Calgary Flames

Flames Sunday Census: Calgary’s All-Star Game selections

The Calgary Flames have been off to one incredible start to their season. As musing surrounding the 2022 Olympic rosters as well as jersey releases happening recently, there’s one event immediately before that to turn our attention to: The 2022 NHL All-Star Game. So who among the Flames roster might represent the Pacific Division before then? We asked, you answered.

The Flames have multiple All-Star candidates

Typically, there are no All-Star Games during Olympic years, but with the NHL not entirely certain about their presence in the 2022 Olympics, they went ahead and scheduled the 2022 All-Star Game anyway. The NHL opted to host it in Vegas such that any player that’s both in the All-Star Game as well as on an Olympic roster has a shorter flight across the Pacific Ocean once the All-Star festivities end.

Heading into the season, the Flames roster wasn’t exactly inspiring many into thinking they’d be where they are right now. Being a top-heavy team with weak depth that just lost their All-Star captain to the expansion draft, there was a lot of uncertainty around Calgary.

However, their top-heaviness is exactly what’s paying off for them on offence, as they have four forwards capable of scoring and they are doing just that. Their top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, and Elias Lindholm have been offensive drivers for the team, as well as breakout star and possible Team Canada Olympian Andrew Mangiapane.

Further, in their new-look defence corps, a surprise at the blueline came from Oliver Kylington who’s off to not just the best start to any season in his career, but also one of the best starts to 2021–22 for any defenceman in the league right now.

Turning to their goaltending, Jacob Markstrom has been absolutely phenomenal, rebounding from his disappointing season right into placing himself into NHL history with his otherworldly shutout pace.

The Flames have a plethora of candidates for the All-Star Game, and a lot of it has to do with how well they are playing under Darryl Sutter‘s system. This team is genuinely hard to play against, and it’s in turn creating a lot of offence for Calgary as their opponents aren’t able to generate much themselves.

Markstrom is likely the goaltender that’s going to represent the Pacific Division—no other goaltender in the division has stats anywhere near to him right now. So the Flames might have a big opportunity to send two representatives to the All-Star Game if their skaters keep up their pace. So who should they send?

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Gaudreau’s elite and in his prime

Garnering over 50% of the votes, Gaudreau’s the fan-favourite to be at the All-Star Game. If he does get the nod, it’d be his sixth appearance. So far this year, Gaudreau has been nearly unstoppable. He’s sixth in the league in scoring, has been effective in every situation he’s utilised, and has been integral on the Flames’ top line.

Gaudreau being the All-Star Game wouldn’t be the least bit surprising. If there’s anyone whose stats back up an all-star level performance, it’d be Gaudreau. Here’s a look at his regularised adjusted plus-minus (RAPM) this season from Evolving-Hockey. RAPM is a measure for skater evaluation that looks at offensive and defensive metrics. The charts shows how much better or worse any given player is at each area compared to others. In short, the higher a bar is, the better a player is in that area.

Another evaluation of Gaudreau and his production is provided with The Win Column’s Player Offensive Evaluation Tool (POET) charts, which looks at 5v5 offence. Similarly, the bars show how much better a player is compared to the league average. TWCScore is an overall metric that combines each offensive measure into a single number, whereas the components making up TWCScore can be split up into various stat combinations. Here’s the full explainer of the TWC POET model.

These POET charts were used to evaluate every single Flame’s first quarter 5v5 offence, so be sure to check that out for all Flames not mentioned in this post.

Both visuals show that Gaudreau is playing at an elite level right now, and his numbers are where one would expect an all-star skater to be. He’s the Flames’ best offensive driver at 5v5 right now. Keep that up for the next quarter and it’d be a tragedy if Gaudreau wasn’t the Flames’ representative in Vegas.

Mangiapane’s meteoric rise

Most Flames fans knew that Mangiapane was good. The league started noticing once he arrived for Team Canada and earned MVP honours en route to capturing gold at this year’s IIHF. It elevated him from depth winger into a whole new echelon. His hockey IQ and skills are on full display and he’s getting rewarded for it big time.

Leading the Flames in goals was probably not on Mangiapane’s own to-do list this season, but now seeing him there it’s not so much of a surprise as it is an acknowledgement that of all Flames skaters to start seeing shots turn into goals, Mangiapane’s the most deserving.

He plays the game with a tenacity that everyone loves to see and it’d be quite the season for Mangiapane to end up making his first All-Star appearance. Even Gaudreau’s uncle Jim agrees:

Again, taking a look at his charts, he’s been solid across the board. Mangiapane has been excellent to start this season and he could very well earn a spot on Team Canada for the 2022 Olympics. Mangiapane is finally getting the spotlight he deserves and seeing him at the All-Star game would be the cherry on top.

Kylington has finally arrived

Where do you even start with Kylington? From being waived—and unclaimed—last season to whatever this is right now, Kylington is playing lights out hockey in 2021–22. He entered the preseason with a showing that no one foresaw, and now he truly is making a strong case for being one of the Flames’ long-term top pairing defencemen. If he keeps playing the way he is, an All-Star nod—just like Mangiapane—would be a true testament of their on-ice performances this season.

Kylington has taken this opportunity and turned it into a career season—he’s making a case for himself prior t o his upcoming contract negotiations. The turnaround that Kylington has had this season was what everyone has been waiting for. Since being drafted back in the second round back in 2015, this is the plater that he was projected as being capable of, and now six years later, he’s finally here.

The story from the visuals remain the same, Kylington is one of the best defencemen in the league right now. The Pacific Division could definitely benefit from having Kylington at the blue line as that will spark a whole lot of offence. It could be what they need to win their second straight All-Star Game.

Tkachuk’s rebound back to the top

Tkachuk’s back to where he belongs. After a season where he wasn’t exactly playing his best hockey, Tkachuk came into 2021–22 with a laser focus on proving that last season was a one-off and he truly is the Flames’ most important player moving forward.

Now playing with Gaudreau and Lindholm, Tkachuk’s role has been redefined and he’s taken full advantage of it. He’s excelling at both ends of the ice and is making everyone around him better. Truly captain material.

Tkachuk is a shoo-in for the USA Olympic roster, but he could very well make his second All-Star appearance this season too.

Looking at Tkachuk’s charts and comparing it to Gaudreau’s, it’s easy to see these two players complement each other and it’s exactly why the Flames’ first line is so effective. They are playing at a best-in-league level and it’s paying off for Calgary.

Calgary’s All-Star selections

This early in the season, it’s hard to tell which Flames skater could be an All-Star come February. They’ve had several standout performances already and this list of four players isn’t even exhaustive. An honourable mention would have to go to Lindholm as a potential All-Star nod.

It’s been a while since the Flames were this dominant on the ice. The stats definitely back it up and they are looking like the real deal. Having a group of players to mull over as All-Star selections is definitely a good thing. Here’s to hoping this decision remains difficult right through to the 2022 NHL All-Star Game.

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