With one game left on the pre-season schedule and less than a week before the start of the 2010-11 season, the Flames find themselves missing four of their would-be top nine forwards after both Ales Kotalik and David Moss left Friday night's 5-1 win over the Oilers in various states of discomfort. Moss was reportedly sighted sporting a sling while Kotalik was on the limp after the game. Both players were attempting to get back on track after disappointing 2009-10 campaigns; Moss had recently been moved to centre and Kotalik seemed to be on his way to proving to Flames fans that he still has something left in the tank with four goals in five pre-season games. While Rene Bourque and Olli Jokinen returned to the ice this morning and appear set to return to the lineup tonight, we have no real time frame for the return of Daymond Langkow (neck), Matt Stajan (shoulder), Kotalik, or Moss, and the chances that we could see some AHL bodies in the lineup on opening night are high.
With older players like Stefan Meyer, Cam Cunning, Brett Sutter, and Jon Rheault still at camp, it seems Flames management is leaning towards experience over youth--leaving some of organization's younger prospects and recent draftees to develop in Abbotsford at their own pace, which I can't necessarily say I disagree with. Giving your best prospect a chance to prove their mettle at the NHL level when one of your regulars goes down like the Flames did with Backlund last year seems like a no-brainer. Throwing a guy who has yet to show any real prowess in the minors into the lineup expecting him to cover said absent player's minutes and essentially fill his role, however, can prove detrimental both to a prospect's development and the team's success.
After Arik's guest post the other week detailed the possible fill-ins for Matt Stajan while he recovers from a separated shoulder, I decided to look at what the Flames could be missing in terms of points production with four regular forwards potentially unavailable to start the season. After the jump, I've examined the counting stats of each player for the month of October in the past three seasons, averaged them out, and added up the totals to come up with a rough estimate of exactly how much offense the team could be lacking with these players out of the lineup for the first month of the season.
Although Daymond Langkow's production in the season's opening month has slipped since his 17 points in 12 games in 07-08, he has remained constant over the past two seasons. October typically hasn't been a kind month to the Flames since lockout ended, so any player who can maintain consistent production when the team as a whole is struggling is invaluable. Langkow's average of ten points in eleven games in the month of October over the past three seasons is the highest of any regular Flames forward currently on the shelf, as is his average ice time. Of course Daymond Langkow is renowned for aspects of his game other than his offensive contributions like his defensive capabilities and ability to go up against the other team's best and emerge on the positive side of things, but the points he does score will be missed nonetheless.
Stajan's October totals haven't exceeded the eight he scored in 13 games (0.62PPG) in 2007-08 in the two subsequent seasons, nor have they fluctuated greatly, which seems fairly typical if him as a player. His total of three goals for the month of October has also remained constant over the past three seasons. Stajan's numbers for this month are not particularly indicative of a different maker, but I suppose there's something to be said for consistency. His average TOI for October is second highest amongst the four forwards currently out of commission.
David Moss had a rough go of things last season, and it appears that this one isn't about to get any better in a hurry with the forward on the mend indefinitely. Despite this, he's been relatively consistent in the month of October over the course of the past three seasons; his three goals and four points in seven games to start of last season was the best of the three, as was his two powerplay goals and 15:07 of ice time--before succumbing to his first malady of the season seven games in.
Despite his struggles last season, Kotalik actually got off to a good start with five goals and 12 points in 14 games in the month of October with the Rangers. His average of eight points in eleven games for this month is the second highest amongst this group and his average of two powerplay goals tied for the first most productive of the group with the man advantage. It was in the following months--with one goal and six points in November and no goals and two points in December--that Kotalik would find himself with a familiar seat in John Tortorella's doghouse before being traded to the Flames.
Hypothetically, the Flames could be losing and average of 42 man-games to injury this month alone. In terms of offence, the team could be losing and average of 13 goals, 29 points, and seven powerplay goals. Assuming both Bourque and Jokinen play tonight and are ready to go by Thursday, these missing points could very well be accounted for; if not, the Flames will likely be in tough to overcome the slow starts to the season that have plagued them in the past.