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M&G Roundtable: The Stretch Drive

We take a look at a few topics with just 20 games left in the regular season.

Calgary Flames v Ottawa Senators Photo by Francois Laplante/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images

We are just over three quarters of the way through this season. The Flames are sitting in a playoff spot and are 8-2-1 in their last 11. But there are plenty of topics to mull over. Here is our latest M&G Roundtable, filled with our various takes. As always, please let us know your thoughts on any of the above issues. These are exciting times for the fan base of the Calgary Flames.

The trade deadline is fast approaching. The Flames look like a team that will be battling to the very end for a playoff spot. What approach do you think they will take toward the deadline? What approach should they take?

MarkParkinson14: The Flames need to be buyers. They are still clinging to that final playoff spot and that’s with almost zero contribution from Johnny Gaudreau and suspect goaltending at times. If they could add a few more pieces at the deadline it could give them the push they need. They’ve already gone out and added Matt Bartkowski and Michael Stone, so why stop there?

FlamesMM: The Flames are in a situation where it makes sense to buy but only to the extent that it won’t hurt their future much. The Stone trade is a perfect example of that. However, if a team makes a strong offer for a Chad Johnson, Deryk Engelland, or even Kris Versteeg, the Flames would be wise to at least entertain it.

Samwell9: I do not think the Flames are close enough to a cup this season to spend serious assets on a rental. I am okay with the trade for Stone because it was quite low cost and he is someone who could possibly be signed once the expansion draft is completed. I would not want to see more draft picks heading out the door, because the Flames have been drafting very well the last couple of years. However, I would completely support them going after a forward who could help both now and in the longer haul, like one of the guys I wrote about here. Apparently Brad Treliving is looking at goalies too and I support the continued search for a solution there, as long as it is not a high cost acquisition. I wonder about the cost and feasibility of Ryan Miller.

BizzleJ: If this were a month ago I would have said they may be a little busy at the deadline given their lack-lustre play. But as I write this they are on a hot streak after making a couple defensive changes and look to be on track to make a good run down the stretch. I wouldn’t touch a thing.

Another season, another year with no clarity about the long-term future of goaltending for the Calgary Flames. What should be done? Who do you think their tandem will be to start the 2017-18 season?

MarkParkinson14: If I’m in charge I listen to any and all offers for Chad Johnson. Like no reasonable offer will refused. Johnson saved the Flames season, but since then he’s fallen apart. The Flames are once again rumoured to be in the Fleury sweepstakes which I find interesting. But what do you do with Elliott? I like how Elliott has played and wouldn’t mind a tandem of Fleury and Elliott, but is the crease and bank account big enough for the two of them? I don’t think any of the Flames young goaltending talent is ready to make the jump, so it could be another year of stop gaps. You know, the usual.

FlamesMM: The Flames are in a strange position in that right now they don’t seem to have a clear-cut starter moving forward, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense to get a player like Ben Bishop because there’s some strong goaltending prospects in the minors (Tyler Parsons, Jon Gillies, Nick Schneider). In my opinion they should bring back Elliott for a year or two to fill the cap, and sign a stopgap backup for a year like Keith Kinkaid or Darcy Kuemper.

Samwell9: Like FlamesMM said, the Flames look to have a good future in net but they could use a little help in the present. Johnson had a nice run but it was unlikely he would sustain it and ultimately he is not much more than a good backup goalie. I find Elliott a bit too unreliable for my liking, although he has been better lately. I would be okay with him being retained on a short contract but I would not want to invest too much in him. Marc-Andre Fleury is an interesting target, Ryan Miller could be okay in the short-term and Jaroslav Halak would be a low-cost acquisition that might pay off. A guy of that calibre that is a 1-2 year commitment while we wait for Gillies, Parsons and David Rittich to continue along their development paths.

BizzleJ: I seriously think Johnson and Elliott are the tandem to stick with. Sure the beginning of the season was a bit of a gong-show with Elliott and Johnson has been streaky here and there, but I think they are settling in and have looked alright the last little stretch of games. If things go south, we have great depth in the goalie position in the system. I could see Mason McDonald coming up to at least be back-up.

We have now had three quarters of a season to watch this team under Glen Gulutzan. What is the vibe? Do you think he is a viable coach for a Calgary Flames organization that is attempting to build towards becoming Stanley Cup contenders?

MarkParkinson14: There are days where I say yes, then he sends Gaudreau down to the 4th line for a turnover, yet he won’t sit Dennis Wideman for a long stretch of games. The other thing that bugged me was how he handled Alex Chiasson after Gaudreau got leveled. Chiasson reacted and he got benched. I don’t understand what makes Gulutzan tick, but what I do know is the Flames’ two star players have taken a step back under him and that’s not good.

FlamesMM: I don’t know right now if he’s the long-term solution to building a consistent contender, but I think he fits the place the team is in right now as he grows along with them. He often strikes me as a person with split personalities as he doesn’t waiver in certain issues (Wideman, Chiasson) but will split up lines after a short period of trouble. I think his systems have controlled the Flames and made them stronger, but needs to be better tailored to helping the star players excel.

Samwell9: I know he has a number of detractors, but I am actually quite happy with Glen Gulutzan as a coach. No he is not Bruce Boudreau or Mike Babcock, but he seems to be a progressive, competent, likeable coach that can foster good relations with his players. Those aspects are extremely important for this Calgary Flames team, because they have an abundance of young players that need to be groomed into actualizing their potential. People get upset about his player usage and while I agree it is not always optimal, the Flames are lacking enough quality players to fill out some spots, which is why we often see Alex Chiasson on scoring lines and Dennis Wideman or Deryk Engelland in the top-4.

While there was a really rough transition period to start the season, the Flames have the 9th best record in the NHL since November 15th. Factor in the struggles of some of their scoring forwards, only having 3 solid defensemen and unstable goaltending, that is very impressive to me. They have the 3rd best powerplay, 7th best penalty kill and are the 7th best CF% team since November 15th. That puts the Flames up with the contenders in the NHL. Compared to last year under Bob Hartley where they were near the bottom in all of these categories, I am very happy with Gulutzan.

BizzleJ: If I am being honest, I have questioned a lot of Gulutzan’s tactics earlier in the season with all the line juggling when things were shaky. At times I have questioned his use of the challenges and time-outs as well. Overall I don’t think I would be happy with him if I were GM, however I don’t believe that a coach can be judged accurately through only one year.

When the season is over, will the Calgary Flames be in a playoff spot?

MarkParkinson14: I think it depends on what else they add at the trade deadline. There are many variables, but seeing we need an answer here, I say yes. I think the Flames will sneak in. It’ll be tough with Nashville just ahead of them (currently) and Winnipeg surging, but I think they can do just enough to secure that final spot.

FlamesMM: It’s going to come down to the games the Flames have against the Kings and Predators, two teams that are consistently very good. With the Kings poised to get Jonathan Quick back in March, it’ll add a whole new element to their game, but I still think the Flames will compete. At the end of the day, I think the Flames just barely squeak in.

Samwell9: If the Flames continue to be an elite team in terms of CF%, PP% and PK% as I identified above, the only thing that can hold them down is goaltending. If Brian Elliott can continue his relatively improved play and the team continues to perform like they have since mid-November, I really like their chances of not only making the playoffs but perhaps causing a bit of havoc once they get there.

BizzleJ: Hard to say if they will be in a playoff spot. The Western Conference is so tight and so competitive. With Jonathan Quick back for the Los Angeles Kings now, and the addition of Ben Bishop, I can’t see the Flames being ahead of L.A. I am going to say they will squeak into a wild card spot, because I want them to, but have my doubts.