43Rasmus Andersson
Photo Credit: Candice Ward/USA Today Sports

Flames rookie playoff performances hinting at bright futures

The high-profile Flames skaters are having a miserable series: the top line is nowhere to be found, none of the high scorers through the regular season are actually scoring, the defence is a disaster and there’s only so much one goalie can do. Things do not look particularly hopeful for the Flames in the spring of 2019 at all.

But – even through small contributions – some members of the team are setting themselves up to look like contributors for the 2019-20 season and beyond. It’s mostly bad, but it’s not all bad.

Rasmus Andersson

Rasmus Andersson has gone from not making the Flames’ opening night roster to being trusted on occasion on playing on the top pairing: even during a playoff game. He’s gone through the trials and tribulations of adjusting to the league to turning into one of the Flames’ most valuable assets, and he honed away at his craft so quietly on the third pairing it’s hard to pinpoint where the shift really started happening.

It happened, though, and it’s continued through the playoffs. Nineteen points in 79 games has translated to three points in four playoff games. It’s a smaller sample size, of course, but Andersson has still take charge offensively. Sixteen of his 19 regular season points came from January onwards: that switch flipped with the new year, and it hasn’t flipped off. He gets powerplay time; he’s thrown out on the ice in crucial, late-game moments. He’s a threat to the other team. His skating will sometimes see him beat, but his instincts, smarts, and shot will often make up for it.

Andersson is going to be one to watch for a while yet – and considering how well he’s playing now, it’s going to be really fun to see how well he plays with a full year of NHL experience under him. He’s 22 years old and already looking a legitimate top pairing guy, and his postseason performance has been one of the best the Flames have had to offer so far.

Andrew Mangiapane

Andrew Mangiapane opened the Flames’ playoff scoring. Though he’s yet to get a point since then, he’s still had his moments in the following games – all with limited opportunities, playing on the bottom six – that hint at there being more to come.

He’s one of the few Flames forwards it’s hard to take an issue with: the drive and the effort have been there each game, along with the scoring chances, even if only the one has gone in. Don’t forget, though, that during the regular season he scored 13 points in 44 games, 12 of those points coming from February onwards. His corner-turning has been much slower and much less pronounced than Andersson’s, but it’s been there all the same, and in the worst case scenario, Mangiapane does look like he could at least be a depth forward with potential to score.

The rest will hopefully come.

But even if it doesn’t, the Flames were finally able to dig out an NHLer from their 2015 sixth round pick. The team started with a slot open in its forward lineup for a prospect to take. Dillon Dube won it initially, until it became apparent he’d need some time in the minors to find his game. Once he was sent down, absolutely nobody was actually showing any hint of being good enough to make that lineup spot his permanently: until Mangiapane got settled in.

You hope he can turn into a scorer, though having young, high-scoring forwards isn’t exactly something the Flames are really lacking (recent small sample size aside). But he’s still someone they have, and that’s one more spot in the lineup likely filled for 2019-20 that was a question mark to start 2018-19 – and his playoff performance so far has done nothing to dissuade that.

Juuso Valimaki

It’s been one game. He had an assist. He made some good defensive plays. But it’s only been one playoff game.

Still, the Flames, already looking stacked on defensive prospects, picked Valimaki in the first round in 2017 for a reason. That reason became apparent when he made the team out of camp and appeared to be settled in by November, at least until a seemingly innocuous at first injury pretty much wiped out the rest of this rookie season.

But the Flames knew they needed to be better for Game 4, so they took a risk, putting him right back into a competitive game scenario at the highest level: something he hadn’t played for four and a half months. And he looked like he hadn’t missed a beat.

Andersson, free of injury, had the chance to grow through the 2018-19 season. It seems as though Valimaki’s time will be in the 2019-20 season – but going by the early returns, the Flames are looking pretty good going forward when it comes to young, high-end defencemen. There’s so much to look forward to here: and his first playoff game, though just one game, hints at what still may be to come for his career.

Misc.

Though it seems unlikely they’ll draw in for this series – or, at this rate, the playoffs to begin with – don’t forget about Dube, who registered 39 points in 37 AHL games once he was sent down (or the fact that he already has 25 NHL games under his belt – and judging by his AHL performance, there should certainly be more on the way). He wasn’t ready for a full-time spot in the lineup this year; it was also his first year as a professional. Maybe he’ll be ready for a full-time spot in the NHL in 2019-20, maybe he won’t, but the early returns are positive.

And then there’s Oliver Kylington, who had to step up and play 38 games in the NHL this past season: likely far more than the Flames wanted of him or expected him to, and a possible contributor to the future of the team in his own right.

The Flames don’t really have any high-end prospects beyond those five that entered the season as such – with at least three appearing to have graduated – yet. Hopefully more will reveal themselves as they begin their professional careers (or as their professional careers progress); in the meantime, remember the Flames still have a young team.

Though early positive playoff performance doesn’t necessarily mean anything in the long run – for all the angst currently surrounding Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, remember that for their first playoffs in 2015 they had nine and six points, respectively, in 11 games each – it’s at least something to focus on.

The Flames probably weren’t supposed to be the best in the West this year. The playoffs may be showing that a little. But this is still just the beginning for this team: and for some of the team’s youngest players, it’s a good beginning. It’s better than the alternative.

  • Toma41

    I hope everyone (Lazarus and dudeman) realizes that boring Sean is not a centre period. Nevermind a 1st line. The rest of the world has found out. He would be a fine second line winger. Biggest problem flames have now is that their best centre in the playoffs has been Derek Ryan. Boring Sean, backlund and Janko have shown no heart, emotion or been able to take it up a gear. So what should be done going forward? Brodie needs to go along with Neil. Gio has been a step behind all playoffs. If we are all happy with finishing first in regular season and then flaming out in the first round of playoffs then fine. Do nothing. If we want to make a run at the cup, then guys who disappear during the playoffs need to disappear from the flames for good.

  • moodyblue2

    Looking for my apology letter Sat AM from Tre! Should start with “changes are coming” ! Very disappointed in our vets! Young guys look good! Should start Dube for our last game. Word is Tampa does not need to change much. Flames on the other hand need to do some soul searching! Oh well, frees up some evenings to be outside!

  • wot96

    Ari, thank you for a little positivity. No it doesn’t look good but people shouldn’t be entrusting their emotional well being to teams of sports professionals anyway.

    There is no shortage of moaning and groaning about the state of things and much of that is justified, (though to be honest, they do pay the other team to show up and play and it just might be that they are a whole lot better than we arrogantly presumed). Let’s just hope they can do better because all of this angst is boring.

  • Flint

    Rookies have bright futures but where are the vets?
    Col. top line has 6G and 14pts.
    Our top line has 2G and 5pts.

    With two games going to OT, thats more than the difference there.

    When Theo Fleury was the face of the team, and the smallest guy out there he was also over a ppg player in the playoffs. Small guy, big game player. Gaudreau? Not.

    • Albertabeef

      Mangiapane is more of a “Theo” type player, Theo was tough as nails and would fight anyone. Theo’s temper lost us a lot of games too with him sitting in the Pbox. Still one of the only players to lead his team in goals, assist, points, and penalty minutes in a single season.

  • Skylardog

    Major moves by the Flames today on the transaction front.

    They have called up Parsons, Gawdin, Lomberg, Robinson, Phillips, Hogstrom, Groavac, Valiev, and Foo.

    If I am not correct, that leaves one of our big names unaccounted for, Lazar, or is he already up.

    What the hell are we doing. I know the Heat season is done so it makes some sense, but have we really taken a grim view of a guy we spent a second round pick on and was the Heats best player.

    Explain how he ever got a chance to show what he can do.

    • Skylardog

      Yup – Last transaction for Lazar – sent to minors on March 21.

      Probably spoke his mind while watching the team fumble around while he was here with no sign of an opportunity. A less than 5 minute chance in a nothing game probably caused the most positive guy in sports to lose his mind.

      He signs a deal somewhere and is an NHL regular next season. Good luck Curtis.

        • Not trolling, I have folded the tent on the Oilers, mostly due to the scraptacular management team that is apparently staying intact for no apparent good reason. Last nights game reminded me of the Oilers against Anahiem, when apparently you can physically grab a goaltenders pads, force them open and have some one else deposit it in the net and that is not goaltender interference according to Bettmans officials. Not a coincidence the Cup has not been North of the border since he was hired. Was not on the same level, but the Flames got screwed by the the officials, I am sure with the blessing of head office. I guarantee when it gets to the final four, there will be no Canadian teams left, and that is just the way they want it. Even the broadcasters are brainwashed to this condition. I believe the words used on the Valemaki high stick, was it was
          missed by the officials. Video evidence says otherwise, it was not missed, it was ignored. Much like Ottawa uses Alberta as a cash cow, the NHL views Canada the same way. I get “Growth of the game” , but not if they are going to cheat to achieve it. The league is closer to WWE than anything legitimate. Rant Over.

    • James McGill, Attorney at Law

      I thought Jusso was really good last night. Remarkable that BP had him out in so many crucial situations.
      On another topic: Of course the Flames are gassed. And probably done. I keep rolling “what if scenarios” through my head (“If only Backlund had scored, if only they could have hung on to their leads in games 2/4 etc…”) but the reality is, the avalanche are surprisingly good. I’m in disbelief at how much faster they are than us. It’s been a great year. Next year may be even better…

  • Vinnsanity0412

    Ahh, the irony! A photo and headline regarding the future, and there in the background is James Neal. The future is bright and I truly believe the window for this team has just opened. They didn’t make the playoffs last year so I assume a lot of fans would have accepted their current situation back in September. Expectations shot through the roof in very short order. Fans will be fans, including myself. I remember Darryl Sutter stating that he had ‘a five year plan’ his first full year here, but they went all the way to the Cup final. Worst thing that could have happened for Sutter as the expectations were out of this world after that. Brad Treliving needs to be held accountable for his signing of #18. The league is clearly a young man’s now, and most players in their early 30’s are heading downhill except for a few superstars. Just the same, he deserves credit for some of his other moves, including the Carolina trade. How much of the current situation is a reflection of Bill Peter’s inexperience? Maybe he pushed and played the top lines too much trying to secure that number 1 seed, while leaving them with nothing left for the playoffs? As this years playoffs have shown the seedings seem to be irrelevant. So glad to see the redemption of Michael Smith playing out before our eyes. It IS all about playoff performance, so players such as Smith, Benny and Andersson deserve kudos!

  • KeepitReal

    By my count the Avs tender gave up 4 juicy rebounds in the first period alone. He was struggling to control blue line bullets. Ras seemed to realize this and poured them at the net. Brodie and Gio not so much. 3 – 1 deficits aren’t a death sentence but we are in trouble unless some attitudes change.

  • The GREAT WW

    Ryan Reaves is brilliant!!!!!!

    As the Flames are wining and dining him he throws out there: “you should try and get James Neal too”.

    The Flames fall for it and go after Neal while Reaves says: “thanks but no thanks; I’m going back to Vegas, HAVE FUN WITH JAMES NEAL!!!!”

    Brilliant move you Reaves to get Neal off his team!!!!!!

    WW

  • Alberta Ice

    Realizing 2 OT losses could have easily been wins, we are now set up for the Flames to catch the Avs since they are all ready thinking easy victory. We are now set up for the great comeback of these playoffs of 2019.

  • Gus Fring

    I think for us to get rid of Neal we have to move him to a team that needs to rid themselves of a player that they no longer want. I have been watching Weinberg out of Columbus he is a pass first playmaker who had 60 points 2 years ago. He has been a healthy scratch for most of the second half of the season and the playoffs. He is a good playmaker but he doesn’t score a lot of goals. He doesn’t relate to the brash coaching style of Torts. Not a lot of players do. He is signed for 4 more years but he is only 24 he is defensively responsible kind of like Backlund but this kid has great vision. Neal might be a better fit in Columbus as I assume Panarin and Bob will still leave. Matt D might stay now which Neal might benefit from a centre who can dish the puck to him kind of like what he did in Pitts with
    Malkin. They also need to reach the cap floor and losing 2 high priced players in Panarin and Bob won’t help. Weinberg is making just under 5mil but he needs a change of scenery and a change of voice. If he doesn’t work out here his buy out is less of a cap hit for us as he isn’t a 30 year old player. We also need to rid ourselves of Brodie and Frolik. See if we can look at teams that flopped in the playoff Penguins, Tampa. Florida sounds like they want to drop some salary to take on Panarin and Bob. See what it takes to get one of there forwards. I don’t know just a few things I have thought about.

      • Gus Fring

        If you read the Columbus board the coaching staff is frustrated with him he doesn’t fit the Torts style of play. If Neal isn’t scoring at least he can be physical, Weinberg isn’t a physical style player. IMO we are better off with a non physical playmaker than a all around useless player who throws a few hits and grinds it out every now and then.

  • Rudy27

    Mangiapane kind of reminds me of a young Cammalleri. Good speed, tough for his size and looks like he might have a scoring touch. Maybe it’s that one-timer his scored earlier this season dropping the one knee down.

  • Off the wall

    Today I’m working on cleaning up overgrown Pyracantha Angustifolia. I have the absolute pleasure over the weekend to celebrate working with it.

    To those not familiar with the species, it looks like a great shrub. It produces white flowers and pomes- fruit that are bright red.

    Looks inviting, until you get up close. That’s where you notice the sharp spines and branches.
    Not withstanding, it has poisonous berries. Like a ripe apple gleaming RED, just inviting the host to taste it . Only thing, it’s chemical composition is hydrogen cyanide, making it extremely unpalatable.

    I don’t know how many times I’ve pricked myself with them spiny thorns, but every prick that punctures the skin causes me inflammation and severe pain!

    Yet, it’s used here on the Island as a decorative piece? It would be fine, if we’re trying to prevent inmates from escaping.

    The Chinese use it for home security, that’s how unpleasant it is to mess with.

    My point. Do I really ever have one? It’s also known as the Firethorn for the common name.
    I think we should change our name to the Calgary Firethorns and play the game as inviting as the shrub is. Touch the Firethorns, you’re going to regret it. Wanna go after Gaudreau? Yeah we’re going to deliver those yummy RED berries down your throat.

    Want to play physical? No problem, try hurting a thorn. We’ll cover you with welts that’ll have ya wishing for an inmates problems.

    I guess you can see why I’m foul today. But wouldn’t it be nice to have a team that was ornery as a Firethorn?

    It sure would be nice to have the Pyracanthas/ Firethorns considered an invasive species, like they do in smart countries.

    But until then, my fate is sealed with my fight against the nasty shrub- that grows like a funkin tree. Ornamental plant..my ass.

    I think Treliving should make all future decisions based on the Firethorn. Study it’s inviting properties and then build a TEAM based on that model. That would be so much fun. It’ would be like having our own crocodile team .. only on the ice. Try knocking out a crocodiles teeth.

    See, wasn’t that fun? And you just thought I didn’t have a point!

    • Zesty14

      OTW I enjoy your long winded comments that can be summed up in a few simple sentences. Reminds me of a long time buddy of mine telling a story. “So I was born January 27th 1987 to Jed and Betty….. 15 mins later of rambling on….. and that’s why I decided to have another beer.”

  • Chucky

    It is time to see what BSD can bring to the party. The team plays better in front of him than Smith. Also a large part of the reason that Smith needs to make so many great saves is because he cannot control rebounds, seems incapable of smouthering the puck and handcuffs his defensemen with last second passes to guys that are already covered.