The Calgary Flames are two games into their longest road trip of the 2022-23 season! So far, so good. As we await potential injury and/or lineup updates in advance of Monday’s game in Philadelphia, let’s dive into the mailbag!

I’ve quite liked Jonathan Huberdeau over the past three games, dating back to his return from injury. He’s had the benefit of playing with Mikael Backlund and one of Trevor Lewis or Blake Coleman, but he’s been up to the challenge. He made a good play against the Kings as he scored a goal. He made a good play against the Panthers, which led to a goal as well. He’s been making more good plays than bad, and playing in the role he’s been in has given him a lot of five-on-five reps with reliable linemates.

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Is Huberdeau where he wants to be yet? Probably not. But he’s making strides and is looking more and more confident and comfortable within Darryl Sutter’s system. Let’s see how he looks at the end of the current road trip, but so far he seems to be getting his groove back.

From what I can recall, Danielle Fujita’s role is more developmentally-skewed – as in, she works with the club’s prospects primarily to help them with their skating, mechanics and mobility. She’s been in the role for a few seasons and I’ve heard pretty good feedback generally on how she approaches the role. (I haven’t had a chance to have long chats about skating with prospects recently because of the pandemic of it all, though.)

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Because of the Flames’ cap situation and the fact that Kevin Rooney’s on the roster and on the road trip, if Brett Ritchie is unavailable for any length of time, I think they opt just to slot Rooney back in as fourth line centre and go from there. Integrating new faces into a group in the middle of a road trip is challenging, especially with so little practice time left on the trip.

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As we’ve mentioned in this space before: the Flames think they have a chance to compete for a championship this year. When you think you’re close to doing something special, it makes every decision a little bit different in nature. And so if your thought process is “Hey, this decision could win the Cup or lose it for us,” then it frames who you call up (or don’t). In short: it makes you risk averse, because you don’t want an inexperienced kid’s mistake to cost the team a chance at a championship.

The other thing to bear in mind is the circumstances: teams really try not to bring up kids from the farm while the team isn’t doing well. Why not? It’s not in the best interests of the development of guys like Matthew Phillips, Connor Zary, Jakob Pelletier and Ben Jones to have them feel like they have to fix the team. If the Flames are playing well and Brad Treliving and Darryl Sutter want to make tweaks for fit or style or other reasons, that makes sense. But you don’t want the perception that a kid from the farm is the cavalry here to save the season. That’s unfair to everybody involved.

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That said, as we creep towards the trade deadline, the more players are excelling with the Wranglers, the more it makes it tough to justify spending draft picks on additions on the deadline rather than bringing farmhands up instead. The challenge for the Wranglers’ players is to prove to Treliving and Sutter that they’re the better option.

He’s doing a little bit better lately, but overall compared to last season he’s still not doing quite as well.

  • His five-on-five save percentage is .903, down from .923.
  • His five-on-five goals against per 60 minutes is 2.60, up from 2.11.
  • His five-on-five high-danger save percentage is .787, down from .841.
  • His five-on-five rebound attempts against per 60 minutes are 4.62, up from 3.25.

That said, his expected goals against (per 60) is up (2.54 from 2.33) and rush attempts against per 60 are up (2.79 from 1.87). His performance is worse than last year in quite a few areas, but he’s facing better scoring chances against as a consequence of some defensive leakiness.

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Both Markstrom and the players in front of him have work to do from a defensive standpoint.

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