Calgary Flames

Flames Sunday Census: Changing up the scenery

The Calgary Flames might need a bit of a shake up after a disappointing road trip and there’s reason to think the roster isn’t optimal. They need to sort out what type of lineup they want to ice for games moving forward, as they can continue to try the balanced approach, or tweak it to go heavy on the offence.

On top of that, with Derek Ryan‘s injury, the Flames will have to figure who fills his role over the next few weeks. The Flames roster won’t be looking like it has to start the season, so there’s opportunity to experiment a bit and sort things out for both the short and long term.

Scrathing the itches

The Flames haven’t shown sustained dominance in a while, perhaps since the first week of the season. They’ve struggled to figure out their game and things have looked bleak. It might be time to consider slotting in different players into the lineup, so that’s what we asked about for this week’s Sunday Census:

Who sits?

An overwhelming number of people suggested it was time to sit Milan Lucic, and the proposed replacements didn’t put the big man in a good light. A lot of disgruntled fans have him as the next up to the press box.

“Scratch Lucic and Leivo put in anyone from the taxi squad.” — @cthuds

“Scratch Lucic for literally anyone else” — @jacques_sampson

“scratch looch, nordstrom, and simon inject philips, gawdin, and possibly an emilio petterson or adam ruzika if they’re ready” — @jehabiahpete

“Scratch Lucic and Nordstrom for god knows who what.” — @Munzie1992

“Scratch 17, 81 and 89. Insert Bennett, Ronaldo, Robinson and Kylington. But I assume Froese will be in as 4C. So Bennett could move up with 88 & 11 and 27 could replace 20 on 4th line.” — @JMihalcheon212

I’m not convinced his play has been as big of a problem though. He’s been a positive player for corsi and expected goals with his most common linemates being Ryan and Joakim Nordstrom. Per NaturalStatTrick, Lucic has a 53.2 CF% and a 55.2 xGF% (score-and-venue adjusted) in over 90 minutes at 5v5.

I don’t see the Flames scratching Lucic, he’s not the worst player for the Flames right now. A few people have suggested Nordstrom, but in a similar vein, I don’t think he’s the worst either. Nordstrom’s not great by any means, but if it were up to me, I think the Flames need to give Dominik Simon an extended stay in the press box.

Simon’s been ineffective regardless of who he’s played with. With his past results in Pittsburgh, there was some hope that his addition in the offseason could bring back good dividends, but he hasn’t meshed with the Flames’ system very well at all. He’s been given ample offensive zone starts, the most among any player on the team (72.7 OZS%), and has nothing to show for it.

Sit him out for a while, it won’t hurt the Flames.

Who’s in?

None of the options of who should slot in are exactly appealing, but the Flames have Zac Rinaldo and Buddy Robinson as realistic options. Yesterday against the Edmonton Oilers, the Flames actually ended up playing Rinaldo and Byron Froese in place of Simon and Josh Leivo.

The team knows what they have in Rinaldo, and that’s going to be enough to have him be high up on the list in terms of coming off the taxi squad. And to give him credit, he brings energy. He doesn’t bring much else, but as a straight comparison to Simon, Rinaldo has a better season in 2019-20 with the Flames than Simon has had so far this year.

Froese getting called up and into the lineup was a bit of a surprise, but he’s been an AHL captain for both the Laval Rocket and the Stockton Heat. Maybe the leadership qualities were sought after, but this would be his first NHL action since 2017-18 back when he was with the Montreal Canadiens.

I see the move of playing Froese as giving the AHL captain a chance to get back into game action prior to the Heat’s season getting underway after their temporary relocation to Calgary for this season. I don’t see it being likely that he’ll be the player to stay up in the NHL once Stockton’s season starts.

A Flames prospect was mentioned a few times as someone who should get called up: Glenn Gawdin. He was listed above by @jebadiahpete and also mentioned by @TravisRoth17 as a fourth line option.

Bringing in Gawdin is a good option for the Flames as one, he deserves it and two, it’s about time the Flames figure out what they have in him. If the Flames keep struggling, they have nothing to lose in trying something new, but are in danger of rapidly falling out of the playoff race.

Make the tweaks, give some new faces a shot, and figure things out now before it becomes too late.

Embracing change

The Flames can’t afford to stay stagnant. If things aren’t working, it’s too short a season to stick to your guns and hope things start clicking later. A big change the Flames can also make outside of scratching players is realigning their forwards to get high offence lines going.

A suggestion of a Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Matthew Tkachuk top line might provide the Flames with a much needed offensive spark. Getting more goals on the board will do a lot of Calgary in terms of easing the tension and getting things back on track, and this top line gives the Flames a good chance of doing exactly that.

With how things are panning out so far in the North Division, the playoff race is already quickly forming. It remains true that the Flames have to handle their business and put themselves in position for success. Right now, several other North teams are stumbling out of the gates, if the Flames can be opportunistic and string together a few good games, things will immediate look better for them.

For the time being, they still have the least games played in the division, and those games in hand will be crucial for them to chase down the Canucks and Oilers who are all currently vying for the fourth playoff spot.

Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images

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