Depth. Some teams have it, some teams could really use it. Some teams pay an arm and a leg for it and some teams continually find it in their back pockets. It is obvious why having depth throughout a lineup is crucial towards a teams overall success. If a team’s third line is able to provide consistent depth scoring and/or strong defensive play against formidable lines, it gives a strong team that edge it needs to due significant damage in the regular season and in the playoffs. The Calgary Flames, well, they definitely do not have that a third line like that. At least, not right now.
#Flames at practice today:
Gaudreau (sick) not at practice today.
— Pat Steinberg (@Fan960Steinberg) October 23, 2019
The Flames’ 3rd line to so far to start the season has been putrid, to put it lightly. Coach Bill Peters varied his lines to a certain extent, but there has not been a combination that seems to work properly. Here are the numbers for the first 7 games of the season, and their results.
So far, it is easy to see that the most common line combination is also the worst. The Lucic-Ryan-Bennett trio has struggled mightily when put together, bleeding shots while not being able to create a lot of offence either. Especially concerning is the play of Sam Bennett, who seems to be once again struggling in generating offence. He is hold the lowest CF% for any Flames forward at 44.70%, and relative to the team, he clocks in at -9.75% below average. Top that off, his offensive zone start percentage is at 52.61, so it is not like is getting the short end of the stick in usage.
Milan Lucic has come in and essentially performed as advertised, in the fact that he hits people and not much else. Lucic is not far behind Bennett in the same categories, posting a CF% of 48.03 and a relative CF% of 5.43 compared to the team. The only other forward that is in hovering right around with the two wingers is their usual centre in Derek Ryan, who tops out at an overall CF% of 45.45% and relative CF% at -8.78. Save to say that this line is clearly not working out and an improvement is desperately needed.
The rest of the depth is lacking as well. The only two scorers that have seem regular third or fourth line shifts to score for the Flames this season are Michael Frolik and Andrew Mangiapane. In fact, the team has yet to get a goal from a centre not named Sean Monahan this season.
Going into the game against the Philadelphia Flyers, it seems Peters is quickly realizing the lack of anything tangible going on in his bottom six, shuffling Bennett down to the fourth line, where he is reunited with Mark Jankowski and Austin Czarnik, who had solid stretches down in the final few weeks of the season last year. With Frolik going up to bring the 3M Line back, Mangiapane slides in with Lucic and Ryan on the second line. The results were there early, as just in last nights game, Mangiapane was able score his first of the season, with an assist from Ryan.
Maybe all is fixed? Maybe not. While it was a good night all around for the bottom six, it is still only a one game sample of success. Its likely that these line combinations last through till the game against Detroit on Thursday, so we will get to see if they are able to continue their new found scoring ways.
However, judging by how much Lucic, Ryan and Bennett have struggled this year five-on-five, perhaps more experimentation with is required. With Czarnik now drawing into the lineup more and more, it might be work drawing the right shot winger on the 3rd line to play with Ryan, and potentially Bennett or Lucic slotting in on the right. If Czarnik and Bennett can continue their chemistry and Ryan rebounds to his 2018-19 self, it might just be the type of solid contribution that the Flames need.
Call ups are also a legitimate possibility, albeit a bit of a long shot. However, we saw that Peters is not afraid to healthy scratch players that he is not satisfied, so it would not be the most surprising thing in the world if we see the team put a player like Jankowski on waivers to be sent down to Stockton and have one of Dillon Dube or Alan Quine be sent up as a replacement.
Should the Flames be pursuing more changes in their bottom six? Should the team stick with what they have going for them? Should there be some personnel changes? Let us know how you would set up the bottom six in the comments below!