54Oliver Kylington
Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports

WWYDW: Are the Flames deep enough to contend with injuries?

Every NHL team deals with injuries. But with four players on the injured reserve and none projected to return to action anytime soon, the Flames may be starting to feel the pain of having so many bodies lost.

With actual expectations forming this year – the Flames are in contention to win the Pacific Division, to speak nothing of their place near the top of the Western Conference – a question arises: are they a deep enough team to overcome this, or should they be looking at adding more players?

The Flames are currently missing the services of Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik, Michael Stone, and Juuso Valimaki. The only other player who’s had the misfortune of going on the Flames’ injured reserve long-term so far this season is Travis Hamonic.

The four absences have resulted in a fair share of AHL call-ups. Depending on the position, things are either going relatively well, or are in a questionable state.

Defence

Hamonic’s injury was something of a blessing in disguise: it allowed for Rasmus Andersson to be called up. He played so well he won a permanent roster spot on the Flames, improving the group as a whole.

Something similar may be happening in regards to Valimaki’s injury and the opportunity it’s afforded Oliver Kylington: while Valimaki performed well over the course of his 22 NHL games, Kylington has had several years’ worth of professional experience in North America. It looks like all that time in the AHL is paying off, as Kylington has really started to make an impact over the course of the seven games he’s played this season – and, of all the Flames’ rookie defencemen, he’s had the most dynamic game after being named first star in a 5-2 win over the Predators.

The only time the Flames have really felt squeezed on defence so far this year was during Mark Giordano’s suspension, which forced Dalton Prout into the lineup for back-to-back games. However, Prout is the Flames’ ninth defenceman, and I’m not sure there’s a team in the NHL that wouldn’t have at least some concerns about having to play their ninth best defenceman frequently.

The Flames have lucked out in their defensive injuries in that it would seem every single one of their big three prospects is ready for prime time. Two defencemen on the injured reserve isn’t ideal, but doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a position the Flames should have to worry about upgrading – particularly when four of their top seven guys are all 22 or younger.

Forwards

Here’s where things get a little dicier for the Flames, if only because of the quality of player lost in Backlund, who has been the team’s fifth best forward all season, all the while playing a pivotal shutdown role.

Coming off of a down year in scoring, the Flames spent most of their offseason bolstering their forward depth. It’s certainly helped: the Flames initially fared just fine when they lost Frolik (and Jaromir Jagr soon after), but their season began to unravel just before he returned from injury. It was a year in which they had no choice but to play Garnet Hathaway on the third line; now, at least, the team has options when someone underperforms, rather than being forced to ask guys to play above their level.

But the Flames’ AHL forwards don’t seem as ready as their defencemen did to step straight in the NHL. Dillon Dube needs time at a lower level; Andrew Mangiapane looks solid, but he’s horribly snakebitten. Alan Quine is looking great over the two games he’s played for the Flames, but it’s only been two games, and he’s a bit older than the defensive call-ups: he’s likely not a long-term solution, but at worst seems to be a serviceable one for the time being.

The forward group doesn’t look like it’s patched together with duct tape, at the least, but it’d certainly look a lot more formidable with both Backlund and Frolik present, whereas replacing Stone and Valimaki with Andersson and Kylington doesn’t seem to be that much of a problem at all.


And so that brings the question: knowing the Flames will be without their four players on the injured reserve for at least a little while longer yet, do you believe the team has the depth already in place to work through their absences? Or would you maybe look to add to it via a trade – something the Flames might be looking to do towards the trade deadline, anyway, as it looks like they may very well be buyers this year? Should they be preparing for any future additional injuries as well, or will they be able to handle those?

How would you get through this spell of injuries? What do you think the Flames should do for the time being?

  • Orrwasbest

    Bring Dube up while Backs is out to give him the reps at 2nd line D center. We are suffering anyway so might as well give the air apparent the reps while we suffer. Send him down when Backs is back unless he is outstanding which is unlikely.

    • Fat Tony

      I agree. Bring up Dube. Keep Ryan on the fourth to continue to build chemistry and keep that third line together as well, they have looked like they are onto something. Dube playing with #19 and #93 could be interesting to watch, especially with all the attention those guys attract it could free up some open ice for #29 to start putting up some numbers

      • Fat Tony

        Yes I know what your saying. But we are all in agreement that Dube’s development in the AHL is crucial. I’m not saying he has earned a spot over Janko and Ryan, we are just trying to fill a spot until Backlund is healthy in which case Dube will be sent down. Our bottom six cast are starting to gel and I don’t want to that to be impeded so we can shuffle centers around for a temporary fix.

      • Orrwasbest

        The point is we are already weak with whom ever we play with Backs out so we might as well give the reps to the guy who will one day be our second line center. It is only a taste but a lil here and a lil there when we can gives Dube the experience he needs to succeed down the road.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    They should be doing nothing… no sense giving up an asset only to have those players eventually return and the lineup become clogged once more.

    The Flames moves in the off-season helped prepare for this exact type of scenario. The additions brought a great deal of roster flexibility. In addition to those currently playing Center in the NHL, Czarnik, Lindholm and even Sam Bennett could play center in a pinch. Even Curtis Lazar could be called upon for a 4th line center role in the NHL if needed. No need to panic yet whilst we sit atop the Pacific division!

  • Score When I like Nieuwendyk

    Simple: play Jankowski in Backlund’s spot. Not doing this effectively give us only one scoring line; the first line. This also spurs on Sam Bennett as Bennet seems to like to ok with Jankowski.

    Instead, what I have observed is that
    Peters is benching Sam Bennett. Why won’t Peters play all the players with guys that will bring out the best in them? For Sam it’s Jankowski. Play Jankowski on that second line and drop your favourite player Derek Ryan to the third line where he previously excelled with Mangiapane and Neal for that short stretch of games.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I agree 100%. Janko has earned a shot more than Ryan. I like BP but this one has me baffled. I feel confident in saying that an unbiased coach would try Janko over Ryan based on merit. It took GG 82 games before throwing Janko a bone how long will it take BP.

  • Korcan

    It all depends on Jankowski and to a lesser extent Neal. If Janko rises to the occasion and jumps in his development at center, then Calgary’s depth looks solid enough, but if he stalls, then they look suspect down the middle; in such case, they may need to trade for a cente (unlikely) or trade for a top six winger and move Lindholm to center. Better yet, if Neal can ever get his game going, they may have the luxury of moving him up and Lindholm to center and not have to overpay to bring someone in. Come on Janko and Neal!

  • Heeeeere’s Johnny

    I think this team has the horses to ride these injuries out. A lot of the previous comments have covered the options and there are still more on the farm, although they may not be full time NHL players, rather capable replacement level guys.

    All that said, we need to keep the pipeline full. If we have injury problems then we don’t have players to trade. So if we were to make a trade it would look like draft choices. To get an impact player that means high draft picks and that’s the last thing we should be giving up right now. We need D depth and goalie depth back on the farm. Both take time to develop. Both need high draft picks to acquire.

  • JMK

    The only injury of concern in my mind is Backlund, although it would be nice to have Frolik back and Valimkai for his own development. Replacing Backlund would be far too costly and doesn’t make any sense in the long term. Is there anyone that Calgary could trade for that would be better than Janko, Ryan, Bennett or Dube at center? Probably but how much will they cost. Calgary have had a couple of years in a row of mortgaging the future, I hope BT holds onto as many draft picks as he can to both get higher end forward prospects and replenish the defensive prospect pool for 3 or 4 years time.

    Keep the roster as is and call up Dube if desperate (he would be a good option but they’ve sent him down for confidence, throwing the kid into 2C when he’s not ready does not seem prudent in my mind).

  • Zalapski

    Everyone who keeps saying call up Dube seems to be forgetting he got crushed during his time in the NHL. I wouldn’t call him up to play 4th line centre let alone replace Backs.

    If i was Peters, I’d put Lindholm 2C and bump Neal to first line and tell him this THE chance he’s been sulking around for. If he doesn’t produce or show in 2 games, you take him off and start cycling through other wingers.

    Jankowski and Ryan can fight for 3C. If they want to keep the first line together that’s fine. Jankowski is a capable defensive forward and coul use a chance with some offensive players like Tkachuk and Bennett.

    • Heeeeere’s Johnny

      I think this is a good strategy against certain teams. If the Flames are at home and there is a potent scoring line on the visiting team this could work.

      On the road if the opposition has a good shutdown line then it may also work to spread the scoring around.

      I do like the idea of using it to get Neal started. I think that old dog Skylar is on to something when he says that Neal’s lack of foot speed may actually be an asset playing with Johnny as he is always looking for a trailer.

  • freethe flames

    We don’t have the assets to panic and make a bad trade. It is better to allow the forwards to develop. As good a BP is at trusting his young D and developing them he seems to lack the same trust in his young forwards. We know what Ryan is and the chances of him developing into anything more is wishful thinking; why he is on the 2nd PP unit ahead of Janko is just a sign of BP’s reluctance to trust young unproven forwards. Is Janko the answer on the 2nd PP or the second line center I don’t know but if I’m looking at the future of this organization I would say it worth a look especially under the circumstances. Remember when they finally shut Monny down at the end of the because of his injuries and GG took for ever to decide that maybe Janko was the guy with the most similar skill set and he had a monster game. Again I am not saying this will happen again but it’s at least worth a try.
    The other option would be to put Lindholm there but I wonder about who you put on the first RW.

    • R4anders

      Jankowski doesn’t play against anybody else’s top line yet he still doesn’t really hit or block shots, his face-off percentage looks half decent from a peripheral standpoint but when you take into consideration he’s taking those against other teams third and fourth line centres that’s not a very good percentage, you put him up on that second line he is going to be in big trouble.I can’t fathom for the life of me why everyone keeps wanting to give this guy second line minutes…He’s older than Monahan,Lindholm,Tkachuk and Bennett, he’s not a prospect anymore. He doesn’t shoot enough and has a handful of primary assists in his entire career. In my opinion he’s not even an NHL calibre player, at least not right now. It’s the job of the centre to get the best out of his line mates and he simply isn’t doing that.

      I hope he proves me wrong.

  • Off the wall

    There are 5, 750,000 reasons why we brought in Neal.

    Thanks Neal for being the ‘Real Deal’. We wouldn’t be having this conversation if he would just do his damn job!

    I might be a tad bitter..

  • Jimmyhaggis

    No one but Neil can get him “going”. So tired of watching the 6 million man dift around, BT must be pulling his hair out, 2 big UFA busts. Sit him in the press box.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    The early runaway candidates for the Jack Adams are Phil Housley and Billy Peters, but with each Oiler win, Fatso is putting himself into serious consideration. I said it at the time, but I’ll say it again, the only coach I truly feared going to Edmonton was Hitch because of his magic of making bad clubs good. It must also be said that should Hitch get the Oilers in the playoffs this season, my fear shall disappear because other than catching lightning in a bottle that one season in Dallas, Hitch’s playoff teams–going all the way back to the powerhouses he coached in Kamloops–have been huge busts.

    • Mitchell

      I think hitch only has a year on his contract? If so I’m actually hoping he gets the Oilers into a playoff spot. He will save chia’s job, and they wont get a top 10 prospect at the draft.

  • Jobu

    The guys on The Fan made mention of one important Neal fact many are ignoring… hes played in two straight Stanley Cup finals. Could this be simply a fatigue factor?

    One can only hope…

  • HOCKEY83

    The only injury worth mentioning here is the backlund injury. Kylington has done a great job filling in for Valimaki and Stone and frolik could never play another game here again and it wouldn’t matter for one second to this team.