Looking at the next offseason, the offseason after that, the previous offseason, everything in between, and our old pal Sam Bennett.
Will the flames ever recall Lazar? He's been lighting it up the AHL but is he good enough to play in the NHL?
— Khalid Keshavjee (@KMKeshavjee) November 25, 2018
No, probably not. Curtis Lazar has 245 games of NHL experience. That’s a large enough sample to know what he is and what he’s likely going to be. Eighteen AHL games does not change that.
In those 245 games, Lazar proved that he was not much more than a replacement-level NHLer, but now he’s playing in a league where replacement-level NHLers are the best players in that league. That crucial context is important to his success. He’s not doing much different, he’s just playing against weaker competition.
Consider his shorthanded heroic game winner against San Diego. That play simply does not happen in the NHL. There’s some bad decision making, some extremely weak defensive efforts (aided by an unfortunate yet hilarious skating gaffe – which also probably doesn’t happen in the NHL), and some poor goaltending to boot. Again, he’s not facing the cream of the crop. We’ve seen many times before how dominant AHLers turn into meh (or worse) NHLers, and it is likely because of the difference in talent.
Is this what David Rittich is now or is this just a hot streak?
— Daniel Tiller (@tiller_daniel) November 24, 2018
Yes, and no. He’s probably not a ~.950 SV% goalie forever, that’s for certain. This is not only because of regression to the mean, but also because he’s a guy who hasn’t seen much wear and tear over the last few seasons. He’s been a backup for the majority of his North American time, and European hockey leagues player a less rigorous schedule. As the games go on, I would certainly expect Rittich to start to falter, at least a little.
But is he the starter? Yes. There’s only one goalie on the roster (hell, probably the whole organization) who has proven that he can consistently stop over 91% of pucks headed his way. He’s not going to be the saviour forever, but if he puts you in the position to win games, that’s all the Flames need.
What does the Seattle expansion draft protection list for the Flames look like and who do they end up losing?
— Daniel Tiller (@tiller_daniel) November 25, 2018
Depends if it’s 2020 or 2021. If it’s 2020, they have the luxury of going 7-3-1 (assuming the rules are the same). They can protect their core forwards (Gaudreau, Monahan, Tkachuk, Lindholm for starters) and even sneak an AHLer into the mix. What’s key is that TJ Brodie and Travis Hamonic will see their contracts expire in 2020, so they don’t need protecting. Juuso Valimaki will also be just outside of the eligibility requirements, so he doesn’t need protection. That leaves you with Mark Giordano, Noah Hanifin, Rasmus Andersson, and Oliver Kylington who need protecting. I’d think Kylington might still be an unknown, so maybe Seattle avoids him. All in all, the Flames don’t have much of consequence to expose.
But if it’s 2021, there’s some issues. First off, Valimaki won’t be ineligible anymore, so now you have five defencemen that need protection. That could force the team to protect eight skaters in general, likely forcing Sam Bennett, Mikael Backlund, and Mark Jankowski to be exposed. That might necessitate a trade to prevent Seattle from picking one of those players.
Assuming it’s 2020, Seattle might just do what Vegas did and select a Flames UFA in the face of a lot of other less intriguing options. If it’s 2021, they’re likely taking a forward. I’d say Bennett makes the most sense, as they’re likely following the Vegas path and selecting a misfit in need of redemption.
Show me the best Flames line combinations. I believe Neal will come around, but maybe a guy like Backlund is what he needs…? But then you open up questions about what to do with Bennett who’s earned his time up the lineup.
— Holy Smokinen (@FlamesFanager) November 24, 2018
Is Bennett the best fit on the second line?
— Khalid Keshavjee (@KMKeshavjee) November 25, 2018
If you were forced to choose between Czarnik, Frolik, and Neal playing 2nd line RW for an extended period of time, which would you choose?
— Jeremy Stanford (@StanfordJer) November 25, 2018
Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk are the Flames’ two best possession drives and have a noticeable impact on whoever is lucky enough to be their linemate. Right now, Bennett is getting that benefit. He’s picked up a handful of points since joining the line, but as always with Bennett, I think you have to be careful. Is he actually improved, or is he riding a hot streak? There’s a chance his performance levels drop off in the near future and he becomes a drag on that line again. For the time being, he’s fine. But I don’t think it’s a long-term solution.
Neal is a mixed bag. Sure, he’s a guy who needs some help getting his game along, but can he handle the defensive responsibilities that the Backlund-Tkachuk combo usually receives? He’s a goal scoring expert, not a goal preventing one. His underlying numbers suggest that he’s in line with the rest of his career in terms of shot generation, so I think the best thing to do is to leave him be and hope that the percentages switch in his favour.
However, my real preference is Austin Czarnik. The MMA line was fantastic when it was together and was just a few unlucky bounces away from still being together today. Czarnik is also an intriguing figure, and if you can springboard him to 30-40 points on that line, the Flames are playing with found money.
As for Frolik, I think that they’ll only reunite the 3M line in drastic situations when they need to shut down another mega-line. For the time being, Frolik has been a handy penalty killer and a boost to the bottom six. Moving him down is a benefit of excessive depth and not an indictment of his play.
with the emergence of kylington, is brodie going to be the odd man out in off season? moving hanifin up with gio n oliver with hammer as potential top 4 pairings?
— dishkowski (@dishkowski1) November 25, 2018
I’m a big fan of Oliver Kylington but I don’t think he’s emerged to the point where he can take someone’s job, much less force a top pairing defender out of the way to do so. He’s still got a ways to go before he’s ready for NHL duty. Superb in the AHL so far? Yup. NHLer? Not yet.
However, it might happen out of necessity as…
Flames gotta sign Tkachuk, Bennett, Rittich by July but no big contracts coming off the books except Smith….Are the Flames going to have salary cap troubles next year?
— kingcambie (@kingcambie) November 25, 2018
Yup, they probably will.
As of this writing, the Flames have ~$800,000 in cap space. That’s impacted by having Kylington and Ryan Lomberg on the roster, but with them gone, that’s about $2.2M in cap. With the cap going up at least $2M this offseason, and with Mike Smith off the books, that’s about $8.4M freed up.
And that might be able to get you one Matthew Tkachuk. Maybe Brad Treliving works that down to a smaller number, but that’s pennies when you consider that you might have to re-sign your potential starter and a homegrown winger. Rittich doesn’t have the resume to get big money, but you feel that they’re going to twist the Flames’ arm because it’s not like they have any other options. I suppose $2Mx2 would work for him. Bennett is probably not going to get a drastic raise, but a raise nonetheless. Maybe just shy of $3M, provided that he doesn’t receive a Backlund Bump and gets overpaid.
So yes, there is going to be a cap crunch. Buying out Michael Stone is going to save you a bit of cash, but you’re probably still scraping by. Moving Brodie or Hamonic before their contracts expire is an option to consider. The Flames might be able to get a draft pick in return or a promising young player, which could alleviate their problems temporarily. Frolik is also another option to jettison for cap space, though I think the market is less hot on him.
Through 22 games, Ferland is 11-4-15 & +5, Dougie 3-4-7 & -3. Counting stats-wise, 28 & 55 are outperforming them. Still too soon to declare the winner/loser (especially with wild card Fox), but any updated thoughts on that trade with CAR?
— Brad (@brad_1729) November 24, 2018
From early returns, I think the gamble the Flames took is paying off for them. The entire thing was contingent on TJ Brodie returning to form alongside Giordano, which has happened. Hamonic-Hanifin has turned out to be a strong pairing too, which has helped solidify the team’s defence to the point where it’s acceptable for them to trot out an all-rookie pairing for the sake of it. Lindholm has also blossomed into a powerplay threat and a fine first line winger, when he could’ve been just another Micheal Ferland.
The Flames improved their first and second pairings as well as found an actual long-term top six right winger. There’s a million things that could’ve gone wrong and they thankfully haven’t. Let’s throw in an ominous “so far” though, as it is still a bit too early to decide who the winners will be, but it hasn’t been as disastrous for Calgary as once thought.
I’ve liked both, but whose been better of Valimaki and Andersson ?
— Brendan Olson (@BrennyBaller) November 24, 2018
I think it’s Juuso so far. They’re honestly both around the same, but Andersson has been in the pros for three years whereas Juuso hasn’t. He’s been more defensively aware and his skating has been impressive. I want to see him get more minutes, to be honest.