While Monday night’s game between the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens was filled with plenty of highlights and exciting back-to-back action, there was one play that left many feeling sick to their stomachs.
Related: 3 Takeaways: Flames’ 2-1 Shootout Loss to Canadiens – 12/13/22
At nearly the midway point of the second period, the Canadiens found themselves on a five-on-three power play after penalties to both Noah Hanifin and Nikita Zadorov. With just seconds remaining in the latter’s penalty, Habs forward Nick Suzuki fired a one-timer from the faceoff dot at the Flames’ net. As we have seen him do so many times throughout his career, however, Chris Tanev put his body on the line to block the shot and ended up taking it up high. The veteran blueliner immediately went down to the ice and stayed there for some time before being helped off by training staff.
Thankfully, the Flames sent out a tweet shortly after the game came to an end that all tests at a local hospital came back negative, and he has been permitted to travel back to Calgary with his teammates. That said, while he appears to have avoided serious injury, these types of scares can sometimes be hard to predict in terms of a return.
It is an unfortunate loss for the Flames, given that he is arguably the team’s best overall defenseman, one who can shut down the opposing team’s top offensive stars while also being a fantastic penalty killer. That said, Brad Treliving has done a good job in ensuring that this team has plenty of depth on the back end, which will certainly help at this time. Here are three defensemen that will have an opportunity to step up and help fill the void.
After a very impressive start to the 2022-23 campaign, Michael Stone was placed on injured reserve for a brief time with an undisclosed ailment and has failed to get back to his early season play since. He has seen his ice time drop off in dramatic fashion, as of late, particularly in a game on Saturday versus the Toronto Maple Leafs in which he logged just 5:33 in what was a 5-4 overtime loss.
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While by no means a defensive specialist like Tanev, he does have more offensive skill, and in particular, an incredible shot. Given that he plays the right side like Tanev, he could very well be relied upon to play more minutes in the veteran’s absence. He won’t be able to replace Tanev, but if he can play as he did earlier in the season, the Flames will be okay.
Back when the Flames signed undrafted defenseman Connor Mackey to a one-year contract back in March of 2020, many believed he had a possibility to crack their blue line that very next Fall. That has turned out not to be the case, as he has spent the majority of the past two seasons in the American Hockey League (AHL).
So far in 2022-23, Mackey has remained with the Flames but hasn’t seen much playing time, appearing in just six games thus far. When he has played, his ice time has been extremely limited, as he has averaged just over 10 minutes per game. It is clear that he has not earned the trust of Sutter just yet, a head coach, who is known to favor his veterans over youth.
That said, if there is a time for Mackey to show he belongs, that time is now. In the final year of a two-year deal signed prior to the 2021-22 season, he doesn’t have much opportunity left to give the Flames a reason to extend him. This may very well be his final chance, and given the massive role Tanev plays on this team, he could very well prove to be the one to step up.
As mentioned, Treliving has done a good job of ensuring this Flames team has plenty of depth on the blue line, and a perfect example was the signing of Nick Desimone this offseason. While by no means a star talent, the 28-year-old has proven to be a very solid AHL defenseman in recent years, and that has certainly been the case thus far in 2022-23.
In 18 games with the Calgary Wranglers, Desimone has an impressive four goals and 15 points, along with a plus/minus of plus-8. That great play has clearly caught the eye of the Flames brass, as he was called up last month and was able to suit up for the first four NHL games of his career.
During those four games, he too wasn’t trusted a ton, as he averaged less than 12 minutes of ice time. That said, the Flames will need a defenseman, likely one on the right side, to step up. Luckily for Desimone, he happens to be just that.
Of the three options, Desimone is certainly the least likely to be given the opportunity to step up in Tanev’s absence. With that said, however, they will likely need to call a defenseman up, and there is certainly a good chance he is that man. If that is indeed the case, he will need to be sure that if called upon to be in the lineup, he is at his absolute best.
Flames Need to Get It Done By Committee
By no means will it be easy for the Flames to pick up wins in Tanev’s absence. When at his best, this is a player, who is among the game’s top shutdown blueliners, and they will miss him significantly. That said, this was a team who many pegged as Stanley Cup contenders heading into the 2022-23 season due to the high talent level on their roster. While the hope is that one of these individuals listed above may be able to step in and play Tanev’s minutes, the entire team will need to step up in the absence of one of their leaders.