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 have been in first place in the Pacific division since November 29th. This means the majority of attention has been toward the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights; teams that are within striking distance of taking over at the top. Of course what is going in the wild card spots is far more dramatic. At this moment in time, the last place team in the Western Conference, the Anaheim Ducks, are only six points out of the second wild card position. To make a long story short, every single team not currently in the playoff picture has a shot.
We wanted to see which team Flames fans wanted the team to face come April, should the team remain in first place. The options are frankly endless, but a few seem more realistic than others. We decided on Dallas, Vancouver, St. Louis and Colorado.
The Dallas Stars received the least amount of votes here, but for two distinctly different reasons I believe. The first being that the Stars have seemed to have the Flames’ number as of late, with the Flames last win coming in December of 2016. They always seem to be a thorn in the sides and does not give the Flames an easy matchup. Secondly, the Stars have a great chance to fill up the third Central division spot. Currently holding it by two points, the lead isn’t significant, but I would think they stay there come April.
The St. Louis Blues are having an outstanding run as of late, after spending the majority of the first half of the season at the bottom of the league. The Blues have taken full advantage of a weak Western Conference, thanks in large part to Jordan Binningston’s outstanding rookie season. The Blues actually have a very strong team that just simply weren’t winning earlier in the season. They may continue their way up the standings, but a hot second half team isn’t the best match-up for the Flames either.
The Colorado Avalanche have gone from top of the league to fringe playoff team. Their top line is undeniably elite, but outside of that it simply drops off. The Avs depth has hurt them this season, and they may not even end up in the playoffs even with their offensive super stars. 13% of fans like this match-up, and so do I, but there is one that is even better.
The Vancouver Canucks stole this poll with 68% of the vote, and is where my personal vote went as well. While down the road this team will be competing for a Stanley Cup, this season is simply not their best chance. Sure they have gotten some amazing performances from Elias Pettersson and Jacob Markstrom, but in a playoff series the edge easily goes to the Flames. Just like 2014-15, the Flames should advance to the second round if they face the Vancouver Canucks. The season series between the Flames and Canucks is a poor indicator of how the teams match up, Saturday night being proof of that.
The Toronto Maple Leafs made major news this week signing franchise centreman Auston Matthews to a five year deal worth $11.634M per season. What seemed like it could be an extended summer negotiation, a la William Nylander, got resolved much earlier than expected.
It was well known that Matthews would get paid on his next deal, but it’s surprising to see him get paid so much on just a five year term. To put it in perspective, Connor McDavid makes $12.5M per season, but he signed for an eight year term. Surely, Matthews’ contract has set yet again another new precedence for the coming RFAs this summer.
As I am sure you have heard, Matthew Tkachuk is one of those RFAs this summer that will be looking for a new lucrative deal. At The Win Column, we have already done a deep dive on how much Tkchuk should and will make, so we won’t talk too many numbers here. What we did want to see was how much impact Matthews’ new deal has on the fan’s feelings toward #19’s new deal?
Only 11% of fans are excited about the impact, which is not surprising. Clearly Tkachuk is going to get paid, and it’s most likely going to be for a chunk of the Flames’ salary cap.
In what was a hotly contested debate, 44% of fans are now nervous, while 45% of fans are indifferent to the impact. I can easily see both sides of the argument. As I said before, and what Tkachuk said himself, Matthews’ contract has set a new level. It would seem players in the NHL would be comfortable taking lesser term, but obviously with an increase in salary. With Matthews and Tkachuk being good friends, it would be interesting to see if he looks for the same.
That being said I side with the 45% that are indifferent. Tkachuk is not a former forty goal scorer, number one centreman, or face of the franchise. He is a phenomenal player that impacts the Flames immensely, but the contracts are not linked as much as some think. Tkachuk will want more money, no doubt about that, but he won’t be on the same level as some RFAs.
The most concerning part of Thursday night’s loss to the Sharks, was the handling of the goaltending situation. The early pull of David Rittich was shocking for most fans to handle, especially when Mike Smith never seems to have a leash that short. Sure Rittich looked out of sorts, but he has been the better goaltender this season. Surely you let him rebound right?
Based on how the Flames have handled their goaltenders this season, a start is never guaranteed. As we know now, the Flames turned to David Rittich last night against the Canucks. What we wanted to see before that decision was made, was who the fans think will and should have started that game based on the goalie conundrum against San Jose.
This one wasn’t even a contest. It’s clear that fans though Rittich should get the start, and will get the start. Clearly the fan base has some sort of clairvoyance, or we all know how to read basic goalie statistics. Among the goalies in the Pacific division, that have started in more than 20 games, Rittich ranks first in SV% with 0.912% and Smith ranks last at 0.889%.
This shouldn’t be a debate any more.
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.