Every 20 games or so, the writers here at M&G will be participating in a Writers Round-Table. We will select anywhere from 3-5 hot button issues from the previous 20 games and give you our opinions and a chance for you to respond to our thoughts. Without further adieu, here’s our first regular season edition of The Writers Round Table.
-Who do you think is the Flames MVP so far this season?
FlamesMM - I’m going to take Michael Frolik as my MVP at this point in the season. He has been the Flames most consistent player in all facets of the game and has also brought a nice scoring touch as a compliment. He may not always get rewarded for the hard work he puts in, especially defensively and on the PK, but he’s the key to any success the Flames may have.
samwell9 - I have to go with Frolik as well. I have been a fan of Frolik for years and I was ecstatic when the Flames signed him. He is such a solid player in all aspects of the game and very dependable. Alongside Backlund and Tkachuk, they form one of the best 5-on-5 lines in the entire NHL. He plays tough minutes, yet Frolik is their leading scorer. Despite having essentially no powerplay time (something that should definitely change). I have also really liked Ferland’s game, but he has not received enough minutes to consider him the MVP at this point.
Fired up! - Tough question to answer this season. To be different I’ll go with Chad Johnson. 4-3-0 compared to Elliott’s 3-8 record, 2.35 GAA compared to Elliott’s 3.36, and a save % of .915 vs Elliot’s .882. It is hard to imagine but without him things could actually be worse.
Renu Sahota - Premature, but I’m going to go with Matthew Tkachuk – this kids got spirit and it shows in his fight. 21PIM & although Frolik is leading in points – I like Tkachuks TOI to his stats in 15GP: (4,3,+1) versus Froliks 19GP: (6,6,-1). Keep up the hustle. With that said - Props to Frolik.
MarkParkinson14- I’m going with Chad Johnson. As of writing this, Johnson is 4-2-0 in November compared to Brian Elliott’s 0-4-0. Johnson’s Save % has been consistently hovering around .910 and he’s GAA keeps dropping. While the Flames gave up picks to get Elliott in hopes of solidifying the goaltender position, Johnson has done more to bring stability to the crease. Calgary should be looking at extending Johnson, not Elliott for the next season or two.
BizzleJ - I haven’t seen a whole lot of games so far but from what I have seen, I would say the MVP so far would definitely have to be Chad Johnson. On a team where scoring typically isn’t an issue, yet for some reason we aren’t scoring enough, the Flames have struggled with goaltending. The issue was supposed to be solved by acquiring superstar goaltender Brian Elliott from the Blues, but Elliott has struggled. Johnson has settled in nicely and we are winning some games again.
MattyFranchise - If someone told me at the start of the season that Michael Frolik was going to be the Flames most consistent player and top scored after 21 games I would have said, “yeah maybe consistent but Gio, Monny, and Johnny will all be outscoring him right?” Frolik, along with linemates Backlund and Tkachuk have far and away been the Flames’ best players so far this season with Frolik leading the way with 14 points.
-On the flip side of that, who do you feel has underachieved the most so far?
FlamesMM - I have Sean Monahan as my most disappointing player thus far in the season. I know his linemate Johnny Gaudreau struggled, but it’s the job of top players to make a difference on the ice and Monahan hasn’t. There’s been games where I have barely heard his named called, if at all. He looks like a shadow of the dominant Sean Monahan from past years where he put up 60+ points.
samwell9 - It is sad that there are actually a few good candidates for this distinction. Until recently I would have said T.J. Brodie because I think so highly of him and he had a rough start, but he has started to come around. I would have to go with Monahan as well, just because for a large chunk of the season he has been basically invisible. He is starting to play somewhat better and I expect he is still going to end up with respectable totals at the end of the season, but it has been a very rough start for him offensively and he has not been successful defensively either. Other candidates include Mark Giordano, Troy Brouwer and Sam Bennett. All have had their moments, but have room for improvement.
Fired Up! Johnny Gaudreau. He has the second worst +/- on the team at -10. ( TJ Brodie is currenty at -11) He was a give a way machine for the first part of the season and was weak in the defensive zone. The speed and stick handling that made him a star last year was absent through the first 15 games of the season this year. He was starting to turn it around before the referees allowed Minnesota to hack and slash him out of the lineup, so hopefully when he returns he’ll continues to trend upwards. Honorable mentions to Sam Bennett and Sean Monahan.
Renu Sahota - Sean Monahan – Not a good start overall for the topline, Monahan especially having a bad start with a -8 in 19GP (5,3). Monahan not having a 2-pt game until friday night versus the Chicago Blackhawks (with an assist on the Bennett goal, followed by his own goal) - still not enough for the win, as the Flames are handed their 9th loss in 14 at home. #23 had a better start last season with 14pts in the first 20 games. Time to step it up with Gaudreau out.
I also want to see TJ Brodie pick it up!
MarkParkinson14- Brian Elliott. It appears it’s all about the goaltending for me. The draft day trade for Elliott was the move every fan was hoping for and it happened. Looking back at it, sure it was the perfect deal, but it hasn’t worked out. Elliott has sat for 4 straight games and when he’s played in November he is 0-4-0 and has given up 13 goals. While early on it appeared he was let down by his defence and got some bad luck, Chad Johnson has played with the same team in front of him and had much better results. Once again it looks like the high priced import goalie is falling behind the cheaper journeyman.
BizzleJ - I am once again going to go with Mark here and say that Brian Elliott has been a huge let down for me. I was super-pumped when we acquired him and had huge expectations of a goaltender that was a finalist for the Vezina last year and has posted the kind of numbers he has for the last few years. But then I should have learned my lesson from the acquisition of Hiller whom I also had big expectations from. Now I feel Elliott has lost confidence which only makes things worse.
MattyFranchise - It’s a toss up for me right now. I expected a lot more from Monahan this season than what he’s shown thus far and if he keeps playing like he has been then at this rate he will finish with a paltry 31 points. Not what you need from your teams highest paid center. Brian Elliott has also been a huge disappointment. Coming into this season I had argued that Elliott represented a near elite level goaltender that just needed a chance to prove himself as a starter. Now I am getting closer and closer to being convinced that Chad Johnson is actually the better goaltender and that Elliott was simply a byproduct of Ken Hitchcock’s defense oriented systems in St Louis. Ultimately, Monahan has the youth to be able to bounce back from a horrendous season, for Elliott it’s getting a bit too close to the end of the line.
-Mark Jankowski has had a spectacular start to his first full AHL season with the Heat, Will he get the call to Calgary at some point or is he better off staying in Stockton and getting better?
FlamesMM - It’s always been about patience with Mark Jankowski, why change that now? Jankowski’s 12 points in 12 games to start the season has been impressive, including a 7 game point streak, but he’s best served staying in Stockton for at least this year. It’s better that he continues to develop in a Top 6 role and gets those minutes with the Heat, than if he comes up to the Flames and likely finds himself bouncing around.
samwell9 - Jankowski is a pretty exciting prospect because we have gotten to follow his growth for years and now that he is getting real close to the NHL, it is hard not to be intrigued by his potential. I think it is for the best he remains in the AHL, he has been really successful so far this year and it would not hurt for him to continue building on that, rather than potentially come up to the NHL before he is completely ready. Seems like he is a surefire NHL player at this point, will be interesting to see how significant of an impact he can make down the road. I think he will only be up for a significant period of time if there are substantial injuries to Monahan/Bennett/Backlund.
Fired up! - I would like to see him get some games at the NHL level. You are only as good as your competition and it would be good for his growth. It would be detrimental to bring him up and have him on the bench most nights not playing, so I agree with my colleagues that for his confidence and development it may be best to leave him in the AHL for most of the season, but at some point he has got to come up. With every call up he should become more and more comfortable in the NHL.
Renu Sahota - I haven’t followed Jankowski enough, but his stats are looking great! I would let him keep maturing his game with the Heat, but wouldn’t be surprised if he was called up if the Flames fall short post xmas break.
MarkParkinson14- I will be the first to say this: I’m glad Mark Jankowski is proving me wrong. I watch him play at PC a few times live and he just looked slow and disinterested. His team mates John Gilmour and Jon Gillies always seemed to out perform him and when playing against Edmonton’s prospect Evan Campbell (UMass Lowell), Campbell looked like the better player. So when Calgary signed Janko I was hoping that maybe, just maybe what I saw was an aberration and it looks like that’s the case. Jankowski is having quite the first full season at the AHL level with Stockton and if the Flames were to need to fill a roster spot for a few games, I think Jankowski would be the logical choice to fill in. Do I think he’s ready to join Calgary now and play a full season? Probably not. He’s not a Johnny Gaudreau or Sean Monahan. I think Jankowski could use a full or close to full season in the AHL to work on his offence and get ready for the jump. I don’t think he’s that far away and that’s a good thing for the Flames.
BizzleJ - Janko has had a huge season so far playing for the Heat. I am kind of torn on this one. Obviously the more development you can get, the better to make you a better player. But at what point do you leave the Flames wounds bleeding before you stitch them up? Chad Johnson has come around and solved the goaltending situation, now if the team doesn’t start scoring more than 2 or 3 goals a game, something has to be done, and bringing up some young, hungry talent might be it.
MattyFranchise - Through 4 years at Providence Jankowski had been a slow burn showing marginal improvement until his 4th and final year when he exploded points wise (40 in year 4 when year 3 was only 27) and showed excellent progression on the defensive side of the puck but there were still some doubts regarding his capability at the professional level. Most NCAA players that move on to become everyday NHLers typically move to the professional ranks after only 3 years of school (Jon Gillies and Johnny Gaudreau, for example played only 3 years before signing pro contracts) but I think that in this case patience is paying off for Jankowski and letting him play the majority of the season in the AHL will only benefit him in the long run. Maybe he gets a couple games at the end of the season if the Flames need to rest guys for a playoff run or if they just want to see what they have after they are eliminated from the race but right now my gut tells me that Jankowski stays in the AHL for the entire season.
-With almost 1⁄4 of the season in the books, what are your impressions of Matthew Tkachuk?
FlamesMM - The Flames are almost night and day when Tkachuk has been in the lineup this season. He has incorporated the grit and tenacity that he had in junior to the NHL seamlessly, and has consistently been a thorn in the side of many top NHLers. He’s become an integral part of this Flames team early in his career. Very impressed.
samwell9 - Already one of my favourite players on the team. Making a huge impact while not being sheltered at all. He does have the benefit of playing with the best all around forwards of the team in Backlund and Frolik, but he is actually elevating them rather than them boosting him. He brings a bit of everything to the team and is still only 18. We are going to love this guy for years to come, the rest of the league will not.
Fired Up!- Love him! The next jersey I buy might be number 19’s. He creates energy, he scores, he draws penalties, and he’s speedy. What’s not to like? He is only 18 and is one of the best forwards on this team. Brian Burke historically always keeps his 18/19 year olds in the farm system, but when asked about Matthew Tkachuk on the Fan960 radio station earlier this month, he said his play forced him to keep him in the lineup. That says a lot coming from Burke.
Renu Sahota - 3 Letters: MVP - rookie card.
MarkParkinson14- I don’t see how you can’t like what you’ve seen so far from Tkachuk. He’s provided grit, his offence is growing and he’s getting under the skin of everyone and their brother. There was a 2-3 game stretch where the Flames looked flat and Tkachuk was one of the only Flames who looked like he wanted to be on the ice. The one fear with Matthew Tkachuk jumping right to the NHL was would he fit in or at least look the part and he’s done both and then some.
BizzleJ - From what I have seen so far, Matthew Tkachuk is going to be just like his dad. He is a gritty player that isn’t afraid to throw his body around and get in the corners and dig for pucks. Then he adds a touch of brilliance when he gets the puck. He is definitely noticeable when he is in the lineup and on the ice.
MattyFranchise - I don’t know what else I can add to what has already been said. Tkachuk has been 1⁄3 of the Flames top line this season and for good reason. Tkachuk has simply shown us night in and night out that he was born to play in the NHL. He’ll never see another minor league again.