FlamesNation Mailbag: Goalies, goalies, goalies

Not as apoplectic as previous editions of goalie-centric mailbags, thankfully.

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Bending Corners writes:

How desperate would Columbus need to be to trade Panarin to the Flames for Neal and Kylington at the TDL? What would the Flames have to do to have cap space for both Tkachuk and Panarin next summer?

Is Mason McDonald playing well enough in the ECHL to earn another shot? He is only 22.

Columbus would need to be pretty desperate. Artemi Panarin already has them in a sticky situation, but there’s no doubt that they can still field a really good offer for him from a contender. James Neal and Oliver Kylington don’t do much for them. They essentially get Panarin’s current cap hit ($6M vs $5.75M), but for four more years and at half of Panarin’s current production. Kylington might be a solid prospect, but he’s still an unknown at the NHL level. The Flames can’t afford both Panarin and Matthew Tkachuk anyways so the whole thing is dead in the water.

As for Mason McDonald, and by extension, Nick Schneider, I would probably wait a few games to see what happens. They’re quite definitely the surprises in the minors thus far but they’ve also experienced nearly zero sustained success at any other stop during their hockey careers. Maybe check back in a month or two.

Jon Gillies is already under contract for another season, so that’s a moot point. I think the plan for him, based off contract structure (two-way this year, one-way next year), is that he was supposed to be at the NHL level by next season but his early performances have suggested that he’s nowhere close. Of course, the same principal that applies to McDonald and Schneider applies to Gillies, too. Unlike those two, Gillies has been a pretty good AHL goaltender and his current sub-.900 SV% is extremely uncharacteristic. He has time to prove that he’s actually up to the task, but he’s pretty much dead in the water if he keeps up the bad performances.

McDonald is going to have to prove it, and then some. He has no contract after this season, and even if he’s really, really good in the ECHL, does that tell you anything? He’s struggled in brief AHL appearances, and with Schneider taking the reins in Stockton (even if it’s just a temporary strong bit of form), you really don’t need him around. The Flames have three goalies under contract for next season, and four if you presume David Rittich is re-signing (99% certainty). Two of those goalies – Schneider, Tyler Parsons – are younger and already ahead of McDonald.

There’s kind of no reason to give him another contract. The only way I could see him getting a second shot is if another AHL injury happens and McDonald really impresses. The Flames being unable to find another goalie worthy of a draft pick is also a reason to give him another contract, though I bet the Flames will be looking high and low for a good one. So basically a lot of serendipity and good fortune. That’s probably not happening.

If they’re reaching into the desperation pile of AHL goalies, they’ve either spent too much money in the offseason (again) before addressing the goaltending problem or just simply were unable to solve the problem. I think they avoid retreads at this point.

For Big Save Dave, we still need more data. He’s yet to face 1,000 NHL shots in his career, which is generally a good threshold for determining what a goalie is. Without jinxing it, Rittich has been really good but his brief North American stint in hockey has indicated that he’s prone to stretches of both great and poor play. Perhaps a poor stretch is coming, we don’t know. You can only play him to find out if he’s solved those issues (he revealed in his After Hours interview that he was cognizant of his issues and worked on them in the offseason, for what it’s worth).

Mike Smith is the 11th most played goalie since the 2005-06 lockout. You don’t really need any more data. Even if they believe there’s still some more in the tank, him being 36 and coming off of injury is enough to keep you wary of continuing to test the hypothesis. It’s one thing if Smith started randomly being bad, but there’s a few things you can easily point at (even from a spectator’s point of view) to understand why he’s doing poorly.

Well you really don’t have an option at this point. Smith hasn’t been nearly good enough to warrant more starts, much less the starter title. You don’t have a starter for next year anyways, so you have to find out what Rittich is and isn’t. If he’s not a starter, that’s fine, it lets the team plan for the rest of the season. If he is a starter, bueno, keep starting him.

Smith’s lost the opportunity so it’s hard to see where he can fit in time to catch fire, but it is probably end of the line regardless. Smith was defying father time since he turned 30 and part of the risk of the Flames acquiring him was that they were picking him up right when the age curve could hit him hard. And guess what happened? Well that, combined with a pretty major tissue injury. Both of those things probably pushed Smith over the finish line.

The problems with Cory Schneider are simple and damning enough: expensive, old, also had a major injury recently. His bounce-back level is much higher than that of Smith’s, but you have to hope that he can reach that level again, and then that he can keep that up for the three more seasons he’s under contract. You also have to wonder if his reputation is overblown. He hasn’t been a .920+ goalie since 2015-16 and has put up stinker seasons in back-to-back starter workload years.

Basically: don’t go near Schneider. You’d be replacing Smith with a younger, worse Smith who is more expensive and also has three extra years left on his contract.

It’s hard to see what the team could do a few months out, but here’s some stuff that might pop up: bottom six scoring and a winger who can play and stick in the top six.

The bottom six is much improved from last year, but there’s still a lack of production. Who knows if it’s situational (frequently trailing + a coach who is willing to shorten the bench = less bottom six ice time) or if it’s an actual indicator of quality (besides Michael Frolik and James Neal, the only other bottom six player who has at least somewhat of a history of scoring is Derek Ryan), but the Flames aren’t getting points from the bottom six. Maybe that can be fixed internally (Andrew Mangiapane), but that could be a place they look at improving at the deadline.

The Flames have finally found the elusive top six RW, but they are still lacking a piece on the wings that can play and score on the second line. Neal was supposed to be that, but he’s struggled early. Austin Czarnik looked fine in short bursts, but it doesn’t appear they’ll try the MMA line again for a while. Sam Bennett is the next to have his spin on the second line, but if he doesn’t bring any points production, it’s going to put pressure on Flames management to find an actual solution.

It’s certainly a unique lineup. I like Dillon Dube being together with Matthew Tkachuk, but I’m not sure Sean Monahan is the guy to be between them or that Dube is ready for a top six adventure this early into his career. The second line seems to have an interesting mix of chemistry, as Johnny Gaudreau has been working well with Elias Lindholm and has shown potential in scant opportunity with Bennett before. Maybe that unlocks something special!

Then it gets a little weird. The third line has Mikael Backlund carrying Mark Jankowski (on the wing, no less) and Neal, two guys who have defensive zone issues. I don’t think Backlund can cancel that out or unlock whatever offensive potential the other two have. Maybe a swap of Monahan and Backlund might solidify both lines, but carrying underperformers is probably not a good use of either centres’ time.

The fourth line is a pretty standard fourth line option. Overall I give this lineup a 7/10.

Ryan: Fine, but he’s not really been deployed thus far to be a points-getter. It would be nice if he scored more often, as part of the deal (at least from a fan’s perspective) was that he could reliably score around 30, but he’s doing a very good job as the main defensive centre on the team (still receiving the hardest zone starts of any Flames forward) so you can live with him.

Neal: Absolutely a concern, especially given the price tag. He doesn’t bring much besides the points he can pick up, so if he doesn’t bring the points, it’s hard to justify keeping him around.

Czarnik: Needs opportunity. He’s been electric but doesn’t stick around in the lineup long enough (he really can’t crack the lineup over Garnet Hathaway?) to build any consistency.

Hanifin: Slow start, but is still on pace to pick up around his career average in points. He’ll be fine.

He’s having an otherwise average career year in terms of underlying numbers, which is to say solid if unspectacular. The pucks haven’t gone in for him or his linemates yet, so there’s potential for a switch to flip.

I feel that he’ll have a turnaround at some point this season that puts his scoring numbers in line with what people expect. But then, it’s going to be a stressful second and third year to see if he’ll manage to meet his production quotas.

  • Skylardog

    I know I take a lot of liberties on here with long posts. If you hate them, just don’t read them. But I love the distraction the Flames bring, and a my “run numbers all the time” brain has found an outlet in the form of Advanced Statistics, NHL style. Thank you all for the outlet.

    As many of you know, I set some achievable targets I believed could be used to determine how the team was playing and what it would take for the Flames to have a successful season. We are at the quarter pole so a look at where they are at is in order.

    For those that missed the targets I set, it made the assumption that the team had made significant upgrades and investment in the season, and as a result, set targets that would put the team in the top 8 of the NHL in the various categories. I gave some leeway to the PP (top 10 target), as it had been awful, and raised the bar on the PK (top 5), as it finished the season strong last year.

    Points 23 – Target 102 – Projected 94.3
    League Rank 13th – Target 8th
    Conference Rank 7th – Target 4th
    Division Rank 2nd – Target 2nd
    In a Playoff Spot – Yes

    Even GF 46 – Target 195 – Projected 189
    Even GA 42 – Target 175 – Projected 172
    Even Goal Differential +4 – Target +20 – Projected +17

    Special Teams
    GF 16 – Target 60 – Projected 66
    GA 18 – Target 45 – Projected 74
    Goal Differential -2 – Target +15 – Projected -8

    Overall GF 62 – Target 255 – Projected 254
    Overall GA 60 – Target 220 – Projected 246
    Overall Goal Differential 2 – Target 35 – Projected 8

    Save% 0.894 – Target 0.915
    Shoot% 9.05 – Target 9.42
    Shots For/Game 34.25 – Target 33
    Shots Against/Game 28.30 – Target 32

    As I said at the time I posted the targets, GF and GA could fluctuate as long as the goal differential remained at +35 or better. Since game 8, the team has fallen from a +62 projected GD to just plus 8 as the shooting percentage has come back to earth. Goaltending and save percentage is a major issue; we all know this. Take away the 9-1 and make it just a 4-1, and we are in the 28 GD range. Goals against needs cleaning up, and hopefully some stability in net (a move to Rittich) will clean that up.

    The Flames are generating shots and preventing shots and are better than the targets in both categories. It bodes well for the remainder of the season. While projected scoring on special teams is above target, this comes from an increased number of opportunities on the PP, not from efficiency. At -2, both the PP and the PK are disappointing. Remember, this was the best PK in the NHL in the last half of the season last year. It currently sits at 24th.

    Thank goodness the Pacific is the weakest division in hockey. We sit second and in a playoff spot, but are only 7th in the West and just 13th in the NHL overall. The point pace of 94.3 would have missed the playoffs last season. Vegas and Anaheim are lingering and close. If they put it together, the unthinkable could happen and the Flames could find themselves missing the playoffs. Five Central teams are ahead of us in the standings.

    So far, I give the Flames an B-. Targets are being missed, special teams is poor, goals against is way above what it should be, and the point pace is below what will get the Flames in the playoffs. Yet they sit at 2nd, and are in line to have home ice advantage in round 1.

    The big concern is scoring. It has dried up. The Flames after 8 games had 30 goals and were on pace for 338 goals for. In the last 12 games they have just 32, a pace that over 82 games would see just 218 GF. The prospect of 4 strong lines has become just 2 scoring units, again.

    The biggest concern has to be 5v5 play; the Flames are at -2. They rank 16th in GF and 21st in GA at 5v5. Not good enough for the “alleged” scoring depth we picked up in the offseason. Saving the day is the “other” even strength situations, 4on4, 3on3, 6on5 and 5on6. We are +6 in those situations, 9 GF and 3 GA. These are point gaining and point saving situations, and we have been lights out when the points are on the line. This too is unsustainable. We have scored with the goalie pulled, we have scored empty netters. Things do balance out. Being the comeback kids is a precarious way to slide into a playoff spot, especially when the point pace, despite the comebacks, is below what would normally get a team in the playoffs.

    This is a good team. If they can find the secondary scoring we know has to be there given the lineup, and start to make some saves, this team will be a lock for a playoff spot, and a very tough out in the playoffs. Just give us a 0.909 save percentage please.

    • His Dudeness

      I enjoy your long posts and the time and effort you put into analyzing the game. Even though I sometimes disagree, you do a good job and give us fans who love the Flames and enjoy dissecting the sport something to think about.

      • Off the wall

        Agree. Thanks Skylar, it’s always nice having someone who takes the effort to provide us with useful feedback.

        Your message doesn’t fall on deaf ears. The parameters by which you chose for targets are very attainable and reasonable.

        We are (precariously) in 2nd place in the Division, which at present seems fine, however it’s not indicative of where we should be if things were cleaned up a bit in goal, secondary scoring and in goal differential.

        I’m hoping for a better quarter.
        Who knows what that’ll look like in another 20 games.

        Keep up the great work, and thanks again for your input on here.

        It may be your outlet, however you have supporters behind you!

      • redwhiteblack

        Nice breakdown. Validates that secondary scoring still not good enough. This needs to improve. Even with some shaky tending in recent games secondary scoring would have resulted in points. We need production from Neil, Ryan, Bennett, Jankowski and Czarnik to go anywhere this year. They all need to find the net more than they have the first 1/4 of the season.

    • Heeeeere’s Johnny

      Love your passion Skylar! Keep going. I may not always love your conclusions but I’m a big fan of the constructive conversations you get started. I’ll take this over trolling any day!

    • Joeyhere

      Thanks Skylar
      I connect this long post with one you did the other day that showed the statistical rationale for breaking up the first line and distributing strength through the line up. I hope you keep crunching the numbers as you often provide some great insight

  • Jessemadnote

    I know there’s like 30 games of data that Smith is playing poorly, but it doesn’t mean he’s finished as an NHL goalie. I actually think we’re not in a terrible position as Smith and Rittich have both shown high end play in stretches over the past couple years. Maybe Smith being forced to win his net back will be a good motivator for him.

    • Skylardog

      I would agree with you if he was 30, but at 36, a return to the form he once had is very unlikely. I said a while back that he had just 20 games left in his NHL career, I believe he has used 5 of those since then.

      The split the rest of the way will be roughly 1/3rd Smith, 2/3rds Rittich barring injury. That means 47 for Rittich and the 15 for Smith I talked about.

      He will not get another NHL contract once the season is over.

      That seems just about right.

      • KKisTHEproblem

        Just FYI Skylar, that’s 25/75, not 33/67…. But I think you’re right barring injury. I just hope the extra rest between starts that will give Smith will let him be a capable back up

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        I still believe in Smith but similiar to other aging positional players he needs to change his game. Playing small on his line deep in the net is not going to work anymore when he is losing his quickness and reaction time. Smith needs to redefine his game to match the speed and shooting accuracy of the players. At 6’4” it is tough to find holes upstairs if he stays on his feet. Smaller goalies like Saros have to play more of a stand -up style while bigger players can play deeper in their net if they have the quickness.

        Like I stated previously, Smith has difficulty tracking the puck and often looks stick side when beaten to the glove side. Older positional players are forced to trim down, work on their explosiveness in the off season. It has worked for some like Maroon but not others like Lucic. This is the cross road I see for Neil this off season, he needs to drop weight to increase his quickness or he will be out of the league soon.

    • Cfan in Van

      I’d love to share that perspective, but what have we seen that might indicate Smith lacks motivation? If anything, motivation is the one thing he’s always had going for him.

      • Jessemadnote

        Maybe motivation is the wrong word… focus? I think Smith can resuscitate his game as part of a one A – one B scenario. I believe this is a dip and not a career ending stretch because Smith was an all star last year. Generally it doesn’t go all star season can’t stop a single thing. He’s always been a boom or bust goalie. I think he’ll have another solid run before the season is over.

        • Joeyhere

          Like most I’m very disappointed in Smith but that bad five hole goal against the habs wasn’t due to age – he was in position square to the shot but didn’t finish the position technically- that suggests focus / mental game issues may be at play – I hope he can overcome it and still give us some decent games

  • His Dudeness

    We are not going to be able to trade Neal. Unless it’s to a team like Arizona, and we would have to be giving up some more assets (draft picks, prospects) to sweeten the deal. We are stuck with him and have to hope that he turns it around and we can get a couple decent years out of him.

    The NHL is going the way of the NFL, very short shelf like for players as the game is just getting faster and faster and the grueling 82 game season puts too many miles on players body’s.

    If Treliving wants to stick around as a GM he needs to learn to keep his draft picks and stay far away from free agency. Keep building through the draft and trade players away as they get close to 30.

    • Burnward

      Dougie Hamilton was absolute garbage in year one until the all-star break.

      Harmonic too.

      Hockey is hard. As is finding your role and chemistry.

      Let’s just wait.

      • His Dudeness

        Dougie is a decent top 4 d man in the NHL but he got the Gio bump big time last year. If we can get a good return on Brodie this off season, Treliving would be smart to make the move. Valimaki and Anderson look like legit NHL defensemen and they are still young. Moving on from aging players and re stocking the cupboards though the draft is the way to go.

    • Luter 1

      100% bang-on. These free-agent signings are 75% chance of success, starting with their typically 30 and trending down and a lot of them came from successful teams that bloated their realistic stats. Worst thing is we then stunt the growth of young guys that could be good players or give up on guys too early.

      • mrroonie

        What players in the Flames organization have had their growth stunted or were given up on too early in recent years? It’s a complaint I’ve seen more than once but nobody seems to be able to show examples.

        • Suck It Steinberg!

          Sam Bennett had his growth stunted by being forced to the wing and playing with less offensive players. The same thing is happening with Dube. Dube should be playing in the AHL, he is not quite good enough to be playing at the NHL level yet.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      So between June and October Jimmy Neal suddenly got too old for the game? As a Knight he was golden but now as a Flame he’s an ember? Don’t buy it. For whatever reasons, Neal is not finding chemistry in Calgary. My hunch is that Billy Peters and his blender are to blame. Neal is a scorer and he should be on a line with like-minded men of like-minded ability. The time has come to separate Lindholm from Johnny and Mony and either plunk Neal on the top line or have Lindholm centre the second line and have Neal as one of his wingers. Neal is a gifted scorer with some size who is being absolutely wasted on the bottom 6.

      • Off the wall

        Well done Nigel.
        Neal is a conundrum right now. You’re right, he didn’t forget to play hockey, despite the bad start to his season.

        I might criticize Neal at times, however I agree, he’s not exactly being utilized very well. If a player is brought in to score, at least provide the man with a top six role and bloody well keep him there for a while. Same for PP usage. Get him on the top unit, perhaps on his off wing for one -timers.
        Does our team ever use them?

        The man can fire a puck. Let him release his bullets, instead of having him holstered to-our 3rd line. He had 6 shots against the Oilers. He’s starting to come around.

        Of course we’ll never see much impact he can make- if you don’t start using him for the very reason Treliving brought him in for..

        • The GREAT WW

          Please watch Neal play before suggesting he belongs on the top 2 lines.
          He is slow.
          The play dies on his stick 90% of the time.
          His give-a-crap level is pathetic.

          All he does is shoot his mouth off but his own play has been horrible.

          Our only hope is that Vegas still sees some value in him and we send him back…..in some kind of deal for Reaves.


          • Off the wall

            Haha WW.
            I’ve seen every game and I don’t disagree that Neal’s been wanting. I’m usually his biggest critic. But critics can be short-sighted too.

            Notwithstanding that, we must use him for the purpose he was brought here.

            To score.

            20 games doesn’t make a season, neither does suggesting trading him make any sense right now. You know that better than any of us.

            How about we have this conversation at the halfway mark?

            Funny, but I know what you’re going to say- however I just thought I’d throw it out there for an exercise in futility!

          • Skylardog

            And a reminder that he started the first game demoted to the 3rd line. Only in Calgary would that ever happen to a guy brought in at %$5.75 for 5 seasons with a history of many, many 20+ goal seasons to his credit with not a single year at less than that.

            This is a usage issue plain and simple.

      • Luter 1

        I hope your right BlueMoon, but have you watched his game? His size? If you don’t use your size what’s the use, he like Hanifin are ofer on a true hit all season. His skating looks……old! Agree they have to find a spot for him, they’re trying but he hasn’t fit in and his effort has been less than stellar

  • Sven

    Re Czarnik

    His all situation game score ranks him as the Flames 8th most effective forward

    and his primary points / 60 minutes has his as Calgarys 6th most productive skater
    Im kinda thinking he needs to see more time on ice

    I love Dube – but his numbers aren’t even close

    • Off the wall

      I’ve been of the same opinion.
      Czarnik’s 5vs5 play has numbers similar to Ryan, yet Ryan gets utilized. Czarnik doesn’t.

      12/20 games certainly doesn’t give us a true picture of him.
      Yet Peter’s sure loves sitting him for whatever reason.

      I hope he gets an opportunity against Vegas, they’re fast.
      There’s no denying Czarnik’s fast and we could use that tonight.

      • calgaryfan

        I had hopes Czarnik would be a good find for the Flames, but for me he is playing on the perimeter not getting involved in the game. It is too easy for the opposition to keep him to the outside. Dube goes to where the puck is, takes a check to make a play, forechecks hard, do not see Czarnik doing anything. Hope he figures it out, Flames could use another scorer.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Tre didn’t touch goaltending last offseason either because there was none to be had that were appreciably better than what he had or that he believed he had good enough goaltending and if he didn’t, he could fix it on the fly. So far Tre looks like a genius with the faltering Smitty being picked up by the lights-out Rittich. A positive scenario is that Rittich becomes the undisputed #1 in a couple of more weeks and Smitty his reliable second. Alternatively, Smitty finds a lost stash of giggle juice, regains his All-Star form and enjoys a season for the ages at the ripe old age of 37.

    Goaltending is on Tre. If the Flames fail to make postseason and the cause of it clearly falls on shoddy, well-below-average netminding, it has to be bye-bye Tre.

  • Alberta Ice

    I loved the message Big Save Dave sent to his teammates at the BOA after his team sent Khaira for a 3rd break away chance. By raising his hands in disgust, he showed the emotional response that I had as a Flames fan. Yes, Big Save Dave did just that, stopping 3 of 4 breakaway after extremely sloppy passing plays by the Flames. As every broadcaster emphasized, Rittich kept it close enough to win – and then they did.

  • everton fc

    Dube’s lack of offence… Should he be sent to Stockton?

    Czarnik… If he played regular shifts, every game… Would he generate offence?

    Jankowski’s lack of offence… Another concern.

    Neal’s lack of offence… An obvious, major concern.

    Hope we get some more scoring from our defence, as well. Gio and Hamonic with 2 goals each, are tops. Valimaki’s the only other defender, with a goal.

    Lots to work on. Still. But we are winning. With all these areas of opportunity. Says a lot, to me, about Peters.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I am starting to see Janko the same way that I see smaller skilled players like Mang and Phillips. The players are skilled and can skate but if they are not scoring then they don’t bring much to the table. These players need to play with skilled top 6 players. Let’s be honest, our top 6 should not be set in stone unless they are killing it like Bergeron’s line in Boston or NacKinnon’s line in Colorado.

      Other teams like Ottawa bring in skilled players and put the in similiar positions to succeed than what they are used to in the minors or junior levels. For instance Brady Tkachuk was slotted in the top 6 until he got hurt and on the PP. Similiarly, Drake Batherson was lighting it up in the AHL so when he was brought up the made a spot for him in the top 6 and on the PP and he scored in his first game and has multiple points in back to back games. Compare this to how the Flames managed Mangi. He was give limited 4 th line minutes with some plugs and despite out putrid PP he was never given a shot. He subsequently played 10 games without generating a point.

      So either our bottom 6 is junk like Czarnik, Janko, Bennett, Neal, Ryan, and Dube or they are not being in a position to succeed. Now the organization did try and give a Czarnik and Dube some top 6 time and PP time but that experiment did not last long.

      I firmly believe that the Flames can stack 3 lines and then limit the playing time of the 4 th line as required.

      JG-MJ-JN – playing with JG means his linemates will bring their Agame if the want the experiment to continue.
      MT-SM-EL – Matt and Elias will prevent Monny from disappearing in stream he’s
      SB-MB-MF – reunited and it feels so good
      GH-DR-AC/Lomberg or Rychel…does it matter when they get 7 mins a game
      Dube should not be playing 8 mins on the 4th line….we have lots of players that can play a limited role and he should not be one so off to Stockton.

  • BendingCorners

    Neal played on a Cinderella team last year so his numbers were goosed by that. His clock struck midnight a bit early though – his scoring dried up in the playoffs. I don’t think he will bounce back. The Flames will need to find a way to move him, preferably sooner than later.

    • Cfan in Van

      I had to look it up, because I remembered him being pretty clutch in the few games I watched last playoffs.

      In 20 playoff games with the Knights, he had 6G/5a. That averages out to exactly the same goals he had during the regular season, and more apples. So he was same-same in the post-season.

  • freethe flames

    It’s interesting that two camps can both be right on Neal. The one camp that says he needs to be given a chance to play with more offensive players and the camp that says he has done very little in regards to effort to have earned that right; both are accurate. So what to do with him? While I extremely reluctant to break up the top line and I even more reluctant to reward lack of effort it’s time for BP to do just that and put Neal on notice; a 5-10 look at the top line a PP. (It hurts me to even type it)
    Johnny/Monny/Neal Ozone and PP time only.

    I doubt production of Johnny/Monny drops ad hopefully Neal gets it going and if not he becomes another lost UFA signing.
    I doubt Tkachuk/Lindholm lose their production playing together and Bennett continues to earn this spot b/c of his effort.
    Backs/Frolik can do what they do best and Dube can mentor for the role he is likely to play.
    The Janko/Ryan/Hathaway line can also take on some defensive duties. (Note If Dube struggles with Backs you can move Janko up; I always thought he could fit there last year)

  • The last game was the first I really paid attention to Ryan. Why the hell is he on the pp? He definitely is not the most skilled out there. Neal has been slow. I really dislike the entitled attitude he seems to have. Shouldn’t jump to conclusions but it looked like to me after a 3/4 shift of his line doing a decent job of hemming the Oilers in (3rd period) he was called off and seem to say “are you F*[email protected] kidding me?” Even though anyone would probably see this as an obvious coaching move putting your rested first line in the offensive zone while taking out a tired one…