It’s a new week! It’s a new month! The Calgary Flames are now above .500! They have a busy week of games ahead of them!
Let’s dive into the mailbag, friends.
Based on how often the line is being used at five-on-five, you could argue that Mikael Backlund’s line (with Blake Coleman and one of Adam Ruzicka or Jonathan Huberdeau of late) has been used as the Flames’ top line.
Now, let’s talk about Huberdeau. The Flames’ win over Washington was the first game in the past four outings where he didn’t register a primary point. Is he in the same amazing form he had last season where he finished tied for second in the NHL in points? Nope! But since his return to the lineup from his injuries on Nov. 14, he has three goals and seven points in 10 games. The only Flames with more points in that span are Ruzicka (10) and Elias Lindholm (eight).
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He’s not where he was last season, but he seems like he’s generally trending in the right direction.
Since we used Jonathan Huberdeau’s return from injury on Nov. 14 as the beginning of the previous sample size, let’s stick with that period for Nazem Kadri, too. In the past 10 games, Kadri has four points. In terms of average game score, he’s ninth among Flames forwards. He hasn’t been bad, but he hasn’t been impactful. And all due respect to Kadri, but he’s being paid rather handsomely to be impactful.
That said, let’s be honest here: linemates Dillon Dube and Andrew Mangiapane were pretty blah fairly recently, and Kadri is a guy who brings emotion and physicality to his game. And you could argue maybe he’s been trying to do a bit too much in all three zones in an effort to spark his line. With Dube and Mangiapane starting to get going, maybe that could lead to Kadri simplifying his game a bit and that trio as a unit becoming a bit more effective.
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Disclaimer: I am not a professional hockey coach.
But I would suggest embracing a shooting mentality on the power play – firing on the net and creating chaos – rather than trying to pass until the “perfect” shot emerges. Shooting and a bit more urgency could help them generate a bit more.
Realistically, a couple top nine injuries to wingers would probably pave the way for auditions for Matthew Phillips and Jakob Pelletier. If there are fourth line injuries, you’re probably looking at call-ups for Walker Duehr or Radim Zohorna.
“…what I’ve found is that players who have a chance to succeed at this level are players that are dominant. And when I say dominant, that doesn’t necessarily mean statistically dominant, right? But they’re very good in whatever role that is that you envision them playing at the NHL level. It may be in a checking role. It may be in a bottom six role or a checking role. It may be an offensive role. It may not necessarily be a player that’s a top line player in the American Hockey League coming in and being a top line player here. But you want to put them in positions to succeed.”
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I would argue that when the Flames have the ability to set call-up players up for success… and have no other choice but to call them up for specific roles, they’ll be here. (So… yeah, a few injuries away.)
Where Roberto Luongo trumps Mike Vernon is sheer longevity. Luongo racked up 489 regular season wins, well more than Vernon’s 385 (and more than everybody except Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy and Marc-Andre Fleury). Shutouts? Luongo has 77, ninth all-time and well ahead of Vernon’s 27. Vernon has a huge edge in playoff wins (77; Luongo has 34) and Stanley Cups (2), but playoff shutouts is pretty close (Vernon has 6, Luongo has 5).
But in terms of Hall of Fame bonafides, Luongo’s big lead in regular season wins is probably what put him over the top for the induction committee.
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