- Watching hockey. It might be your kid's game, it might be your favourite NHL team.
- Bitching about the coach's line combinations and defence pairings.
- Repeat No. 2, but this time with more disgust.
Yet in Calgary, Flames coach Glen Gulutzan is expected to ice tonight in Vancouver what I would argue is the best configuration of top-nine forwards and top four defencemen that he can concoct given the ingredients he has at his disposal.
Up front, it's the first time since opening night that the top nine hasn't featured at least one of either Lance Bouma or Alex Chiasson.
Distinguishing the expected top four on defence against the Canucks tonight will be the lack of Dennis Wideman. Back on Oct. 12 as you'll recall, Wideman and Mark Giordano were a thing while Dougie Hamilton was paired with the late Nicklas Grossmann.
At practice on Friday, Gulutzan's line configurations were:
Of the few noteworthy changes, the most significant change in an attempt to get the team's two highest paid forwards going is moving the skilled Kris Versteeg onto the right side with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.
This move is long overdue.
Going Back in Time
Back in early October when Versteeg fled Oilers camp at the 11th hour and signed with Calgary one day before the season began, the thinking was that he would play in that spot on what was expected to be and should be the Flames top line.
That was where he was deployed for the first three games of the season. But after Calgary went 0-2-1 off the hop, Gulutzan changed things up. Versteeg, despite demonstrating all season that he is a higher skilled player than people realized, has not returned to that post.
What makes that a bit of a head scratcher is it's not as if Gaudreau-Monahan have this tremendous chemistry with someone else. Gulutzan has tried four other options there and has not found the right combination.
That duo of No. 13 and No. 23 have been together for 31 games. Here's the breakdown by right-winger:
- Alex Chiasson, 18
- Troy Brouwer, 7
- Kris Versteeg, 3
- Michael Frolik, 2
- Matthew Tkachuk, 1
- Oct. 10 - Gaudreau signs
- Oct. 11 - Versteeg signs, Gaudreau's first practice
- Oct. 12 - Flames play in Edmonton, lose 7-4
- Oct. 13 - Flames practice
- Oct. 14 - Flames host Edmonton, lose 5-3
- Oct. 15 - Flames play in Vancouver, lose 2-1
That was it. Just six days together, only two actual practices together -- both being the first two times on the ice for both Versteeg and Gaudreau -- and then that plan was abandoned. Versteeg was moved to a line with Sam Bennett and Troy Brouwer and the carousel began with Gaudreau and Monahan -- Matthew Tkachuk for a game, then Michael Frolik for a game, then Chiasson for far too many games.
By the way, have you liked Flames From 80 Feet on Facebook yet? Do so now! It's another way to be alerted to new Calgary stories I've written, other articles from my colleagues I enjoyed and I'll also sometimes use that space to weigh in on the news of the day.
Recent Flames Reading:
- FF80F Podcast: Episode 12 - Flames Talk with Kristen Odland to Fill Bye Week Void - With the Flames on a stretch of five days off, PostMedia's Kristen Odland stopped by. We talked Wideman, trade deadline, expansion, top 20 prospects and more. (February 11, 2017)
- Ranking the Calgary Flames Top 20 Prospects (February 2017 Edition) - Matthew Tkachuk has graduated from top spot so who is the Flames new No. 1 prospect? Well, there's actually been a few changes to the top of the list. (February 9, 2017)
- Footloose and Fancy Free: Brodie Brilliant in Time Spent Away From Regular Partner - He hasn't looked quite right all season but it was vintage TJ Brodie on Friday night as he assisted on all four goals, three of them away from the old ball and chain. (February 4, 2017)
- Chasing History: Monahan on Cusp of Being Youngest Flame to Score 100 Goals - Whether or not Sean Monahan is an 'elite' centre is up for debate, but as you'll see, what he's done and his numbers so far certainly makes for a compelling argument. (February 2, 2017)
- Unveiling the 50 Greatest Players in Calgary Flames History - The NHL released its list of the 100 greatest players so I figured I'd go through a similar exercise for Calgary. Only I took it one step further and actually ranked them like the league should have. (January 28, 2017)