We recently discussed at length Blake Coleman‘s start as a Calgary Flame. To put it simply, he’s been phenomenal defensively and could be on the cusp of getting more offence going. His addition has been a solid offseason acquisition so far, and it piqued the curiosity on how former Flames are faring on their new teams? Which players are thriving and which are struggling? Let’s break it all down.
Former Calgary Flames from 2020–21
A total of six forwards, two defencemen, and three goalies previously played for the Flames in the shortened 2021 season who since departed either at the trade deadline or at some point in the 2021 offseason.
At the trade deadline, the Flames notably sent Sam Bennett to the Florida Panthers and fan-favourite goaltender David Rittich to the Toronto Maple Leafs. In the offseason, the biggest departure was of course Mark Giordano‘s, who was selected by the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.
Unrestricted free agent signings here and there added up throughout the offseason as well, and ultimately, the Flames saw somewhat significant turnover by the start of the 2021–22 season.
Let’s see how each former Flame is doing now. Stats for skaters and goalies are at all situations from Evolving-Hockey.com. “A1” and “A2” represent primary versus secondary assists. “GSAx” is goals saved above expected.
Sam Bennett – F – Florida Panthers
Sam Bennett is on track to score over 30 goals with the Florida Panthers, despite having a career-high of 18 in Calgary—accomplished back in 2015–16. The fresh start for Bennett was pivotal for his career and playing for the league’s best team on a line with Jonathan Huberdeau will do wonders.
The trade was necessary for the Flames, and clearly a huge blessing for Bennett too.
Josh Leivo – F – Carolina Hurricanes
After playing in 38 games for the Flames last season with limited success, Josh Leivo‘s signing with the Carolina Hurricanes has placed him lower in value. Featuring in just two games so far this season in mid-November, he’s played about 13 minutes of NHL hockey in total, and has zero points to show for it.
Leivo didn’t see the scoresheet much with Calgary, but his underlying numbers were still respectable. It’s unfortunate that he’s been delegated to AHL duties, but thus far he’s put up three goals and seven points with the Chicago Wolves.
Dominik Simon – F – Pittsburgh Penguins
Dominik Simon did not have a good time in Calgary at all. Despite having opportunities to play alongside Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan at certain points, Simon was simply unable to mesh with anyone on the Flames at all. Returning to Pittsburgh, he’s played mostly with Danton Heinan and Brian Boyle, and has barely played with his more frequent linemate from 2019–20 in Sidney Crosby.
Derek Ryan – F – Edmonton Oilers
Derek Ryan‘s offseason signing with the Edmonton Oilers was a bit painful. Seeing one of the Flames’ most effective depth options going straight to their provincial rival right when Edmonton was pushing hard to address their forward depth—that seemed like a nightmare in the making.
However, Ryan’s effectiveness when playing for Calgary seemingly evaporated with Edmonton. He was one of the Flames’ best defensive forwards last season, and though he’s never relied on to be a heavy point producer, seeing him fare so poorly with the Oilers is a surprise.
Buddy Robinson – F – Anaheim Ducks
Buddy Robinson only recently suited up for his first NHL game of the season. After playing in 15 games with the San Diego Gulls in the AHL, Robinson was called up and played against the Washington Capitals in the Ducks’ shootout loss.
Robinson didn’t score much for Calgary, with only one goal to show over 14 combined games between 2019–20 and 2020–21. It’ll be interesting to see how long his NHL stint lasts this time and if he’ll be able to convert on scoring chances this year.
Zac Rinaldo – F – Columbus Blue Jackets
Where do you start with Zac Rinaldo. Publicly, he was a relatively positive locker room presence for the Flames with some fandom in the stands. He brought energy to the game which was more valued than his scoring, and his biggest impact might have been dyeing his hair blonde with Milan Lucic.
When he signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets, he was expected to be more or less the same type of player—a depth energy addition to the roster. And along came his public stance against vaccinations, and just like that, he was uninvited from training camp. There lied Rinaldo’s career. He never scored.
Joakim Nordstrom – F – Unsigned
Joakim Nordstrom decided to take his talents(?) overseas in the offseason, as he opted to sign with CSKA Moskva in the KHL. He’s put up two goals and four assists in 17 games this season. His best years in the NHL are well behind him, and now in the KHL he’s not exactly lighting up the scoresheet there either.
This would be Nordstrom’s first KHL stint, as he only played in Swedish leagues prior to playing in the AHL and NHL.
Mark Giordano – D – Seattle Kraken
You can only be happy for Mark Giordano for everything that he does, and captaining a new expansion team is definitely something worth being happy for. He’s playing alongside a team that’s solid on defence, albeit they aren’t getting results on offence nor goaltending. They’re longshots on making the playoffs as the NHL’s newest expansion team, but Giordano has still been a solid defender.
He’s not getting the same results as he did with Calgary, but the 38-year-old defenceman is still playing pretty decent hockey. He’s now pairing most frequently with brother of Olympic gold medalist Penny Oleksiak—suffice to say Jamie Oleksiak‘s been surrounded by GOATs everywhere he looks.
Alexander Petrovic – D – Dallas Stars
Alexander Petrovic didn’t feature in a single game for the Calgary Flames last season, but he did manage to slot into 17 games with the Stockton Heat while being on the Flames’ taxi squad as well.
This year, he’s yet to feature in a game for the Dallas Stars either, but he has 18 games with the Texas Stars under his belt, and is one of their alternate captains.
Nikita Nesterov – D – Unsigned
The former Flames defenceman joined his Flames teammate in Nordstrom in signing with CSKA Moskva. Nikita Nesterov, unlike Nordstrom, has had plenty of experience—in fact he was an alternate captain with Moskva prior to coming back to the NHL to play with Calgary.
In 37 games this season, Nesterov has put up four goals and 26 assists for his club. Nesterov definitely seemed like a serviceable NHL player, but he thrives when playing in Russia—this year is his best season in the KHL in his career.
David Rittich – G – Nashville Predators
David Rittich opted to sign with the Nashville Predators after his stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs concluded with four regular season appearances and zero playoff games. Now in the role of the Predators’ backup, he’s played in three games—starting two and making a relief appearance in one.
His numbers so far aren’t exactly inspiring, but he’s playing behind Juuse Saros—whose putting together another strong goaltending performance for Nashville. For sake of comparison, the Flames’ new backup Daniel Vladar is by far having a much better 2021–22 season as a backup goaltender, pitching a 5–0–1 start with one shutout to Rittich’s 1–1–0 record.
Louis Domingue – G – Pittsburgh Penguins
Louis Domingue didn’t bring a lot to the Flames as a goaltender, but moreso as a baker. He featured in just one game—a 4–2 loss to Vancouver—at the end of the season, and has since moved on from the Flames. Signing with the Penguins, he’s been playing in the AHL with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. In nine games there, he’s posted a 3–3–4 record with a .922 save percentage.
Unless either of Tristan Jarry or Casey DeSmith run into injury issues, Domingue is a longshot to play in an NHL game this season.
Artyom Zagidulin – G – Unsigned
Like Domingue, Artyom Zagidulin played just one game for Calgary last year—a relief appearance in a 6–1 drubbing at the hands of the Ottawa Senators. After Rittich ceded four goals, Zagidulin came in midway through the second period and allowed two more. That’d be his only NHL action in his career, as he went back overseas this offseason after being unsigned as a free agent.
In three games with the Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the KHL in Russia, Zagidulin went 0–1–1 with a .837 save percentage. He then transferred over to Liiga in Finland. In two games with Lukko, he’s gone 0–0–2 with a .870 save percentage.
Turning of the tide
The Flames have seen significant changes over the past year. It started from the top down with Darryl Sutter behind the bench midway through the year, but offseason acquisitions of players included players that would best fit in the Sutter system.
Some signings were legitimate head scratchers, including the likes of Trevor Lewis, Brad Richardson, Erik Gudbranson, etc. And some trades were also questionable, such as Tyler Pitlick and Nikita Zadorov.
Were all of the Flames’ offseason signings good decisions overall? Far from it. There were definitely better players available that could have contributed more on the ice, but the Flames are showing that the team is more than the sum of its parts.
Each player is contributing on defence in ways that only Sutter could enforce as a head coach, and it’s paying dividends for them thus far.
Now comparing the new Flames of 2021–22 to the former Flames of 2020–21, it looks pretty clear that the Flames did rather well in their roster turnover. Hindsight is 20/20, but the Flames management might have made some lucky predictions along the way too.