Prior to the all-star weekend, the Calgary Flames sent down their remaining three call-ups: Markus Granlund, Joni Ortio, and Tyler Wotherspoon. It wasn't a paper transaction, as all three did indeed report to Adirondack and played in the team's final game before the AHL's own all-star break.
With the NHL one now over, though, and Curtis Glencross and Ladislav Smid still on injured reserve, the Flames had three roster spots to fill, and fill they have. The Flames have recalled Sven Baertschi, David Wolf, and Wotherspoon, leaving the Finnish mafia down in Adirondack.
The recalls are pretty clearcut. Glencross is an injured left winger; Wolf and Baertschi are Adirondack's highest-scoring lefties (Wolf has 12 goals and 21 points in 35 games, while Baertschi has five goals and 17 points in 28). Smid is an injured defenceman, and Wotherspoon is the Flames' most NHL-ready blueliner prospect.
So far this month, Baertschi has three goals and two assists. While he's been held off the scoreboard for the last four games, it's certainly not for a lack of trying; he has 10 shots over those games, and has had 19 over the eight games Adirondack has played in January. He seems to have responded well to his demotion from back in early December, and with the trade deadline coming up, just might be in perfect position to play himself into a full time NHL roster spot.
Wolf, meanwhile, has gone on a tear as of late. The huge German - we're talking 6'3", 215 lbs. - was a top scorer in the German league (that, and he collected an insane number of penalty minutes). That's the German league, though. He's needed time to adjust to North American hockey, and while he's still racking up those penalty minutes, he's started scoring more as of late as well. In eight games this month, Wolf has seven goals and two assists. Six of those goals came in the last four games, so he's definitely riding a hot streak right now, but it's a streak worthy of a recall, for sure. He's had 24 shots over these eight games as well, averaging him at thee shots a game this month. Might be time to start thinking up some Wolf puns...
Then there's Wotherspoon on defence. Smid was placed on injured reserve just before the break, and Wotherspoon was recalled, where he sat as a healthy scratch against the Ducks before being reassigned. Wotherspoon isn't Adirondack's highest-scoring defender - that honour goes to Ryan Culkin - but he's the guy who played 14 NHL games last season, and was just starting to look real good before a shoulder injury prematurely ended his season. Over 39 games in Adirondack this season, he has two goals and 13 assists: one goal and one assist have come in the seven games he's played this month. He's someone else getting the puck on net, too, as he has 18 shots on net this month.
This is all well and good, but are the three of them going to draw in? The Flames are carrying two extra forwards and one extra defenceman. There's no sense in recalling prospects if you aren't going to play them, but someone is going to have to sit. (Although none of them are expected to play tomorrow.)
Baertschi should be given a chance to prove himself. Glencross has played most frequently with Sean Monahan this season, and Baertschi and Monahan have had chemistry in the past. On the other hand, the last time we got to see Baertschi regularly he was demoted to the fourth line and wasn't even allowed to play 10 minutes in a game. On the other hand, he seems to have found his scoring touch in the AHL. So basically... I have no idea what Hartley's plan is for him, but at the very least, he should be playing.
Wolf, on the other hand, will almost certainly be given a shot. He could very well be the guy who ends up on Monahan's line. He and Baertschi are scoring at about the same rate, although much of Wolf's offence has come from just his last few games, so there's no guarantee it's going to stick. There's no denying the kid has earned his shot in the NHL, though, and combine that with his size and truculence, and he'll probably be dressing fairly regularly during his call-up. Don't be surprised if he sits a bit at first, though: he only has half a season of North American hockey under his belt, and the NHL is the highest level there is. It certainly won't hurt him to watch a game or two from the pressbox.
With that said...
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Hartley says Glencross isn't far off from a return. Could see him back as early as Thursday. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Flames?src=hash">#Flames</a></p>— Pat Steinberg (@Fan960Steinberg) <a href="https://twitter.com/Fan960Steinberg/status/559843547038248960">January 26, 2015</a></blockquote>
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... one of them will likely be headed back down soon. Glencross is someone the Flames should be looking to trade, though, so Baertschi or Wolf could be right back up.
The backend is different, but there's no doubt Wotherspoon will get to play at some point; otherwise, why not just recall Corey Potter to chill in the pressbox while Smid is out? Wotherspoon will probably get to slot in for Rafa Diaz, although I'd be really interested to see the both of them in the lineup, and Deryk Engelland sitting, because that's a much more mobile defence group. The Flames' struggles on defence have been well-documented (and we have more on the way!), so if Wotherspoon ends up being really awesome and can push someone out of the top four, the Flames could be looking at a much more stable and balanced defence core with which to continue their playoff push. That's a big if, though. But it's nice to dream.
Those left behind
As for the Finns, they did an admirable job while in the NHL, but it was time to send them down. Granlund played 33 NHL games, probably more than we were all expecting him too, but it was time to keep him in the minors. The Flames are healthy at centre once again, and Granlund was struggling in his most recent games. The offence we saw at the start of his recall had dried up, and he was getting fewer minutes. It was just time. He'll likely be back soon enough.
Ortio, as a goalie, faces a completely different situation. But this just came down to numbers. With Karri Ramo healthy, the Flames don't need three goaltenders on the roster. Ortio forced their hand prior to the all-star break, but while he was pulled against the Ducks, I doubt he would have returned to the NHL after even if he'd posted another shutout. He's still a developing prospect, and the Flames still have two NHL goalies under contract. There are just too many bodies at the moment. The good news for him, though, is he had a stellar audition throughout the road trip, and with the trade deadline coming up and Ortio requiring waivers starting next season, he may be back sooner than we think.