When the Calgary Flames signed the now 27-year-old Austin Czarnik as a free agent in the summer of 2018, they weren’t the only team showing interest. Rumor had it that as many as 20 other teams wanted a piece of the action.
What’s happened to Czarnik during the past two seasons hasn’t been happy for the young Detroit native; however, perhaps there’s a chance that he can redeem his play and his status in the organization should he have a chance to play during the 2019-20 play-in series against the Winnipeg Jets.
Is There a Chance Czarnik Might Play?
Now Czarnik simply must get a chance; but, honestly, that seems like a bit of a long shot. During the 2019-20 season, Czarnik didn’t play for the Flames since October 24 after what was described as a lower-body injury. He was placed on and cleared waivers after he scored one goal and two assists for the AHL Stockton Heat during a three-game conditioning stint.
After clearing waivers, he simply stayed with the Heat and played 32 games there, scoring 16 goals and 17 assists for 33 points. So we know he can play – at least at the AHL level. In fact, in his time in the AHL this season, he was better than a point-a-game player. He does have talent. That he hasn’t been able to find his game at the NHL might be because he’s less suited in the bottom six than he is on a scoring line.
But, will he ever get that chance within the Flames organization? Czarnik, whose $1.25-million contract is over at the end of this season, simply doesn’t seem to be part of the Flames plans. And, given his ability to score, one has to wonder what caused the organization to bury him in the AHL when so many other young players in the organization simply leapfrogged him to play on the Flames roster this past season.
Perhaps the organization has become frustrated with Czarnik’s injuries as Flames general manager Brad Treliving noted when he was waived. Interim head coach Geoff Ward also told reporters that Czarnik “just has to be better than one of the 12 that are in.” But, what gives?
What to Do with Czarnik?
Although the Flames were eager to sign the 5-foot-9, 170-pound youngster is obvious, Czarnik was demoted to Stockton when Bill Peters was the head coach. He’s been buried there since, even after his injury healed. Will Ward be more willing to give him another shot?
In my opinion, Czarnik has one chance. If he makes the roster as a Flames’ Black Ace and someone on the top-six is injured, he might be called upon to be a replacement. But that chance seems slight. Still, he has NHL experience with both the Flames and the Boston Bruins, and he can score. To me, he seems worth a shot?
Without Playing this Postseason, Czarnik Might Be Gone
If Czarnik doesn’t play this postseason, look for him to disappear from the Flames organization after the season. He’s exactly the kind of young, speedy offensive-minded player the Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas likes to stockpile.
He might not be high on the Flames “call-up-list,” but I’m thinking because cheap and quality NHL players will be needed for the 2020-21 NHL season because of post-COVID-19, someone is watching – or they should be.
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