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FlamesNation Mailbag: we talkin’ playoffs!

Good news, everyone: the Calgary Flames have made the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. To commemorate the Flames reaching the sweet 16 in consecutive seasons, a minor miracle, we’ve cracked open the mailbag to answer your burning questions.

(We had so many good questions, we’re doing another edition on Monday!)

There’s no rule against this, actually.

That said, there’s a sentiment that the Flames could diverge from their expansion plan – protecting seven forwards by the names of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund, Matthew Tkachuk, Andrew Mangiapane and Dillon Dube – because Sam Bennett has a good playoffs.

To that notion, I shall rebut with two counters:

  1. Bennett hasn’t demonstrated that he’s as good an offensive center as Sean Monahan or as good a defensive center as Mikael Backlund, and he’s probably still overall the eighth-best forward the Flames would have eligible for expansion.
  2. The Mike Smith Principle: a few weeks of inspiring play might not counteract several months of uninspiring play.

Honestly, it depends on how they lose (if they do). Since 2013, the Flames have won two post-season series: a favourable stylistic match-up against Vancouver in 2015 and another one last week against Winnipeg. Their losses were bad on-paper match-ups due to playing style and roster construction – Anaheim in 2015 and 2017 and Colorado in 2019 – but the Flames didn’t do a lot to make those teams work for it. The Flames’ current physical style is taxing on their players and probably an absolute bear to pull off for another eight weeks, but it’s also a style that gives them a decent chance against Dallas or St. Louis because it forces the opposition to battle for territory rather than waltz in (as was the case in the three series that they lost).

More simply: if the Flames roll over and die, there hasn’t been any progress. If they go down fighting, you can argue that they’ve matured and progressed from the past few playoff flops.

Hamonic is heading into free agency for the first time in his career, and it’s kind of a shame for him that it’s happening in a flat cap summer (and the first of a few). The feeling among “insiders” prior to the season was that Hamonic’s camp wanted to go to the courting period, at the least, to get a sense of what his market value was. All indications are that the Flames like Hamonic and Hamonic likes Calgary, the city and the organization, but just wanted to see what’s out there. Hamonic’s played pro hockey for 10 seasons and he’s only ever played for the Islanders and Flames. You can’t blame him about being curious about what’s out there.

In short? The bridge is intact and there’s a decent chance he returns, but it depends on cap space and what else the Flames do in the interim roster-wise.

Rittich has been in North America for four seasons and part of me wonders how all the travel impacts him. He’s played more in the past two seasons, primarily skewed towards the front half of each campaign, and I’m curious if all the travel and playing so much in the first chunk of the season might have contributed to his mid-season knee injury in 2018-19 and elbow injury in 2019-20.

Rittich was fantastic early in both seasons, but perhaps the Flames need to manage his workload better to get the most out of him.

Goalie of the future is pushing it, though: that’s probably Dustin Wolf.

Playing style, probably. Rinaldo and Jankowski have proven reasonable effective in limited minutes, with Rinaldo throwing his body around like a dervish and Jankowski being relied upon to kill penalties. Czarnik’s smart and fast, but his style is better suited to the middle six rather than just playing random, infrequent shifts on the fourth line.

Let’s do this rapid-fire:

  • Re-signed: Talbot, Brodie, Stone, Rieder, Rinaldo, Froese, Robinson and Lomberg. Maybe Quine, too, but perhaps he looks for an organization where he’s higher on the recall depth chart.
  • Not re-signed: Hamonic (only enough cap probably for him or Brodie), Gustafsson (expensive and too defensively limited to play top four), Forbort (there’s a conditional pick attached), Gillies, Valiev and Czarnik (the last three are likely looking for new opportunities outside the Flames organization).

Players who will not meet the experience requirement to be eligible for selection by the Kraken are:

  • Goalies Artyom Zagidulin, Dustin Wolf and Nick Schneider (if he re-signs)
  • Defensemen Carl-Johan Lerby, Alexander Yelesin, Colton Poolman, Connor Mackey, Johannes Kinnvall and Juuso Valimaki
  • Forwards Jakob Pelletier, Luke Philp, Eetu Tuulola, Adam Ruzicka, Martin Pospisil, Dmitry Zavgorodniy and Emilio Pettersen
  • Plus any unsigned prospects or players that are signed into the entry level system between now and the expansion draft.