FlamesNation Mailbag: Two weeks left in the season

Photo credit:Mike Gould
Ryan Pike
19 days ago
Folks, the Calgary Flames have six games remaining on their 2023-24 schedule. After that, it’s golf, draft prep, and plotting to find ways to help the retooling process move forward. As we await the Flames’ three game California road trip that takes place this week, let’s delve into the mailbag!
Let me say one thing first: man, I have a soft spot for Sean Monahan because of how good he was for the Flames and the price he paid for how he did it. When people say that the front of the net is the “high-rent district,” it’s because if you make your living in that area, you will eat a lot of cross-checks to your shoulders and hips. Eventually, Monahan took too many and his ability to stand there and score goals consistently diminished. Thankfully, he’s gone through some surgeries and he’s healthier than he’s been in years.
But Monahan’s playing style, age, and the injuries he’s amassed are why I’d be hesitant to throw a hefty contract his way. His history makes me wary of his ability to play out a three year (or longer) contract. And honestly, I’d rather devote one of the top nine centre spots to somebody like Connor Zary – who has untapped upside – rather than an established veteran. The Flames already have a pair of established veterans north of 30 in Nazem Kadri and Mikael Backlund, and developing centres for the NHL team’s future seems like a thing they should prioritize.
Monahan’s awesome and he was exactly what the Flames needed him to be during his tenure. But for where the Flames are, and where they want to go, I’m not sure if he fits their needs.
I totally get the “players from (wherever) don’t want to play in Calgary” narrative, but I don’t think it’s entirely a Calgary thing. Some players like to be closer to home, especially when they start families and need their support network a bit nearer to them.
But think of it this way: Calgary has a reputation for having really passionate fans, the city’s constantly high on livability rankings, there’s a new building opening in a few years, and the Flames have offer free agents oodles of money (via their ample cap space) and oodles of ice time (via their absence of established superstars). How many other teams had the ability to give somebody like Yegor Sharangovich ample top nine ice time and give him the chance to blossom the way he has this season?
That said: the Flames could use a shutdown-style defender to fill out the defensive group and, potentially, another centre (if they feel like they don’t have any strong internal options). And depending on what happens with their goaltenders this summer, maybe they look for somebody to either work with Dustin Wolf on the NHL roster or to be a reliable number-three in the AHL.
We’re gonna get into a lot of this in detail in the coming weeks – basically beginning our deep-dive once the regular season ends. But generally-speaking, man this feels like an opportunity to try to snag a strong centre and defenceman in the first round. The Flames have oodles of B+ prospects – guys that are quite good but maybe don’t project as NHL difference-makers – but they could potentially find one (or two) in this year’s draft.
In terms of draft quality, what I’m hearing from scouting pals is “good but not great.” Prospective first-overall pick Macklin Celebrini is no Connor Bedard, though he’s considered quite good. The drop-off as you go through the first round begins to get a bit steeper than last year once you hit around 20th overall or so. There’s secondary depth – somebody told me it feels like the second-round quality guys begin in the late first and extend into the third round – but the higher-end depth isn’t quite what it was last year. Last year was a hum-dinger of a draft where teams were extremely hesitant to move early picks. This year, they’re not too concerned about making those trades.
You know who could use a good end to the AHL regular season and a strong post-season? Jakob Pelletier. He’s incredibly likeable and smart and versatile, but that just hasn’t come through in his play this season. And that’s not really his fault; he missed several months after shoulder surgery and it seems like his swagger isn’t quite there – especially after his injury near-miss against the Rangers after his NHL return. But if he could find that swagger again, he could be a big difference-maker for the Wranglers in the playoffs and it would give him a great boost heading into the summer.
I have a ton of respect for Rasmus Andersson. He’s a gamer, and he has a ton of passion. I recommend checking out the recent media availability he had with us post-game after the win over Los Angeles, because his passion really came through in discussing what young players have to go through and what the team means to him. He’s the type of player (and person) I would definitely want in my locker room guiding youngsters through a retooling process.
I think this has been a tough season for a lot of players. The Flames legitimately felt they were close to doing something special in both 2019 and 2022, only for them to fall short of their goals in the post-season both times. And the changes the team have made have put the Flames further away from their goal, at least for now, than they were before. NHL players are incredibly, incredibly competitive people, and I can’t imagine what it would be like to feel like you were on a championship calibre team… and then to have the team get slowly dismantled around you and see close friends move elsewhere.
Even if you completely understand the hows and whys of the moves the club has made and you believe in the direction the team’s going, playing out the string on a diminished team can’t be easy.
Got a question for a future mailbag? Contact Ryan on Twitter/X at @RyanNPike or e-mail him at Ryan [at] TheNationNetwork.com! (Make sure you put Mailbag in the subject line!)

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