The Calgary Flames’ right wing depth has not looked particularly good for the past few years. The ever-persistent pairing of Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau has been in dire need of a solid right winger to play with them year over year. As Elias Lindholm reverted back to centre this season, the Flames’ two scoring dynamos have playing less than optimal even strength hockey for much of the season. What can be done to fix this issue?
What can Calgary do for Gaudreau and Monahan
The latest player to get a shot with Gaudreau and Monahan has been Brett Ritchie. Unfortunately, a player with Ritchie’s skill level does not mesh with the offensive talents of his linemates, and it’s not working for the Flames. He’s played a few consecutive games with them—much to their detriment—and the Flame’s supposed second line has not looked effective when Ritchie’s with them.
The fact that Ritchie’s presence on the line bumps the trio down to second line status says a lot in itself. As it stands, the Flames face a few options, and we polled Twitter to see what should be done.
Option 1: Keep Ritchie on the line
The fact of the matter is that Ritchie has already played 74:10 at 5v5 on this line, and it has not been pretty. For context, this is their current stat line (5v5, score-and-venue adjusted from NaturalStatTrick.com).
|Player 1||Player 2||Player 3||TOI||CF%||GF%||xGF%||On-Ice SH%||On-Ice SV%|
|Johnny Gaudreau||Sean Monahan||Brett Ritchie||74:10||45.5||0.0||37.7||0.0||88.4|
|Johnny Gaudreau||Sean Monahan||w/o Brett Ritchie||294:58||49.3||64.8||53.7||9.6||95.4|
The trio have yet to score a single goal as a line at 5v5, and they’re getting heavily outplayed. They’re neither able to mesh offensively nor defensively, and it’s hurt the team at a big level. Simply put, when this line is iced, their opponents are able to take advantage and convert on their copious number of scoring chances. This line has given up four 5v5 goals against so far and the Flames’ goaltenders have not fared well with them on the ice.
Option 2: Try someone else already on the roster
The Flames have already tried different linemates for the duo throughout the season. Lindholm, Josh Leivo, Sam Bennett, Dominik Simon have all had extended time with Gaudreau and Monahan all to varying degrees of success.
Obviously, removing Lindholm from centre creates other problems for Calgary and they’d likely want to avoid that. Leivo’s been effective in advanced metrics, but has been largely unlucky. Bennett and Simon have been downright awful with on that line, and no one else seems to be a plausible option at this point.
Using someone already on the main roster doesn’t appeal to many, and rightfully so. Given who they have available, no one player stands out as the bona fide solution. However, maybe there are some more possibilities that involve more forward shuffling that might just work. Check back later this week to see our proposal. It may just involve breaking up the duo, as some Twitter replies have also mentioned too.
Option 3: Call up someone from Stockton
The Flames haven’t really used their Stockton reserve much this season so far. The farm team has seen plenty of success playing in Canada in the AHL’s temporary division realignment. During which, a team record eight straight wins was strung together, which means a few players have certainly elevated their game.
One player in particular who’s most deserving of a callup would be Matthew Phillips. The only player mentioned among those who voted for a Stockton callup, he’s had an excellent start and has earned the right to play at least a couple NHL games this year, and it might just be the catalyst the Flames need.
Not to say that he’ll slot right in with Gaudreau and Monahan, but perhaps him being there frees up players to realign a bit and give the Flames the opportunities to find their scoring game again. And maybe yet, he might even get a few reps on that line anyway, given how things can’t really be much worse right now.
Option 4: Trading for someone else
The most popular option was trading for a new right wing to fill Calgary’s void. Trading for players has been at an all time low, and it seems as though teams are avoiding doing so unless absolutely necessary. The Flames might be one of those teams heading into this year’s trade deadline.
It makes a lot of sense to look elsewhere right now, as in-house options just don’t inspire the same degree of confidence that getting a different player might bring. The Flames have some future picks to consider trading if they’re wary of moving too many roster players at once, which is real concern given quarantine restrictions. They can’t exactly lose key roster players right now given their tight situation.
Tatar shoots left and plays primarily left wing, so he isn’t exactly the player the Flames should be looking at. And the Flames would be hard pressed to successfully trade with a team within their division they’re in direct competition for a playoff spot with.
The two righthanded shooters mentioned, Konecny and Arvidsson may be worth taking longer looks at. The Flyers likely don’t want Konecny going anywhere as he’s a player they’d keep as a part of their younger core once the older guys, well, age more. He’s just 24 years old and is signed through the 2024-25 season. His cap hit of $5.5 million (salary cap data from CapFriendly.com) would be hard for the Flames to navigate as well.
Arvidsson, on the other hand, might be a player the Flames inquire about. The 27-year-old has been mentioned as a trade chip a few times given Nashville’s season. With both the Predators’ offence and his own slumping, there might just be a way to put together the right trade package for Arvidsson. His cap hit comes in at a more reasonable $4.25 million, and he’s signed through 2023-24.
In any case, if the Flames seek out players on other teams as a solution, they have some big items to immediately consider. Other teams know they’re in a bind both in the playoff hunt as well as with their right wing depth. Teams knowing that they’re looking for that elusive right-shot, right-wing player that can actually mesh with Gaudreau and Monahan might want a few more sweeteners in any trade package. Further, the Flames don’t exactly have that much cap space to work with, so that’ll be something to keep in mind too.
Realistically, the Flames must have full expectations of making the playoffs—but they’re currently not in a playoff position. They can either go all in and do some trade deadline retooling, or approach it a little more patiently and see how the next few games go before making moves. However, given the lack of player movement this year, if the Flames wait too long, they might be stuck with no added value after the trade deadline.
Get to work
To put it simply, the Flames absolutely need to fix their currently problems in finding a way to get Gaudreau and Monahan playing their best hockey. They are simply not getting to that with their linemates this season, and time is quickly running out.
It should be a top priority, as the Flames are in desperate need of offence. Who better to get going than a line that consists of two of their top offensive players? Reworking the roster, no matter how they do it, to best complement their best forwards beyond just Gaudreau and Monahan is something that has to be done in order for them to see the playoffs.
It’s just a matter of figuring out what to do.
Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images