53David Rittich
Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports

The Flames traded playoff experience for a better roster

The Calgary Flames begin the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs on Thursday evening when they host the Colorado Avalanche. One subject of concern regarding the Flames is their goaltending, while another mentioned has been a lack of playoff experience on their roster.

Yeah, the Flames have downgraded their level of playoff experience with some of their moves over the past few seasons. But they’ve also unquestionably become a deeper, better team.

Which Flames have playoff experience?

The following players are (a) expected to dress for Game 1 and (b) have played in the Stanley Cup playoffs before this season:

  • James Neal: 100 games (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)
  • Michael Frolik: 42 games (2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017)
  • Mike Smith: 19 games (2011, 2012)
  • Travis Hamonic: 17 games (2013, 2016)
  • Mikael Backlund: 15 games (2015, 2017)
  • Sam Bennett: 15 games (2015, 2017)
  • TJ Brodie: 15 games (2015, 2017)
  • Johnny Gaudreau: 15 games (2015, 2017)
  • Sean Monahan: 15 games (2015, 2017)
  • Mark Giordano: 8 games (2007, 2017)
  • Oscar Fantenberg: 4 games (2018)
  • Matthew Tkachuk: 4 games (2017)

(Frolik won a Stanley Cup in 2013.)

The following players have zero NHL playoff games under their belts: Rasmus Andersson, Noah Hanifin, Garnet Hathaway, Mark Jankowski, Elias Lindholm, Andrew Mangiapane, David Rittich and Derek Ryan.

Swapping experience for hockey talent

Half the team has no playoff experience and as detailed above, the group has 269 games of playoff experience collectively – with more than half of that tied up in Neal and Frolik. The team has also retained just five members of that 2015 team that played two rounds (six if you want to include Giordano, who was recovering from an injury that playoff year).

But their downgrade in experience was fairly intentional, as Brad Treliving made several moves in the past year or so that saw playoff games go out the door but made the Flames a decidedly better hockey club:

  • Rittich got the backup goaltending gig originally by wrestling away Eddie Lack’s (4 games) spot.
  • Andersson earned Michael Stone’s (6 games) playing time with his performances while Hamonic was injured.
  • Hanifin and Lindholm were acquired from Carolina for Dougie Hamilton (23 games) and Micheal Ferland (13 games).
  • Adding Ryan bumped out Matt Stajan (17 games).
  • The team parted ways with Troy Brouwer (102 games) and Kris Versteeg (93 games) so they could keep Mangiapane and Hathaway full-time.
  • Heck, Dalton Prout (2 games) becoming the team’s seventh defender came at expense of Matt Bartkowski (19 games).

In precisely zero of these moves would an objection of “… but the playoff experience!” be a valid criticism. In all of the moves you can make a strong argument that the team upgraded in skill and versatility.

Experience is overrated

The Flames have less playoff experience than they had going into the 2015 or 2017 postseasons. But they’ve also, as a group, finished off the best regular season that the franchise has seen in three decades. They’re a much better, deeper, more versatile team than they were in either of those playoff years.

All things being equal, playoff experience can help in the sense that in a tight series a team that’s had experience making decisions and playing big games under the bright lights probably has a bit of an advantage in a close series. But all things aren’t equal, because an 82-game regular season reflects that the Flames were one of the top teams in hockey.

They’re a young group. They haven’t played a ton in the playoffs relative to some of the opposition they’ll face. But focusing too much on playoff experience is missing the forest for the trees; the Flames were a very good hockey team during the regular season, and they could be capable of big things in the next few months while they slowly amass playoff experience.

  • Brian McGrattan's Salute

    And yet, I still can’t help but be happy with how Tre handled the trade deadline.

    In hoping the lads get a few great rounds in, and obviously win the cup from those dastardly Bolts.

    But, as one can see from CBJ, playing the long game is great. Tre has built a fantastic team, and this is only the beginning!!

    With Mangiapane and Ras having such great second half seasons (article today), and with Vali, Kylington, and Dube up and coming, the future is bright. Oh, and having our first round pick helps, too 😉

  • SgtRoadBlock

    Bill Peters can be add to that List..

    Side Note: i have seen for about 3 weeks on Cap Friendly that Artyom Zagidulin has been add to Goaltenders, just not a lot news yet about him..
    and no word on how we doing on Joakim Nygard signing we still in the race for him ?? This kid got Peters Forsberg saying that he good..

  • BringtheFire 2.0


    You’ve predicted a Flames exit-a sweep, even-in the first round on multiple occasions.

    If you’re wrong can you please not leave negative comments for the rest of the playoffs?

    I want a cup, dude. To get one everyone has to be on board: ownership, management, coaching staff, equipment and training staff, the players, and the fans. I believe what we do and say during the playoffs matters.

    When it comes to us, I think it’s okay to talk trash about your team in the regular season. Maybe we should, even. Keep everyone accountable. But in the playoffs, there has to be support. If we’re down 2-0 in a series we have to be behind them. We have to be behind Smitty when he blows that game. Or Monahan if he goes two games without scoring.

    You need to get on board, Raffy.

    This is for the money.

    • Raffydog

      Nobody would be happier then myself if the Flames win the cup. I know it’s hard to believe but I am a die hard Flames fan, probably more so than most on here. I even pay for centre ice just so I can watch all the games, and it ain’t cheap, and I’m not rich by any stretch if the imagination. If they make it out of the first round i wont post anything negative for the remainder of the playoffs. However, I dont think they will get past the first round. The top line has been M.I.A since the all star break, and I have zero confidence in either goalie. Hope I’m wrong, but I have a feeling we will all be cursing the name Grubauer by series end.

      • His Dudeness

        Yeah that Grubauer guy sure stole a series for the caps last year!!!! Oh wait. No he didn’t. He lost his first 2 games and then rode the pine to a Stanley cup ring…

        I hate to give a donkey like you a tip but the rest of us stream the games for free. The streams are usually from nhl center ice lol. As in no commercials and if you have good internet they don’t buffer or freeze. Did I mention it’s free?

      • MajorTom...FlamesForever

        Top line wasn’t M.I.A. they were just resting for the playoffs. They clinched a playoff spot so they didn’t have to play hard… Flames in 5

      • Bawcos

        I think we should all be a little easier on Raffydog.
        He (or she – don’t know you) gets an opinion just like the rest of us. And good Flames teams have had a history of getting knocked out in the first rd. Not just Iginla years but every year after ’89 right up to the 2004 run. Seriously, the Flames since ’89 have only made the 2nd round twice! Seems like a different team now, but I can’t blame a fan to be pessimistic. Sometimes hearing that guy not drinking the Kool Aid keeps us all a little grounded.
        I do think/ hope this is different than previous years. But maybe this is a stepping stone year (given their window). I’d be very happy with a Conference Final.

    • Al Rain

      What we are doing here as fans, relative to the team’s performance, it’s meaningless. We’re here to extend the hockey watching experience through commentary and slight community for entertainment – nothing more.

      Cheer, vent, pontificate, trash talk the Oilers, offer up overcomplicated trade deadline scenarios, or whatever gives you a jimmy – there’s a good chance that it’s entertainment for more of us and thanks for all your time on the spreadsheet. But to think that we’re making a “contribution” to the cause, that in some small way we’re a part of the team is kidding yourself.

      And leave Raffydog alone. If the Flames do get swept by Colorado and we’re no longer entertained by playoff hockey his histrionics will fill some of the hole.

  • UpTkachuk

    The players have to remind themselves that they simply have to win 4 games against the Colorado Avalanche. (one at a time). Everything else is out of their control.

    • Raffydog

      @Albertabeef – so by that rationale, since my taxes go towards police cars, firetrucks, and ambulances, it’s my right, if I see one parked on the street, to jump in and take it because my taxes paid for it?

  • Albertabeef

    “The Flames have less playoff experience than they had going into the 2015 or 2017 postseasons.”
    That just sounds funny. If not for those playoffs none of our “homegrowns” would have any playoff experience. But that isn’t the only ridiculous sounding sentence in this post lol.

  • Getpucksdeep

    The Chicago experience was brought up on the radio today. 7-8 poor seasons, with new guys like Kane, Toews, Kieth and Seabrook all young and with zip playoff experiance won the cup in only their 2nd season back in the playoffs after a long poor spell of 7-8 years. And that was with european free agent goalie Antii Niemi in net! Crawford won the next 2. Playoff experiance matters but talent and a hot goalie can overcome it. Not to mention the teams depth effect on playoffs. I too am in sit back and enjoy it mode.

  • The GREAT WW

    Didn’t the Oilers leaps frog the Rangers when they beat the Flames in the last game of the season?

    SO if the Oilers has lost they would be picking second overall….?

    I LOVE IT!!!!!


  • Harley Hotchkiss’s Ghost

    I remember when we signed Brouwer and all the Hockey pundits were taking about how he was sooooo good for Chicago when they won the cup. Um… I’m fairly certain Kane, Toews, Keith, Seabrook, Hossa, etc played a larger part than Brouwer did.

    Playoff experience is the most overrated thing in all of Hockey. Gretzky, Lemieux, Crosby, etc all won cups before 30 years old with minimum playoff experience. Good players can win at any age, as long as you have a good team. I even look at everyone hyping Tom Wilson up last year… He finished seventh in playoff scoring for them, don’t get me wrong he didn’t hurt them and likely contiributed some to the Championship, but Ovi, Kuzy, Backstrom, Carlson, Oshie & Eller getting a combined 141 Points was likely a bigger factor.

  • Garry T

    OK, what’s happening with Nygaard ? Plus we apparently signed a college guy who is in Stockton. Why no announcement? Plus there are some Canadian and US overages available. Why are we not after them?