Welcome back to The Sunday Census. Throughout the week, The Win Column will be posing topical and intriguing polls on Twitter (@wincolumnblog) to gauge the fan-base’s stance on pressing issues. Want to make sure your opinion is taken into effect? Vote in the polls, start a debate, and propose alternative suggestions on the polls!
It’s safe to assume that the Calgary Flames are off to a much better start than originally anticipated. Currently sitting in second place in the Pacific Division, the Flames have strung together a very solid first 20 games that have them poised for a season of success.
There are of course opportunities for improvement on every level (here’s looking at you James Neal and Mike Smith) but there have been a handful of outstanding performances that have outshone any lingering problems.
Mark Giordano, at the young age of 35, is having easily one of the best starts of his career. Current sitting at 20 points on the season (two goals and 18 assists), the captain has been just as impressive and dominant on both ends of the ice.
Elias Lindholm has fit like a glove on the top line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. Often leading the Flames’ offence, the Swedish forward has amassed 11 goals and 12 assists to easily put him on pace for career highs in the majority of statistical categories.
David Rittich has emerged from Smith’s shadows to steal the crease. Posting an 8-2-0 record with a 2.05 GAA and .930SV%, Rittich has been one of the main reasons the Flames are where they are in the standings.
Beyond the scope of the poll, Gaudreau and Monahan also got a handful of write in votes for their outstanding starts as well. If six options were allowed, it’d be these six players, no questions asked. They have clearly differentiated themselves from the rest of the roster.
All of these individual efforts cannot go unnoticed, but by far the fans MVP goes to Matthew Tkachuk. Leading the team in points, and tied for the lead in goals, Tkachuk’s dominance goes far beyond the offensive side of the game. He is tenacious, he is timely, and he is by far the best Flames on a night-to-night basis. Entering the final year of his entry level contract, Tkachuk is as good as he’s ever been. He currently sits as the youngest player inside the top ten in scoring, which is unbelievable. The ceiling can only gets higher for #19, and he easily takes my vote as well for the first quarter MVP.
Full disclosure: this poll was put out mere minutes before Dillon Dube scored his first career NHL goal. However, the debate still exists. After returning from his concussion, Dube was put between a rock and hard place in terms of where his development should occur. He hasn’t completely become an NHL mainstay, but he also is far too good to be stuck at the AHL level.
At 5v5, he is sitting at a CF% of 49.8%, a SCF% of 47.2%, HDCF% of 51.7%, and an offensive zone time start of 60.7%. Offensively, he is sitting at one goal, two assists, and a +3 rating in 18 games played. Numbers that aren’t dreadful, but also some that aren’t glowing with praise. There is still a great opportunity for learning on Dube’s part, but where that occurs is the biggest questions.
The fans say that it should be in the NHL, with 59.0% of the vote. That being said, the majority was leaning towards the AHL before his first NHL goal occurred. It’s clear that the fan base wants to see him succeed with the Flames, rather than sending him down to Stockton.
I would have to agree.
It doesn’t make much sense to play him at the AHL level, even though he would get more minutes. In terms of the players that could replace him, none of them truly have the same uspide as Dube will. Does it make more sense to play him against harder competition to have him adjust faster? 100%. His development may take a bit longer, as the learning curve is much greater, but it’s better for both sides if he stays in Calgary.
With the moves of Michael Stone and Michael Frolik to the injured reserve, the Flames had to make some recalls for the desert road trip. Oliver Kylington and Ryan Lomberg made the trip as the first AHL call-ups in a while, but it makes you start to wonder who out of the current prospects will make the jump next. Rasmus Andersson was able to finally make the transition to the NHL this season, which is exactly the type of development this team needs.
Kerby Rychel, aquired this offseason, has been a surprise for the Stockton Heat this season. Currently leading the team in goals with nine, and second in team scoring with 15 points, Rychel has established a fine niche for himself with the Heat. Fans aren’t too keen on him making the jump very soon, and with good reason. He is the oldest forward of the bunch, and has never been able to establish himself as a consistent NHL-level player in the past, so he is not the most attractive option.
Jon Gillies, the oldest player on the poll, was overtaken by Rittich for the past year and hasn’t gotten the opportunity to fully become an NHL goaltender. Once predicted to be the goalie of the future, Gillies has dropped down the depth chart. Tyler Parsons could even overtake Gillies for that future label as well.
The aforementioned Kylington has had an outstanding season this year and has fully deserved his most recent call-up. With the depth on the left side being as strong as it is right now, there isn’t much room for him. He may well be the next prospect to jump up in the system, but it may not be the right time for him.
The majority of voters opted for Andrew Mangiapane who, before his injury, was pacing the Heat in points. Still sitting at 12 points in 11 games, Mangiapane was the final cut at this year’s training camp. It’s obvious that the team views him as NHL-calibre, but opted to try others in his place. It would be no surprise to see him back in a Flames uniform this season, and it’s entirely possible he never takes it off either.
The “fun” question for the week was focused on individual achievements. Team success is the utmost importance for both the players and the fans, but with that inherently comes individual achievement. Some possible achievements that would be sure to entertain were picked.
Gaudreau was a point per game player last season, but has yet to eclipse 90 in a season. Fans don’t seem to be too keen on this one, perhaps they view this as the most probable. Monahan is back to 100% and it’s always a possibility that he can hit 40 goals on the season. A popular choice for fans, but still ranks only third on our list.
Smith, who has mightily struggled so far, is currently sitting at a .876SV%. Fans appear to love the potential rebound by the Flames “#1” net-minder, but it is going to take a wealth of quality starts to turn that around. Everybody loves a good come back story, right? Seabiscuit, the Mighty Ducks, Robert Downey Jr., Rocky, Kim Kardashian…
The popular choice though, was Sam Bennett. The fans have completely rallied around the fourth overall pick and his improved play. Given plenty of opportunity under Bill Peters, Bennett has been a pleasant surprise to many. He’s found a role and he’s been extremely effective in it. The idea of having him score 20 goals is one that fans are salivating at the thought of. He has a way to go this year, but it easily tops the individual player achievement fans want to see happen.
Want to be a part of the conversation next time around? Follow us on Twitter @wincolumnblog and be sure to keep a look out for our polls throughout the week.