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!
One of the biggest mysteries that remains in the Flames season is clearly the goaltending situation. Debated consistently since the start of the preseason, the duo in between the pipes has become essential in the Flames success. As it stands now, Mike Smith has gone 21-14-2, while David Rittich boasts a 26-7-5 record. Both goalies reached the 20 win plateau this season, which is the first time it has been accomplished in franchise history. With the tandem being a key reason why the Flames are Stanley Cup contenders, it’s no wonder why the starting goaltender position for game one is still up in the air.
Sure, Rittich clearly has the better numbers all season, but his lack of playoff experience may cause the coaching staff to be hesitant. Smith on the other hand is the veteran and has playoff experience, but has been very inconsistent all season. Considering that thought, we wanted to see which goaltender fans think should and will start the first game of the playoffs.
Only a handful of fans think that Smith will and should start game one, which is not surprising. The ire of many this season, Smith hasn’t necessarily done a ton to earn the starting job, but has been mediocre enough to challenge for it. His playoff experience most likely drew voters in here.
Next up, a slightly higher number of voters think that Rittich will start, but that Smith should be in net. This would mean that based on his season, Rittich has earned the game one start but would be on a shorter leash. Not sure that makes the most sense, as if Rittich is the starter it means that he has earned it. Thinking Smith should be the starter in game one is a very interesting take.
The complete opposite combination got the second highest number of votes, albeit a much smaller proportion than the winner. Saying Smith will start makes a lot of sense to vote for, as it wouldn’t be shocking to see Bill Peters opt for Smith. That being said, voters still think that Rititch should be the go to guy.
Of course combine all of those opinions, and my personal vote, and you get the winner. The majority of fans think that Rittich will and should be the game one starter. Tough to argue with that based on his resume this season. There is no telling how long he will hold the crease for in the playoffs, but he has gone above and beyond to at least give himself a chance to show his talents in the post season. Let’s pray that this gets announced sooner rather than later.
The Flames still have two recalls from Stockton remaining heading into the post season. These calls could end up being key players in a deep playoff run should any roster players go down with injuries. While of course there exists the possibility of anyone being recalled, the more intriguing options are two players that have spent time in Calgary this season. Dillon Dube and Juuso Valimaki both played with the Flames this year, with the latter starting on the third pairing. While in Calgary, both players were struck with injuries causing them to miss time, eventually leading to their assignment to Stockton. The most recent NHL game played by either player was Dube’s appearance January 2nd against Detroit. Clearly, both players have been out of the NHL lineup for a while.
In Stockton, both players have been beyond lights out. Dube has netted 39 points in 34 games, while Valimaki has 13 in 18GP, but simultaneously being the team’s best defenceman. It’s safe to say both players have earned a call up, the real question is who fans would want to see called up more?
The lowest amount of votes went to neither, with 24%. I would think these voters would prefer to have the young players continue their development in the AHL. They could think that forcing them into playoff hockey at a young age wouldn’t be the best option. I would say to those people two words: Jarome Iginla.
Coming in second, with an even quarter of the vote, was Dube. With 23 games of NHL experience, Dube accounted for one goal and five assists. He appeared to be hitting his stride before suffering a concussion against the Blackhawks. I would throw my vote in for Dube, as I think the team only realistically has 13 forwards at their disposal. Throwing someone like Dube into the mix could be an excellent move should he be thrust into the lineup.
That being said, the highest number of votes, with 51%, was Valimaki. Easily the team’s best prospect at the moment, Valimaki already displayed what he can provide to an NHL roster. With the third pairing LHD spot constantly in flux, he could be the missing piece the team is looking for.
There were also a number of fans who voted for both, which frankly should have been an option here. It was left off to make the distinction between the two players more evident. But really, why choose when you can technically have both!
Bringing back a fun poll this week by taking a trip down memory lane to the 2014-15 season. This was the last season in which the Flames won a playoff series, and in fact won a playoff game (no, we’re not still bitter about a high-stick call a la 2017). This was a Cinderella season that had the whole city watching. So many wonderful moments from that year: the comebacks, Johnny Gaudreau bursting onto the scene, still making the playoffs with Mark Giordano on the sidelines. The list could go on and on.
We wanted to see out of all the players on that team, which one would Flames fans want to bring back right now to join the current roster. We provided four options: Derek Engelland, Jiri Hudler, Kris Russell, or Micheal Ferland.
Russell received only 2% of the vote, and while he is the butt end of jokes now, he played a crucial role on that team. Stepping up to the first pair with Dennis Wideman, Russell had a strong regular season and playoffs. Of course his style of play was akin to Bob Hartley’s system, and most definitely wouldn’t work on this team. Good call Flames fans.
Next up with 12% of the vote was Lady Byng winner Hudler. The team’s leading point getter that season, Hudler was a marvel beside Sean Monahan and Gaudreau. On this current roster though, it would be tough to find a spot for the former right wing. Not necessarily the best fit.
Engelland took second place, with 13%, and personally I think he should have gotten more. He was somewhat of an unsung hero during the playoffs, playing as the team’s third defender essentially. Not really his ideal spot, but he played key minutes and would be a great depth add for this current roster.
Although the former three options were admirable, Ferland is the clear winner here. Not only was he a key reason why the team won the series against the Canucks, he also fits in on the current roster. Ferland plays with an edge, has immense offensive potential, and is a key difference maker in games. It would be a dream to have him back on this roster for the coming playoff run.
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.
Photo by Al Charest/Postmedia