Most Flames fans are salivating at the possibilities of our ever evolving hockey club. Last year, we made the playoffs and actually won a round! With the emergence of John Gaudreau(anyone notice his FB fan page?) as a top flight winger, Sean Monahan posting career highs in goals and points, Sam Bennett delivering some early post season magic, it begs the question, so far, what do we have as a core group right now?
I think it's blatantly obvious that in Gaudreau we have the new heartbeat of our offence. He was spectacular as a rookie. He put up 64 points in the regular season, and led all scorers in the playoffs for Calgary. This kid is as dynamic as they come, and has heart to spare. The only downside to JH is that he cannot play the grinding style in the playoffs, especially in the defensive zone, where he can be a liability when the opposing team are out possessing the Flames. I think replacing Hudler with a more rangy winger who can dust it up and make plays, would benefit that top line a great deal in the future.
In Sean Monahan, I believe we have our Jonathan Toews. He ranked 3rd in the league last year in game winning goals, scored 31 goals and 31 assists virtually doubling his rookie production(what sophmore slump?). The guy has a maturity level that far exceeds that of most 30 year old's, which, I am sure, has lead to his already well established consistency as a second year pro. You rarely find that in a player not taken first overall. As with Gaudreau, there are a few things in his game that need polishing, and if I were to give him any off season advice, it would be to continue doing what he's doing. He came into camp last year bigger and stronger, and that's what he needs to do in order to begin winning man to man battles at a more dominant rate. He has all the makings of a future Captain.
Sam Bennett. It's hard to get an accurate read on this kid right now—the sample size of his NHL career is minute, but the impressive thing is that the sample is almost completely made up of playoff games!!—that being said, he was impressive as an 18 year old green horn. With 4 points in 11 playoff games, he didn't exactly light the world on fire, but under the fierce conditions of playoff style hockey, he not only demonstrated that he could skate with the big boys, he clearly was the best Flames player on the ice at times. Ironically, it was his physicality that impressed the most, he had no problems dusting it up in the corners, driving the net with a fearlessness that would inspire his teammates to join the fray. A wonderful introduction to a player that will undoubtedly be a key piece to our future success.
To me, those three obviously make up a sizeable portion of our future core going forward. I think most organizations would feel relatively comfortable with that. The question becomes, however, what pieces must be added to compliment the aforementioned group of players? In my opinion, we need some size added to the mix, and not the kind that downgrades the hockey IQ present on the ice, at any given moment. Perhaps one or two guys that can become a Kesler/Belesky type. Maybe Hunter Smith is that guy? Austin Carroll? Perhaps that player will be drafted in June, only time will tell.
I know if I were Treliving, come draft time, I wouldn't be baited into trading up or down this year. Unless the proposal is ridiculously in our favor, we should take advantage of the quantity of our picks. This is not the year to be throwing around picks just to move up, nor devaluing a pick just to grab up a player you might like, because the pool of players to be had is so deep. I would be comfortable picking at 15, as there are so many good options around that number, which don't need to be "sexy" in order to turn into an impact player in the future. There aren't any D slotted in the first round that I'd gamble assets to acquire, as I feel we can easily stockpile D picks in the 2nd round or later. That all being said, I trust this management group. I know that they are much smarter than I'll ever be when it comes to navigating through the process of making our on ice product a successful one.
There are still so many unanswered questions surrounding the Flames. Who will emerge as our number one goalie? Will Giordano continue his Norris quality play? Will the kids eclipse their performance from last year? Can we make it back to the playoffs next year? Would it be better long term if we didn't? Food for thought! All to be answered outside of my dollar-store crystal ball.
Appreciate the eyeballs everyone, hope it wasn't too painful or redundant!!