Flames Notebook: Why the 3M Line shouldn’t be split up

Justin Williams scored his first of the year to seal a 2-1 win for the Hurricanes over the Flames.

While the schedule has been light for the Calgary Flames this week, Thursday’s 2-1 loss to Carolina isn’t sitting well with both players and coaches. Will there be lineup changes or any roster tweaks? We look at those stories and more in our Flames Notebook.

The Flames aren’t thrilled with their 4-3-0 start to the season, and there’s good reason for that. Calgary has been too reliant on goaltender Mike Smith and they find themselves defending far too much. As such, the conversation about lineup changes has already begun, and that conversation is valid. One area that doesn’t need to change, though, is the line of Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik, and Matthew Tkachuk.

The 3M Line remains the most consistent, two-way threat for the Flames through the first two weeks of the season. With 12 points combined, the trio has produced at a decent rate, but it’s their work in the possession game that remains at an elite level.

Player CF% OZS%
Matthew Tkachuk 56.2 38.1
Mikael Backlund 53.8 34.9
Michael Frolik 53.7 35.4

Essentially, the 3M Line has picked up right where they left off last year. It’s still facing among the toughest competition on the team, getting buried with defensive zone starts, and spending far more time on the attack. There’s no reason to split it up at this stage of the game.

• The Flames need to think about moving Sam Bennett to the wing. Once again, Bennett is struggling with the responsibilities at centre, and his 41.7 per cent possession rate speaks to just that; only Tanner Glass has spent less time in the offensive zone than Bennett. A move to the wing would allow Bennett more flexibility and creativity.

• Jaromir Jagr has looked solid in a pair of games with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. He generated a number of scoring chances in Thursday’s 2-1 setback to Carolina and I can’t see that trend stopping if he continues playing on Calgary’s top line. If head coach Glen Gulutzan plays to their strengths and uses them in an offensively slanted role, points for Jagr should come at a fairly regular clip.

• When is Eddie Lack going to start? And does it really matter? Mike Smith has played so well for the Flames in his first seven starts, there really isn’t a need to relieve him at this point. Calgary’s four-day break earlier this week allowed Smith maintenance time, and the team’s October schedule is relatively light. It could be a while until Lack sees his first game action.

• The team isn’t happy with the way it’s played, and that comes right from the head coach. “If we don’t get going, (the league) is going to put us in our place,” Gulutzan said on Friday morning. Let’s not forget, though, the Flames are 4-3-0. Sure, Smith has been a huge reason for their decent start, but picking up points while rounding into form can still be viewed as a positive. Most importantly, the Flames aren’t digging themselves a huge hole as they try to get their game in order.

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