Calgary Flames

Monday Census: Future Flames goaltending, and lessons from the Battle of Alberta

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 Calgary Flames faced the Edmonton Oilers twice last week, splitting the contests. The Flames have already won the season series after their shootout win last Wednesday, but lost the latest edition of the Battle of Alberta in spectacular fashion on home ice this past Saturday night. Prior to the home-and-home, we asked Flames fans what they thought the most important key was to beat the Oilers.

Most respondents said that the most important thing in beating the Oilers was having Mark Giordano focus his attention on shutting down Connor McDavid. It’s interesting because McDavid is without a doubt the best player in the league. His blazing speed and incredible hands make him very difficult to handle, and shutting him down in his opponents’ gameplan every single night. However, while McDavid does have his fair share of goals and points against the Flames, it’s not him that has been the biggest Flame killer as of late.

In the last two contests between the two teams, McDavid has three points, including two goals he scored in the 8-3 blowout on Saturday. Leon Draisaitl, however, has six points in that same time. Draisaitl has been even more difficult for the Flames to handle this season, and he was the main offensive driver on Saturday night.

It’s tough to gameplan against a team with two bonafide superstars who (now) play on different lines, but if the Flames want to respond and take back the last match in April, they’re going to have to focus their efforts on shutting down not just McDavid, but Draisaitl as well.

The second most popular answer was that the Flames needed to get Johnny Gaudreau going. He’s been a shell of the offensive dynamo we’ve come to expect him to be the past few seasons, but having Buddy Robinson on his wing has really changed the way he plays. It’s a little frustrating that a fringe player like Robinson can give him an extra edge, but it just goes to show how important it is to have the right player playing on the right wing of that line. If the Flames truly want to get Gaudreau going, they need to find someone to play on his win right away. Robinson isn’t a long term solution, but a guy who plays in a similar way and has more skill and finish would be a huge boost to Gaudreau, and the team as a whole.

Our final poll of the week had to do with the future of Flames goaltending. It’s interesting because both Flames goalies who have played games this season have only been part of the organization for a few years. David Rittich was signed out of the Czech league and Cam Talbot was signed as a UFA this past summer. When we think forward to who the next goalies for the team will be, it’s difficult to know, just because of how variable goalies can be.

We asked which goalie in the Flames’ system would be the first to start 10 games for the club.

The vast majority of respondents chose Artyom Zagidulin, and based on his position in the organization and the opportunity he’s had this season, that makes a lot of sense. However, Zag’s numbers in the AHL aren’t stellar. He currently sports a 3.00 GAA and .900 SV% in 23 games played. He’s definitely at the top of the goalie prospects list, but his numbers don’t suggest he’s anything special.

It’s hard not to love him, but Dustin Wolf coming away with the second most number of votes was surprising. Wolf is a dominating force in the WHL, but it’s still just he WHL. He has played exactly zero professional games, and won’t until the 2021-22 season. He’s got a long way to go.

Remember, just a few years ago, Tyler Parsons and Jon Gillies, the third and fourth place votes in our poll, were considered the two goalies of the future for this franchise. Now, they’re barely on the radar.

It’s tough to evaluate goaltenders. Every team in the league struggles with it and right now we really don’t have a good way of figuring that position out. Goalies are like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get.

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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