Photo credit:Mike Gould
FlamesNation Mailbag: Celebrating Labour Day with reader questions!
By Ryan Pike5 months ago
It’s the final long weekend of the summer, folks. The next time there are extra days off in the calendar, it’ll be Thanksgiving and we’ll be preparing for the beginning of the 2023-24 National Hockey League season. As we wring the last bits of fun out of Labour Day weekend, let’s dive into the mailbag!
Elias Lindholm and Joe Nieuwendyk are both pretty different individuals, but both were focal points of the Flames for much of their tenures.
Lindholm was a fifth-overall pick in 2013 out of Sweden and went pro right away, making his NHL debut at the age of 18 years, 306 days. Nieuwendyk was a college project seen as a bit more of a project, and when he was drafted with a second-round pick in 1985 that the Flames received in exchange for all-time leading scorer Kent Nilsson, the newspaper headlines read “Joe Who?” He went pro a year and change after being drafted at the age of 20 years, 181 days.
Lindholm took awhile to round out his game and become a top-flight centre, and it took a trade to Calgary and the right linemates to unlock his three-zones excellence. Nieuwendyk was a dynamite goal-scorer from early on – he scored 51 goals in each of his first two NHL seasons, and 45 goals in each of his next two seasons – but he did so on stacked Flames teams in the ’80s and he had a lot of excellent players to work with.
Lindholm became the team’s top centre pretty quickly, and you can argue that’s been his gig since 2018-19. Nieuwendyk took awhile to grab the top gig, and it happened primarily because the Flames traded away a bunch of key veterans for financial reasons. But by the time Nieuwendyk became the focal point of the team in the early ’90s, he was ready because of how he was able to build his game with the Flames.
Either way, both guys have been crucial players for the team at key times. Their paths arguably couldn’t be more different, though, but that’s part of what’s made both of their stories fun and interesting to follow over the years.
We’ll dive into this in excruciating detail as we get into training camp. But if it were up to me – it’s not – here’s what I’d do:
- Captain: Rasmus Andersson
- Alternate Captain (all games): MacKenzie Weegar
- Alternate Captain (they share an A every other game): Mikael Backlund & Jonathan Huberdeau
To me, because of their personalities, roles, and how long they’re signed for, Andersson and Weegar are basically 1A and 1B in terms of the captaincy. I lean towards Andersson because of his lengthy relationship with head coach Ryan Huska. But either guy could be really effective in the role.
Much of the discourse this summer has included hang-wringing about Elias Lindholm’s future with the Flames, a likely trade for Noah Hanifin, what’ll happen with Mikael Backlund, and even more chatter about Dan Vladar and Dustin Wolf than about Chris Tanev. Part of that likely has to do with age and roles – Lindholm, Hanifin and Backlund play both sides of special teams and have for awhile, while Tanev is more of a defensive specialist. The Flames also played big chunks of 2022-23 without Tanev, due to injury, so conceptually it’s less difficult to imagine the team without him likely because of those absences.
Tanev also seems like the type of player that could be moved at the trade deadline to a contender potentially, could walk as a free agent after the season, or could re-up with the Flames on an inexpensive short-term contract without fans losing a ton of sleep because of how much value the team’s gotten out of his contract over the past several seasons. He’s a pro’s pro and a reliable player, and because of his age and playing style he’s somebody teams might covet, but those factors drive down the price tag to acquire him in a swap, too.
So far, there haven’t been any announcements on that. They’ve had Telus ads on their road helmets for the past couple seasons, but I would imagine that if there’s anything more extensive, like jersey ads or changes in their helmet decal situation, the club will announce something prior to the season.
There aren’t any out-and-out creepy rooms, but the media/staff elevator is kind of spooky. It’s pretty cozy and has occasionally broken down from time to time over the past few seasons.
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