The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, but there’s one aspect of their game that the Calgary Flames don’t want to emulate.
During the 2015 playoffs, Chicago leaned heavily on defensemen Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Johnny Oduya. In early May Michal Rozsival suffered an ankle injury and that led to the Blackhawks using their top-four defensemen even more extensively as no other blueliners averaged more than 10 minutes per contest.
That worked out, but it was also a big burden on those four players. Calgary had a group that, when healthy, could similarly carry that kind of load in T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, Dennis Wideman, and Kris Russell, but after acquiring Dougie Hamilton over the summer, Calgary won’t have to resort to that. The Flames should be able to use all three pairings with confidence, which has the potential to pay off as the campaign progresses.
“When we throw a defenseman on the ice, he will be 100% rested because part of our style is go, go, go,” Flames coach Bob Hartley told the Calgary Sun.
The main question now is what the Flames’ defensive pairings will look like as Hamilton potentially throws a wrench in their old setup. It’s a good problem for Hartley to have and he’ll deal with it by trying a lot of different combinations over the preseason.
Mark Giordano couldn’t play past Feb. 25 last season because of torn biceps, but that’s not an issue for him anymore.
“It’s been a while,” Giordano told the Calgary Herald. “I started skating a bit toward the end of last year and shooting the puck a little bit. I got home, took a bit of rest, and got right into the strengthening phase of my recovery. I’ve felt great. Honestly, I’m 100 per cent today.
“There’s nothing in my mind that’s physically going to hold me back.”
Giordano was having a fantastic campaign prior to his injury, which has led some to speculate that he would have won the Norris Trophy had he been able to complete the campaign. Although he still has a season left on his five-year, $20.1 million deal, the Flames moved all uncertainty about his future by inking him to a six-year, $40.5 million extension over the summer.
At least on paper, Calgary is going into the season with one of the most impressive defensive groups in the league as they’ll also feature Dougie Hamilton, Dennis Wideman, T.J. Brodie, and Kris Russell.
After missing the vast majority of the 2014-15 campaign due to a shoulder injury, it seems Ryan Wilson hasn’t been able to secure a new contract this summer. He might still end up on an NHL roster though as he’s been invited to attend the Calgary Flames’ training camp on a tryout basis, per the team’s website.
Wilson originally signed with the Flames back in 2008 after going undrafted. However, he didn’t play for Calgary before being dealt along with Lawrence Nycholat and a 2009 second round pick (Stefan Elliot) to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Jordan Leopold. Wilson went on to score seven goals and 67 points in 230 games with the Avalanche.
The 28-year-old defenseman was coming off of a three-year, $6.75 million deal, but this has been a particularly difficult summer for veteran players as teams have been more disciplined than usual in light of the relatively modest cap increase for the 2015-16 campaign.
That’s created openings for the Flames and other teams to extend tryouts to players like Wilson, but it’s hard to see how he would fit into their plans. Calgary has a deep blueline that features Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, Dennis Wideman, T.J. Brodie, and Kris Russell. Throw in the fact that Ladislav Smid and Deryk Engelland are slated to come with $3.5 million and roughly $2.9 million annual cap hits this season and there just doesn’t appear to be room for another established blueliner barring an injury.