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FlamesNation Mailbag: Streaks, lines, and praise for Adam Ruzicka

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Photo credit:Mike Gould
Ryan Pike
2 months ago
Good news! The Calgary Flames have snapped their losing streak and gotten back to .500! The bad news is they have a ways to go to be where they want to be in the NHL standings.
As we get set for another hectic week of games, let’s check in with the mailbag!
During pre-season, Adam Ruzicka was used as a winger in one game. He was fairly underwhelming in that role and looked a little out of place at times playing alongside Connor Zary and Sonny Milano. But give the kid credit: Ruzicka has looked gradually better and better in three games as a winger. Yes, part of it is because he’s playing with better players – all due respect, but Tyler Toffoli and Elias Lindholm are a definite upgrade on Zary and Milano – but Ruzicka’s simplified his game a bit and done a lot of smart things on the ice.
Reports from Sunday’s practice from Pat Steinberg indicate that Jonathan Huberdeau likely returns to the lineup on Monday against Los Angeles, and he skated on a line with Mikael Backlund and Trevor Lewis. I wrote a column on the site on Monday about why I like the idea; it allows Backlund to give Huberdeau a safety net and learn the system, while freeing up Lindholm’s line to continue to drive the offence. We’ll see how long it lasts, but you don’t make this type of line shuffle if Ruzicka didn’t earn himself a bit of leash from the coaching staff.
What I would do is a slight variation on what it looks like Sutter’s doing for Monday’s game:
  • Ruzicka – Lindholm – Toffoli
  • Huberdeau – Backlund – Mangiapane
  • Dube – Kadri – Coleman
  • Lucic – Lewis – Ritchie
The fourth line plays a heavy game but is offensively limited. The other three lines have a mixture of two-way guys, fast guys and offensive-minded guys. With the forwards they have on their roster, this is my preferred deployment.
One of the more under-discussed stories in hockey over the past few seasons is that there’s been a good amount of turnover in the officiating ranks, with a lot of experienced referees and linesmen being replaced by younger, less experienced officials. As a result, a lot of institutional memory in terms of how to call a game has arguably been lost, and the general standard of officiating has dipped a bit.
Less experienced officials are calling games than five or 10 years ago, so things are a little bit of a work in progress as these officials gain experience and get better.
Josh Anderson is under contract for four seasons after this one and has a $5.5 million cap hit. He’s good and I get why the Flames would be interested in him – they were linked to him before he landed in Montreal, after all – but considering he’s a cost-controlled asset for four more seasons, he’s not coming cheap. I’m talking about a high draft pick and a prospect (and probably more) being sent to Montreal to grab him.
I don’t see how the cap math would work, I don’t think the Flames would want to pay the price necessary to get him, and I’m not sure if he’s the type of player to push the Flames over the top in their Stanley Cup pursuit. He’s good, but he might not be the missing piece of their puzzle.

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