Calgary Flames

Flames Sunday Census: Pondering the healthy scratches

After winning 10 games in a row followed by a 7–1 blowout road loss to the Vancouver Canucks, the Calgary Flames came back to the Saddledome to try to extend their home winning streak. In doing so, they also tweaked their roster by healthy scratching Dillon Dube and Adam Ruzicka in exchange for Brett Ritchie and Brad Richardson. Was this a move of sound logic or head scratching? We asked, you answered.

Healthy scratched against the Wild

The Flames and the Minnesota Wild were set to face each other for the first time this season for a Saturday night tilt. The Wild would have been a big test for the Flames as they’re one of the most high scoring teams in the league. Shutting down Minnesota’s offence would have been a key part of Calgary’s strategy.

As it turns out, scratching two bottom-six forwards and slotting in undoubtedly two worse forwards was a part of their strategy too. Now, healthy scratching players isn’t always about optimising lineups or matching up against opponents, sometimes it’s meant to be a signal for players to not take their spots for granted.

Against a team like the Wild, putting in Ritchie and Richardson definitely didn’t send a signal that the Flames were trying to ice the best roster possible. And turning to the poll results, many agreed that it was an odd decision.

So why would Dube and Ruzicka be scratched? Let’s take a look.

Dube’s mediocre February

Dube has had an underwhelming season. While his role on the penalty kill has been a big plus, virtually everything else has left lots to be desired. Some players can be snakebitten, but Dube doesn’t seem to be impacting games when he’s not scoring.

Over the month of February, both he and Ruzicka slotted into 10 games, so we can look at some data from recent games to assess the players. Looking at 5v5, score-and-venue-adjusted on-ice stats and unadjusted 5v5 individual stats from, here’s how Dube fared.

Dube’s on-ice stats


Dube’s individual stats


Dube’s the only skater with a sub-50 Corsi for percentage, and while he’s not that far below, he’s breaking even when everyone else is doing better. As for scoring, he’s had a mediocre month and hasn’t been the most effective.

However, he did have goals in two straight games against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Anaheim Ducks—the goal in the Blue Jackets game was shorthanded and hence not reflected in the 5v5 stats, while the goal against the Ducks was the opening goal, which definitely helps a team out.

Overall the month of February wasn’t that bad for Dube but it wasn’t great either, it still left a lot to be desired.

Ruzicka’s arrival

For Ruzicka, February was a great month for him personally as he got the news that he should look for a place in Calgary and get out of the hotel he was staying in. He’s earned his spot on the Flames’ main roster, and has looked fairly good in his fourth line role.

As we did with Dube, let’s see how his 10 games played in February went for Ruzicka.

Ruzicka’s on-ice stats


Ruzicka’s individual stats


To put it simply, Ruzicka has played his role to near perfection. He’s been by and large a much better option for the fourth line than virtually every other fourth liner the Flames have iced this season. To be fair, it’s surprising that he’s gotten a healthy scratch before he got a look at the third line. Though his promotion to the third line wouldn’t necessarily be on the Flames’ roadmap for him, it’s strange that he got scratched first instead.

Like Dube, Ruzicka also scored in two straight games in February—the first was the opening goal against the New York Islanders, the second in the same game Dube scored against the Blue Jackets.

Unless there’s something else happening with Ruzicka, it was a strange move to have him in the press box over Richardson—someone Ruzicka’s shown that he can outperform.

Head scratchers

When all was said and done, the Flames routed the Wild in a 7–3 home victory. Both Ritchie and Richardson had decent games, although the entire team was dominant. Will Dube and Ruzicka slot back into the lineup as the Flames head to Minnesota to complete the home-and-away set? Or will the Flames hope to replicate what they did at home and keep the roster in tact?

After just one game, it’s too early to tell what the Flames are exactly thinking with their player usage, so if either of Dube or Ruzicka end up being scratched for a few games, that’s when some more head scratching should be apparent. For now, it’s more of a wait and see type move.

Do you think either Dube or Ruzicka should have been scratched? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @wincolumnCGY.

Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

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