Expectations were sky high for the Calgary Flames going into this season. After a long off-season in which they brought in a bona-fide starting netminder in Jacob Markstrom, a top four defenceman in Chris Tanev, a right handed right winger in Josh Leivo, and more, the Flames looked to be more complete this season than any other in recent memory.
However, between underperformances by new and older players alike, Sam Bennett‘s trade request and an injury to Derek Ryan, the Flames have not looked as good on ice as they did on paper at the start of the season. One of the big areas of concern has been the fourth line, with Coach Geoff Ward regularly rotating this group with limited success.
With Dominik Simon currently scratched, Joakim Nordstrom struggling to produce much, and Bennett potentially looking for a new home, the team needs to add some stability to their bottom group. Playing newly called-up Glenn Gawdin may be the answer.
Who is Glenn Gawdin?
Gawdin was a fourth round pick of the St. Louis Blues back in 2015 but never signed an entry-level deal with them. He instead signed an entry-level contract with the Flames in 2017, then went on to put up 125 points in 67 games with the Swift Current Broncos.
He has played two full seasons with the Stockton Heat, putting up 85 points in 117 games with the team. Last season, he led the Heat with 16 goals and 31 assists in 52 games and was invited to the AHL’s All-Star game.
On top of putting up excellent offensive numbers, Gawdin can play all situations. He put up three goals on the power play, where he saw a lot of ice time, and even managed to get a shorthanded goal for the Heat last season. His coaches especially rave about his ability to play in all situations, as well as his work ethic to become one of the top players in the AHL.
“Not only production but just his all-around 200 foot game and I thought that Glenn did a really nice job at that throughout the year, sorta climbing to a position where he and this veteran player, who is in my opinion one of the best in the American Hockey League, they were right up there together in a situation where you could use Glenn in many many situations and feel really comfortable with him, whether it was power play or penalty kill or defensive moments, whenever it was. Real good progression for him there.”Cail MacLean, Head Coach of the Stockton Heat
Why not leave things as they are?
The Flames’ bottom line has been an issue this season. Leaving aside Byron Froese, who has only featured in two games, Leivo (37.5%), and Nordstom (20%) boast the worst GF% on the team. They, along with former bottom line staple Sam Bennett and are the only players below 50%, per Natural Stat Trick.
On the individual side, Nordstrom, Simon and Leivo are all in the bottom five of the team in individual shot attempts for, individual scoring chances for, and individual high danger chances for. This while starting more than 50% of their shifts in the offensive zone.
Taking a look at this chart from HockeyViz, the Flames’ fourth liners sits almost exactly in the top left hand corner; producing little for and allowing little against. While not allowing much against is not bad, the hope would be for that line to get some offence generated with the number of shifts that they start in the offensive zone.
The Flames gave Froese a much deserve third game against the Vancouver Canucks. Having scored a goal the previous game against the Winnipeg Jets, Froese was reasonably given another shot to see what he could do. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Joakim Nordstrom, who has struggled all season long.
What does Gawdin bring?
Gawdin is a right shot skater who can slot in at centre in place of Froese or can slot in on right wing in place of Nordstrom. He can play in all situations, including the penalty kill, where Nordstrom is a supposed an expert, and can help drive play on the bottom line.
He also brings a strong work ethic and a drive to compete. Gawdin is a fighter, who has shown what he is worth at the junior level and in the AHL, and will undoubtedly fight for a shot in the NHL. He has been praised by teammates like Matthew Phillips for his maturity, compete level, as well as his ability to do the little things right.
More than anything else, Gawdin is a piece of the Flames’ future. The team liked him enough to sign him to an entry-level contract as a free agent, and he has earned a look given his play up and down the ice in the AHL.
He is still a rookie but is the type of player that the team can use to help stabilize their bottom line. This group has typically been sheltered, which gives the team a low-risk chance to see exactly what they have in Gawdin. With the fourth line struggling, this is a smart opportunity to see how he plays at the NHL level.
Better yet, start him in games against clearly weaker opponents and see how he fares with lower competition quality to boot. With the mini-series against teams all season long, it’s an optimal time to try out an extended handful of games for the rookie.
What do you think? Should the Flames give Gawdin a look in the NHL? Let us know on social media or in the comments below
Photo credit: StocktonHeat.com