The Calgary Flames made some extra room on their flight to Columbus on Thursday.
Just a little, though.
Size jokes aside, the franchise made a big move calling up Matthew Phillips — the American Hockey League’s leading scorer — from the Calgary Wranglers.
With the team getting set for its first game against former Flames star Johnny Gaudreau, there’s no report on any NHL injuries, but news soon followed that the Flames also waived Kevin Rooney. For now, the team is carrying 23 players with games set for Friday in Columbus, Saturday in Toronto and Monday in Montreal.
You probably have a lot of questions.
Did the fan outcry put pressure on Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving to make the move?
Was head coach Darryl Sutter consulted?
Will the veteran bench boss even bother to play the 5-foot-7, 140-pound winger? If he does, will he stick him with offensive duds on the fourth line?
And who comes out of the lineup if the 24-year-old Phillips gets into an NHL game for just the second time.
Wait, is Phillips’ weight a typo?
Phillips has been a hot topic of conversation among the digital fanbase. With the team struggling with scoring through much of the first quarter of the season, people are wondering what the team has to lose by bringing a speedy guy with some skill into the lineup. Even though they've won four of their last five.
Treliving has heard the outcry. Even if he manages to avoid listening to talk shows, reading media sites, fan blogs or his daily sports section (people still get those, right?), or browsing social media, questions have sporadically been inserted into Sutter’s media availabilities.
The latest, from TSN’s Salim Valji, was met with … hostility.
Valji mentioned Phillips’ impressive November, which earned him AHL player of the month honours, and asked if the farm was an option for an injection of offence.
“So are we talking about the farm or are we talking about Matthew Phillips?” Sutter replied.
Valji wasn’t able to complete his explanation.
“Well, Matthew Phillips is among the AHL leaders and I think fans are kind of curious if he’ll get …” Valji began.
“Yeah, well you were curious about it three years ago so you can keep your curiosity,” said the coach, who paused for at least a few seconds of pure silence before continuing.
“I watch the farm team live more than I have an any point since I’ve been here. The team’s doing really well but there’s a big difference between American League to the NHL in terms of production.”
That exchange was less than a week ago. But Sutter could just as easily turn around tomorrow and say this was the plan all along. He’s not one to pump individuals’ tires at any level.
The fan outcry and media questions likely had nothing to do with the recall. It’s an obvious selection based on performance and that alone has been loud enough for Treliving to reward Phillips’ efforts with a trip out east on a private plane and if nothing else a chance to practice with the NHL staff and watch the NHLers up close.
Will he play a game? Maybe. My guess is it would come against the Blue Jackets Friday to counter the intensity of the hype for the first game against Gaudreau since he left in free agency.
What better way for a diminutive forward like Phillips to learn how he needs to play in the NHL than watching the undersized Gaudreau do it up close?
Milan Lucic played just over five minutes on Wednesday and Rooney was waived on Thursday, so there are plenty of potential removals. In terms of playing partners, my bet would be a slot beside Mikael Backlund at best, and Trevor Lewis at worst.
But however it plays out, Phillips has earned the weekend with the big boys.