Calgary Flames

Flames Sunday Census: Blake Coleman’s new start in Calgary

When the Calgary Flames signed Blake Coleman to a six-year, $4.9M annual average value contract this offseason, they were taking a chance on the forward and gave him his longest contract in his career. With Coleman set to be with the Flames long-term, his on-ice production over the next few seasons will dictate whether his contract was worth it. So far, how has he looked to start this season? We asked, you answered.

Coleman’s impact on Calgary

Coleman was drafted by the New Jersey Devils 75th overall in the third round of the 2011 NHL Draft. Five seasons later, he debuted with the Devils in 2016–17. His entry-level contract spanned two seasons from 2015–16 through 2016–17. After that contract expired, he signed a one-year $660K contract with the Devils in 2017–18.

Finally in the 2018 offseason, Coleman found a bit more stability, re-signing with the Devils once again on a three-year, $1.8M AAV contract. However midway through his contract, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Nolan Foote and a 2020 first-round pick. Well, his accomplishments with the Lightning were capped off with back-to-back Stanley Cup wins in 2020 and 2021.

Entering the 2021 offseason as an unrestricted free agent, he landed in Calgary with a six-year contract, making him the first Flame to sign through the 2026–27 season. Now a permanent fixture of the Flames’ middle-six, Coleman provides Calgary with a two-way game that is a near perfect fit with the team’s identity.

Over the first quarter and a bit of the season, he has scored four goals and three assists—most recently tallying a goal against the Anaheim Ducks in Calgary’s 4–3 shootout win. His best scoring season in terms of totals was back in 2018–19 with New Jersey when he scored 22 goals and 14 assists (36 points) in 78 games. Alternatively, his best scoring pace was last year, where he scored 14 goals and 17 assists (31 points) in just 55 games.

He’s a bit under both marks so far, but that’s only on offence. Coleman’s pedigree comes from his two-way play—not just what he puts up on the scoreboard. As a player who’s relied on to play shutdown hockey, his role on the Flames can be carved out to exact specifications with their top line expected to do the heavy lifting on offence, while Coleman can be tasked with responsibilities on the other end of the ice.

So far, his most common linemate has been Mikael Backlund, followed by Andrew Mangiapane, Tyler Pitlick, and Sean Monahan. Rarely tasked with power play time, he instead is seen mostly at even strength with second unit penalty killing.

Overall, what do the fans make of Coleman’s start with Calgary?

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Coleman’s defensive value is appreciated

The poll gave combinations of Coleman’s offence and defence being either good or bad, but an overwhelming response towards Coleman’s defensive prowess was the outcome. Independent from offence, almost all voters selected one of two options where his defence was considered good. Nearly no one thought he’s had a poor defensive showing so far.

Let’s see how his stats measure up on defence. We’ll take a look at his defensive rates per 60 minutes of play and see how he stacks up against other Flames forwards. All stats are after 24 games played at 5v5, score-and-venue-adjusted from, and only includes players with a minimum of 100 minutes at 5v5.

Blake Coleman43.8423.5320.711.001.85
Flames forward rank2nd1st3rd5th3rd

A total of 12 Flames forwards made the cutoff, and Coleman is at or near the top for all significant metrics. He greatly limits shot attempts when he’s on the ice, and is strong at preventing scoring chances too.

Mixed results on offence

Conversely, Coleman’s offence isn’t quite as high compared to his defence, and the poll results suggest his offence should be higher than what it is right now—though some voters are content. His numbers slot him in right as a great middle-six option. The rates are far from impressive as standalone numbers, but it’s important to compare how his offensive rates compare to the defensive rates. In every single metric, Coleman’s generating way more offence than he’s allowing.

Blake Coleman65.4336.0831.172.302.48
Flames forward rank6th6th7th6th6th

Overall, he’s a net positive skater by a large margin, and is heavily boosted by how good he is at defence so far for the Flames.

Regularised adjusted plus-minus

Let’s complement both Coleman’s defensive and offensive numbers by taking a look at his regularised adjusted plus-minus (RAPM) charsts from First, looking at his numbers with just Calgary, and then over the past three seasons split between New Jersey, Tampa Bay as well.

Calgary results

Looking at just his numbers in Calgary, his best attribute is clearly defence. He’s again, one of Calgary’s best defensive forwards. His issue is in generating offence.

Combined results

Over his past three seasons, Coleman was a more complete two-way player relative to his first 24 games with Calgary. That’s a good indication that he’ll end up being better on offence than his results suggest thus far, as a little bit of regression back to his true skill level will go a long way.

What’s important to note as well is who he plays with. In New Jersey, his most common linemates were Travis Zajac and Nikita Gusev; after being traded to Tampa, it was Anthony Cirelli and Alex Killorn. Last season, he was primarily playing with Barclay Goodrow and Yanni Gourde.

As with all players, putting Coleman with the right linemates can change his outputs significantly. If the Flames want more scoring from him, they should adjust accordingly, and play him against weaker opposition. If they’re happy with the defence they’re getting thus far, then there’s no issues here—Coleman’s value is already clear.

It’s just a matter of time

Coleman’s start with Calgary could be summarised as a skater who’s been quietly effective. As his numbers suggest, he’s been great defensively—and defence is not quite as celebrated nor flashy compared to offence. He’s doing all the right things, and if or when he gets going again offensively, then the full value of signing Coleman will start coming through.

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

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