Trying to name players that underperformed as poorly as Rasmus Andersson did in the shortened 2020–21 NHL regular season is a tough task. For whatever reason, Andersson looked completely ineffective most games. It was a major worry heading into 2021–22 whether his drop of a cliff was an outlier or a continuing trend.
Fast forward one season later and it’s clear that Andersson has rebounded back to, if not beyond expectations and has solidified his role as a top pairing defenceman.
Andersson’s rough 2020–21 season
There’s no way to sugarcoat it, Andersson’s last season was disastrous. After continuously trending up in terms of role and responsibilities, on-ice impact and scoring, (and let’s be real, also increasing his sass per 60 minutes rate), Andersson seemingly took several strides backwards with respect to his overall performance.
Having scored 22 points (5 G, 17 A) in 70 games played in 2019–20, Andersson actually scored at a better pace in 2020–21 with 21 points (5 G, 16 A) in the full 56 games. However, he was one of the team’s worst performing defencemen in terms of on-ice metrics.
Looking at score- and venue-adjusted 5v5 stats from NaturalStatTrick.com, this is what Andersson’s stat line looked like:
Being just barely above water in Corsi for, Andersson was negative in terms of high-danger Corsi, scoring chances, expected goals, and goals for. Among regular defencemen on the Flames last year, he ranked last for the first four categories, with only Nikita Nesterov having a (much) worse GF% of 40.15%.
It was a huge disappointment to see Andersson falter as much as he did. It was a year that many expected to see him take the reins as a number one defenceman on the team, with expectations that Mark Giordano would see a slightly reduced role with age concerns and all. Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out the way the Flames would have liked to see.
Andersson’s lacklustre play in 2020–21 was a big reason many were bearish on the Flames heading into this season. Thankfully most were wrong, but the concerns in the offseason were definitely valid and warranted.
Ascending to the top in 2021–22
Now 63 games into 2021–22, Andersson is Calgary’s top defenceman with little room for debate. He’s led the team in ice time practically every single game, and has 39 points (3 G, 36 A) so far to smash a new career-high while also seeing his point total being solidly first among defencemen and fifth overall on the team.
Noah Hanifin is the next highest scoring defender with 28 points (6 G, 22 A), while Mikael Backlund is sixth overall on the team with 29 points (10 G, 19 A).
Now again looking at on-ice metrics, here’s how Andersson has performed this year:
Every single stat not only improved, but is drastically higher than it was. Of course, looking just at on-ice metrics will blur the results given that they are team-driven—and in the Flames’ case also extremely coaching-driven. However, the fact remains that Andersson has put together a much stronger season than he did last year.
This is the version of Andersson that the Flames wanted to see last year, but unfortunately his arrival was delayed. However, he’s here now, and the team is certainly happy to have him live up to expectations.
Good fortunes ahead
Whether looking at points or on-ice impacts, Andersson has had a significantly better season this time around. With the departure of Giordano, Andersson’s role was immediately clear right from the get-go. He was supposed to be Calgary’s top defender, and he took that in stride and has flourished ever since.
At all situations, Andersson has played over 1,400 minutes, while Hanifin is second having just passed the 1,300 minute mark last game. Playing on the top power play unit and the penalty kill’s second unit, Andersson has been tasked to perform at all situations and simply put, he has.
While he’s set a new career-high in points and is trusted to eat up minutes, there’s still plenty of room for Andersson to continue improving. The sky is the limit for him again. After being in what felt like rock-bottom last season, Andersson knew he had nowhere to go but up—and up, and up.
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