Troy Brouwer, Kris Versteeg, Chris Stewart, Curtis Lazar, Garnet Hathaway. That’s the list of wingers on the Calgary Flames from this past season who shoot right. Not exactly a very strong crop.
In a combined 231 games last year, those four players registered 16 goals and 42 assists for 58 total points. Not exactly the production you’re hoping for out of a group of five forwards, regardless of their placement in the lineup.
Of course there were some nice contributions by Micheal Ferland and Michael Frolik as right wingers, but the Flames have lacked a top six right handed forward since the day Jarome Iginla was traded.
That brings us to Spencer Foo, who dressed for four late season games and made a pretty noticeable impact by tallying two goals and a whopping 16 shots. How you value four rather meaningless games is your call, but he still was a noticeable player, especially in the final three games.
In Stockton he posted 39 points in 62 games which isn’t eye-popping by any means, but he scored 32 of those points in the final 43 games of the season. 19 of his 20 goals were also scored in those final 43 games which seems to show that he adjusted and learned quite quickly at the AHL level.
Foo will be 24 by the time next season kicks off, so there is some need to start getting him NHL action if he’s ever going to become a regular. Where he could fit in the Flames lineup is the subject of this piece.
In my opinion it doesn’t make a ton of sense to stick him on the fourth line, because that’s just not a role he’s played throughout his career. He could look good on the third line alongside Mark Jankowski who he spent some time with in Stockton.
However if you ask me, putting up on the second line to start the season with Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk may be the perfect place to really get his NHL career going. Putting him with two defensively responsible but also offensively gifted forwards would give Foo some room for error as he fully adjusts to the NHL.
As a result you could bump down Michael Frolik to the third line which isn’t a terrible idea after his point totals took a step back this year. His defensive game was still pretty good but he really struggled offensively as the season continued. Mark Jankowski showed some really good potential as a two-way centre in his rookie year, and putting him with a defensively stout forward in Frolik could really help his development.
Here’s how I think a potential top nine could look on the Flames:
Gaudreau - Monahan - TBD
Tkachuk - Backlund - Foo
TBD - Jankowski - Frolik
TBD spots could be Ferland, Bennett, or others.
Obviously putting Foo in a top six role right off the bat may seem like a stretch, but I’d rather the Flames take a chance with one of their prospects by throwing him into the fire and seeing how he does.
When Foo was given more minutes (approx. 17 min per game) and a higher spot in the lineup he responded with a pair of goals and 15 of his 16 shots. In his NHL debut when he started lower in the lineup, he only posted one shot and played 12 minutes.
We saw with Andrew Mangiapane this year that taking a successful AHL player and just plopping him on the fourth line really didn’t provide much benefit. Perhaps part of that was Glen Gulutzan’s urge to make players prove themselves before getting a good role. It’ll also be interesting to see what the Flames decide to do with Mangiapane next year, but that’s a piece for another day.
By giving Foo two really solid lineups to begin building his NHL resume, the Flames will be giving him a better chance to succeed than by just tossing him in the bottom six. If Foo could even just develop into a reliable middle six scoring forward, the Flames would be in a much better position into the future.
Again, I would rather the Flames give Foo a significant shot at carving out a legitimate role on the team than bringing in an older guy for likely a much bigger contract. The financial aspect is also interesting to look at, because bringing in Foo with his $925k ELC would open up a lot of money to spend in other areas (John Tavares anyone?? Haha).
I know it’s generally safer to bring in someone with experience to fill a spot, but sometimes you have to put faith in your teams scouting and development staff, because just maybe, you’ll hit a home run. There was a lot to like about Foo’s game in April, but now it’s time to see if he can bring it to training camp, make the team, and succeed as a full-time NHLer.