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Photo Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

WWYDW: When is it time to rest players – if at all?

The Flames are in the playoffs. They have the edge for the Pacific Division title – and with it, presumably, an easier first round matchup – though by no means is it secured. They have a handful of players out due to various ailments and injuries, but they’re still winning games for the most part.

It’s a tough balancing act: on the one hand, you want the team to be ready for the playoffs, fresh and winning as many games as possible (or at least until first place in the division – and with it, the conference – is clinched). On the other hand, these guys have been at this since October; players are undoubtedly hurt, and you want them to be as healthy as possible for the playoffs.

Presently, the Flames have three forwards unavailable: Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett, and James Neal, all of whom are basically considered day-to-day at this point. Curtis Lazar remains up on emergency recall, giving the Flames just 12 healthy forwards currently; they’re hanging on by a thread.

There’s another little wrinkle to all of this: of the nine games the Flames have remaining in the regular season, only two are against playoff-caliber opponents, including the one team that’s still really capable of catching them: the Sharks. That game probably gets as full and healthy a lineup as possible – if there’s any one game to win, it’s that one – but otherwise, the Flames are almost exclusively playing sub-.500 teams for the rest of the season.

You don’t take any wins for granted, of course, but that’s some relatively weak competition coming up. The Flames have survived thus far without Monahan; is he particularly crucial to get into the lineup against the Senators? What if, say, Matthew Tkachuk or Johnny Gaudreau or Mark Giordano could use a night off – when is it appropriate to give one to them?

The race for the division could go right down to the wire, meaning if the Flames continue to dress a full lineup until their place in the standings is certain, they may not have the chance to give much of anyone else a night off. But – fully accepting we won’t know for a while yet how injured any of these guys are, if at all – it’s also entirely possible nobody really needs a night off.

So, what would you do? Play it safe by continuing to dress as full a lineup as possible, as early as possible? (Neal is a whole other story: he hasn’t played in over a month and is probably in much more need of getting his legs back under him than Monahan or Bennett.) Considering the weak level of competition, maybe rotate between giving some players nights off? Just wait until the division is settled before even considering tackling this?

The situation is a fine line – and for the first time in a long time, there’s so much more at stake than just trying to ensure they’re getting in. The strong possibility of having an actual playoff run to shape up for is in effect. Home ice advantage is almost certainly happening; a favourable first round matchup is very much on the table, and it could make all the difference – but only if the Flames are able to make their final regular season games count, and it only works out if they’re healthy enough to play for, ideally, a couple more months.

  • kirby

    Easy answer: if / when the #1 seed in the conference is secured, then start to think about limiting minutes and / or healthy scratches. Still don’t wanna go to far with it, you don’t want anyone to be rusty heading into the playoffs, momentum is a real thing. But if there’s a chance to let some guys who may have minor nagging injuries we don’t know about rest up and stay healthy and fresh, then that’s a good time to do it.

    But only when #1 is clinched. There is a substantial difference between Vegas and Arizona in the first round, and often the teams that have the most successful deep runs are the ones who don’t have to kill themselves trying to survive the first round.

  • Brian McGrattan's Salute

    Figure out the forward lines for the playoffs, especially with Neal coming in and Czar and Mangiapane playing so well.

    For defense, give Gio and Hammer a night off here and there, and get some other dmen some reps.

    I would say go for rest, but again, as Tre said in an interview two days ago, we want to have some good momentum going into the playoffs

  • Derzie

    We are in the playoffs now. We have work to do to set matchups, work on improving and keep the urgency up. The only ‘resting’ should be those that have injuries better served by resting. Otherwise, we play hard until we are done, and hopefully victorious. Teams play at a higher level after 80 games than on game 1. Resting undoes that chemistry and momentum that’s been built up. Keep it rolling. We are in the playoffs. Now. Next game. And beyond.

  • redwhiteblack

    Tampa won’t play a meaning full game for another 3 weeks. I wonder if that does something to their flow. They are good but complacency will naturally take a part in attitude.

    Meaningful games right now are a good thing. Meaningful games equal putting the best lineup available over the boards. If we clinch top spot, rest a players then.

  • Garry T

    Bring Rychel and Foo up as xtra forwards, Valimaki on D. Parsons as the 3rd. Goalie if Stockton does not make the playoffs. We should be in good shape then.

  • Honkydonk

    Every team right now will risk their players to injury for points and play hard.

    Having a healthy team come play offs regardless of who you face would already put you ahead of said team.

    Last thing you want is a Kyle Lowry situation where one of your guys like johnny hockey or as we recall few years back Giordano gets injured.

    Play it safe and go all out no matter who you face in the play offs

    • deantheraven

      I don’t remember JH missing any games this year. I bet he’ll be hard to get to sit. Of course, BP ain’t gonna ask him until 1st place is clinched.

  • deantheraven

    They’re winning with a few call ups/prospects/tweeners right now. That puts them in a position where they can afford to give Monny & Benny a few extra days of recovery/rest. Coach Peters suggested Neal will be in, maybe Thursday but probably Saturday. He’ll get at least two games (VAN + LA) unless he just can’t, so it will be interesting to see who sits first.
    In interviews, a few players and BP used the phrase ‘just be ready to play’ when talking about players coming in and taking ice time. This is a real team-first group that has been growing together and playing for each other.
    And winning for each other. They played the last half of that game like it was a playoff game, almost kitty-bar-the-door. But on the bench it looked like it was a practice scrimmage- loose but focused on the task.
    This is going to be so much fun!

      • Off the wall

        I don’t know, but I do know Ian Tyson sang a song, “Navajo Rug.”

        🎼Two eggs up on a whiskey toast,
        Home fries on the side,
        Wash it down with a roadhouse coffee,
        Burns up your inside

        Just a Colorado canyon diner,
        And a waitress I did love,
        Sat in the back with an old stuffed chair
        And a worn out Navajo Rug,

        Well Jack, the boss he’d leave at 6,
        {Katie by the door, }
        Pulled down that old Navajo Rug,
        And spread it across the floor…🎼

        I play it on guitar all the time…

  • Gus Fring

    I agree with Kirby when the conference is secured then you look at resting guys. Until then maybe limit there minutes. If we get up to min 3 goal leads then start sitting guys for the 3rd period etc. Limit there minutes and let the bottom 6 play more minutes that way we can reduce the wear and tear on the top 2 lines.

  • Frunobulax

    Someone please let me know if players have bonuses built into their contracts these days. If they do, then this will add to the complexity of who sits and who goes.

  • Sven

    A legitimate question

    The Flames end the season at the dome hosting the Oilers April 6th-

    What is the over/under on Edmonton jerseys tossed onto the ice following
    the upcoming beat down of the Oilers?

    I’m in at three

  • Skylardog

    The Flames need to make better use of the third and fourth lines until tops in the West is clinched. We can’t have a less than 5 minute fourth line while marching out the top guys for 18 to 20 minutes up front and 22 to 26 minutes on the back end. Balance the playing time, then, if needed to get the win because we are behind, add shifts to the top guys near the end. You simply cannot sit the fourth line until the 7th shift in the game like happened last night. Why have a fourth line if you don’t want to play them in the first period.

    Injuries has to be a key concern. If JG, Gio, or Ritter go down we could be in trouble no matter who we face. Smart, managed minutes.

  • Puck Head

    One would think that BP will keep shortening the bench until 1st in the conference is secured. I’m not sure I like the idea but an easier first round opponent would make it worthwhile.

  • Albertabeef

    What a great photo of Mony. Love that you can actually see what’s printed on the puck while it’s in the air and his eyes are tuned right in on it. Awesome!

  • Vinnsanity0412

    What, did Kawai join the Flames all of a sudden. Pretty sure these guys had days off at Christmas, the mandated week break and the all-star break. It’s time to get ramped up and to suck it up!

    • The Red Knight

      Flames don’t play that rough to ask for days off , it’s not like they laying body checks every game , better get that aggressive forechecking down and actually…..you know….. check !! Seems Flames only put out a few hits every 4 games , I’d suggest playing harder in the playoffs!

  • The Red Knight

    Good time to get some other guys more icetime and get Stone in a few games as well , do they call up Valimaki and get him some games too? Test the depth guys down the stretch .