With the season just about 24 hours away and the Calgary Flames signing RW Kris Versteeg earlier today, we have a question: Who will make the first line?
We already know that LW Johnny Gaudreau and C Sean Monahan of the Calgary Flames will be on the first line for the start of the season. We’ve seen how these guys play together and how much they love playing together. And with Johnny Gaudreau finally getting that contract yesterday and putting on that Flames jersey again, it truly feels like the season has begun. So now we’ve got to wonder: Who will be joining them on the right wing?
Before, there were talks about Troy Brouwer joining them as a good veteran forward. He has experience with different teams playing on the first and second lines and can bring that familiarity to rising stars Monahan and Gaudreau. However Flames just signed Kris Versteeg to a one-year contract earlier today, so things might look a little different now.
First Opponent: Steeger
The 30-year-old is actually an Alberta native so this might be a nice place to play for him; that being clear with him turning down the Edmonton Oilers‘ offer to play in Calgary. Last year he split his season between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Los Angeles Kings. He finished the regular season with 38 points in 77 games. In his last few seasons, he usually split his time between second and third line and was averaging a salary of $4.4 million last year, so good job on Flames management on signing him for less than a million. Especially with rejecting an offer from the Oilers as well. Wow, in a surprising turn of events, who knew he would be the one reviving the Battle of Alberta?
Second Opponent: The Big Lebrouski
Now we have Troy Brouwer, who Flames signed on draft day as a free agent. Brouwer, who spent most of his career playing with the Chicago Blackhawks and the Washington Capitals, generally played on first or second line. He would normally split between those two, and the odd time would play on third line in practice. Brouwer scored the game winning goal with just 13 seconds left of the third period during the 2015 Winter Classic. I think Flames fans have a bit of familiarity with some late game scoring, right?
So now it’s question time. Who will make the first line? The obvious choice might seem like Brouwer. He has a ton of experience playing on that first line and comparing him and Versteeg over the last few seasons, he seems like the more consistent player. However, I think he might be better on the second line and here’s why. He has been practicing and playing with the team since training camp and during preseason. They’ve seen how he has played with Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk so far and Calgary Flames head coach, Glen Gulutzan, loves it. We haven’t been able to see how much he can play with Monahan and Gaudreau together since Monahan was injured and was cautiously practicing with the team, and Gaudreau wasn’t allowed to because he didn’t have a contract yet.
So, it would seem like Brouwer playing with Tkachuk and Bennett on the second line seems like the better option. Bennett is just coming off of his first full season, and Tkachuk will be making his NHL debut at the season opener. These guys are incredibly young and don’t exactly have that experience yet. Brouwer, like we’ve mentioned already, can help them and guide them. I mean, we’ve practically seen this before.
Remember former Flame Jiri Hudler playing with Monahan and Gaudreau? He pretty much was like a father figure to the two and that line dominated the NHL. Papa huds with his two sons playing on the same line.
I got it, they’re going to be fine. I got it.
He left a lasting impression on the boys and it’s been mentioned multiple times how much Hudler helped Monny and Johnny in their first seasons in the NHL. When the Flames traded him to the Florida Panthers in February, Flames GM Brad Treliving mentioned how he knew how hard this was going to be on Gaudreau and Monahan.
"I remember walking to the back of the plane and I was going to go talk to them. Huds knew what I was doing and stopped me and said ‘I got it, they’re going to be fine. I got it’. – Brad Treliving"
I can definitely see the same thing happening with Brouwer playing with Bennett and Tkachuk. They can all definitely bring in some primary scoring. It might not happen right away, I mean I don’t think they’ll score 5 goals in the season opener. But it’ll definitely happen.
So who wins this battle? Well, none of them and both of them. The competition for Flames fans shouldn’t necessarily be who plays on that first line. It’s about who can make an impact.
An impact that will last, wherever they play.