The Calgary Flames need to add toughness to their lineup

Photo credit:© Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Munnich
1 month ago
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The Calgary Flames are in the beginning stages of their re-tool. The reality of the situation is that the Flames are probably not going to be a very good team over the next couple seasons. They’re not going to be bottoming out, but they’re also not going to be competing for the division.
The worst thing to watch is a re-tooling team not only get beat on the scoreboard but get beat up while doing it. As the Flames roster currently constructed, they only have one player on the roster who would be considered a “tough guy” and that’s newly acquired defenceman Kevin Bahl.
If the Flames are going to be rebuilding/re-tooling, they’re going to want to surround their young players with a couple guys who will protect them. It’s an old school way of thinking but physicality and intimidation is still part of the game at the NHL level and it’s important young players feel like someone has their back in games that start to get rough.
Let’s take a look around this upcoming free agent class and see if there are any tough players the Flames could target this off-season.

Liam O’Brien – LW – 29 years old – 6’1″ – 213 pounds – UFA

O’Brien is coming off a season where he led the NHL in penalty minutes and was tied for first in fights with eight. He is one of the few heavyweight fighters left in the NHL. On top of being tough, O’Brien has a great personality and would quickly become a fan favourite in Calgary. He is an unrestricted free agent who the Flames might be able to grab on a one- or two-year contract.

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Ryan Lomberg – LW – 29 years old – 5’9″, 184 pounds – UFA

Die-hard Flames fans will remember Lomberg as a member of the Flames organization from the 2015/16 – 2019/20 seasons where he spent most of his time with the Stockton Heat.
Lomberg is not the biggest guy in the league, but he has the heart of a lion. He is the kind of guy who will take on anyone in the NHL. The nice thing about Lomberg is that he also can play the game. He’s a tremendous forechecker and has a decent set of hands plus some offensive instincts. He scored 12 goals in the 2022-23 season and scored at a 13-goal pace in 2021-22.

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Austin Watson – LW/RW – 32 years old – 6’4″, 238 pounds – UFA

Watson is a true heavyweight in every sense of the word. The 6’4″, 238-pound winger is one of the more feared fighters in the NHL. Watson only played in 33 games last season but was in seven fights which is the most on a per game basis in the NHL. Watson wouldn’t play in the Flames lineup every night, but it might be nice to have him in the lineup when the Flames play against a bigger, tougher opponent.

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Honorable Mentions

Josh Brown – RD – 30 years old – 6’5″, 220 pounds – UFA

Jarred Tinordi – LD – 32 years old – 6’6″, 229 pounds – UFA

The Flames have a ton of defencemen in their organization as is. I don’t think adding guys like Brown and Tinordi would make sense for this Flames team as it’s currently constructed.

Arber Xhekaj – LD – 23 years old – 6’4″, 240 pounds – Montreal Canadiens

Tanner Jeannot – LW – 27 years old – 6’2″, 220 pounds – Tampa Bay Lightning

The Calgary Flames would have to trade for Jeannot and either trade or offer sheet Xhekaj. Craig Conroy is not in a position to be giving up draft picks or prospects to bring in guys who are not going to be regulars in their lineup.
If there was a scenario where the Flames offer sheet Xhekaj and give up no compensation, then that might make sense. But that type of transaction never happens in the NHL.

My two cents 

I would love to see the Flames bring back Ryan Lomberg on a one or two year contract. I think the Flames could use his toughness on the ice. Off the ice Lomberg brings swagger and personality to the locker room which is something I think this Flames group could use. He would also become a fan favourite if the team were to show off his personality through social media.
The Panthers will likely bring him back. But if Lomberg does hit the free agent market, I would be all over him if I were Craig Conroy.
Do you think the Flames need to add toughness to their lineup for next season? Let us know in the comments section! 

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