It’s the end of 2018 – let’s move on from our old anxieties and into the new ones, such as what to do about the PP2, how are we ever going to sign Matthew Tkachuk and David Rittich, and many other fun topics.
How do you foresee Tkachuk, Rittich and Bennet getting resigned this year
— Brody Auvigne (@BAuvigne61696) December 30, 2018
Let’s go in reverse order, because that’s easiest.
Sam Bennett has been same ol’ Sam. He had a stint where he looked much, much better but he’s since dropped off (likely due to him also dropping off the Backlund-Tkachuk line). He’s once again on pace for 26 points, the same total he put up in the two seasons previous. Even with a better coach, a stronger supporting cast, a touch more special teams time, and less expectations, he’s just not that much of an improved player. If the Flames choose to re-sign him (depending on how the second half of his season goes, the question of whether or not to re-sign him might arise), he might not come in for more than $2.5M. He’s an easier one to re-sign.
For Rittich, it’s going to be an interesting discussion. He’s proven that he can be a starting goalie, which is valuable to any team, but he also has only one year of that. Management will hedge their bets. He’s an RFA, so a “show me” contract will certainly be in the works. Rittich will be pricey, but if the Flames play it right, they can keep him around for a bargain. If it fits beneath the $4.15M cap hit Mike Smith is making, it’s a win for the Flames.
Tkachuk is going to be difficult, as we’re looking at a number around or north of $7M. They’re going to have to shed some salary to get that deal done. The Flames are either going to have to play hardball and drag the negotiations out or find ways to save a buck or two. Buying out/moving Michael Stone might be an option, provided he is healthy enough to play. Maybe they find a partner to take on James Neal’s contract. Those are going to be tough asks, so ideally the Flames can get a deal done without having to bend over backwards to make cap space, although one hopes that they thought of that before signing those deals.
Hathaway and Bennett are both in need of new contracts at the end of the season. Do the flames re-sign one or both of them? At what cost?
— Khalid Keshavjee (@KMKeshavjee) December 30, 2018
I think Garnet Hathaway is a goner after this year. He’s been a fine player, but he’s likely due for a raise given his work on the PK and his status as a roster regular. Hathaway stole a job because he was a cheap player who worked hard in the minors. There are plenty of those kicking around Stockton.
how many of Rittich's FA years will Flames try to buy next contract? Does Dave get a 5 year deal?
— kingcambie (@kingcambie) December 30, 2018
I can see Brad Treliving being cautious with the Rittich contract and keeping it short. Rittich has looked like a goalie of the future, but Treliving’s been burned on pretty much every goalie he’s acquired besides Rittich, so that’s why a “show me” deal makes sense. If he makes a grand commitment to Rittich and he ends up being a one-season wonder, that could cost Treliving his job.
Neal is almost 2 months without scoring a goal. Should we hit the panic button on him? Is he becoming a Brouwer 2.0?
— Lucas Mendes (@lucas_flames) December 30, 2018
No, but your finger should be hovering over it.
|James Neal 2018-19||51.71||121||8.37||5.03||4.41||53.26|
|Troy Brouwer 2017-18||50.80||140||4.61||6.12||9.84||46.97|
We should note that we are comparing 38 games of James Neal to 76 games of Troy Brouwer. In just about half the time, Neal has either matched, surpassed, or just about to surpass Brouwer’s full season shot generation stats. To put into perspective how much better Neal is doing than Brouwer, his individual expected goals is just one shy of Brouwer’s. Again, we are comparing a half season to a full season.
Of course, the difference is shooting percentage. Neal has never had an individual 5v5 SH% lower than 9% over a full season, and it’s unlikely he’ll continue shooting at 4% forever. Once that switch flips (although there’s no telling when that’s going to happen), Neal should be putting up the points. He may not hit 20 goals, but he might just finish somewhere in the area.
I say keep your finger over the panic button because Neal, like Brouwer, isn’t getting any younger and that contract isn’t getting any less expensive. Even if Neal salvages this season, the likelihood of him keeping it up as he marches further into his 30s is low. For now, Neal is his typical self albeit a bit snakebitten. But be wary of a steep age-related decline.
Apologies if it's been asked before, but Janko. Now we know what he is, expectations tempered etc…he's fine for what he is, right? Obviously got the shg thing going for him but overall, perfectly serviceable bottom six guy?
— LP🧜⚧ (@getyrbodybeat) December 30, 2018
I would say that Mark Jankowski’s shorthanded work is masking his larger 5v5 flaws:
|Rank /21 (100 minutes at 5v5)||20||19||21||20||19||16||17||17|
Those are some pretty bad numbers, and not “okay player on an otherwise good team” bad. Jankowski is one of the only regular players below 50% in these metrics (the others are Hathaway and the rookies), and it doesn’t look like he’s getting that much better at 5v5 as time goes on. He’s falling behind the pack, not keeping up.
His PK work has been undoubtedly beautiful, and that’s probably what’s keeping him from being a healthy scratch more often (as he was earlier in the season). I don’t think he keeps the scoring up – even with the high percentage looks the Flames get on the shorthanded breakouts, 67% is an absurdly high SH% for an individual, and a 30% team PK SH% is also going to fall – but if he shuts down opposition night in, night out for the six-ish minutes , who’s complaining?
If he’s a great PKer with limited 5v5 output, that’s fine, especially on a team that leans heavily on the top units. But moving forward, the Flames are probably going to find someone who can provide much more at all situations. If Jankowski can’t prove that he’s that much more than a PKer, then his days are numbered.
How would you fix PP2?
— Kyle Lentz (@kyleslentz) December 30, 2018
I would start with Rasmus Andersson blasting pucks from the point. If the team trusts him to do it during extra attacker situations (with success!) I don’t see why they can’t trust him to do it during other man advantage situations.
I might also spread the scoring out between PP1 and PP2. Maybe you move down Elias Lindholm from PP1 to provide a lethal shot and promote Neal, if for no other reason than trying to get him going. However, with the powerplay being inept as it is, I don’t think the coaching staff messes with the one thing that at least occasionally works with it.
Gizmo was wondering why Doc is on the 2nd PPU…..
— David McKinstry (@supercrookedice) December 30, 2018
I would probably take Derek Ryan off the PP2. Ironically, he is the highest scoring forward on that unit (two goals, two assists) but he’s at the bottom of the barrel with regards to shot generation by the individual members of that unit. Austin Czarnik has provided some more juice in regards to putting pucks towards the net, so maybe he’s worth another spin on that unit.
What's the deal with Czarnik? He had next to no ice time last night… Why do they hate him?
— Khalid Keshavjee (@KMKeshavjee) December 30, 2018
What will it take for Hathaway to come out of the lineup permanently and for Czarnik to be a regular?
— Russo (@arusso_9) December 30, 2018
Austin Czarnik deserves a bit more of a shot at regular ice time in general, but it’s hard to make excuses for him when he’s given opportunities and he can’t produce. Certainly no one is expecting him to put up a point per game, but he needs to bury a few chances here and there. If you’re given top six minutes, you have to do something with them.
Hathaway coming out of the lineup is probably not happening. Like Jankowski, he’s been one of the better PKers which justifies his spot in the lineup. He’s also not afraid to mix things up, which every coach likes. Unless he becomes useless in all regards of the game of hockey (if you didn’t like Jankowski’s stats above, Hathaway is the only guy who is worse than him in all of those metrics), he’s probably in the lineup for the foreseeable future.
Simply put, coaches like a noticeable impact and consistent results. Czarnik struggles with that. Hathaway may not have looked as high end as Czarnik has in flashes, but he does what he needs to do.
I foresee Valimaki being the Flames' #1 D-man within 3 years. What's your take?
— Cato Fong (@VagrantofRome) December 30, 2018
I don’t think we’ve seen enough of Juuso Valimaki to make that assertion, but it’s certainly feasible, if not bold. He’s got a ladder to climb with the eternal Mark Giordano and the still-developing Noah Hanifin under contract during that period, but he’s a kid who has made great strides year over year. Ivan Provorov of the Flyers has been a consistent comparable for Valimaki, and he’s essentially Philly’s best d-man at age 21. It’s not necessarily a guarantee, but it’s certainly possible.