A 4th line with both, and maybe Czarnik on the wing, (all depends on if Ryan’s a 3C, or a 3RW, the latter meaning Frolik is gone)… Might be a decent line.

  • snotss

    the flames brass has done some really good moves this off season…..improving the flames with trades and free agency…but their work is not done yet the flames need better goaltending this year for all of there off season moves to work !!!!would feel much better about this year if we had a experienced goalie backing up or taking the net away from smith

      • 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.

    • 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.