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The Calgary Flames open their preseason schedule in less than a week's time.
While players use the games to get themselves ready for October, or to try and land jobs, coaches have the luxury of trying different things without worrying about whether they work or not.
Here are three experiments I'd like to see tested:
1. Andrew Mangiapane as RW2
Provided he is actually signed in time to get some preseason reps in, I'd love to see Mangiapane given an opportunity to play on Mikael Backlund's right side.
Though his 2018-19 counting totals don't pop off the page, that's only due to a lack of opportunity. Mangiapane was an extremely efficient offensive player last season.
He led the team in 5v5 goals per 60 minutes played, produced points at a top-6 rate, finished 2nd in expected goals per 60 – meaning he generated a lot of chances in dangerous areas – and the Flames controlled a larger percentage of the attempts, expected goals, and actual goals with him on the ice on the ice than without.
Beyond just the numbers, which were all encouraging, Mangiapane's mix of quickness, skill and tenacity (especially for a small player) stood out on a shift-to-shift basis.
He is already a solid, well-rounded player and at just 23 there is room for more growth.
Michael Frolik won't be around much longer. He could be traded at any point, and if he's not traded he'll almost certainly be walking away from the team next summer. The Flames need a long-term solution in the top-6, and I think Mangiapane could be it.
Give him a chance to prove it.
2. Milan Lucic in the top-6
Why is the same guy who constantly knocks Milan Lucic's speed and offensive ability, or lack thereof, clamouring for him to be given a chance in the top-6? Great question, I'm glad you asked. Lucic's lack of speed and offensive ability is *exactly* why I want to see him given a shot in the top-6.
The preseason is more about experimenting than anything else. It's an opportunity for coaches to find out what works and what doesn't so they don't head into the regular season blind. If Bill Peters sticks Lucic on the same line as a player like Johnny Gaudreau or Matthew Tkachuk, and he struggles to keep up and/or mitigates their star-level abilities to create, Peters will have no choice but to pull the plug and play Lucic low in the lineup. That's where Lucic *should* be playing and the sooner the Flames realize that, the better.
3. More minutes for Oliver Kylington
Kylington averaged just 12:25 per game last season. That was the lowest aTOI of the 10 Flames defenders to dress at least 10 times. Yes, even lower than Dalton Prout.
I get being cautious with Kylington. He was a kid playing on a high-end team with lots of defensive depth. He was never going to play a lot last season but he should play more this year.
I'd like to think the now 22-year-old learned from his 38 game cup of coffee and is better for it. There's also the fact that, as currently constructed, he is going to be playing with either T.J. Brodie, Rasmus Andersson, or a combination of the two on the 3rd pairing any given night.
Those guys deserve consistent ice and it'll be tough to get them that – without getting the pairings out of whack, anyway – if Kylington remains as sheltered as a year ago.
Preseason wins and losses don't matter one bit. Try giving Kylington 16-17 minutes with one of those guys and see how he handles it. Heck, give him 18-20.
If he's ready, the Flames can ice an above average 1st, 2nd, *and* 3rd pairing with confidence. There's only one way to find out if he is.
numbers via naturalstattrick.com
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