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FlamesNation Mailbag: trade targets, lineup tweaks, and whatnots

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Photo credit:Mike Gould
Ryan Pike
10 months ago
We’re now into the middle of January, and unfortunately it’ll be yet another week when the Calgary Flames only play sporadically. While we wait for a more frantic game schedule, let’s check in on the mailbag.
(Fun fact: we’re just eight weeks away from the NHL’s trade deadline!)
Tyler Pitlick, Brett Ritchie and Brad Richardson are three forwards on the Flames that have a few things in common. They’re all fairly one-dimensional depth players, but they’re all pretty consistent and leaned upon for that dimension. Pitlick and Richardson are defensive specialists with limited offensive upside. Ritchie has forechecking ability. You can probably lump defensive specialist Trevor Lewis in here, too.
My guess is Sutter likes these players for their ability to do these specific things within the Flames’ system, and keeps them in the lineup more often than not because of their ability to do these things consistently, or at least better than the options in Stockton or elsewhere. (Bless his heart, but I’m not sure if 20-year-old Jakob Pelletier’s best introduction to the NHL would be doing his best Tyler Pitlick impersonation.)
There’s definitely a bit of “if the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” going on here, as perhaps other players could do different things better than these four players, but they’re probably in the lineup because Sutter values the specific attributes they have very highly.
Let’s be really mean about this for a second: the only forward line that consistently generates offense is Matthew Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm and Johnny Gaudreau, so the only defensive players who get much offense are the players who play with them – though it’s worth noting that Noah Hanifin & Rasmus Andersson have generated more goals for (15) and against (7) than Chris Tanev & Oliver Kylington (10 for, 2 against) while playing slightly more often with the top line.
So the short answer(s) are:
  • Fix the second and third forward lines so they generate more offense.
  • Fix the third pairing, so that more groupings can be used consistently with the first line.
As currently constructed, the third pairing is an offensive non-entity and it makes the usage of the three pairings pretty skewed towards the top two pairings in offensive situations.
Ottawa 67’s forward Jack Beck is really, really good. Or at least he was in November, when he suffered an injury that’s kept him out for awhile. He’s finally expected back before the end of this month. When he went down, he was the top goal-scorer in the entire Ontario Hockey League. Hopefully he can pick up where he left off.
Mark Giordano is 38 years old and has had arguably his worst offensive season in a long while. Per Evolving-Hockey, Giordano’s goals above replacement have dropped from 12.9 last season to 0.1 this season, basically making him a replacement level hockey player. His defensive acumen is still high, but his ability to generate offense at five-on-five and the power play seemingly disappeared once he landed in Seattle.
By reputation, Giordano should probably fetch a first-round pick and probably another asset. But let’s be blunt here: he’s 38, his offense has evaporated, he has no record of playoff success, and I would be really hesitant to tinker with Calgary’s top two pairings because of how effective they’ve generally been.
Would you use up all of Calgary’s cap space and their draft assets to add someone who might not move the needle offensively?
John Klingberg is a smart offensive player that can help a team’s power play and five-on-five offense. Per Evolving-Hockey, he’s above replacement in both areas – 1.5 goals on the power play and 2 goals at five-on-five. (He’s below replacement, 3.1 goals, at five-on-five defense, so you’d need to give him a partner that can cover up that part of his game.)
At five-on-five, he’d be behind Oliver Kylington, Chris Tanev and Rasmus Andersson offensively – and all three have better defensive underlyings than Klingberg. On the power play, he’d be behind Noah Hanifin. Adding him would beef up the second power play unit, but adding a centre or another mid-rotation offensive winger would be a better use of the team’s trade deadline resources.

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