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A few Calgary Flames thoughts:
There has been a lot of talk about shifting Elias Lindholm to center this upcoming season, which I have no problem with. In fact, I'm all for it.
Lindholm is a really smart player. He knows how to read plays and make good decisions. I think you want a player with those kind of traits having the puck more in build-up. I also think he is more responsible than Sean Monahan and deserves a shot to earn the role of 1C. It has become increasingly clear Monahan’s faults won’t allow the Flames to win with him in that spot, so it makes sense to try somebody else.
Assuming Monahan also stays at center, which I feel is a safe bet, it also makes the Flames very deep at such a premium position. A top-3 of Lindholm, Monahan, and reliable two-way man Mikael Backlund is pretty damn good.
I’m not sure exactly how the top-6 would shake up – there are a lot of options and Geoff Ward will no doubt experiment – but I think it is reasonable to expect Backlund to be pushed down the lineup, so to speak.
If that is the case, I think Sam Bennett stands out as a good partner in crime. The two haven’t played consistently together by any means, however, they’ve spent upwards of 400 (5v5) minutes as a duo over the last two seasons and garnered excellent results.
The Flames controlled 53.60% of the shot attempts, 53.93% of the Expected Goals, and out-scored opponents 18-13 with that duo on the ice. I think there could be a recipe for success there and I hope that Ward gives them a shot on the 3rd line, presuming Lindholm is the 1C and Monahan centers the 2nd ‘scoring’ line.
Juuso Valimaki played ~half a season in 2018-19 and sat out 2019-20 in its entirety (at least in terms of actually playing games). Many – myself included – were worried about just how much that would stunt his development. Not much, apparently!
Valimaki is playing over in the SM-liiga right now and ripping it up. He has amassed 11 points in 12 games, tying him for 3rd on the team in scoring. The next closest defender on the roster has three points.
He has generated a ton of shots – he’s 3rd Ilves with 46, an average of nearly four per game – and is playing more than 23 minutes(!) per game so it’s no surprise he is finding the scoresheet so frequently.
Importantly, the underlying process seems to be fairly sound. Valimaki ranks 6th among Ilves regulars in Corsi For%. He is one of the drivers for the team.
I expect Valimaki to start on P3 when he returns to Calgary, however, if he is able to pick up where he leaves off in Finland – and Noah Hanifin continues to do, uh, not much – I could see a scenario where he ends up in the top-4 as the season progresses.
Considering all Valimaki has gone through over the last couple of years, that’d be a remarkable story.
Flames make another smart, low-risk gamble with Josh Leivo
Flames make smart gamble on Dominik Simon
Flames sign Andrew Mangiapane to two-year bridge deal
Flames make risky bet on Chris Tanev
Flames sign Jacob Markstrom to long-term deal
Are the Flames ready to move on from Noah Hanifin?