The 2021-22 Calgary Flames season has begun! The Flames lost their season-opener to Edmonton and that’s the primary topic of conversation in this week’s mailbag.
A disclaimer: it’s been one game.
But yeah, Chris Tanev is perhaps the team’s best defender (in terms of being able to drag along anybody else with him to respectability) and even he wasn’t able to cover up for Nikita Zadorov’s foibles on opening night. Zadorov (and Tanev) was on the ice for three of Edmonton’s five goals and directly responsible for two: Derek Ryan’s goal was because Warren Foegele bounced the puck off of Zadorov, and he wasn’t able to prevent Cody Ceci’s outlet pass to Jesse Puljujarvi on another goal.
The best-case scenario this season is probably that Juuso Valimaki takes a step and grabs hold of a top four spot with Chris Tanev (or Rasmus Andersson). But based on how the Flames tend to operate their blueline, they’re not going to just throw Valimaki into the proverbial deep end: he’ll need to prove that he’s too good for the third pairing. He made a nice play on the boards to set up Andrew Mangiapane’s goal against Edmonton, so he’s off to a nice start.
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Let’s be brutally honest here: the Flames lost because they took penalties at bad times and deflated their own momentum. They were quite good at five-on-five and if it weren’t for the two power play goals they gave up to Edmonton, it’s a much different game.
As noted above: Zadorov will probably need to play his way out of the lineup, because it’d be a big ask of either player to just throw Valimaki or Kylington into the top four. One, or both, of those guys will need to basically force Zadorov onto the third pairing (or the press box).
The short answer is “because pre-season would’ve been the time to try it.” Given how jam-packed the Pacific Division standings are expected to be, it wouldn’t make a ton of sense for a risk-averse organization to try out Kylington in an unfamiliar position considering a gaffe could legitimately end up costing them a playoff spot.
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The other possible answer is “they have way too many established left-shot forwards already.” Presuming that they wouldn’t try to make him a centreman, their leftie wingers include Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, Andrew Mangiapane, Dillon Dube, Milan Lucic and Blake Coleman. Whose spot in the lineup is Kylington taking? (Exactly.)
Honestly, my guess is the Flames were hoping that Tyler Pitlick would be healthy enough to play. Turns out that he wasn’t, so they seemingly went from having Kylington as a healthy scratch to having him play three minutes. It’s better than him not playing at all, but only slightly.
With Blake Coleman returning from suspension against Anaheim, expect Kylington to be eating popcorn on Monday evening.

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