The Calgary Flames are drawing closer to being healthy at terms of having virtually their whole roster set to exit COVID protocol, provided there are no further issues. Assuming all goes well and the Flames get back to being game-ready, there’s a few forwards on the roster who could use some boosts in goal scoring. Who needs the most? We asked, you answered.
Flames forwards that could score more
Calgary’s forwards have scored in a fairly lopsided manner this season. Outside of their top four in Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, Matthew Tkachuk, and Andrew Mangiapane—all of whom have at least 20 points and 10 goals—the next highest scoring forward is Sean Monahan with just 13 points and four goals. Milan Lucic has seven goals to his name so far, making him fifth among all Flames in that regard.
To be perfectly fair to Lucic, he’s scoring more than expected and isn’t exactly a good candidate for someone who needs to score more. Even if seven goals is his total for the whole season, no one would bat an eye—he knows his role and he contributes where he is able.
That leaves four forwards on the roster that should be scoring more, but haven’t quite yet: Monahan, Mikael Backlund, Blake Coleman, and Dillon Dube.
Interestingly enough, Monahan, Backlund, and Coleman all have four goals apiece, while Dube trails closely with three. They clearly all need more goals to their names and it’d only bode well for the Flames to get more scoring across all lines. Who do Flames fans want to see light up the lamp more in the new year?
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Comparing the four forwards
Let’s first take a look at some stats at 5v5 and all situations stats from NaturalStatTrick.com. Goals scored, expected goals (xG), and the differentials are looked at for each player.
|Player||5v5 G||5v5 xG||Differential||All G||All xG||Differential|
All four forwards happen to have negative differentials between goals and expected goals at both 5v5 and all situations. This was entirely a coincidence when the four players were selected for the poll, but it shows how they are all seeing similar struggles on the ice.
Let’s take a look at each forward individually in a bit more detail using the stats from the table.
Monahan has to score more
Of Monahan’s four goals this year, two have been at 5v5 and two on the power play. At 5v5, he has the lowest xG with just 3.35. Since xG is a cumulative stat, this indicates that Monahan is either a) not shooting much, b) most of his shot attempts are poor quality, or c) a combination of both.
It’s the not the season Monahan would have liked to see given that he’s supposedly coming back at full health after a plethora of injuries that plagued him and his play.
Of course, usage plays into this as well and Monahan has been seen anywhere from the fourth line to the second. He hasn’t had a well-defined identity this season other than looking like a shell of his former self.
His biggest upside to his game right now is definitely his power play and that’s where he’s the most effective. Monahan is kind of stuck in a game of cat and mouse with himself: he needs more ice time to score more goals, but he needs to score more goals to earn said ice time.
The fact of the matter is that Monahan’s play has fell off a cliff. As a player most known for his scoring, he was at his best when he played with linemates who could set up him a la Gaudreau. He now needs to find a way to score regardless of linemate as that’s he’s played alongside several players already. It’s simply his reality right now and he needs to figure it out.
Coleman hasn’t met expectations
In his first year with the Calgary Flames, Coleman has been extremely effective on defence and not so much on offence. We’ve already heavily discussed the on-ice results of Coleman and it’s clear he’s one of Calgary’s best defensive forwards, but he’s being paid to be good at both ends of the ice.
So far, the scoring hasn’t come for him yet. It’s not necessarily a huge cause for concern, but he is a player that should be finding the back of the net more frequently. For some reason, it just hasn’t been an easy path for him. He’s actually put up the most expected goals of the four players here, and it’s a quite frankly a surprise he’s not higher up. He’s shooting percentage is a lowly 5.0%, essentially half of his career average of 9.5%.
He’s freshly on a six-year contract, there’s really not much else to do with Coleman than to be patient—the goals will come soon enough and all will be right again. However, it’s emphasised that his defence right now is a huge factor in Calgary’s overall systematic dominance over other teams, and that in itself is worth having him on the ice for.
Dube is due
Each passing season it feels like it could be a breakout year for Dube. Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case for him yet, but he’s still getting added responsibility and is showing his value elsewhere away from the scoresheet.
When on the penalty kill with Mangiapane, the duo are a thrill to watch with their transitional play. The problem with Dube is that his finishing ability hasn’t been apparent, and instead he is snakebitten. This is evidenced in his expected goals as well. At all situations, he has just over half the goals he should have had, and similar is seen at 5v5.
His play on the ice is indicative of a player who could very well see a breakout to go from 2021 to 2022. He’s been genuinely unlucky so far and it would be surprising to see this bad luck continue. While he was third in the poll, there’s a good chance that he’d be one of the players that actually do rebound in the new year.
Backlund needs a bounce or two
Year in and year out, Backlund has been one of the most reliable Flames. He doesn’t have to score to be effective by any means, but he—like all other players in this poll—have gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to shooting luck.
Backlund’s best offensive seasons might be behind him, especially with Tkachuk no longer a regular linemate, but it doesn’t mean that scoring should evaporate like is has for Backlund. Even when he doesn’t score, he’s good at assisting, but this season has been an anomaly on that front.
While definitely tasked to play more defence than before, Backlund would reap a ton of benefits if he was playing with linemates who could score more frequently. Backlund stats in a way are a microcosm of the Flame’s overall scoring issues. While he himself is not too far off when it comes to goals versus expected goals, it’s also his lack of assists that reveal the lack of finishing ability outside of the top four Flames forwards.
Moving forward with the program
The Flames are rapidly approaching a critical point where depth scoring—or the lack thereof—is costing them games. They could see some relief in the system if any of these players start finding the back of the net more often. As they proceed with their season, Calgary’s schedule does get a bit easier, and that bodes well for the team as a whole.
They’re likely playoff locks, but they need to find ways to give them the best shot at a deep playoff run, and setting themselves up to ensure that all players who should be scoring are in fact scoring would be a great way to open 2022 for the Flames.
Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images
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