Juuso Valimaki‘s career hasn’t gone according to plan. He has had to fight back from injuries numerous times and now, after finally getting healthy, he can’t seem to crack the Calgary Flames’ lineup on a regular basis.
We broke down the reasons why the Flames aren’t playing Valimaki more frequently, largely due to his struggles on the defensive side of the game this season. His last game was against the Boston Bruins and he played fairly well, but hasn’t gotten into a game since. Nikita Zadorov has held down the left defence spot on the third pairing for the past 15 games or so, and Darryl Sutter seems content with keeping the Zadorov and Erik Gudbranson pairing together.
One of the major reasons why it appeared that the Flames were in a pickle with Valimaki was that he required waivers to be sent down to the AHL. We even noted this as a major problem that hampers the Flames’ ability to continue Valimaki’s development.
However, TSN’s Salim Valji reported for the first time yesterday that Valimaki does not actually require waivers to be sent down to the AHL this season.
This report was backed up by Flames insider Ryan Pike a few minutes later.
And then CapFriendly, the best cap and contract resource available, updated their site to reflect this new information.
This is absolutely game changing.
As I wrote in the breakdown referenced above, the most ideal situation is to send Valimaki to Stockton in the AHL:
It’s clear that Sutter is not of the mindset that young players should play in the NHL for development purposes. If Valimaki wants to come back to the lineup on a regular basis, he’ll need to get better on the defensive side of the game in a big way.
I’m not an NHL coach and never will be one, so my opinion means significantly less than Sutter’s does. The ideal decision in my eyes would be to send Valimaki down to Stockton in the AHL so he can get into some games. Sitting in the press box only helps so much, and Valimaki needs to actually practice defending actual competition to get better.
However, the emphasis is on sending him down being ideal—which it isn’t. It is impossible to do because Valimaki requires waivers to be sent down, and there is no chance he passes through waivers without being claimed.Excerpt from “Breaking down why the Flames are not playing Juuso Valimaki“
With the circumstances now having changed, the decision is clear: send Valimaki down.
The only question that now arises is, why haven’t the Flames already sent him down? Did they not know Valimaki was waiver exempt until yesterday as well? If so, that would be a major failure on a management team whose job it is to know the salary cap, know the rules, and manage their roster accordingly.
Another, more likely scenario, is that management wants Valimaki to play in the NHL, but the coaching staff does not. This divide is what’s keeping Valimaki in the press box rather than on the ice somewhere else. Because of the ascent of Oliver Kylington, a top-six defence slot is now solidly occupied by someone that nobody really expected to claim that spot heading into the season. This leaves one man on the outside, something that was not anticipated, and Valimaki is unfortunately drawing the short end of the stick here.
As Valji reported yesterday, perhaps the Flames will change their tune once the team is in California on their west-coast road trip over the next week. It would bode well for Valimaki to play some games and as a heavy-minute defenceman too.
|Date||Flames Schedule||Heat Schedule|
|01-Dec||vs. Bakersfield Condors|
|02-Dec||@ Los Angeles Kings|
|03-Dec||@ Anaheim Ducks||vs. San Diego Gulls|
|04-Dec||vs. San Diego Gulls|
|05-Dec||@ Vegas Golden Knights|
|07-Dec||@ San Jose Sharks||vs San Jose Barracuda|
|09-Dec||vs. Carolina Hurricanes|
Starting tomorrow, Valimaki could join the Heat and play against Bakersfield. Then, as the Flames go through the Kings, Ducks, Golden Knights, and Sharks on their four-game road trip, Valimaki could play games against the Gulls, Gulls again, and Barracuda, before rejoining the Flames at home on December 9th.
This seems like a very logical solution to the Valimaki problem. It allows Valimaki to play a series of games for the first time in along time while ensuring he’s still close enough to quickly rejoin in case an injury happens to another defenceman.
Why they haven’t already sent Valimaki down to the AHL is puzzling, but this road trip is the perfect opportunity to try it out.