1) Will Geoff Ward be the Flames new head coach?
Maddie: Sigh. I hope not. I have to give him credit for not letting this thing go wholly off the rails after the Peters situations, but I think what we saw was that his system just didn’t really gel with this roster’s particular skillsets. This team just isn’t built to be a heavy forechecking dump and chase team, which it seemed is what he was trying to have them do. I’m hoping they find a way to keep him as an assistant coach, but with depth of the coaching pool available this offseason, I don’t know why you would run it back and not go after one of them.
Mark: I agree with Maddie. Huge “sigh.” While I’m a big fan of “it’s not the coach, it’s the players,” I don’t see Geoff Ward being the guy to guide the Flames to wherever it is the Flames want to go. His panicked goalie switch in Game 6 was all I needed to see. But how many more coaches are going to fail with this core before EVERYONE gets looked at?
Michael: All things considering like Maddie said, he deserves a ton of credit for bringing this team around and back into playoff contention after they struggled under Bill Peters early in the season. This team had a lot of the same vibe to start the season as that 2017-18 Flames team in Glen Gulutzan’s final year. After taking over, the team went 25-15-3 which was the 8th highest points per game in the league over that stretch and was on a 106 point pace.
The coaching market is deep this summer so I want the Flames to look around, but if they get stuck with Ward next year, I don’t totally hate it. I just hope he can try to move away from his “we’re up by one in the third, time to collapse into ourselves and pray” technique.
2) Have Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan played their last games as Calgary Flames?
Maddie: I think one of them, but not both? I kind of find it hard to picture the Flames shipping out the both of them, but I’ve been wrong before. If I had to guess, Monahan is the one who gets moved, apparently his name has been tossed around already in trade talks, and that’s just kind of what my gut’s saying. I also don’t want to see Gaudreau moved, but that’s just me.
Mark: One has to go. Plain and simple. It’s just not working. I think it comes down to which player gets you more in return and in my mind that’s Johnny Gaudreau. Does that mean I want him gone? No. But practicality says he’s a bigger ticket item than Monahan. Both of them were atrocious again in the playoffs and as Calgary’s top players it just can’t happen anymore. I care about the eye test and my eyes tell me it’s time to break up the band. What sucks the most is you’d be selling low on both because of their performance. And Johnny Gaudreau coming out saying he wants to finish his career in Calgary is the kiss of death. When players start saying stuff like that you know they’re talking to their agent saying this:
Michael: Out of the two them, I think you have to gauge the message that trading each of them sends. If you trade Gaudreau, you’re signalling a complete directional shift of the franchise by trading the guy who has been the face of the team for seven years. If you trade Monahan, you could argue it’s a big shakeup, but the view of the team doesn’t change a huge amount. If it was up to me, I’d look at moving Monahan.
He’s had a history of putting up goals every year, but really doesn’t do much besides that. It’s not secret that a lot of his success has come off the back of Johnny Gaudreau, and if you move the him, I think Monahan falls off a cliff production wise. If you can use other assets and package Monahan for a better centre, or take some good pieces back for the present, I think you do that all day before you consider moving Gaudreau.
3) Is it time to make Matthew Tkachuk the leader of this team?
Maddie: This one’s hard, I don’t know. I’m honestly not super jazzed about the idea of moving Mark Giordano, and you’d have to get him to waive his NTC to do it, anyway. And I certainly don’t think stripping him of the C is that way to go. I don’t know, if it’s a really good return in a deal that would ship him out, sure, pull the trigger, but I don’t know if that’s the shake up move you want to make. He’s only got two more years on his contract, maybe just ride it out. I absolutely believe Tkachuk is going to be their next captain, but I don’t know that it needs to happen immediately.
Mark: I think it’s just about that time. Mark Giordano as a person seems like a really nice and stand-up guy. As a captain, however, I think his time has passed. He’s been the captain for Calgary’s playoff collapses and I don’t see that fire in him. Tkachuk is clearly the future everything of this team and watching him lose it in the press box as the Flames squandered a 3-0 lead told me all I need to know. He’s got a fire in his belly and he actually gives a damn. Can’t say that about everyone on this Flames roster. I don’t know if Mark Giordano would accept a demotion to an “A” and Tkachuk doesn’t seem like the type of guy who’d want to step on Gio’s toes. It’s coming, like a freight train and it’s obvious. It’s just a matter of when.
Michael: Tkachuk is the leader of the team at this point. It’s really that simple. The team buckled without him against Dallas and yet he was still shouldering more than his fair share of the blame while also standing up for his teammates. I don’t think you just cast off or strip Mark Giordano of the C, but at this point it shouldn’t even be a debate going forward. Giordano is still a great leader, and the Flames have been lucky to have a great succession plan in their captaincy’s for the last couple of decades and Tkachuk is simply just the next in line.
4) Who should the Flames build around moving forward?
Maddie: So my absolute untouchables, full stop, are Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm, Rasmus Andersson, and probably Juuso Valimaki (because of pedigree and the fact that we don’t really know what he’s going to be yet). Close to untouchable would be Dillon Dube and Andrew Mangiapane. I’d prefer not to move Noah Hanifin. Everyone else, well, I’m listening to offers.
Mark: Matthew Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm, Dillon Dube, Mangiapane, Rasmus Andersson, Noah Hanifin, Jusso Valimaki. Basically, what Maddie said. That’s the group, along with hopefully/potentially/maybe Dustin Wolf, that Calgary should really be attempting to build around. I’m very excited at the prospect of Andersson and Hanifin lining up as the Flames top defence pairing and Andrew Mangiapane looks like he’s got all the tools to be something special for a long time. It’s Matthew Tkachuk’s team (even if it’s not official) moving forward and that’s the group that I’d work hard to keep together.
Michael: Milan Lucic. Lol just kidding, well I think he’s gonna be here for a few years regardless. Pretty much everyone Mark and Maddie have already included would be on my list as well. The Flames are lucky to have a bunch of really young NHL level defencemen in their ranks, so the focus would shift to forwards. The team is actually in a pretty good spot if they want to make a big change with one of the big names this year as guys like Dillon Dube and Andrew Mangiapane have shown they’re ready for a bigger opportunity.
5) What will it take to make Playoffs Sam Bennett become the every day Sam Bennett?
Maddie: Magic? Divine intervention? I don’t know gang.
Mark: Got me and therein lies the problem with Sam Bennett. He was one of the Flames best players in the playoffs and he played with torn triceps muscles. Playoff Sam Bennett was a machine, but what if the Flames don’t make the playoffs? Regular season Sam Bennett is 1/5th the player he becomes in the post season. Maybe moving him back to centre and giving him a consistent line to play on would help? But if he’s the Same Ole Sam during the regular season and Calgary doesn’t make the playoffs, what do you have? Not much.
Michael: I think to put it simply is that Playoff Bennett plays a game that simply can’t translate to regular season hockey. It reminds me of what we saw with Micheal Ferland’s physicality. It just doesn’t translate well and leads to more injuries. Then there’s also the fact that the officiating in the regular season is a lot tighter which doesn’t lend itself well to Bennett who seemed to routinely get at least one stick foul per game. Having the Bennett bullet in the chamber for the playoffs is nice, but something more in the regular season to ensure they get to the playoffs is desperately needed.