With their season opener against the Vancouver Canucks just days away the Calgary Flames still need to make some roster moves to get them to the 23-man maximum they can carry.
On October 5 they helped that process when they reassigned three players to the Adirondack Flames. Forwards Josh Jooris and Sven Baertschi as well as goaltender Joni Ortio were the clippings in the roster trim.
Ortio’s reassignment wasn’t all that surprising – he was competing for a spot against Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo – but seeing Baertschi and Jooris moved to Adirondack came as somewhat of a shock. Both had seemed to impress team brass in the pre-season and looked to be making a case for the opening day roster.
And though Jooris seemed in good spirits about the demotion, Baertschi was clearly distraught about the move. Calgary Sun reporter Randy Sportak tweeted out a quote from Baertschi in which the young Swiss said “I’m in-between being sad and just really confused.”
It’s not hard to see why, given the way he played in the team’s six exhibition games. He only found the score sheet once with a goal against the Arizona Coyotes, but it looked like – and clearly Baertschi thought – he had taken the necessary steps to find himself in the lineup opening night. Clearly, though, there is still room for improvement.
While the aforementioned demotions helped shrink the roster, the Flames still need to lighten the load by a few bodies before they can take the ice in the regular season. Their goaltending situation has been resolved (at least in terms of numbers) with Hiller and Ramo sticking in the NHL, but the situation with the players in front still remains unsolved.
Among the nine defensemen left, Corey Potter and Tyler Wotherspoon seem to be the odd men out – especially with Raphael Diaz signing for one year following his professional tryout. Just after Diaz’s signing Wotherspoon was sent down, and it shouldn’t be too much longer before Potter joins him.
That leaves the forwards as the last group, and the one where the real tough decisions will have to be made. Though injuries to Markus Granlund and Sam Bennett may make the decision easier right now, narrowing down a group of (likely) 14 forwards to carry won’t be easy when everyone is healthy.
It’s a tricky situation because, though the kids have endeared themselves to head coach Bob Hartley, there are too many players on one-way contracts for moves to be made without issue. But really, the two main factors in the equation that is the roster are Bennett and Granlund.
Bennett can be sent back to junior, but the question is has he done enough to remain in the pros, and which league will allow him a better opportunity to develop? As for Granlund, he has also done well up to this point, but he faces the same situation as Bennett: has he done enough to earn a spot?
If it’s determined they’re both ready for the NHL then two players will have to be removed to accommodate them. Devin Setoguchi and Brian McGrattan should be high on that list, even with their one-way contracts. Setoguchi was less than impressive in the exhibition season, while McGrattan’s role can basically be filled by new Flames Brandon Bollig and Deryk Engelland.
All this is to say Hartley, Brad Treliving and co. still have some work to do before the puck is dropped Wednesday.