|Goal hug for Jankowski, Mangiapane and Hathaway. (Photo by Jack Lima)|
Maybe Andrew Mangiapane can negotiate for one of the arm rests.
But there's no question, the flight departing San Francisco International Airport bound for YYC would have Mangiapane in the middle seat, squeezed between Mark Jankowski and Garnet Hathaway.
By size, he's the smallest. By age, he's the youngest. By pro experience, he's got the least.
I don't care if you're normally the left wing with those two guys, for the next two hours and 33 minutes, you're the centre.
Sorry kid, hope you downloaded some NetFlix beforehand.
What the Heck am I Talking About?
Pause for a moment and ask yourself, what if the Flames did the unconventional thing. What if Calgary did that one unthinkable thing that nobody would ever expect them to do.
It would be the type of bold hockey transaction(s) that would set off a tsunami of euphoria in the currently disgruntled C of Red.
Imagine, just imagine, if you woke up Monday morning to see this on the transaction wire:
- Calgary assigns C Freddie Hamilton to Stockton (AHL)
- Calgary assigns LW Tanner Glass to Stockton (AHL)
- Calgary places RW Jaromir Jagr on injured reserve
- Calgary recalls C Mark Jankowski from Stockton (AHL)
- Calgary recalls LW Andrew Mangiapane from Stockton (AHL)
- Calgary recalls RW Garnet Hathaway from Stockton (AHL)
Now you'll have to suspend reality for a minute because it would never actually happen in one fell swoop like this. Twenty-four hours before being demoted to Stockton, both Freddie Hamilton and Tanner Glass would first have to be placed on waivers, but don't get caught up in the minutia, just follow my train of thought.
(And if you're wondering about the status of Jaromir Jagr, so are the rest of us. He left Saturday night's game after four shifts with a lower body injury. While no official update was issued on Sunday, he is listed on the NHL Media website's roster page as on the IR, so stay tuned.)
What if the Flames, desperate to create more offence, were to literally airlift the entire No. 1 line from Stockton and insert all three into the line-up on Tuesday night in Nashville.
It's one thing to make minor nips and tucks around the perimeter of the line-up, then there's really sending a message. Imagine the impact on the dressing room if Calgary rolled out this line-up on Tuesday night (or some close facsimile of this for a top-nine, that part isn't the main focus here):
Depth Scoring Has Been Offensive
The conundrum is the Flames aren't getting anything from their bottom six right now.
Nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada.
|Zero points for Sam Bennett|
There are no exceptions.
If the top nine listed above sounds familiar, that's from the closest thing Calgary has gotten to a bottom-six goal at even-strength.
Those were the exact line configurations coach Glen Gulutzan turned to halfway through the home opener against Winnipeg. Trailing 3-1 at the time, the Flames went on to win 6-3 with each of those three lines contributing a five-on-five goal.
This raises a technicality. Was it the Monahan line that would have been viewed as the third line that night? But he's the team's No. 1 centre and leading goal scorer. So was it the Sam Bennett line then? But Gaudreau was with him and he's obviously Calgary's No. 1 left winger.
Regardless, the experiment was short-lived, ending about halfway through the next game in Anaheim.
The point being -- and no pun intended -- the team hasn't gotten a hint of offence from the Bennett line, other than that one night when he had Johnny Hockey on his flank. Same goes for the Matt Stajan line, or the Curtis Lazar line, or the Freddie Hamilton line as the fourth line was constructed last night.
Even-Strength Points and ES Time on Ice:
Kris Versteeg, 1 in 79:08 (a goal set-up by Monahan)
Troy Brouwer, 1 in 73:11 (an assist on Gaudreau goal)
Sam Bennett, 0 in 92:33
Micheal Ferland, 0 in 79:09
Matt Stajan, 0 in 54:48
Curtis Lazar, 0 in 52:15
Tanner Glass, 0 in 48:01
Freddie Hamilton, 0 in 14:45
The advanced stats picture isn't any rosier. Looking beyond just goals generated but instead the ratio of shot attempts for versus shot attempts surrendered at even strength, aka Corsi. This of course is meant to reflect the amount of territorial pressure or puck possession the team has while that player is on the ice. Viewed through that lens, only Stajan is above 50 percent.
Shot Attempt Percentage (SAT%)
Meanwhile, in NorCal
At this same time, you can't ignore the season that Stockton's top line is having.
The Mangiapane-Jankowski-Hathaway line has been Ryan Huska's No. 1 line and they have been consistently producing all season.
Bringing the Heat. Mark Jankowski (5-4-9), Andrew Mangiapane (3-6-9) and Garnet Hathaway (5-3-8) all rank in the top 10 in AHL scoring.— Darren Haynes (@DarrenWHaynes) October 22, 2017
They obviously play well together, why not bring them up as a unit and make them Calgary's fourth line and see what happens? It would be an eyebrow-raiser, but are the conditions not ripe for that exact type of maneuver?
Jankowski, 23, is legit. We saw it in the preseason. He was a late cut and probably one Brad Treliving made more so for business reasons, than performance reasons. Since going down, he's been a great pro too, who hasn't sulked but instead has gone out and not missed a beat, further demonstrating that he should be in the NHL.
As for Mangiapane, 21, he has yet to get his first NHL recall but you can't say he hasn't done everything in his power to earn it.
A 20-goal season as a rookie last year, and now sizzling-hot out of the gate this season.
Only two left wingers have been on the ice for even-strength goals -- Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk. That's it. If neither of those guys are on the ice, the team isn't scoring.
The time might be right to insert a skilled guy like Mangiapane on the port side and see if he can provide a spark and help create some of that badly needed secondary scoring.
The risk is minimal with Mangiapane too. Waiver-exempt, he can be shuttled back to Stockton at any point without issue, whether it's after one game, one week or one month.
Gulutzan, the Flames task master more focused on the process than the results these days, called Saturday night's 4-2 loss to Minnesota his team's best effort of the season.
But I'm not sure that's much of a consolation prize for season ticket holders, who saw the home side lose their third game in a row.
In those last three games at the Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary has mustered just three goals. There's only so much ugliness those $11 beers can cover up.
In fact, going back to Backlund's goal 16 seconds into the third period of the home opener, it's essentially been three goals in the last 10 periods. That's not going to win you many games, and it hasn't.
Blanked by the Senators, nearly blanked by the Hurricanes, Calgary was held off the scoresheet again on Saturday until Monahan's goal with 27.5 seconds left in the second period. There hasn't been a lot for the home fans to cheer about.
You wonder how long the team can just keep rolling out the same cast, expectations being what they are this season, before trying something fresh and maybe, just maybe, attempting something completely outside the box.
There's diversifying your top five and spreading out the wealth throughout your top nine like I suggested above. That's a start. But to complement that, would they dare recall an entire line? Not sure that's ever happened before and if it has, it's certainly been rare.
Admittedly, it's a pretty far-fetched scenario, but man, it is sure fun to contemplate.
Meanwhile, if you're at the SFO airport, keep your eyes peeled.
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 stories I've written, other articles from my colleagues that I've enjoyed and I'll occasionally use that space to weigh in on the news of the day.
Recent Flames Reading:
- How I'd Fix the Flames: What I'd do if I was Named GM and Coach for a Day - Six games into the season, coach Glen Gulutzan is not happy with how his team has played, calling them out-of-sync. Here's what I'd do in order to establish some stability. (Oct. 15, 2017)
- Eight From 80 Feet: Eight Random Flames Thoughts on a Cool, Fall Weekend - My assortment of random Flames-related musings include two prospects ripping it up in major junior, don't judge Mike Smith's book by the cover, Parsons and the ECHL. (Oct. 14, 2017)
- Good Omen? Smith's Thanksgiving Shutout in Anaheim Sparks Memories of 2004 - The start to the season for Mike Smith has conjured up memories of Miikka Kiprusoff, who was the guy the last time the Flames boasted at true No. 1 starter. (Oct. 10, 2017)
- Podcast: Episode 20 with Pat Steinberg- In this season preview edition, the host of Sportsnet960's radio broadcasts joined me to look at the season ahead. We made a bunch of predictions, some bold, some not, and answered several listener questions. (Oct. 9, 2017)
- Don't You Forget About Me: Simple Minds' Song Befits Impactful Night for Lazar - While TJ Brodie and Johnny Gaudreau were the headliners in Saturday's win over Winnipeg with four points each, don't overlook the really nice game by Curtis Lazar. (Oct. 8, 2017)