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!
Hats off to Geoff Ward for replacing Bill’s Blender with a clearly more industrial and more powerful model. After keeping the “traditional lines” together in his first couple games behind the bench, Ward really shook things up by seemingly picking names out of a hat and making combinations blindly.
Seriously, these lines were weird. Players were on their off wing, playing outside their natural position, past production was seemingly ignored, and almost every single line was one we’ve never seen before.
We asked which line you were most excited to see, and 57% of respondents said it was the new-look first line with Matthew Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane centered by Elias Lindholm. On paper, this line is clearly the one with the most firepower, but on top of that, all three players have a reputation for being defensively responsible. It just looks good.
Second place went to the third line with Derek Ryan centering Milan Lucic and, probably the biggest surprise, Johnny Gaudreau. When asked about why this line was created, Ward talked about Lucic causing havoc down low that would allow Gaudreau to zip in and out of the seams and create more offense. Out against likely a weaker defensive unit from the opponent as well, this seemed to make at least a little bit of sense. Logic states that if you want to get an offensive player going, you shouldn’t put them with Lucic, however.
Third place went to the Mikael Backlund line with Sean Monahan and Dillon Dube on the wings. Funnily enough, all three of these players are natural centers. Shifting Monahan to the wing was the most radical decision on this line as he’s played almost exclusively at center for his entire NHL career.
These lines actually seemed to work pretty well. That being said, Ward did move to the more traditional lines as the games went on, sometimes reverting back in the first period. That was probably a good call considering how incredibly well the Lucic – Ryan – Dube line has been lately. That line has been one of the most effective depth lines in the NHL as of late, and Dube especially has been so good there’s almost no chance he ever plays another AHL game. He’s here to stay.
Seeing Gaudreau and Monahan connect for a vintage goal last night against the Los Angeles Kings was also wonderful, so maybe these radical lines will go the way of the Phanueuf sooner rather than later.
(Extinct, like his NHL career.)
Stick taps to Matt Stajan for an incredible NHL career. Stajan has always been known to be not only a great person, but an amazing teammate. The fact that he played over 1000 games in the NHL and only suited up for two teams says a lot about him as a person. He was never a top scorer, Selke candidate, or even a surefire top-six guy for most of his career. But he always did things the right way, was a stellar teammate, wore a letter on multiple jerseys, and was an excellent mentor for young players too.
We went through some of his biggest moment as a Flame, and the most voted for memory was his series winning goal against the Vancouver Canucks in 2015. That team, dubbed the find-a-way Flames, was truly special. They majorly overperformed under Bob Hartley who won the Jack Adams as coach of the year that season, but boy was that a fun team to watch. They came back from huge deficits so many times, Jiri Hudler was a monster all year, and it was the first time in a long time there was a hopeful and fun energy around the team.
Obviously eliminating the Canucks was huge, but the way it happened was just awesome. They were down 3-0 before coming all the way back to win the game, and Stajan’s goal held up as the game winner in that deciding Game 6. What a finish. This was definitely one of his biggest as a Flame, but the second place answer is definitely close, and might even be better.
After the tragic passing of his newborn son, Emerson, Stajan scored a beautiful penalty shot goal in his third game back with the team. He pointed up to the sky after scoring, in honour of Emerson. It was an emotional moment for not only the Stajan family, but the Flames family as a whole. It was a reminder that while sport is not everything, it can be so meaningful in moving forward in life through both good and bad times. Sport unites us all, and we all felt the emotion after that goal.
Playing 1000 games in the NHL is no small feat, and Stajan earning his Sliver Stick with the Flames was no doubt a special moment for him. For everything he did for the franchise, it was fitting he was awarded that prize by the Flames.
And, of course, the answer that received the fewest votes could be the most important of them all. Without the trade that involved Dion Phaneuf going the other way, Stajan would never have been part of the Flames organization. At the time, it looked like the Flames had definitely lost the trade, giving up a top pairing defensemen just hitting his stride for a package of okay players. Looking back, it’s clear the Flames came out on top. Stajan played 558 games over nine seasons with the club, and what he brought on the ice was just a fraction of the impact he had on the team and the community.
Congratulations, Matty Franchise, on an incredible NHL career. Thanks for letting us be a part of it.
Let’s be honest: the break wasn’t a fun time. Glad to get back to that hockey.
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.