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FlamesNation mailbag: revisiting the trade

We’re gluttons for pain, apparently.

I think the points are pretty basic: each team had a problem player and an issue to be addressed. The other team’s problem player solved the other’s issue. Both teams moved on, both teams got what they wanted in return. For some, that’s enough to chalk it up as a win for both teams.

That analysis is incredibly shallow because it ignores that what Edmonton valued, goals, is more important to winning hockey games than the physicality Calgary valued. Even if you hold toughness in high esteem, goals are always more important, as they’re the literal measure of how a hockey game is won. James Neal is scoring goals, and it’s a major part of why the Oilers are 5-0. Milan Lucic is not scoring goals, and his toughness certainly isn’t creating or preventing any (he has been on the ice for zero Calgary goals and three against).

So there’s not really any way the Flames can claim a victory here. They traded away their own problem in return for a much worse one (have I mentioned that Lucic’s contract is buyout proof? It is buyout proof). The season is long, things might change (I don’t think Neal is going to shoot at 36% forever), the Flames might find a solution, but the Oilers are definitely taking the win early on.

I’m a bit torn on the misuse part of the question. Neal has always thrived as a complimentary player to a top six centre. The Flames didn’t play him there, so it didn’t work.

But as anyone can tell you, Neal really didn’t make a case to belong there. He never gelled with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau the same way Elias Lindholm did, and couldn’t handle the defensive responsibility Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk took on. The counter argument is that the Flames really didn’t try hard enough to make it work, but the counter-counter argument is that they shouldn’t have tried to boost their dud player when their top six was firing on all cylinders.

It was just a bad fit. The Flames had an idea about how Neal was going to be used, he didn’t live up to that expectation, and there wasn’t a solution that worked. The low shooting percentage didn’t help that perception one bit (and his high one in Edmonton is helping a lot), but it wasn’t going to work even if the Flames got a do-over on the trade.

Well, see above.

(Real answer: that the TJ Brodie and Mark Jankowski for Nazem Kadri trade that didn’t go through)

Andrew Mangiapane has been great to start the season. He currently sits fourth among all Flames in 5v5 CF%, behind the 3M line, but has yet to record a point. Generally, good play gets rewarded eventually, but there might be a bit of a deeper issue at hand.

Part of the issue is that he’s more so been along for the ride rather than an active driver. In six games, Mangiapane only has seven shots on net, 15 individual Corsi attempts, and two high danger chances at 5v5. All of those rank in the bottom half of the team, which is partially because of ice time, but adjusting them to a per 60 rate only barely vaults him into the top half.

It’s basic hockey advice, but if he started shooting more, it’s probably going to work out for him. Mangiapane’s saving grace is that his individual scoring chances at 5v5 (11) rank third on the team, and second on a per 60 basis. He’s about 80% of the way there, he just needs that extra 20%.

I feel it’s going to happen soon. A tough road trip where they only scored goals in two of nine periods and five minutes of OT is a sign that the offence needs help, and when the games thus far really only seen one of the top two lines producing, things need to change.

I’d say the Lindholm at centre experiment will probably happen soon. Gaudreau and Monahan have been spectacular enough that they could really find that extra gear with Tkachuk, or maybe just help Mangiapane find his. Backlund and Michael Frolik could do some damage against bottom six competition, maybe joined by Tobias Rieder to make a pretty effective bottom six shutdown line that could contribute here or there.

The season is still early and nothing’s working, so now is the perfect time to experiment. I think the team has been entirely too predictable through the first six games, so a shuffle could do some wonders.

It’s hard to judge so early on in the season, but here are what his underlyings look so far:

5v5 stat CF% FF% SF% GF% xGF% SCF% HDCF% OZS%
% 54.72 53.33 56.25 55.56 54.02 53.95 50 40.91
Rank among Flames defenceman 2 4 3 2 3 2 4 5

There’s some early season weirdness clouding those numbers – Oliver Kylington is the leader in most of those categories with four games played- but I’d say that Giordano is certified young and fresh so far this season. He’s seeing a lot of minutes against a lot of other teams’ best players and has been ripping it up. Typical stuff from the ageless wonder.