Friends, the Calgary Flames are playing well, getting points, and generally looking pretty good right now. As you might imagine, many fans are approaching this situation with a type of cautious optimism.
So let’s see how the mailbag is feeling about things?
The first line is doing quite well, agreed. Gaudreau, Lindholm and Tkachuk have out-scored the other team 7-0.
Here’s how the other lines have done:
  • Coleman – Backlund – Pitlick: 3-1
  • Lucic – Dube – Mangiapane: 1-0
  • Ritchie – Dube – Mangiapane: 4-2
  • Lewis – Monahan – Lucic: 1-3
  • Richardson – Monahan – Lewis: 0-0
Now, when everybody’s healthy, the “default’ groupings seem to work well. The Backlund line can be used as a shutdown trio. The Lindholm line attracts the other team’s shutdown trio, which allows Dube’s line to get the other team’s leftovers and thrive.
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It is, however, a bit challenging that the fourth line is underwater from a scoring perspective despite the presence of strong goal-scorer Sean Monahan. How Monahan’s season unfolds will be a storyline to follow over the coming weeks and months.
Elias Lindholm has done excellent as the team’s first line centre over the past couple seasons, but the thing that probably made Jack Eichel so attractive to the Flames – aside from being just great at hockey – is one word: slotting. Adding Eichel would’ve push Lindholm down the rotation, with Mikael Backlund and Sean Monahan as the third and fourth line centres. If those guys are your depth guys, that’s great depth to have. If you have to “settle” for Lindholm as your top centre, his performance makes it easy to accept, but adding another piece would help the Flames out-match deep teams in tight games.
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As for Markström: it’s a “yes, but” scenario. Yes, I think the Flames’ strong defensive play makes Markström’s hot start fairly sustainable (compared to if he were on a team that gives up a ton of good, quality scoring chances). But, I think he’ll be spelled off by Dan Vladar a few times on the road trip to keep him fresh.
My cousin is a Sharks fan and raves about Timo Meier, and reportedly Meier is looking for a trade. If Meier’s available, he’s a nice piece to add, but you have to wonder how pricey the trade would be considering the Sharks would be moving him in-division.
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As for Dube? Well, Darryl Sutter has heavily sheltered him in terms of stacking his life with offensive zone starts. His performances have been consistently solid, but not great, but his line isn’t getting hammered to the degree that you’d think Sutter will make adjustments. Building up Dube as a centre seems to be a medium-term investment that they’re fairly committed to.
Honestly, not terribly so. They have no wins against their conference or division, but have only played a handful of games so far. The big positive is they’re dominating the East thus far, capturing the “bonus” points in games against teams they’re not competing against for playoff spots.
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The big thing that should probably normalize is Jacob Markström’s superb goaltending. The Flames are allowing quality chances at a league average rate, but they’re getting the best goaltending in the league. All things being equal, you’d expect the quality of the scoring chances the Flames are allowing to bring Markström back down to earth a bit.
Best defenseman on the team, at the very least.
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Well, it seems evident that Noah Hanifin and Oliver Kylington are locked into top four gigs for awhile. That leaves a single left-shot spot for Nikita Zadorov and Juuso Välimäki to battle over. Honestly, it’s probably up to Zadorov having a bad game or two to get Välimäki back in, much like Välimäki having a couple bad games got Zadorov back in.
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The only argument against trading for Jack Eichel, if the price was not too crazy, was that his cap hit made it very tough to do anything else with the roster when he was healthy. The Flames would’ve had to jettison a significant amount of cap space (and players) to fit him in.
As for Matthew Tkachuk’s new deal: it all depends on what he wants in terms of term. A short-term deal might not be too crazy, but a long-term deal involves buying a lot of UFA years and will drive that AAV sky-high.
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I’ll say this for Milan Lucic: the guy knows what he is, and what his strengths and weaknesses are as a player. Since he knows his limitations, he’s great at working within them to do some cool stuff. Short shifts, specific match-ups, and utilizing his size, smarts and shot have made him a very useful Flame. Is he too expensive? Sure. But he’s been good for the club so far.

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