Flames forward Adam Ruzicka was placed on waivers on Wednesday with the purpose of re-assignment to the AHL Calgary Wranglers.
Certainly, a low point in the 24-year-old Slovak’s 2023-2024 campaign, the writing had been on the wall for some time due to a lack of offensive production. Ruzicka has three goals and six assists for nine points in 39 games this season.
In nearly as many games this year, Ruzicka’s production (0.23 points per game) is close to half of the 0.45 points per game rate of last season; a six goal, 14 assist season playing 44 games under Darryl Sutter.
Adam played a listless 6:03 of ice time against Edmonton on Saturday.
His only notable impact on the game was a two minute minor penalty for interference on Leon Draisatl. That outing appears to be the final straw for the 6-foot-4, 215-pound pivot. Thirty-one other NHL teams now have the opportunity to claim Ruzicka and see if they can awaken a latent offensive game that saw the former member of the Sarnia Sting put up five multi-point games in 2022-2023.
The question in Adam’s mind today must be: What’s next?
For Flames fans, the question will remain for some time: What happened?
The Jimmy Vesey Incident
Jump back to October 24, 2023. The Calgary Flames played host to the New York Rangers in an eventual 3-1 win for the visitors. The story of the game was a hit made by Ranger forward Jimmy Vesey on Adam Ruzicka, who left the ice with an apparent shoulder injury.
Adam Ruzicka got banged up on this hit from Jimmy Vesey. pic.twitter.com/gcI5drIqXP
— Robert Munnich (@RingOfFireCGY) October 25, 2023
Vesey would go unpenalized for the questionable body check. Less than a minute later, New York winger Will Cuylle proceeded to take a run at Blake Coleman. Cuylle served a two minute minor for boarding.
Ruzicka had been bringing a strong offensive game prior to that night. While he had gone scoreless the game prior against Columbus, the Slovak had four points in seven games – good for third place on the Flames.
Adam took four games off and returned to the lineup a mere 14 days later. Thus began the second chapter of his season. His production diminished to a mere goal and four assists in 32 games. Discount a two point night against Dallas on Nov. 24, and he has three assists in 31 games.
Points Per Game: Adam Ruzicka in 2023-2024
Oct. 11 to Oct. 24: 0.57
Nov. 7 to Jan. 24: 0.15
It is not hard to read the tea leaves on this one. This also wouldn’t be the first time the Flames organization has had players push through shoulder issues. You only have to go back to the 2022-2023 season to find an example.
Mangiapane’s goal total dropped from 35 in 2021-2022 to 17 in 2022-2023. His point production went from 55 to 43. Statistics aside, the best puck protector on the team simply looked less effective in battles for possession.
A Sept. 10 offseason interview on the Mitts Off with Luke Gazdic podcast included Mangiapane disclosing some info on his injury to his former Stockton Heat teammate.
Gazdic: “Was it bothering you a lot last year? Like time to time before you made the decision to have the surgery? I would assume that there were a lot of incidents that happened before you came to that decision.”
Mangiapane: “Yeah, I think it happened I’d say pretty early. First couple games. Just kinda kept, I guess slipping out, just like the sub-blocks going down. Fall to brace, and it would just kinda slip out, and whole kinda arm would get numb. You know the feeling.”
“Yeah, even myself and my trainer were shocked at the end of the year. We kinda thought everything was going as planned. I was doing a lot of the band work, doing all that. I was keeping up to it, right? And building my strength and, yeah, got an MRI just kinda for precautionary reasons at the end of the season and then it turns out I needed shoulder surgery”
The National Hockey League can be unforgiving regarding taking time off. While the organization may or may not be content with a player staying on injured reserve a little longer, sometimes a player will try to get back earlier to not have their spot in the lineup taken by an overachieving call-up.
Ruzicka’s return to the lineup just happened to be a mere game after Connor Zary and Martin Pospisil played their first game together on Nazem Kadri’s line. The two Flames rookies contributed on two goals en route to a 6-3 win over the Seattle Kraken.
Time will tell whether the product of Bratislava, Slovakia remains a Calgary Flame. Montreal and New Jersey currently have vacancies down the middle, and frankly, what team wouldn’t try out a 24-year-old 6-foot-4 center with untapped offensive potential?