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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

WWYDW: Who should be the Flames’ sixth defenceman?

And all of a sudden, the Flames have a really deep defence.

It’s not necessarily deep in terms of elite talent level – Mark Giordano is elite, and after him, everyone else mostly ranges from “very good” to “developing” to “okay” with a side of “I would prefer you not be on the ice” – but it is in terms of actual NHLers at their disposal. With Michael Stone back in the NHL, the Flames now have nine defencemen available:

  • Giordano – the favourite for the Norris Trophy this year, one of just five defencemen 35 years or older to score 65 points in a single season ever.
  • TJ Brodie – Giordano’s regular partner, and his first partner since establishing himself as a top-tier defenceman, albeit with some misgivings in his own game.
  • Travis Hamonic – often reliable to take on big defensive minutes, with a surprising uptick in offence this season.
  • Noah Hanifin – 22 years old, playing in his fourth full season, likely to set a career year in terms of points.
  • Rasmus Andersson – 22 years old, established himself as an NHL regular this season, already tasked with playing on the first pairing at times.
  • Oliver Kylington – 21 years old, wasn’t supposed to be an NHLer this year but has slid right in out of necessity, plenty more promise to come.
  • Oscar Fantenberg – Recently picked up, unspectacular but solid, someone you’d definitely trust on the bottom pairing.
  • Dalton Prout – Probably the least desirable option, but he does have over 250 games under his belt; certainly, worse could be done, but probably a last resort.
  • Stone – Just now returning, so we’ll have to see how things shake out over the rest of the regular season. However, he was originally slated to be part of the Flames’ six main defencemen – that he now serves as an alternate option indicates how much more the core has grown over the past couple of months.

This doesn’t include Juuso Valimaki, who could be added to the group at some point, but for the time being isn’t a factor.

The main thing that’s led to this gain in defensive depth for the Flames is all three of their high-end defensive prospects working out: Kylington was able to step in for Valimaki’s injury with little to no disruption, and that bodes well for the team’s future.

But the big one here is Andersson, who went from starting the season in the AHL (albeit never playing an AHL game) to overtaking a veteran’s spot in the lineup to being a regular on the second powerplay unit with top pairing potential that he’s already displaying. Andersson adds a lot to the Flames’ defensive group: he’s another talented player the team can count on in most situations. If he were to be removed from the equation, the Flames would still have a pretty decent grouping, but a less talented one, and one that would be much harder to get excited about.

In the meantime, though, the Flames have 12 games left in the regular season, and that means 12 more games to mix and match their nine defencemen. I think it’s fair to say that, assuming the Flames are dressing a full lineup every night (i.e. not resting anyone healthy), Giordano, Brodie, Hamonic, Hanifin, and Andersson will be dressed every single game, leaving one spot open for the remaining four defencemen to rotate through.

Which brings us to the what would you do part: who would you want to regularly dress as the sixth defenceman, a player who would likely be either Andersson or Brodie’s partner going forward? (Either Brodie or Andersson is going to be Giordano’s partner, leaving the other one to play on the third pairing with another defender.)

Prout is probably the least likely to draw in on the regular. Kylington is the Flames’ sixth-most played defenceman this season in terms of games, but did recently miss some time due to an injury; at this stage of the season, we aren’t going to know just how hurt any player actually is, so his injury status remains in question. Fantenberg is the new guy who has taken Kylington’s spot, and has had a good early showing. And Stone is the most known commodity, albeit one who hasn’t played in the NHL since November.

How would you arrange the defencemen going down the stretch, and who would you like to see as a regular in the lineup once the playoffs start? What would you do?

  • Off the wall

    Fantenberg has proven himself a decent pickup. He’s averaging 14 minutes a game, is seldom out of position and takes the body. His stats defensively, already indicate he’s a good candidate for the 6th spot.

    Although it’s only been 5 games, he has numbers equal to Andersson. And Andersson has earned himself a regular spot on this team.

    I don’t know what Peters has in mind, but Fantenberg has been solid!

  • Flint

    TJ should be our #2 defenseman for the rest of the season and the playoffs
    Then trade TJ in the offseason. TJ is a good defenseman. In fact, he’s a great defenseman and some other team should give us an equally great or even greater ~5mil AAV second line RW’r for him.

    After this season, we just don’t need him, but we do need a second line RW’r.

    • deantheraven

      I get your logic, Flint, but I’m not “in” with you.
      Driving up a player’s trade value isn’t something teams typically think about when icing a playoff team. Playoff performance might move the needle a few degrees in trade negotiations but I wouldn’t bet on it turning a first to two firsts for example. If the extra D-men can step up, I don’t think there’s a reason to play Brodie if he suddenly takes a swan dive into the dumpster.
      If he’s shaky, he sits. Period. If he’s playing well, ride him.
      Come end of June-July 01, Tre’s going to have options.

  • cjc

    Let me get this straight – people are actually saying bench our second highest scoring D (who incidentally has 9 points in 15 playoff games), who is a 55% CF guy, who still gets 51% of high danger chances when he’s on the ice? I know he’s made some boneheaded plays, but I feel like we’re a bit primed to see the flaws in his game and a narrative that isn’t supported by data has developed. I guess since Neal is still injured the team needs someone to flog.

    Like, I agree that he’s propped up playing with Gio, and he has made some high profile errors lately but jeez, we could be doing a lot worse than Brodie.

    • withachance

      This. Fans are fickle beings, myself included, but the bashing on Brodie and Monahan lately has been pretty head scratching.

      One good game and people will go quiet. Dont see a lot of people looking for Monny to be demoted today, wonder why… Same can be applied to Brodie when he makes a dirty pass or skates circles around the other team in a game.

    • deantheraven

      To rape and pillage Shakespeare, I come not to bury (or praise) Brodie, but to give his head a shake.
      If BP can utilize a right shot RD (Stone) that doesn’t poop the Posturepedic, let him sit for a game or two. I don’t think Brodie is done as an effective D-man. But for him, brain farts are fairly common lately. I wouldn’t want to see that more than once come playoffs. Then they become brainsharts. (can I say that?)

    • HOCKEY83

      Finally someone who has an intelligent hockey thought regarding Brodie. It’s all for nothing though because there’s no way the team or the coaches feel the same way this lynch mob does about brodie

    • LannyMac

      You bet CJC Phaneuf was great at getting pats but was a joke in his own end. Hamilton the same. So just because TJ can get you puts he should be in the lineup. What ever happened to a dman playing defence. Is it just me or should we call the position something else.

      • Albertabeef

        So because you don’t see him lay someone out with a massive hit, you think he does not play defense? Of all top 4 defensemen, TJ has the lowest goals against per 60 minutes played at even strength. How does that happen if you don’t play defense, can you explain this?

      • cjc

        For what it’s worth, Phaneuf was a +19 player during his career with the Flames. He may have been a pilon at times, but was far from a terrible defenseman at that point in his career.

        Flip the script – should we be playing guys that don’t support their forwards, never pinch, can’t move the puck and don’t use their speed to cause chaos? Just sit back in the neutral zone or blue line waiting for opponents to break out? Should we play Stone, who has a way worse track record and hasn’t played an NHL game since November, over Brodie?

    • jupiter

      “A narrative not supported by data “. Haha. Guess we’ll have to file it under luck. What’s the formula for luck ? Oh yea , good or bad luck get’s used to either support or deny a analysis. OK Brodie’s boneheaded moves are just bad luck.

  • withachance

    I think in the playoffs, it’s now probably 75% Fantenberg, 25% between Stone and Prout. They all feed into that line of thinking that playoff hockey require toughness and experience. Bit too early for Kylington to be exposed to that level of intensity

  • cjc

    Assuming no injuries, this should be the opening lineup for the playoffs:

    Gio-Brodie/Andersson
    Hanifin-Hamonic
    Fantenberg-Andersson/Brodie.

    Kylington/Valimaki
    Stone
    Prout

        • withachance

          Most realistic, not what I would do. Believe it or not, most coaches and GMs still think experience is a key factor in the playoffs. Ras has 0 playoff games, not unlikely to see BP sit Ras for a game or two in the playoffs so he gets a feel.

          It’s not us fans that make lineup decisions, its BP, and experience is high on the list for basically every single coach of an NHL team. Who are we to say they’re wrong?

          • Cfan in Van

            Depends on how far they make it. We’re stocked to the gills right now because fatigue/injury plays a big factor over the course of the playoffs. If we go 2-3 (or more) long rounds, the lower guys will get subbed in when appropriate, just to recharge the guys who are ailing.

        • T&A4Flames

          Exactly. Of all the rookie D he’s been the most consistent. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was designated popcorn muncher for a game here and there. But I think he starts game 1 for sure.