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FlamesNation mailbag: three weeks out

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Ryan Pike
1 year ago
There’s three weeks remaining until the 2021 NHL trade deadline and the standings are jumbled, the Calgary Flames look good and occasionally less than good, and it’s unclear who has cap space league-wide for a substantial trade.
Let’s dive into the mailbag!
Can I say Chris Tanev and Noah Hanifin? I’m going with that entire pairing. I figured that Hanifin would look basically the way he did last season, which was good but not great, and Tanev would be decent. Instead, these guys have really clicked as a pairing and they’ve been Calgary’s most reliable, dependable, and occasionally game-changing pairing.
League-wide? Florida.
I’ve definitely got to re-visit Vegas and I haven’t been to Nashville yet, but keep getting told that I’m crazy for having not gone yet.
The price for Arvidsson would probably need to be some combination of Sam Bennett, a first round pick, and a good prospect. For me, it would depend on what prospect they want; I’d shy away from Dustin Wolf, Jakob Pelletier, Connor Zary or Connor Mackey, but I’d consider basically anybody else.
You got it!
Expected goals numbers via Natural Stat Trick:
RWTOIxGF%xGF/60xGA/60
Bennett86:0446.281.671.94
Ritchie74:1039.091.482.31
Simon56:2252.762.812.51
Leivo55:4353.921.991.70
Lindholm32:4358.482.952.10
Mangiapane26:3158.872.181.53
Tkachuk21:1064.243.752.09
Alright, so that’s… a lot of numbers. Basically, here’s the gist of it: the guys they use most often with Gaudreau and Monahan – Bennett and Ritchie especially – don’t move the needle from a possession and offensive standpoint. And the guys that do – Lindholm, Mangiapane and Tkachuk – are guys they prefer to keep separate because putting them with Gaudreau and Monahan makes the rest of the lineup less impressive. So that’s tough.
Gaudreau and Monahan were apart only sparingly this season; Gaudreau has a 63.30% xGF without Monahan and Monahan has a 46.68% xGF without Gaudreau. That suggests that Gaudreau would be better off away from Monahan, but I’d shy away from any conclusions because this is based upon a minute here and there sprinkled throughout the season – and one game Monahan was injured for – rather than a sustained sample away from each other.
I don’t think conditioning is a factor, but I think this weekend was primarily a function of a Leafs team that had lots of time off to rest and practice facing a Flames team that has played a good amount of hockey in a short period of time. The perception that the Flames looked tired was likely more about the Leafs looking fresh and fast (and young) than the Flames looking particularly tuckered out.
Let’s call a spade a spade here: Sam Bennett’s usage under Geoff Ward strongly suggests that Ward didn’t love him as a player. If nothing else, Darryl Sutter seems content to give Bennett a chance and throw him out there in a lot of different situations. Bennett’s role seems fairly well-defined – play with speed, tenacity and pace for a few minutes per game – and so far he seems to have done reasonably well. He hasn’t played himself up the rotation yet, so he’s still on the fourth line, but he also hasn’t played himself into the press box either.
I’m a big Jakob Pelletier guy. Talking to scouts and coaches, they rave about his smarts, preparedness, and general maturity. He’s been a captain on two different QMJHL teams, has won sportsmanship awards, and is just a general pain in the butt to play against based on how well he forechecks, back-checks, and generally just buzzes around the ice. He’s a smaller guy that doesn’t play small, and he showed at the World Juniors that he can play that game against incredibly good players and be effective in all three zones.
Throw him with Mikael Backlund for a season or two as he transitions to the NHL and then let him loose.
Yes, but there’s a catch.
Skill is expensive to acquire. It’s much more cost-effective to scout, draft and develop skill rather than throw draft picks out the door to acquire it. If you think of the skill players in the Flames organization, for the most part they were all drafted by the organization – or the Flames acquired them from Carolina in the Dougie Hamilton trade, which wasn’t a cheap transaction.
Checking guys are inexpensive. They usually don’t move the needle a ton, but you can find them everywhere and they don’t cost a ton.
The rumour going around was the asking price was Sam Bennett and a second round pick.
While the Flames have been sorta stuck in the mushy middle of the NHL more or less for the past few years – the 2018-19 season exempted – you can’t argue it’s not for a lack of trying. They’ve made moves to try to jostle themselves out of the middle and nudge them towards the upper part of the league: signing Jacob Markstrom, acquiring Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin, and hiring Darryl Sutter among them.
But they’ve also made some moves that just didn’t quite pan out that were also meant to nudge them upward: signing James Neal and Troy Brouwer are prime among these moves, and those whiffs ended up tying their hands cap-wise during a time where having cap wiggle room could’ve been really useful.
It’s easy to get frustrated about a team’s moves, but the Flames are spending to the cap (and they’ve spent beyond the cap at times due to LTIR) and they just shelled out big bucks for a shiny new arena – opening in 2024 – and Sutter as head coach, so you can’t really make a credible argument that they’re not trying.

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