We are 19 games into the season 1.5 games back of a full quarter but lets have a quick review of each player. Lets first just look at a few team stats, we are 3rd in the Pacific so in the playoffs at the moment but standings are tight as always. The special teams have been interesting. We sit 13 on the PP at 20.6% which can be attributed to the 1st unit. The 2nd unit has not seen much time but also have not produced. Our PK started off good when we were taking an abundant amount of penalties but since we have been more disciplined we have fallen off the rails on the PK. We sit 31st in the league and its almost a given we will allow one PP goal against us a game. Flames advanced stats have been promising sitting in the top 10 there so that's a good sign we should be putting up more W's.
Now on to the players review. To make this a little more simple I will break this down per line and defense pairings.
Gaudreau- Monahan-Ferland This line has been carrying the Flames offensively who together have more points than the rest of the forwards combined. I am not saying we have an Art Ross winner in Johnny and a Rocket Richard winner in Mohnny but its looking like they may be in the top 10 in the league. Ferland also has proven again after a slow start he deserves to be on that line showing the grit they need and the talent to play with the other two.
Tkachuk-Backlund-Frolick The 3m line has done their job once again. Dominating in advanced stats. Their point production may have dipped a little but the driver of the line Backlund has shown he is a slow starter in that area. Frolick has been himself, a real blue collar worker with upside. Tkachuk has taken the biggest step this year which is really nice to see he has avoided the sophomore slump. He looks like he may end up a premier power forward not just a great agitator with excellent discipline.
Bennett-Jankowski-Jagr This line has the lowest numbers in standard stats and advanced stats of the top 9. They have really come on since Jagr came off the IR. Jankowski is looking like he may be what Feaster envisioned when they drafted him in the first round in 2012. Bennett's move to wing is what I believe to be a good move long and short term. He is still gaining confidence after his first point and goal recently. If he is able to gain that back I still think he has the ability to be a game changer. Jagr, well he is Jagr. He is old and not very fast but his hockey IQ and hands are still elite. He has made us much better. This line will either make us a contender with a great top 9 or on the outside looking in if they don't keep producing.
Versteeg-Stajan/Lazar-Brouwer We have been trying Lazar instead of Stajan here and I am unsure of the positive benefit, Stajan is better on the PK and in our own zone. As stagnant as is offensive side is I haven't seen Lazar being an upgrade on offence. Brouwer after another rough start has been playing some solid minutes for us. Versteeg has been great on the PP and when was paired up with more offensive minded partners was better. On this line 5v5 steady is the best I can say. With Stajan centering this line I believe they will be able to eat up some minutes for us during slim leads. I would like to see their advanced stats get stronger though.
Gio- Hamilton This pairing is our best night in and night out even though neither is the biggest minute eater or leading in points. The advanced stats have them miles ahead of our other pairings. Offensively in my opinion they have more to offer and defensively they are more than adequate as a top pairing. They could be seeing some Norris votes again. I would like to see Hamilton see some more PP time.
Brodie- Hamonic What do we have in this pairing? Some nights it looks like another top pairing with Brodie getting Norris votes. Other nights they get decimated by other teams best lines. Both are on the wrong side of the Corsi meter. Brodie has been really good though on PP racking up more than half his team leading d-men points there. Hamonic has provided more toughness than I expected and happy to see that. We do need Brodie to be better in his own zone and the pairing to be more consistent with more on nights than off.
Kulak-Stone Though I was having coronary pain watching Bartkowski at the start of the year Kulak displaced him and now is showing he may be better than a 3rd pairing d-man with 3rd best Corsi on the back end. I would say Kulak has been our best surprise of the year so far. Stone on the other hand to me may be our largest disappointment on the back end. I thought he could slide into top 4 like last year and play a solid game. So far he has struggled there with the worst Corsi of listed d-men. All together though our 3rd pairing is light years ahead of years past.
Mike Smith Mike has been everything the Flames wanted when they made that trade. He has kept us in games and stole us a few too. He has been tailing off a little of late but long has he can keep his save % around that .920 we should be good and is 2.70gaa should come down once we clean up our d-zone. His advanced stats are also solid. Smiths puck control has been really good helping us get out of our zone without the bad giveaways I remember from Phoenix and Dallas.
Eddie Lack He has not been good in extremely limited action. The game he got to start I can't say he allowed bad goals but he needed to make a couple more saves. Gulutzan stated he had been looking better in practice more recently but with the amount of action he will receive if Smith keeps playing well I have a hard time seeing him being able to regain his confidence. A move should be made in the back up spot and I don't think we need to leave the organization for it. Gilles, Rittich or a combo of both can solidify that position both are off to good starts in the AHL.
Overall we have had an ok start to the year but there is much room for improvement with our top 9 nine forwards being productive, a back up goalie we are not afraid to go to and most importantly we need to improve in our own zone.