The Calgary Flames made their first significant roster shuffle of the season this past week, recalling AHLers Matthew Phillips and Radim Zohorna. They also waived Kevin Rooney and scratched Milan Lucic.
As you may imagine, our readers have quite a few questions about what’s happened and what’s yet to come.
I’ll say this, no homer: the Flames have had a lot of really pleasant players to work with as media over the years. If I had to cherry-pick a few favourites: Michael Frolik, Matt Stajan, Cam Talbot and Mark Giordano were always treats to chat with, especially about systems and tactics. But again, I’ve been fortunate in my time around the Flames in that there are a lot of people who are easy to work with.
All due respect to Craig Conroy, Jaromir Jagr never really stopped playing pro hockey, and the skill level of the Czech Extraliga isn’t quite the same as the NHL’s is. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect Conroy to play in the NHL again. But I’m sure he’s a beast when it comes to the internal CSEC house league.
How should they? Well, Shane and I discussed this on FlamesNation Radio a couple weeks back. I think Milan Lucic’s physicality, shot and hockey IQ are still potentially very valuable for the Flames, and their goal should be to maximize his effectiveness by using him a little bit less often. If they’re playing three games a week, he should get into one or two of them, depending on his performance and the opponent. He doesn’t have the speed to do everything he used to do, but he’s still incredibly savvy and could be useful for them down the stretch.
How will they use him? It probably depends on how well Matthew Phillips and Radim Zohorna do in their roles. There are a lot of variables at play, so it’s tough to dictate how things will go right now.
With the 14 forwards the Flames have on their roster right now:
Jonathan Huberdeau – Elias Lindholm – Tyler Toffoli
Dillon Dube – Nazem Kadri – Matthew Phillips
Blake Coleman – Mikael Backlund – Andrew Mangiapane
Adam Ruzicka – Radim Zohorna – Trevor Lewis
Given Lindholm and Backlund’s lines defensive zone starts and skew offensive zone starts and easier match-ups towards the Kadri and Zohorna lines. This leaves Lucic to rotate in from time to time on the wing, and Ritchie can swap in for games where the team needs a big more size and rambunctiousness.
I like the players’ individual attributes, but there have been a few rough games for Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson. Part of me wonders if it might work to split them up and balance minutes and duties out a bit more, but I can’t figure out if the pairings I would put them in would work:
Noah Hanifin – Chris Tanev
MacKenzie Weegar – Rasmus Andersson
Nikita Zadorov – Michael Stone
The big question I have is how much the Flames can lean on Tanev right now. There’s no way he’s 100% healthy and while he’s incredibly good at his role, especially given how banged-up he usually is, would the Flames be playing with fire (pardon the pun) by throwing him into the deep end too often?
Anyway, figuring out how to improve outcomes for Hanifin & Andersson (individually or together) is key for the Flames’ finding defensive stability.
Andrew Mangiapane played 10 games as an injury call-up in 2017-18. He began the 2018-19 campaign in the AHL, but was called up at the end of November 2018 and stuck around for the rest of the season. (This was when he spent the entire season with Garnet Hathaway and Derek Ryan and excelled in that role.)
Dillon Dube made the Flames roster out of camp in 2018-19 (as a 20-year-old) and played 20 games before he was sent back to Stockton for more seasoning in late November 2018. He came back up for five games on short-term injury replacement call-ups later that season. The next season, he started in Stockton and was recalled, for good, in mid November 2019.
Adam Ruzicka was a mid-season call-up in 2021-22, coming up in early December 2021 and largely sticking around for the rest of the season. (They sent him back to the AHL for a game here or there, largely just to take advantage of the NHL’s “emergency recall” rules after the trade deadline.)
Historically, the Flames bring up a forward every year around this time, and they usually get the chance to play their way onto or off of the team. We’ll see what happens with Matthew Phillips (and Radim Zohorna) in this respect.
I don’t think another call-up happens for awhile, depending on the club’s injury situation. I gotta say, though, Walker Duehr has been a really consistent contributor for the Wranglers up front, while Dennis Gilbert (who impressed during his Flames call-up) has also been pretty impressive.
No updates on Oliver Kylington since Brad Treliving’s last update
. (And somebody else asked about why the Flames haven’t played him on the long-term injury reserve: the short answer is they haven’t needed the cap space yet.)