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FlamesNation Mailbag: Who stays up?

The Flames are currently battling injuries and suspensions to major roster pieces, but the silver lining is that there are some prospects who have stepped up in place, and looked like they belong. As the lineup progresses (slowly) to full health, we probe into the question: who gets to stay?

It’s only been four games, but I think Andrew Mangiapane has still done just enough to warrant a few extra looks at the NHL level. The timetables on Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik are unclear, but he might have about a week to really demonstrate his value.

The issue is that he’s not putting up numbers, which certainly factors in. The only job he could feasibly steal when everyone’s healthy is Garnet Hathaway’s, who has been scoring. Obviously, who is and isn’t hot right now isn’t always the best measure of quality, but I’ve found that coaches tend to ride the hot hand in the bottom six. I feel Mangiapane might start finding the back of the net soon, but if he doesn’t, he’s likely headed back down.

Well, more multipoint games will help his case, and I think he’s much closer than imagined, but the same thing that applies to Mangiapane above applies to Oliver Kylington. The Flames were content to play Juuso Valimaki when he was healthy, and they’ll probably go back to doing so when he returns. Kylington has been a bit more refined than Valimaki, but he does have some of those tendencies that drive coaches crazy. Again, with Valimaki’s timeline uncertain, it’s hard to figure out when Kylington has to establish himself by, but if he keeps having strong performances it’s likely Kylington could stick.

As for Valimaki, I think they’ll be comfortable sending him down. It’s certainly a bit awkward given that they’ve already burned the first year of his ELC, but the threshold for him to burn an RFA year (40 games) is arguably a bit more important. It’s impressive that he’s a 20-year-old jumping straight from the CHL to the NHL, but he’s still in need of some development. The spotlight in Stockton could be a good thing for him. Neither Kylington or Valimaki will run out of waiver exemption this season, so you can plug and play when need be.

Definitely. The team already has all of their significant defensive prospects in the NHL thanks to this injury/suspension crisis, which is three (Kylington, Valimaki, Andersson) if you’re counting at home, and have pretty much nothing else. Michael Stone’s timeline to return (if he is ever actually going to get game action) is uncertain, Dalton Prout’s game against Edmonton shows why he shouldn’t be in the lineup often, and if you look on the farm you might just have a Tyler Wotherspoon-esque player kicking around. They absolutely need defensive depth.

Though I can’t see where, or why, they actively go out and shop for a seventh defenceman. They’re content to let Valimaki/Kylington and Rasmus Andersson play in the big league on the third pairing, so there’s really no reason to get someone who can do the same job, but costs an extra asset.

They’ll 100% target defensive depth in the draft, however. There’s no RHD behind Andersson, so that’s definitely worth a draft pick. Their LHD is nearly nonexistent behind Kylington, so there’s another spot to target (in the later rounds).

Well, defence, as already stated. Maybe they use more of their mid-round picks (which they actually have this year?) on D to build up numbers. Depending on how the draft breaks they might go for a D early, but I think quantity over quality in this case.

The next focus is goalie. They’ll probably avoid a first round goalie (as everyone does), but they’ll definitely pick one to restock the cupboards when Mason McDonald and Mike Smith leave the organization. They also didn’t draft one in an even-numbered year, which was a first.

I’d say the final focus is at centre. With Glenn Gawdin, Milos Roman, Adam Ruzicka (more on him later), Martin Pospisil, and Linus Lindstrom pretty much being their entire C depth, they’ll probably add a few more. I think that a forward is going to be their first pick (based on nothing but gut feeling, but still), so maybe they swing for the fences with a top notch centre pick.

For Adam Ollas Mattsson, I think it’s going to be a dance between him and the organization. He’s probably not an NHL regular, even as a 6D, but he’s the closest thing they have for the time being. But is that worth an ELC? The org did this dance with former 20-goal scorer Stepan Falkovsky a few years back. Prospect wanted ELC after a good minors year, org didn’t think he would materialize beyond that level, they split. AOM is a great story and a kid who works hard, but he needs more than that to occupy a contract spot (he’s on an AHL contract right now, so it doesn’t count towards the 50).

Ruzicka is maybe a 4C. His season this year has been lackluster for someone in their third OHL year. While his consistency has improved, his offence is nearly muted beyond his powerplay contributions. There’s still more than half a season to play, but I could see the Flames passing on him given the way he’s performing.

It’s a risky acquisition. I’m not a goalie expert, but his numbers are down and he’s 33. That could be a sign that he’s falling off a cliff, or that he’s on a bad team. Maybe both are true. Regardless, he’s not performing the way he was before, and it’s certainly feasible that he doesn’t ever return to that.

Given where the Flames are at in their contention window, he’s not someone worth pursuing, even at half retained ($3M). You might add good Corey Crawford, you more likely add a declining, old goalie. Can the Flames risk finding out?

He’s certainly intriguing. Hill, the Coyotes’ de facto #1 goalie (depending on Antti Raanta’s health), is the hot hand right now, stopping nearly 94% of pucks headed his way. He was pretty strong in junior hockey, but has struggled in the minor pro leagues until breaking out recently. He’s young and good, which makes him a prospect worth consideration.

I would probably wait and see. There’s been plenty of young goalies who have gotten hot at the right time only to fizzle out when an NHL team put all of their stock into them. If he maintains his form throughout the rest of the season, I would inquire. Until then, I would hold off.

I think it’s just how the team chooses to roll out their PK units. Matthew Tkachuk isn’t a centre, which is Peters’ PK preference, as the forwards who do play (Mikael Backlund, Derek Ryan, Elias Lindholm, Mark Jankowski) are all natural centres. The only other regular forward PKers are Hathaway and Frolik, two righties. Again, that probably leaves Tkachuk on the bench during shorthanded situations.

Besides, think of how much more expensive he becomes when he’s a dominant force at all three aspects of the game.

  • FlamesFanOtherCity

    Should probably also talk about what Quine has to do to stay up. He’s playing as good as Czarnik, but not as quick a skater. Better in limited view than Bennett, but most players are. Looks good as a 4th line C.

    About Tkachuk. I’m less concerned about him killing penalties as I am in getting better linemates. Ryan and Bennett make him look ineffective. Perhaps it’s time to recognize that Tkachuk should be given offensive starts and players, and leave the defense to the grinders or guys that thrive by stopping goals. Tkachuk with Janko and Neal might look a bit different. Would almost consider Lindholm as his center, but that would split up the best line in hockey.

    • cjc

      Tkachuk is getting offensive starts. Yes, he is third in d-zone starts/60, but he is also FIRST in o-zone starts/60 and second in o-zone face-offs/60. Per naturalstattrick, his o-zone start percentage at 5v5 is 60.84%, which is 5th highest on the team. His o-zone faceoff percentage is third overall on the team.

      For my part, I think the Flames should roll 11F/7D when Valimaki returns, keep Kylington up and they can give additional shifts down the lineup to skilled forwards (Tkachuk, Gaudreau, Lindholm in particular). When your least-played fourth liner is getting 6-8 minutes/night, it’s easy to spread those minutes out to the other 11 forwards. Peluso, in the four games he’s played, has averaged just over 4 minutes in ice time. What’s the point, other than getting caved in by Lucic?

        • cjc

          Then just look at the percentages, which ignore ice time – 5th in o-zone start percentages and 3rd in o-zone face offs. Tkachuk is getting his chances to succeed and he’s doing fine. He won’t have better linemates for a while because both are injured. Though I’d like to see him get a few shifts with Mangiapane.

  • The GREAT WW

    What’s the Neal exit strategy?
    The only team still interested in his services is possibly Vegas because he was good there last year.
    Why wait until the season is over and the whole league knows he is garbage now…

    WW

    • redwhiteblack

      The Neil contract is officially a problem now. I have concern about all of our second tier forward group. Not much production at all from Bennett, Ryan, Neil, Jankowski and Czarnik. I was also hoping someone would be enough of an improvement on Hathaway to push him out of being a regular filler.

      • Toma41

        Bennett, Ryan and Czarnik all have no history of scoring anything more than a 4th line grinder. Czarnik and bennett not even at that. Our bottom 6 is starting to look not much better than last year.

    • stuhfan

      Trading a guy you just signed to a big UFA deal would be bad optics, potentially reducing attractiveness of the team to future FA’s. Although with Brad’s record of signing FA’s maybe it’s a good thing if he stops bringing them in. I think you gotta give Neal at least 2 years to figure it out, unfortunately. Who knows maybe he’s battling some nagging injury or something.

      • Flaming moe

        Give Neal 2 years???? Unless he’s on HGH (the youth serum) he ain’t going to get any better. When he showed up to camp with a double chin I knew we were in trouble. He is the ultimate “floater” on the ice. Time to get rid of this contract now!!! Wasting 6 million a year for 6 years can be the difference in finding a great player or helping sign chuckys huge raise and/or signing a goalie which is never cheap. Tre is going to have to admit he was wrong and move Neal now.

        • Cfan in Van

          Trading Neal now = zero takers at that price. How much salary would you retain, and who would you expect to take him if you’re the GM? I understand the frustration, and he’s clearly the albatross of the lineup at the moment, but you make it sound like an easy dump, which it won’t be.

          • buts

            I would think there would be a few takers for Neal at the TDL as the remainder of this year wouldn’t be a big salary hit and a team in win now mode might take a flyer, then move him in the off season. I was thinking it was a great signing at the time but his compete isn’t there, he’s slow doing circles and no stops/starts, man oh man cut the bait and throw him back in. I’m like so many others seeing little production from Neal, Janko, Bennett, Ryan and Czar.

      • Chucky

        I cannot imagine a better reason to trade Neal. The thought that future UFAs would not want to sign with the Flames looks like a great idea if recent history is any indication.

    • BendingCorners

      Buyout this summer, or trade with 1.9MM retained – same hit as a buyout but shorter term.
      af anybody wants him, that is.
      and please, BT, no more over-30 UFA signings. The track record is not encouraging and the cap hit eats up space that could have been saved for somebody younger and better.
      Brouwer, Neal, Jagr – bad.
      Ryan – so-so.
      Smith – mostly good but was a trade not a signing.
      Giordano – very good but we already had him on the roster so knew all about him.

      • Longshot1977

        I’d argue that the Jagr thing wasn’t exactly a “bad” signing. It was for dirt cheap, and both sides had exit strategies in place for if/when it wasn’t to work. The Flames were desperate for RW help, which Jagr did give them at a very reasonable price tag.

        While I don’t often argue in favour of intangibles, it’s probably foolish to underestimate the mentorship impact that Jagr had on some of the younger Flames forwards. He would often be seen in practice speaking one-on-one with guys like Tkachuck and Gaudreau.

        Although the experiment was ultimately unsuccessful as far as direct on-ice results, I feel like it wasn’t really a “bad deal”.

        You’re bang on about Brouwer and Neal though. Also, going back in time we can think about guys like Wideman. Yikes.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      We have to consider the possibility that despite the best intentions of Tre and Neal, Neal might not be a good fit here. If this is the case, then Tre would be wise to shift Neal by the offseason. Let’s not endure another Brouwer-like scenario. I certainly think Neal still holds value to a number of teams, including some of his former teams. Likely Tre will have to retain salary or accept a similar one in return.

      I am not ready to toss the towel in on Neal, but if there is a problem for Neal being here, Tre can’t dilly-dally like he did with Brouwer, not if he is serious about making the Flames an elite club.

    • MDG1600

      The damage has already been done with Neal. His salary is bonkers for what he is contributing and no one is touching it via trade. Calgary either keeps him hanging around or buys him out and still has to count a whole bunch of his salary against the cap. IMHO the Neal signing will be a tremendously damaging hit to our salary cap at a time when the team might only be 1 or 2 players away from being a full on Cup contender.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        With more than 50 regular season games remaining and hopefully a bunch of playoff games to follow, it is way too soon to discuss an exit strategy for Neal, except if there is behind-the-scenes drama with Neal wanting out ASAP and Tre more than willing to do him this favour.

        One scenario I have been thinking about recently is that let’s say Neal’s monumental struggles continue for the rest of the regular season as he finishes with a career low 6 goals. However, let’s say in the playoffs, Neal lights it up. In 20 playoff games, Neal pots 13 goals, including 4 game winners, 2 in OT. Would we declare Neal’s 2018-19a hit or miss? I am pretty sure that if he has a hot playoffs, Tre will be very reluctant to deal Neal over the summer.

        • BlueMoonNigel

          I hear the frustration and anger over Neal’s poor showing as a Flame. It is fair as he has been a bust, but that has he has consistently scored goals in this league for a decade also entitles him to a little slack. Let’s wait a little longer to see if his play picks up before we open the door and shoo the wolves at the door into his house.

          • Kevin R

            Blows me away that the venom is this harsh & the hate posts this early in the year. Seems to me last year was poor Hamonic that got the jettison wishlist for a bag of pucks last year. This year he has been invaluable & the benefits for one of our future core D in Hanifin can not be measured in the analytics. Now it’s Neal’s turn. People forget that Lindholm has been quite the revelation so far. No one expected it to be this good this quick. The fact Neal was added has raised the bar for players like Lindholm, Bennett, Frolik, Czarnik, Jankowski, Ryan. All these players have raise their game to crack that top 6 knowing Neal is in the lineup. We’re in first place, team is playing great hockey and we have lots of young guys getting prime chances both on the blue line & forwards. This team is getting known to have one of the best depth in the league & everyone just wants to ship it out for bags of pucks. Yikes! Perspective sometimes lacks when the mob gets antsy & wants to roast someone it seems.

  • Heeeeere’s Johnny

    Interesting development on the waiver wire … Chad Johnson. Wondering if the Flames might wait to see if he clears and then trade somebody like NickSchneider or Mason MacDonald for him. Or perhaps a 7th rounder. We can’t bring him onto the NHL club but he would feel like good depth in the AHL in case of injury.

  • Skylardog

    Kylington has been better than I anticipated and has impressed me for the most part. However, he still makes a few defensive gaffs, and on that alone, the more defensively stable Valimaki should and likely will stay, despite Stockton’s Finest’s view that Vali would be the one sent down.

    Good to know we have at least one depth left DMan, because when Kulak was traded the cupboard looked empty, not just bare.

  • Skylardog

    Mangi’s numbers are beginning to astonish me. Not sure how it is even possible to play in 15 games, 147 plus minutes, and have not been on the ice for a single goal for. You would think at some point, a puck would have glanced off something after being put somewhere, and magically somehow gotten past a goalie for a magical and mythological goal.

    Not that his linemates have been lighting it up either, he certainly cannot take all the blame for his lack of luck. But at what point does it appear he is just not capable as opposed to more snakebitten than Bennett, Neal, and Lazar all combined.

      • Getpucksdeep

        He needs more rope? I’ve been reading love for this guy for 2 years and he’s a great AHLer. He’s produced a few “flashes” and thats about it. Lazar was the same type of player but more physical. I still say Foo had better NHL shooting chops than this guy. Bennetts fine and brings a physical element the team needs. Mangiapane doesn’t bring a physical game and has AHL moves. Hope he scores 3 against Philly and proves me wrong but I’m not holding my breath.

        • Albertabeef

          I don’t like to compare Foo or Lazar to Bennett and Mangiapane. I give Benny and Mange a little more time as they are only 22 years old. They are still young. Hathaway scored one goal in his first 40 games over two seasons as a 24-25 year old. He is now 27 with 9 goals in his entire career, but people want to give up on 22 year olds. Unbelievable.

    • HOCKEY83

      Lets see…bennett has been snake bitten for 3 seasons and 15 games for Mangi. No one is more snake bitten than bennett. They will start going in for Mangi. He’s putting in a great effort on every shift.

      • BendingCorners

        They’re not snake-bitten, they’re hitting what they’re aiming at.
        Sooner or later Mango will score but I put him in the same category as Dube – good grinder and possibly good on a shutdown line, but not quite good enough or big enough to star in any prominent role.
        Bennett on the other hand will be an excellent shutdown forward and will sometimes score.

    • cjc

      This happens all the time for players stuck in a fourth line role. 147 minutes isn’t much playing time. Kasperi Kapanen took 16 games to pick up his first goal and point (and he was getting more minutes than Mangiapane). Both players have similar AHL production.

      I am not saying he will turn into Kapanen, but coaches and management need to be patient and they need to put him in a position to succeed before they can really judge his future.

  • SeanCharles

    Could go either way on Mangiapane staying up..

    He looks good but doesn’t really add much to the group if he isn’t helping with offense.

    I think all 3 of our defensive prospects are NHL ready and Prout is AHL calibre. Best to send one of the youngsters down and have Prout sit in the pressbox. I’m not sure who to send down as of yet however..

    Good problem to have, as trading a dman in the offseason could provide a good asset elsewhere.

  • Chucky

    Valimaki goes down for conditioning and then when he is ready to come back they find someplace else for Stone. Then they rotate the three rookies depending on performance and situation. If things are going well for them iwould even considering giving everybody, even Giordano a break. A day off in taking the March 7 game against Arizona might be a welcome relief for a 35 year old guy who played a lot of minutes in Vegas the night before. First place in the division locked everybody would get a chance to rest for a playoff run. Prout is capable of holding down that 8th defenseman position they don’t need Stone.
    Mangiapane stays because no one can play that well and stay snake-bitten. Czarnik is going nowhere but Stockton and soon. The return of Frolik and Backlund sends Czarnik and Quine to the minors or whoever will claim Czarnik on waivers.

    • Kevin R

      Flames would never risk losing an asset like Czarnik like that. Mangi would have to go down & if he’s scoring bushels of goals, Prout gets shipped down or one of the young D that are waiver exempt.

  • oilcanboyd

    Mangiapane has been in 15 games for the Flames 0 0 0 plus/minus at -4. Would be a boost to his confidence if he could score his first goal this call-up. Kylington was dancing on the ice after he scored that goal on Saturday night vs Nashville.

    • Luter 1

      His all around game, backchecking, intensity, puck possession has been more than solid and if all three posts went in we would be talking different. He’s thrown some nice checks too.

  • Albertabeef

    “The issue is that he’s not putting up numbers, which certainly factors in. The only job he could feasibly steal when everyone’s healthy is Garnet Hathaway’s, who has been scoring.”

    OMG I think I hurt something from laughing way too hard.

  • freethe flames

    James Neal: this deal is beginning to look worse than the Troy Brouwer signing. Not only has he not scored like was expected (I actually could live with this) but he has not shown any of the intangibles that he was signed for. Leadership? Heavy presence? Effort? How effective is the the 2nd PP unit with him, Ryan, Bennett and sometimes Czarnik? He can’t play on the PK and 5 on 5 he is poor defensively. He has been better 3 of the last 4 games but not even close to being what is expected of him. To blame the guys he plays with is just an excuse; he’s got to find a way to do something or he needs to play in Stockton; I’m almost wishing we had kept the Burden.

    • flames2015

      Neal is someone thats sucessful by cherrying in front of the net and needs others to make the plays and get it to him. The only person who can get him going is Johnny. But no chance we are breaking up the first line. He has had some good looks and passes to Mangi, a guy who has no finish. Until hes actually playing with better linemates its still not enough to write him off. Paying him $5.75 to play third lines with a rookie and a essentially a rookie is BS

    • Albertabeef

      I’m still not ready to hit that panic button on Neal just yet. In fact I wouldn’t even think of moving him elsewhere until after the season is over. Draft day I might feel different. As long as the team is winning I’m not really ready to give up on any of them. With 8 new players and all the line blendering, chemistry could take a little while longer to create.