The Calgary Flames have seemingly picked up the momentum in recent times, and with the immediate impact of names like Connor Zary, Martin Pospisil and Nick DeSimone, the team is trending in the right direction. Their presence has certainly improved the play of some veterans, and while those veterans remain key to any success this team may have in 2023-24, it begs the question, just how are the Flames going to deal with their Dustin Wolf problem?
Dominance in the AHL for Dustin Wolf
In two full seasons and the beginning of this year between Stockton/Calgary, Wolf has been untouchable in net, posting an 82-21-6 record with a 2.24 GAA and a .927 save percentage, and after being named the AHL’s MVP a season ago, it’s clear he has nothing left to prove in the minors.
With both Jacob Markstrom and Dan Vladar on the NHL roster however, it gives the team a log-jam at one of the most important positions on the ice, and recently, things got even more murky in net.
A surprise call-up
On Thursday, Wolf was officially recalled to the NHL squad, travelling with the team on their three-game Canadian road trip to Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal, and if he performs, there’s no way the team can send him back to the AHL, right? That’s where things get tricky, as NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman has revealed that it was simply for injury protection to the banged up Markstrom, more than a precursor to a potential trade, with it now seeming as though no one in or outside of the building know how to handle the situation.
While some believe another year in the AHL could benefit the 23-year old, RFA status coming up and the potential to get frustrated with the organization facing a long-awaited rebuild, the question remains, can the team afford to keep Dustin Wolf out of the spotlight any longer?
So, what’s the solution for Dustin Wolf and the Calgary Flames?
There are many difficult questions facing the Flames, but this simply isn’t one of them, as Wolf has done everything he can do in the AHL and more, and while his attitude has been great thus far, if he sits another year with the Wranglers while Zary, Pospisil, DeSimone, and likely Poirier, Pelletier and potentially Klapka all get their shot at the top level, frustration could set in.
Wolf made his debut last season in the team’s season finale, stopping all but one shot in a win over the Sharks, and if it wasn’t abundantly clear that he’s ready for the NHL, his start to this season has been even better, posting a 5-1-0 record with a 2.34 GAA and a .934 save percentage as the Wranglers backstop.
With the impact the youth has already had on the team and Wolf’s continued dominance at the AHL level, it’s simple; the Flames need to look to Toronto, Edmonton, LA, Detroit and others and work the phones hard until a trade can be made. It’s expected that he’ll make at least one start on their upcoming road trip, and while doing business in the NHL isn’t easy, the Flames should not send Dustin Wolf back down to the AHL, as the team have been reinvigorated by the presence of their youth, and if the guy in net can perform the way Zary or Pospisil have, it will be the final signal for a much needed youth movement in Calgary.
Thankfully, that doesn’t mean this team will continue to lose, as their young stars have already impacted winning, and if they can get Wolf acclimatized to the NHL this season, along with the returns of Pelletier and Coronato, if they can move either Markstrom or Vladar and continue the youth movement, led by Wolf, this team could be a playoff contender while rebuilding in a matter of 1-2 years, rather than tearing it down for a full 4-5 year rebuild.