FlamesNation Mailbag: Taking your questions a week into the season
Photo credit:Mike Gould
By Ryan Pike1 month ago
Folks, we’re a week into the 2023-24 National Hockey League season. The Calgary Flames have played two games and… they’ve been fine. There’s good and bad to dissect, along with some pretty dang fine goaltending thus far.
As we await four games over the next week as the Flames power through a road trip, let’s dive into the mailbag!
Let’s get this out of the way: Tij Iginla is the second of Flames senior advisor (and Hockey Hall of Fame inductee) Jarome Iginla’s three kids – Tij’s big sister Jade is currently in her sophomore season at Brown University, while little brother Joe just got selected by the Edmonton Oil Kings in the WHL Bantam Draft and will head to the Dub next season.
Tij is 17 (he turns 18 in August) and is off to a heck of a start with the Kelowna Rockets, who acquired him from the WHL Champion Seattle Thunderbirds during the off-season. Tij didn’t play much last season – he played 48 regular season and just 3 playoff games – but he was 16 and got to absorb how a high-level championship team operates. The idea was probably that he would go to Kelowna and apply those lessons. So far, so good.
Because Tij has played relatively little games at the WHL level so far, it’s hard to get a handle on what round he should be drafted in. He’s his father’s son and scouts like him a lot, but the uncertainty of projecting what he could be is still a big challenge. We’ll have a better handle on him by mid-season.
And… why not Calgary? His dad knows the organization inside and out, and I’m sure that Jarome would have a good amount of trust in old friends Craig Conroy (the GM) and Martin Gelinas (who works in player development) guiding Tij’s early career. If you want to set up a youngster for success, it’s hard to imagine a more hand-in-glove set-up. (Plus, it would be a heck of a fun story…)
I think the Flames will be giving Jordan Oesterle and Dennis Gilbert a decent amount of leash in the sixth defender role. However, if they both falter, rather than expend assets to acquire another player, they might just turn to Ilya Solovyov. Solovyov was one of the last cuts in training camp and is a low-risk, low-event meat-and-potatoes defensive defender. He kills penalties, plays a smart stay-at-home game, and has probably worked himself into an NHL opportunity with his performances since joining the Flames organization via the 2020 NHL Draft.
Okay, let’s go into the good and bad of Vancouver Canucks forward Conor Garland. He’s 27. He’s a right-shot forward. He’s a pretty useful two-way forward. His offensive output isn’t amazing, but he’s reliable. You could argue that he doesn’t have any glaring flaws or gigantic strengths in his game, which makes him both versatile and difficult to slot into a specific role. He’s basically a younger right-shot Blake Coleman, except Coleman has gone through the battles of winning two Stanley Cups and so he’s arguably more valuable and his role is more well-defined.
Garland has a $4.95 million cap hit through the end of 2025-26 (e.g., this season and two more). If I’m the Flames, I definitely would prefer not to give up a defender in a swap for Garland, and I don’t know where Garland would slot in within the Flames’ cap structure or their system based on the players they already have signed long-term.
He’s good, but I don’t see a great fit based on where the Flames are right now.
If things don’t go great, I think you could see a retool-on-the-fly scenario where the Flames punt on some key pending unrestricted free agents in an effort to accumulate draft or futures assets that could be either used as-is – e.g., picks to draft players or prospects to develop – or flipped to bolster the NHL roster.
I don’t think there’s an internal appetite to tear things down to the studs, and I think the assets they have signed long-term are too good for the team to totally tank with them on the roster. But a retool? Yeah, I could see it happen under the right circumstances.
No official timeline has been released aside from “out long term.” Reading between the lines, that’s probably months rather than weeks. If we see him before Christmas, I’ll be impressed.
I don’t think the Flames have a big appetite to push Dillon Dube out the door, and Craig Conroy noted in July that discussions on a new deal have begun with Dube’s camp. In the event the Flames do any kind of retooling, I would suspect that players in his age group (or younger) would be what the Flames would covet, rather than try to get rid of.
That said, if somebody makes the Flames a trade offer that wows them, I don’t think they would rule out anything that improves the club in a retool scenario.
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