FlamesNation Mailbag: Taking your questions during a challenging start to the season
Photo credit:Mike Gould
By Ryan Pike1 month ago
The Calgary Flames have played six games in their 2023-24 regular season thus far. They’ve won twice and posted a .417 points percentage so far, a start to the campaign that we can charitably describe as “challenging.”
As we poke around in the remnants of the first few games, we dive into the mailbag to take reader questions!
So far, the fourth line of Walker Duehr, A.J. Greer and Yegor Sharangovich have been a great positive story. They’ve shined via the eye test, bringing speed and energy to the team. And they’ve posted some good underlying numbers, too.
On the other side, Nazem Kadri and Dillon Dube have averaged negative game scores thus far – indicating that they’re actual drags on the team analytically – and they’ve both generally had tough evenings at the office through six games.
When Jakob Pelletier returns to action, he’ll need a spot on the wing. With the team lacking much rhythm thus far it’s hard to figure out where exactly he fits, but keep an eye on Adam Ruzicka. By that I mean that Ruzicka is a highly skilled player who has consistency issues, and a lot of the work the Flames seem to be doing with him early in the season seem to be focused on unlocking what he can be and figuring out what he is. Is he a play-driver? Is he a shooter? Is he a distributor? They need to figure that piece out.
If Ruzicka’s an everyday top nine forward and proves that he can hack it consistently, maybe you “settle” for putting Pelletier on the fourth line both to ease him into the NHL mix and to provide a bit of a boost to that group. All due respect to Greer, Sharangovich and Duehr, but adding Pelletier to that mix would give them a bit of pep and potentially some offensive flash.
But we’ve got a few months before Pelletier comes back, so there’s a lot of baseball left to play.
On paper, the fit seems to make a ton of sense. Elias Lindholm is a strong centre who can make face-offs, win puck battles and has a heck of a shot. Jonathan Huberdeau is a renowned passer with great vision and deceptive speed. But for whatever reason, they’re not clicking so far. The puck goes in the right direction when they’re on the ice together – every shot metric says “Hey, these guys seem to be working!” – but nothing goes in for them when they’re on the ice together.
Some guys need time to work on chemistry and to figure each other out. Some guys also just don’t click. It’s probably still a bit too early to tell exactly where these guys are at, but the early results haven’t been stellar.
If I’m Noah Hanifin’s representatives, I’m using MacKenzie Weegar’s eight year deal with a $6.25 million cap hit as the template for anything I consider with the Flames – or anywhere else, to be honest. Hanifin’s not without his flaws, but he’s a minute-munching, all-situations blueliner that can do a lot of things for a hockey club. And he’s still pretty young – he turns 27 in late January and has already played more than 600 games.
On the other hand, if you’re moving Hanifin, based on how good and young and useful he is, you’re probably hoping to get something along the lines of a first-round pick, a good prospect and an NHL-regular roster player.
For either guy to become NHL regulars, the Flames would need to move out an established forward from their mix. We’ll get into their performances in more detail on Wednesday in the Prospect Update, but both Connor Zary and Adam Klapka are off to excellent starts in the AHL. They’re both making strong cases for consideration for call-ups, at the very least.
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