Calgary Flames

Sunday Census: Kylington vs. Valimaki, Oilers drama, and expectations for the Flames

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!

The Flames are in an extremely fortunate position at the moment. Their third pairing has primarily been comprised of young prospects this season. All three of them have played admirably, forming one of the best young bluelines in the NHL. Rasmus Andersson, Oliver Kylington and Juuso Valimaki have all spent time on the third pairing, with Andersson playing there for the majority of his 48 games this season. Where the difference comes is who he has been playing with. Initially it was Valimaki, but after the young Finn was injured, it was Kylington’s turn to take the reigns. Valimaki played 22 games before his injury, but since then, Kylington has been able to play in 26 contests.

There is now a debate over which young defenceman should remain on the third pairing now that Valimaki has returned from injury. Although the former 16th overall pick is currently in Stockton, there is no doubt an appetite for him to return to the NHL lineup. Rumours also have been pointing towards a potential veteran upgrade at this position come the trade deadline. As it appears right now, the Flames look to be continuing with Kylington at the helm. But what do the fans think?

48% of fans agree with the current deployment of Kylington, which I have to agree with. Kylington has a bit more upside in terms of his skating ability, offensive prowess, and also has the edge in professional experience at the moment. Plus, him and Andersson have built a massive amount of chemistry which simply is hard to mess with. The biggest difference in Kylington’s game, that I have noticed, is that the mistakes he was making in the AHL have not translated to the NHL nearly as much. He has been extremely steady thus-far.

That is not meant as any disrespect to Valimaki’s play, as he received 43% of the vote from fans. In his first professional season, Valimaki made the immediate jump to the NHL and was able to stick around long-term. Bill Peters utilized him in key defensive situations and he looked like an every-day NHL defenceman. His injury was untimely and now unfortunately is the reasoning behind this debate. The real question is will his early season good-will immediately translate to an opportunity come February?

Fans did not seem to be on board with a trade to bring someone in to fill that role. The Flames would have to give up considerable assets to acquire a significant upgrade. They could also acquire a depth player to fill that role, but would they be considered an upgrade over either Kylington or Valimaki? Probably not. The Flames are better suited having either of the youngsters filling that role. The only concern is that both players need to play, and both have surely proven they belong in the NHL.

This past week was a tragic one for Flames fans. Peter Chiarelli was unfortunately let go of his GM position with the Edmonton Oilers. The man was simply a legend for fans in Calgary, as after every trade, signing, and roster decision, he always found a way to make the Oilers even worse than they already were.

All joking aside, there is an absolute mess brewing once again up north in Edmonton. It’s hard to imagine that a team with Connor McDavid is having to fight for a playoff spot. In a bit of a satirical tone, we posed the question to fans as to what is more likely to happen in the next five years in Edmonton: a Stanley Cup or a McDavid trade.

Now let us be clear, there is most likely a Flames fan bias that helped throw this poll in one direction. With 88% of the vote, fans think that the Oilers are actually more likely to trade their franchise star than win a Stanley Cup. The chances of the Oilers actually going through with that type of trade is highly unlikely, but then again everything that has happened in Edmonton thus far goes against normalcy.

They also have traded a generational player before.

The chances of the Oilers winning a Stanley Cup in the next five years are also quite low. That being said, it’s not impossible either. If the Oilers keep McDavid, with logic saying they will, then it’s hard to bet against him. The Oilers would need significant upgrades across their entire lineup to even begin to think about a Stanley Cup, let alone a playoff appearance.

Of course between the two options, my vote went towards the Stanley Cup. As much as I would despise that, it would be ridiculous not to think a generational player like McDavid would earn a cup. It just may not be in the next five seasons.

Through the first 51 games of the season, it has been absolutely astonishing in Calgary. The Flames sit at 33-13-5, first in the Pacific Division, first in the Western Conference, and second overall in the NHL. It is safe to say that no one, and I mean no one, saw that coming at the start of the season. The Flames have been an improved team across almost all statistical categories, and more importantly, have been able to win games in which they don’t play their best.

The All-Star break, in addition to the bye-week, will be a key test for the Flames to see how they play heading into the final 31 games of the season. Currently sitting 19 point up on a playoff position, it would take a massive reversal for the Flames not to be playing deeper in April.

What we wanted to know in this poll was what the fans’ realistic expectations are for this team moving forward. We provided four options: second round, Western Conference finalists, Stanley Cup finalists, and Stanley Cup champions. We opted not to include the first round, as at this point it should be expected that this team makes it to that point.

The second round only garnered 12% of the vote, in what seems like a low-ball for the Flames. Whether it is a desired expectation, or realistic, fans seem to think that the second round is the floor for the team.

With 42% of the vote, the majority of fans think that the Western Conference finals seem like a place the Flames should be in. I would agree as this is also where my vote went. It seems that if the Flames are able to stay in first place in the Pacific Division, the could have a good opportunity to end up in that situation. This obviously changes if the Golden Knights or Sharks are able to catch up, but for right now let’s continue to dream optimistically.

Even though the majority of votes went to the previous option, the actual majority went to a Stanley Cup appearance. With 22% going towards finalists, and 24% going towards champions, a higher percentage of fans think that the Flames should be contending for the Stanley Cup this season. It surely would make for an enthralling spring, but in terms of realistic expectations it may not be the best option. In the playoffs, any team can win on any given night. It’s even possible that the Tampa Bay Lightning get bounced in the first round. As much as I am praying for a 2003-04 rematch for June, I am standing pat and sticking with the Conference Finals.

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.

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