The Calgary Flames have a few forwards that are clearly not making this team any better. In fact, some are actively making the team worse every time they’re on the ice. This Flames team has barely used any call-ups, underperforming forwards still get ice time, and overall it’s gotten to a clear point across the organisation that something needs to change. One area that can accomplish that is waiving players. Who though, exactly? We asked, you answered.
Calgary’s waiver candidates
The Flames are a strange team in that their top-six is extremely good, arguably among the league’s best; and their bottom-six is extremely bad, easily among the league’s worst. On any given night, they are forced to ice players that are detrimental to the team’s ability to win games. Even before winning games, some players are detrimental to the team’s ability to even score goals.
This week’s poll looks at which player could be waived to make the roster better without them. The purpose of the poll isn’t to exact blame on any single player—after all it’s a team game—but moreso identify the first domino that could (or should) fall for the Flames in their act to sort out their issues.
With a plethora of forwards signed on one-year deals, it naturally makes sense to consider them as first in line for the Flames to waive. The chances of any of these players getting picked up by another team are slim to none anyway. Therefore Calgary has little to lose with a lot to gain i.e. a better roster composition.
Pitlick’s pitiful play
Playing on his fourth team in as many seasons, Pitlick was set to be a Seattle Kraken after being selected in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. However, he was sought after by the Flames and was traded for a 2022 fourth-round pick. He’s being paid $1.75M this season as he’s on the second year of his two-year contract initially signed with Arizona.
His play this season was partially marred by injuries, but when he has played, he has not been good. Scoring zero points and just two assists in 25 games is simply unacceptable. His initial cost of acquisition was way too high but there were hopes he’d be more serviceable than he has been. That hasn’t turned out to be the case.
His 5v5 score-and-venue adjusted stats (per NaturalStatTrick.com) have not been terrible, but there’s one on-ice result that is sinking him into the abyss. He’s played mostly with Mikael Backlund and Blake Coleman, and has also played alongside Sean Monahan and Dillon Dube.
Pitlick and his linemates are simply not scoring goals, and there’s a huge disparity between how many goals the Flames should expect when he’s on the ice versus how many has actually been scored. Pitlick has a career shooting percentage of about 11%, and so far this season he’s registered 19 shots (all situations) for zero goals. If he were to score on his next shot, he’d be exactly at 5% which is still well below his typical production.
Waiving him in exchange for a scorer may be critical for the Flames for the second half of their season.
Ritchie’s return leaves more to desire
Ritchie is a unique case. He’s been injured for most of the season, and has yet to record a single point. The problem is how he’s deployed. He’s played primarily with Dube and Andrew Mangiapane, and that’s boosting his numbers while not resulting in tangible results a la goals.
Re-signing with the Flames for one year, he’s earning $900K this season.
Ritchie’s seeing much better results compared to Pitlick, and has actually been a fairly decent player at 5v5—albeit it’s a small sample size coupled with playing in better situations. The same problem exists where the offensive results are find everywhere excepted the actual goals.
Ritchie’s probably not someone who needs to be waived as urgently as others, but he amassed the second most votes on the poll nonetheless. If the Flames make sure to keep him as a definite bottom-six player, he won’t be as big of a detriment to the team.
Richardson is below replacement
There’s little benefit on the ice that that 36-year-old Richardson brings to the Flames. He’s just not doing anything groundbreaking that a younger prospect can’t do. His results are irritatingly bad, yet he’s featured in over half of the Flames’ games. Richardson took a league-minimum deal of $800K to play with the Flames this year, and even that doesn’t quite justify his usage.
Every where you look, Richardson’s results are negatively impacting the Flames’ ability to win games. Poor possession, bleeding chances against, and not generating goals. This level of play is just not something the Flames can accept, and makes for a strong case where waiving him makes a lot of sense too.
Low expectations for Lewis
Lewis was brought onto the Flames due to his familiarity with Darryl Sutter, but the 35-year-old is well past his golden years and doesn’t bring the same skillset with him as he once did years ago. His play has steadily declined with each passing year, and he entered this season with little to no expectations. Similar to Richardson, he also signed on for one year at $800K.
His on-ice results are also well below any player worth icing. That said, he was shown his value on the penalty kill and oddly enough in scoring empty net goals. It’s noteworthy that he’s been as accurate on empty net scenarios as he has been. It’s a situation the Flames haven’t been opportunistic about over the years.
However, at 5v5 he is horrid. There is little going right for him and his results show it. A season like this would see many other players scratched or waived, but he’s played in every single game.
Turning embers into ash
There are simply way too many Flames that are negatively affecting this team, and they are being played far too frequently. These players are all on expiring deals which likely won’t be renewed, but there’s little reason to keep them on the roster for now either.
Having a near certainty that at least one if not two lines will be putting up awful results game over game doesn’t seem like a sound strategy. Better players need to be played and these players are all taking up valuable roster spots.
In an ideal world, maybe none of them would be on the Flames at all and the bottom-six could consist of younger prospects with scoring potential. That’s all but a pipe dream right now for Calgary anyway, but their reality is one where it’s clear their playing roster is far from optimal. This type of roster might win one or even two playoff rounds, but it’s not going to get the job done beyond that.
Being realistic with the coaching staff and management, which player should the Flames waive first? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @wincolumnCGY.