Dustin Wolf should get trial run if Calgary Flames season goes south post-deadline
Photo credit:Angela Burger/Calgary Wranglers
17 days ago
The narrative throughout this Calgary Flames season has been the inconsistency throughout the lineup, but mainly with the goaltending. Jacob Markstrom and Dan Vladar are the two goaltenders that were trusted in keeping the team in and around the playoff picture, and while the Flames aren’t totally out of it yet, those two have been a huge reason why the season has not gone as planned.
Markstrom, in particular, has been extremely underwhelming, as most Flames fans are aware of by now. As a small reminder, he has dropped from a .922 save percentage (and 6th in the NHL with 15.61 goals saved above expected (GSAx) per Evolving-Hockey in 2021-22 to a .889 save percentage and 70th in the NHL (among all goaltenders) in GSAx with -3.61.
Vladar’s drop-off has been less significant but still impactful and has cost Calgary some games. He went from a .906 SV% to a .895 SV%, and his GSAx from year to year are close to the same, with a -3.89 in 2021-22 to a -4.68 this season.
We could review the numbers for days, but fans understand it is the biggest reason the Flames are where they are. So, with the trade deadline over and general manager Brad Treliving not making any significant changes one way or another, what kind of in-house moves could they make to try and turn things around?
The one move I will address as a possibility is giving Dustin Wolf a shot, especially if things go south in the upcoming games after the deadline. His numbers in the 42 games he has played in the AHL this season with the Calgary Wranglers have been stellar. He sits second in the league in goals against average with 2.20, and his save percentage is first at .929. His four shutouts also lead the league.
It’s important to note that both goaltenders are signed for at least another two seasons after 2022-23, which makes having Wolf on the roster a little more complicated. It would require some roster movement, but wouldn’t that send the wrong message, too?
The counterargument is valid, and at this point of the season, with everything that has been up and down for the Flames so far, it wouldn’t surprise me if the goaltenders were more sensitive than usual. But I would argue they also want to win, and they understand that their performances this season have not been up to par.
Bringing in new blood is never bad, even at a super competitive position. Considering it’s for the team’s betterment, management and coaching may not have any other choice but to try different options. And who knows, maybe bringing in some internal competition will give the two guys who have held down the crease to this point extra motivation to get things in gear?
I want to clarify that I’m not advocating for Wolf to get called up and take over for the rest of the season (even though I think he should get a fair shot if he plays unbelievably well). However, a trial run, especially if things continue to be up and down or even get worse, will help shed insight into the future of the Flames’ goaltending situation and should provide some extra motivation. However, the call-up would have to be soon, especially if Wolf comes up and plays the kind of hockey that would theoretically push the Flames into a wild-card position. Waiting too long could cost a playoff spot for the team trying to “win now,” as Treliving stated in his post-deadline press conference.
The future of this Flames team is still uncertain. Only two moves were made at the trade deadline to improve the team (and help the Wranglers) slightly, so it hinges on the players, particularly the goaltenders, to write their regular season destiny. If things get out of hand, giving Wolf a shot at some NHL time may not be the worst option in the world.
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