Get used to the question, folks, as it is quickly becoming the new version of the exhausting dilemma that hovered around Calgary for over 15 years -- who is going to play center for Jarome?
There's been a lot of chatter about Jarome Iginla recently. It heated up when he tried but failed to score career goal No. 600 against the Flames last Saturday.
The buzz continued when he did become the 19th NHL player to score that milestone goal in Colorado's next game against the Los Angeles Kings.
Last night against Nashville, Iginla notched No. 601 to pull even with Jari Kurri for 18th all-time.
A lot of the conversation with the Flames old No. 12 was around what if's:
- What if he had a chance to play the 2004-05 season? He scored 41 goals the season prior. How many goals did he miss out on because of the year-long lockout?
- What if he played a full 82 games in the lock-out shortened 2012-13 season? He had 14 goals in 44 games, which had him on a pace for 25 over a full season.
I still expect Bennett to eventually be moved to centre and at that time could certainly become Gaudreau's pivot, but given the construction of this team with Mikael Backlund, an improved Markus Granlund and the reliable Matt Stajan entrenched up the middle, shifting Bennett to centre is not something I see as imminent as it doesn't work all that well with the current personnel.
"I've been looking since the start of the year for the guy to play with those two guys," Hartley said. "We've had quite a few auditions and the results have not been what we've been expecting."
He said the next guy up is Micheal Ferland, who conveniently for me topped my list of short-term options when this story was originally published early Saturday morning (I've since updated it to include quotes from after practice.)
1. Micheal Ferland - The big man has really played well lately and has been showcasing the skill he has beyond delivering glass-rattling body checks.
Hartley says Ferland's presence should help create more space for his skilled linemates.
"We need someone to open up some room for them. Obviously, other teams are paying a lot of attention and spending lots of time on those guys and we need a physical presence, a guy that can skate with them, a guy that can pass the puck."
Standing 6-foot-2 and weighing 208 pounds, Ferland is a physical force but don't underestimate his skill level either. He scored 47 goals with Brandon in the WHL four years ago. Lately he has shown an ability to hold onto the puck and make plays.
"When you hear about big, physical guys, you don't hear about their creativity but Ferls is a pretty skilled player too," said Gaudreau. "He'll be a good presence for us in the offensive zone, getting down low, getting pucks away from the other team's defence and he's a great screen too. We have to use that big body to our advantage."
Ferland is looking forward to their first game together, which is a key divisional contest on Monday night against the San Jose Sharks.
"It's a great opportunity for myself," said the 23-year-old, who amazingly is the elder statesman on the line. "The biggest thing is helping get pucks back. Be hard on the forecheck, force them to turn pucks over so I can create offence and always be ready for the puck."
Here are four other short-term candidates I had identified prior to the announcement of Ferland. Who knows, maybe one of them is next in line should this latest experiment not pan out.
I'm convinced that TJ Brodie is actually the #Flames best right wing option -- and that would be while still playing defence, of course.— Darren Haynes (@DarrenWHaynes) January 6, 2016
Rugged Garnet Hathaway could very well be an NHLer someday but he'll never play on the top line. Austin Carroll and Hunter Smith are natural right wingers playing with the Heat right now but are a long, long way from being NHL-ready and that's if they ever get there. They're also not projected to be top line players.
Gaudreau has an elite skill set and while you'd think that makes it easy for many players to play with him, that's not necessarily the case.
- Eight From 80 Feet: Eight Random Thoughts as 2016 Gets Underway - Topics include a better-than-you think PK, Andrew Mangiapane's lofty company, what to do with Jiri Hudler, Karri Ramo's resurgence and an easy upcoming schedule. (January 3, 2016).
- California Dreaming: Five Things We Learned After Losses to Ducks and Kings - Final two games of 2015 were humbling losses to Anaheim and Los Angeles. While two Flames players stood out, there were also a few areas of weakness that were exposed. (Jan. 1, 2016)
- Checking in on Stockton: Coach Huska Provides the 411 on Five Forward Prospects - In part 2 of my check-in on the Stockton Heat, coach Ryan Huska brings us up to speed on the play so far of five of the Flames top forward prospects including Emile Poirier. (Dec. 29, 2015)
- Revealing the Point of Origin of Johnny Gaudreau's Competitive Fire - The emphatic pumping of both arms after a big goal, his steely look of intensity that could melt the ice. I asked Gaudreau where his insatiable competitiveness comes from. (Dec. 27, 2015)