Calgary Flames

Evaluating the Calgary Flames’ training camp line combinations

Well, training camp has started, we just saw the Calgary Flames play their first preseason game (an incredibly ugly one), and now is the time to start discussing line combinations. Sure, the forward lines and defense pairings will probably change immediately, but it is going to be very interesting to see who the organization decides to keep on the roster, and how they are deployed. First, I’ll focus on who I think the Flames will go with on opening night, and after I will show who I think they should assign to the roster.

Calgary’s likely lineup

Forward Lines

Matthew TkachukElias LindholmBlake Coleman
Johnny GaudreauSean MonahanAndrew Mangiapane
Dillon DubeMikael BacklundTyler Pitlick
Milan LucicBrad RichardsonTrevor Lewis

Defense Pairings

Noah HanifinChris Tanev
Nikita ZadorovRasmus Andersson
Juuso ValimakiErik Gudbranson

These are the lines Darryl Sutter seems to be going with in training camp. First, let’s focus on the forward group.

Forward Line 1: This is the line that can do everything. Not only will they be able to provide some good offence, but this is the group you would also want out there when they are up against the McDavid or Matthews lines of the league. Coleman is versatile as he can play on either side which will give this line a lot of flexibility in how and what situations they are deployed in.

Forward Line 2: It really seems like the organization is really banking on a bounce-back season from Sean Monahan. Placing Gaudreau back with Monahan is very interesting, especially if they can reignite that chemistry we have seen in the past. If Monahan stays healthy, and if he bounces back, this could be very beneficial for the team’s offence. Although, there are a lot of “ifs”, and I am honestly not too confident in this working out.

Forward Line 3: I honestly did not mind the Pitlick signing at all. He’s a defensive forward who also has shown that he can provide some offence. With Dube on Backlund’s wing, this could be great for his development and maybe this third line can provide some good secondary scoring.

Forward Line 4: “God, it’s brutal out here” – Olivia Rodrigo

Up next, Defense.

Defensive Pairing 1: Hanifin and Tanev looked fantastic last year, and I am really glad to see them together again. If they play like they have in the past, this is a fantastic pairing.

Defensive Pairing 2: If the first preseason game is any indication, Zadorov is going to take a lot of penalties. Like, a lot. I am pretty worried about this. With Andersson taking a step back last year, I am not sure how effective this will be for him to bounce back. He wasn’t great last night and if Zadorov continues to be a liability, I am not sure how confident I am in Andersson carrying the workload on this pairing.

Defensive Pairing 3: Honestly, I have no idea if Valimaki played some prank on Sutter during training camp or whatever it may be, but one thing is very clear, he doesn’t deserve this at all. This literally seems like a punishment to not only Valimaki, but the whole Flames fan base. Valimaki is a really good skater, but I don’t think he is good enough to go up and down the ice tethered to a 6’4, 195-pound, $2M liability to his ankle. However, I wish Gubranson the best and I really hope he makes me eat my words.

A more optimized Flames roster

Forward Lines

Johnny GaudreauElias LindholmMatthew Tkachuk
Andrew MangiapaneSean MonahanBlake Coleman
Dillon DubeMikael BacklundTyler Pitlick
Jakob PelletierBrad RichardsonMatthew Phillips

Defense Pairings

Noah HanifinChris Tanev
Nikita ZadorovRasmus Andersson
Juuso ValimakiOliver Kylington

Forward Line 1: This line was honestly elite when they deployed it last year. Was it during games that didn’t matter? Absolutely. But I think there is something there with Gaudreau, Lindholm, and Tkachuk, and if it has had success in the past, why not stick with it? Gaudreau got 22 points in 16 games when this line was together, while Tkachuk and Lindholm got 15 and 14 points respectively. That is elite production. For a team that seems like it will have trouble generating offence, this seems like the perfect line to address that issue.

Forward Line 2: It is no secret Monahan’s play has regressed. However, I think this is the way to give him the best opportunity to bounce back. On both wings, you have players who have incredible work ethic and are not afraid to fight for the puck. Mangiapane has really established himself as a top-six forward and Coleman is responsible on both ends of the ice. If this doesn’t get Monahan back to his old self, I honestly don’t know what will, and it is probably time to accept that he will not go back to the 30 goal scorer he once was.

Forward Line 3: This is the same line that they are using at training camp, and I think it is the right move.

Forward Line 4: Yes, that is Jakob Pelletier’s name. Am I possibly being irrationally optimistic? 100%. However, every time I watch him play, I just love what he does. He has great offensive instincts but is defensively responsible too. Why not inject some youth into the lineup? That now leads me to Matthew Phillips. I firmly believe he is an NHL-ready player. He also is a shifty and skilled forward, which is something the Flames desperately need more of. It’s no coincidence that the best chance of last night’s preseason game came off the stick of Phillips.  

Defensive Pairing 1: This is the pairing that Sutter has at camp right now. Another good call.

Defensive Pairing 2: Another pairing from camp. As mentioned, I don’t really want this, it is just more of a situation where there isn’t really a better option.

Defensive Pairing 3: It is long overdue that the Flames give an opportunity to Kylington. I would much rather have him on the ice than Gudbranson (again, last night was atrocious). Michael Stone was a pleasant surprise last year, and if he plays like that again, I have no problem with him on the roster as an alternative, but I would prefer Kylington.

If last night’s game is any indication, it may be a really long and painful season Flames fans. On the bright side, it’s only the preseason, and hockey is back! That counts for something right?  

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