After months away, it’s time to get ready for the 2020-21 NHL season! The Calgary Flames begin their on-ice portion of training camp on Monday, so what better occasion to dust off the mailbag?
Plus, we always do the mailbag on Mondays, so it’s a perfect storm!
Honestly, I’d be shocked if Sean Monahan doesn’t play at centre this season. He’s shown the ability to withstand the physical battering he takes in front of the net, plus he’s quite good at battling for scoring chances in the slot and burying them. He’s not an effective enough rush player to play the wing, as the Flames’ style of play usually involves fast wingers – folks like Johnny Gaudreau, Andrew Mangapane or Dillon Dube – gaining the offensive zone with speed and then creating havoc. That’s not Monahan’s strong suit.
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On the other hand, Derek Ryan has the versatility to flop between the centre position and the wing. I wouldn’t be shocked if he ended up playing the right side on whatever line Bennett ends up anchoring, to provide a bit of a two-way presence and take right side face-offs for Bennett from time to time.
The short answer is “he won’t.” Based on every team being tight to the cap this season, don’t expect Brad Treliving to make a Johnny Gaudreau trade during the season (unless the Flames completely fall apart before the trade deadline). There simply aren’t enough teams with enough cap space to make shopping Gaudreau a tenable proposition.
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That said, Gaudreau’s no trade clause doesn’t kick in until the NHL calendar ticks over to the 2021-22 season, so if Treliving does decide to make a move, it would be much easier to do it after the season is over and teams are in an asset-moving move with the Seattle Kraken expansion draft on the horizon. That way the acquiring team has a full final season with Gaudreau and the opportunity to sell him on their club as a long-term home.
I would say “maybe,” but I would wonder what the move would seek to accomplish.
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Dubois is 22, four years younger than Monahan, and makes $1.375 million less than him over the next two seasons (at which point Dubois would likely be due a sizable raise). He’s a good offensive player, but a lot of his game is still a work in progress and he feels a lot like Sam Bennett did early in his career. The Flames know Monahan’s game inside and out and seem to have comfort with what he is (and isn’t). Monahan’s two-way presence is a lot different than Dubois’ more finesse-based game, and the Flames would likely be aiming to change up the team’s offensive style if they made the swap.
Dubois is good, and he’ll be good for awhile. But he’s good at different things than Monahan, so this kind of move would necessarily have ripples throughout the roster that would need to be carefully considered.
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Well, Johannes Kinnvall is not available this season because he’s on loan to HV71 until the end of the Swedish season. But if he was, he projects as more of a power play or offensive specialist at the NHL level. Guys like Michael Stone and Alex Petrovic are more safe, two-way options than offer much less offensive upside, but are less likely to get their doors blown off defensively. So it depends what you want out of a player; Kinnvall is probably more of a higher risk, higher reward proposition.
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I’ve been of the mindset that the Flames should use Giordano and Chris Tanev as a hard minutes, defensive zone pairing to allow the younger defensemen – which is everyone else – more time and puck touches in the offensive zone. Giordano is such a smart defensive presence that they might as well use that to help the other players grow as much as possible while he’s still around (and this good).
If Giordano’s two-way game falls off a cliff, then stick him in the offensive zone and let him loose. But until then, they should squeeze all the hockey value they can out of him.
I shall invoke what I call “The Matt Stajan Principle.” Stajan was one of the most important off-ice mentors to young players during the formative years of the Flames’ rebuild. He was leaned on as a bottom six centre on the ice and as a person who could help the young prospects transition to the NHL lifestyle off the ice. He never wore a letter full-time because he didn’t need a letter to be recognized as a leader. (Milan Lucic falls into this category on the current roster.)
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With Backlund, he’s the team’s second-most tenured player behind Giordano and you could argue Backlund doesn’t need to wear an A full-time to be a leadership presence on the team. Thus, he shares the responsibility with Tkachuk in an arrangement that’s likely meant to help Tkachuk build up towards eventually succeeding Giordano as captain.