How should the Calgary Flames forward lines look when Connor Zary returns?

Photo credit:Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
27 days ago
The Calgary Flames returned to the practice ice on Thursday night after a couple of days off, and the focus of the group was preparations for a pair of weekend games against Vancouver and Buffalo. But Connor Zary was reportedly a regular participant at the skate and skated on a regular line.
While head coach Ryan Huska noted following practice that Zary’s still considered day-to-day, he seems pretty close to returning. When he gets back in, how should that impact the Flames’ forward lines?

Monday’s lines against Washington

Here’s how the Flames rolled their lines in Monday’s loss to the Capitals.
Andrew Mangiapane – Mikael Backlund – Blake Coleman
[12:48 5v5 time on ice; 43.75% offensive zone face-offs]
Jonathan Huberdeau – Nazem Kadri – Martin Pospisil
[11:16 5v5 time on ice; 75% offensive zone face-offs]
Dryden Hunt – Yegor Sharangovich – Andrei Kuzmenko
[9:22 5v5 time on ice; 75% offensive zone face-offs]
A.J. Greer – Kevin Rooney – Matt Coronato
[6:55 5v5 time on ice; 9.09% offensive zone face-offs]
Extras: Walker Duehr & Jakob Pelletier
The general idea behind how these lines are used seems to be using the Backlund and Rooney lines as heavy defensive zone deployments so that the other two lines can get the offensive zone high ground. The Backlund line has consistently shown the ability to get the puck up ice, while Rooney’s shown that ability – albeit to varying degrees based on linemates.
So with a Zary to add to the mix, how should things change to improve the lines?

The status quo option

Often “status quo” is a term used with negative connotations, but the Flames have had a few lines that have worked quite well this season and it makes a lot of sense to get back to them.
Here’s how lines looked at Thursday’s practice:
Mangiapane – Backlund – Coleman
Zary – Kadri – Pospisil
Huberdeau – Sharangovich – Kuzmenko
Greer – Rooney – Hunt
Extras: Duehr, Coronato
From Monday’s groupings, it’s basically just adding Zary into his old spot, Huberdeau drops down to the Sharangovich line, Hunt drops down to the Rooney line, and Coronato is bumped out.
These lines are smart. They’re logical. They’re safe. They make sense to use, though I suspect we could see Coronato slot into Hunt’s spot from time to time.
But what if we want to get weird?

Let’s get weird

My problem with the status quo lines is we don’t learn anything new about the team from them. So let’s slightly shuffle things up:
Zary – Backlund – Coleman
Huberdeau – Kadri – Coronato
Mangiapane – Sharangovich – Kuzmenko
Greer – Rooney – Pospisil
Extras: Duehr, Hunt
If you stick Zary with heavy defensive zone deployments but with the team’s best two-way centre and winger, can be he as effective? If you put Coronato with a strong passer like Huberdeau, can he generate some scoring chances (or goals)? Can Mangiapane be a play-driver away from Backlund? Can Pospisil play just as well on the fourth line as he’s been with Kadri?
It’s not that the existing lines are bad, but the last 14 games should be about prepping for next season, and that means they need to figure out what the limitations of their existing group are.
How should the Flames’ lines look when Zary returns? Let us know your take in the comments!
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