After Thursday’s 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators, things are starting to look up again for the Flames. However we can’t ignore the struggles of the previous couple weeks and the holes that blatantly presented themselves to us.
With that being said, we’re doing a mini roundtable where each writer chooses two things they would do if they were immediately put in charge of the Flames. This can be anything from callups, to trades, to captaincy changes, to changing the price of the beer at the Dome, and everything in between.
Without further ado, let’s go:
1. Change up the Defense Lines
With the ability to change the defensive lines, I’d finally alleviate T.J. Brodie from having to play with Dennis Wideman. I’d also send down Freddie Hamilton and call up Tyler Wotherspoon and hope the team can trade one of Jokipakka or Wideman. My ideal defense lines would look as follows: Giordano-Hamilton, Kulak-Brodie, Wotherspoon-Engelland.
2. Make a push for Thomas Vanek
Vanek would offer the top line right-handed shot the Flames need, and allow the 3M line to reform as a solid second line. It would also give the Flames a deep top 9 with a 3rd line of Versteeg, Bennett, and Brouwer. In terms of what to trade, the Flames would have to open up a roster spot so ideally send Chiasson and a couple draft picks. Maybe a 2nd this year (weak draft) and a 4th the year after to make the deal happen. 31 pts in 37 games isn’t bad!
1) Reassign Some Letters
No, it’s nothing incredibly ground breaking, but I’d change up the A’s on the Flames. Troy Brouwer has been nothing but disappointing and got his A based on past performances. I’d take the A away from him and give to either Mikael Backlund or Deryk Engelland. Backlund has by far been the Flames best player this season. Offence. Defence. PK. He’s also gotten into a few scraps when it was required. Engelland wore the A when Brouwer was out and injured and I’d be fine with him getting it back. His teammates voted to give it to him on a temporary basis and the fact that he’s one of the few Flames who shows up to the rink on a consistent basis warrants a leadership role. He’s not flashy, he’s not spectacular, but he’s a leader on the ice and I think he’s deserving.
2) Pick A Goalie, Any Goalie
I think it’s time to ride one of these goalies and see what happens. Neither Brian Elliott or Chad Johnson has been spectacular as of late. The Flames are teetering on the edge of the playoffs and it’s time to determine who’s going to either lead the Flames to the playoffs or crash it into the iceberg. I don’t care which one, but Johnson or Elliott needs a sustained run between the pipes. No more one game Johnson, one game Elliott. Put one in net and ride it out. There will be ups and downs, but the Flames needs to get some sort of consistency. My vote would be for Elliott right now. I think we’ve seen what Chad Johnson is and it’s streaky and showing signs of wearing down. Let Elliott get some starts under his belt and see what happens. If it’s an unmitigated disaster, there’s always the trade deadline.......or Karri Ramo is still out there right?
1) Call Up A Young Guy (or Two)
The Flames offense has been sputtering lately. While some of that has to do with talented players struggling to perform to their potential like Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett, something that can be remedied more easily is moving players out of their depth down the line up. Specifically, I am talking about Troy Brouwer (16:59 a game) who has really not been good at all and Alex Chiasson (14:05 a game) who was a fourth line forward on a bad Sens team last year, but is in a top-six forward role this season. Brouwer is a possession anchor, while Chiasson does not have the offensive skills to keep up with the best offensive players on the Flames. Hunter Shinkaruk, Morgan Klimchuk, Andrew Mangiapane and Emile Poirier are all wingers playing for Stockton, with track records of offensive success at both the AHL and CHL levels. Could giving any of those guys a shot in an offensive role hurt the team anymore than Chiasson and Brouwer currently are? Bring one or two of them up to inject some life into the team. Plus, this team is still in the development stage and this could be a great opportunity to give some assets valuable experience.
2) Start Powerplays with the Backlund Unit
It has been driving me crazy for a while now. Every time the Flames get a powerplay, the first unit out is the Gaudreau-Monahan-Brouwer-Versteeg-Brodie group. Theoretically this sounds like the right thing to do, but as we have seen this season, it is not good enough. The unit is often one chance and done, struggles to win puck battles, sometimes struggles with zone entries and often kills the momentum of the team. The unit eats up the majority of the powerplay time, leaving the scraps for the Tkachuk-Backlund-Frolik-Giordano-Hamilton unit. This unit looks #visuallybetter in that they win puck battles, enter the zone with ease and efficiently move the puck around. They are also statistically better, as the 4 leaders on the Flames in Points/60 (minimum 50 minutes played) on the powerplay are Backlund (6.72), Tkachuk (6.15), Hamilton (5.13) and Giordano (4.72). Michael Frolik ranks second at 6.64 but has only received 45:09 of powerplay time this season (ridiculous). The Backlund unit should be starting every powerplay from here on out.
- Dump Some Dead Weight
It’s time for Dennis Wideman and possibly one or two more players to go. The Flames have a ton of depth in almost every position and with some juggling here and there could have the cap space to make a move to get rid of Wideman and replace him with a marquis defenseman. Jokipakka is still young enough that another team can mold him to work in their system so I would deal him as well.
2. Bring Back Iggy
Now is the perfect time to bring back a fan favourite in Jarome Iginla for two reasons: 1. His added offence and grit will help the Flames make a playoff push; and 2. So he can retire a Calgary Flame.
1. Sports Visualization
The Calgary Flames could definitely use a boost in morale – Sports Psychology. There’s some young talent on the team and a workshop in the world of social media and fan comments would help them to navigate some of the negative feedback they may get via various sports media outlets or sports forums.
One thing I would introduce if it hasn’t been already – is a Sports Visualization workshop – kind of like sports yoga. Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks is a big fan of this technique, and Chad Johnson has been spotted sitting on the players bench doing a mental activity prior to the game. I would let Denis Wideman know that it’s okay – and to start playing again – don’t let the zebras get to you.
Something needs to shake up and wake up in that dressing room, and some fun team activities and personal growth training might just be the thing to boost the Flames and light that fire under them!
2. Tougher Defense
I don’t know who’s available in the league right now, but I would put Mark Giordano on the trading block, alongside a center like Sam Bennett – and like to see Jankowski called up again. Now would be a good time to cash in the chips and get a good return on the stellar deal made in signing Captain Gio. I would love to some how see Jarome Iginla make a return to the Flames and play in the playoffs. I would leave the goaltending as is, but play them strategically, and not how Gully’s been playing them with questionable starters. Let the hot goalie ride, and don’t play the goalie when they have a bad game. I know he saw the stats versus the team played, but you need to ride the momentum and know when to open the parachute.
The Flames need to play a tougher defense, and protect their key players. Can’t have Johnny hockey being pushed around and have the defense stand around doing nothing about it. Need to send a message to the opposition that going after #13 Gaudreau comes with a price-tag-you’re-hit.