Not as apoplectic as previous editions of goalie-centric mailbags, thankfully.
Remember, if you have questions but no Twitter, you can always write into the FlamesNation mailbag at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stockton’s Finest is also running a special Stockton Heat mailbag, which you can write into at email@example.com.
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.
Do the Flames try to re-sign Gillies and/or McDonald? or say so long and try some AHL retreads like McIlhenny?
— kingcambie (@kingcambie) November 17, 2018
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.
How many more starts for each goalie (Rittich/Smith) do we need to have sufficient data to make an informed decision on seeking a goalie via trade?
— HockeyAccount (@HockeyAccount2) November 17, 2018
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.
Is David Rittich ready to be the starter for the rest of the season? Last year, he struggled when called upon to be the starter
— Michael Panidisz (@michael_pdizzy) November 17, 2018
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.
Is this the end of the line for mike smith or do you think he’s gonna catch fire again?
— Braden ??? (@bigbmorrison) November 17, 2018
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.
Could Cory Schneider be a legitimate trade target for this team, or should they stay away from and hope Rittich can take on the load of a #1 or hope Smith can get back to being just average
— Russo (@arusso_9) November 17, 2018
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.
How do you see the Flames approaching the Trade Deadline? Besides Mike Smith the Flames don't really have many holes in their lineup. Could they stand pat?
— Daniel Tiller (@tiller_daniel) November 17, 2018
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.
whaddya think for a possible 5on5 change up:
— Josh Gearey (@JoshGearey) November 17, 2018
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.
Should there be any concern about the lack of point production from the new acquisitions other than Lindholm? (Ryan, Neal, Czarnik, Hanifin)
— Ryan Good (@RyanScGood) November 17, 2018
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.
This could be a long 5 years if Neal doesn’t get going. What’s the most likely scenario that will play out with him? FWIW I could see a mutual agreement between the Flames and Neal that would see him get traded. Flames can’t really lose a trade considering the acquisition cost.?
— Tyler Leduke (@TylerLeduke) November 18, 2018
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.