Now that the Flames have made some big cuts, most recently sending 15 players packing from training camp, the roster is starting to materialize. This means we can look at what's left, and how things could shake out over the upcoming week, as the regular season fast approaches.
NHL rosters can max out at 23 players. As T.J. Brodie slated for the injured reserve (as well as possibly Ladislav Smid and Mason Raymond; however, Smid has been cleared for contact, whereas Raymond may be injured), he won't count towards the 23 yet. The Flames will still need to cut or move six to eight players, depending on their injury statuses, to get down to the league mandate, and most of these decisions will be tough on management.
Forwards - 18 remaining
The Flames knew that they would have to make some tough decisions on their forwards prior to training camp, particularly as many of their forwards are waiver eligible, or unlikely to moved.
Please don't take this chart below as my impression of what the lines will be this season. I pieced them together based on who fit where. This also shouldn't be interpreted as much of a depth chart. Just a basic list.
|LEFT WING||CENTRE||RIGHT WING|
|Bouma||Bennett (C/LW)||Frolik (C/W)|
|Colborne (C/W)||Backlund||Jooris (C/W)|
At the very least the top 12 forwards should all be guaranteed or close to a spot on the roster to start the season. Michael Frolik has had a very strong preseason notching a few goals and playing strong hockey all around.
Micheal Ferland was a question mark coming into this camp, but with him playing hard-hitting hockey and getting powerplay minutes against Vancouver, it looks like he'll be around this season for our enjoyment.
Only three of the forwards on the current list are exempt from waivers (Sam Bennett, Markus Granlund, and Garnet Hathaway), and Bennett is definitely untouchable.
Based on the business here, it seems probably both Granlund and Hathaway are sent down towards the end of camp due to the simplicity of moving them. However, it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see Granlund back at some point during the year.
That leaves Mason Raymond, Drew Shore, Brandon "Gretzky" Bollig, and Paul Byron on the list and the Flames with 16 forwards. Each player has a strong case, and it'll be fun to watch it shake out.
Defence - 11 remaining, including those injured
Brodie's unexpected injury in the first preseason game (another reason to hate the Oilers) really created an interesting situation for the defense of the Flames. That, combined with Smid potentially still injured, the blueline could have some brand new faces come opening day.
As with the forwards, this is more of a basic list than actual depth chart.
|LEFT DEFENSE||RIGHT DEFENSE|
|Wilson||** potentially injured|
The Flames will most likely enter the season with seven playing defence, plus Brodie and Smid.
While Ryan Wilson is still without a contract, he's been fairly impressive in the preseason games he's played, and he brings an NHL resume just shy of 250 games.
Meanwhile, Jakub Nakladal, Tyler Wotherspoon, and Brett Kulak can still go to the AHL without having to pass through waivers.
While Brodie will definitely be inserted to the lineup after he heals, the question is will Smid, who hasn't played since Jan. 19, upon his return? He costs 3.5 million on the salary cap. Or, would it be better to play a young prospect such as Wotherspoon, and/or a much cheaper new face such as Wilson or Nakladal?
While I really would like to see Smid return to the NHL and resume his career, I'm not so sure if it would be best that continues in Calgary based on the depth of defence now present.
Goalies - 3 remaining
Finally, we reach the goaltenders. This is the most watched position, and will be the most scrutinized decision made this training camp. Three goalies enter, and likely only two will remain.
When the Flames chose to re-sign Ramo at the start of free agency this summer, they knew it would make for a difficult battle for each goaltender. Isn't there nothing more Flames-like than that? They didn't simply want two goaltenders who would assume the roles this year: they wanted two goaltenders to earn their spots on the club, and that's what has been happening this preseason.
Now, the Flames have three goaltenders that are all waiver-eligible, and all of them have contracts that expire after this season. For a full run down on the goaltending situation, read here.
Ortio has done well this preseason with a shutout victory over the Avalanche, as well as posting a strong effort against the Oilers, allowing only one goal. He showed a glimpse of brilliance during his recall stint last year, and hopefully, that can translate to this season as he is a strong hope for the future of goaltending in Calgary.
Hiller has had a decent preseason and had a good regular season last year, but his playoffs ended rather brutally last season after being pulled Game 6 against the Canucks and in Game 1 against Anaheim. Many see him as the odd man out here in Calgary and I tend to agree. He's had his ups and downs over the last year but I'm still not sure if he's what the Flames want or need in a goaltender. On a lighter note however, his one assist has him in 11th for the team lead in scoring this preseason.
Ramo has been around for most of this rebuild, and I feel he has more upside to his game than Hiller while also being younger. He showed brilliance in keeping the Flames in the series with the Ducks last year and has had pretty good numbers over his time with the Flames. If anything he's improved over his time in Calgary, and I'm very curious to see if that will continue this season.
This being said, as nice as it would be to keep all three goaltenders heading into the season, it just isn't feasible for a roster that is limited to a specific number of players. By keeping three goaltenders the Flames would have to give up either the 14th forward or the seventh defenceman, which just isn't smart.
This will be an interesting and important week to watch for Flames fans, and I'm glad to not be in Bob Hartley or Brad Treliving's shoes right now.