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Photo Credit: Mike Gould

FlamesNation Mailbag: prospects, call-ups, and Brad Treliving’s future

The Calgary Flames have a busy week ahead of them, with four games over the next seven days! As we prepare ourselves for a hectic week, let’s check in on the FlamesNation Mailbag and see what everybody has on their minds these days!

Let’s dive in!

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The nice thing about the Flames system is that they’ve developed a bunch of different types of players, which helpfully correspond to the types of players they have in their lineup right now. (Imagine that!)

  • If a checking winger goes down, Walker Duehr is a contender.
  • If a checking centre goes down, Glenn Gawdin is right there.
  • If a middle six centre goes down, Adam Ruzicka is… well, he’s already there.
  • If a middle six winger goes down, it’s probably time for Matthew Phillips or Jakob Pelletier.
  • If a left shot defender goes down, Jusso Välimäki or Connor Mackey likely gets the call.
  • If a right shot defender goes down, Michael Stone probably goes in so probably they select whatever AHL defender is playing best at that point for the seventh slot.
  • If a goalie goes down, it’s Dustin Wolf time.

Seemingly the reason the Flames don’t just grab Phillips and jam him into the fourth line is two-fold: they probably think that the guys they have on the fourth line right now are well-suited for the job they’ve been given – that’s debatable but that’s probably the logic – and they probably feel like throwing an undersized offensive forward into a checking role might not be the best use of his skill-set.

Completely based on gut feel and very little actual knowledge of the inner-workings of the situation:

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  • Johnny Gaudreau: six years, $9.5 million
  • Matthew Tkachuk: one year, $9 million (they punt and try to figure it out next summer)
  • Andrew Mangiapane: two years, $5 million
  • Oliver Kylington: one year, $3.5 million (another punt until next summer situation)

In other words: I think the priority is keeping Gaudreau for the long haul, and then they’ll figure everybody else out with whatever money they have left over.

Based on nothing but my own observations:

  • Jacob Markström was probably dealing with some kind of minor injury – a tweak of something, if you will – a theory supported by Darryl Sutter noting he wasn’t 100% on the last big road trip and holding him out from a start against Carolina.
  • Markström had COVID, as the entire team did, and everybody is impacted and recovers from that virus in different ways. If nothing else, COVID and recovery can throw somebody’s body out of whack for a little while.
  • Markström, like most goalies, is a creature of habit. The Flames were off for the better part of three weeks and then had a super irregular game schedule, so his routine was thrown completely out of whack.

Much of the success in the goaltending position is based on repetition and confidence. Injury, illness and a super-weird game schedule likely explains a lot of the rough spots in Markström’s game lately.

A disclaimer: I hate discussing people losing their jobs. That said, Treliving has been general manager since 2014 without any big playoff successes to indicate to the fanbase and ownership that the team has turned a corner. He has a year left on his contract (it expires after 2022-23), but it’s probably reasonable to think about possible changes if the Flames miss the playoffs or have a very uninspiring journey through the post-season this spring. If the Flames make some noise and inspire some confidence in the core group going forward, that confidence probably bubbles up to Treliving’s job security as well.

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As for Johnny Gaudreau: he likes the Flames and he likes Calgary. You’ve got to remember that he was an undersized offensive forward in the United States Hockey League in 2010-11, his draft year. (And this was when the USHL wasn’t considered the development force it is today.) The Flames not only liked Gaudreau enough to draft him in the fourth round, but they liked him enough that they tried to hide how much they liked him from other teams – Flames scouts only scouted him on the road so that other teams wouldn’t see how often they watched him. And then they supported him going to Boston College and essentially kept telling him “You’re great, we love you, sign whenever you’re ready.” Having an organization believe in Gaudreau enough to draft him and then trust him enough to let him follow his own personal development path in college goes a long way to build a strong relationship between player and team. Unless the Flames complete torpedo that relationship or blow up the team, Gaudreau will probably always have a soft spot for them and that’ll make them strong contenders to keep him.

In terms of potential NHL impacts, the top two players in the Flames system right now are AHL goaltending standout Dustin Wolf and AHL forward Jakob Pelletier.

Wolf is super young, but poised and has won everything worth winning as an under-20 goalie (aside from major junior playoffs, which were cancelled on him twice due to the pandemic). And Pelletier doesn’t have the trophy case that Wolf does, but he’s really adapted well to the AHL game and is a savvy, versatile, clutch forward for Stockton.

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