The Calgary Flames will enter 2022–23 looking mightily different. With lots of familiar faces gone and new faces present, it really is a new era. With the addition of Jonathan Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri, and MacKenzie Weegar, those three players alone will have an instrumental impact on just how good this Flames club can really be.
While we don’t know how the team will fare until the season gets going, we can look at what types of impacts the three players have had on their previous teams over the past few years. Using data from NaturalStatTrick.com, we’ll look at metrics from the past three seasons for each of the three players.
On-ice metric percentages
First, we’ll look directly at percentages, using 5v5, score- and venue-adjusted data. This will give us a fairly accurate understanding of the impact each player has on the overall performance of their team while on the ice (differing from individual rates which we will look at shortly). The data will be collected from 2019–20 through to 2021–22 (the last three seasons), and averaged with a team ranking listed in brackets for extra context. Only players with at least 1,000 5v5 minutes are considered.
Huberdeau’s on-ice performance
|204 (1)||53.60 (13)||55.94 (12)||51.84 (14)||53.44 (13)||70.95 (3)|
For the Panthers, 19 players fit the criteria including forwards and defencemen. Looking at Huberdeau’s metrics, he’s ranked a bit lower among the group despite being the player to play the most games. That speaks volumes of how offensively driven the entire Panthers group really has been, especially last season en route to their Presidents’ Trophy win.
Huberdeau is still positively contributing in every metric, and again this spans three seasons not just one. A closer look at what’s keeping him lower down may include all sorts of combinations of linemates, the fact that Florida trailed often last season with many last minute goals forcing overtime, or that Huberdeau’s defence has not been historically good, among other reasons.
However, that’s a discussion for another day. Huberdeau’s on-ice impact is good to say the least, but there’s room for improvement. And if he improves his defensive game—watch out.
Kadri’s on-ice performance
|178 (8)||56.25 (8)||57.44 (11)||53.06 (13)||54.51 (12)||55.45 (9)|
Kadri, like Huberdeau, has played on a very offence-driven team. Despite Kadri’s great output, he’s still the middle of the pack (or even closer to the bottom of the pack) among the 17 Avalanche skaters who fit the criteria.
The Avalanche have had one of the best rosters in the league over the past few seasons, and Kadri’s on-ice numbers not ranking higher on his team speaks volumes of just how talented that Colorado roster really is.
That said, Kadri clearly drives play and will be a key player for the Flames for the coming years. There are few free agents that can have as big of an impact on a team’s win-now mode as Kadri can have for Calgary. This offseason, Gaudreau would have been the other big impact player of this magnitude, but no offence to the Columbus Blue Jackets, they won’t be Cup contenders in 2022–23.
Weegar’s on-ice performance
|179 (3)||56.67 (6)||57.84 (10)||57.10 (5)||56.97 (6)||51.06 (13)|
Weegar’s time with the Panthers has been exceptional. With impressive metrics across the board, he’s been an outstanding defenceman that would have fetched a first-round pick and more on the open trade market. The Tkachuk trade was an unprecedented circumstances that no one in the NHL knew how to fully navigate, but Brad Treliving getting Weegar as a part of the trade package was an all-time career moment for him.
Weegar’s excellent at the pretty much every metric, putting up elite numbers as a defenceman. Suffice to say, the addition of Weegar simply makes the Flames defence corps one of, if not the best in the league.
Turning to individual metrics, note that they are recorded at 5v5, but are no longer score- and venue-adjusted. To factor in a better understanding of each player’s individual contributions, we’ll switch to rates per 60 minutes of ice time. While none of these players struggle with earning ice time, it’ll help provide better context on how impactful they are specifically when on the ice.
Games played per player will remain the same, so that is omitted from each table and instead replaced with time on ice per game played. Other individual stats will show the impact on offence from each player. Brackets beside the number will again show rank on team—among 19 Panthers for Huberdeau and Weegar, and 17 Avalanche for Kadri—as the criteria remains unchanged.
Huberdeau’s individual performance
|13:11 (10)||1.00 (4)||1.14 (1)||0.56 (4)||2.70 (1)||7.11 (10)||0.66 (10)|
This is where Huberdeau’s impact really shines. Playing primarily as a second line winger, Huberdeau’s offence is through the roofs. Of course, there is some stats padding given his 115-point season last year, but that doesn’t discount his individual impact in the slightest. He’s got goal scoring in him, but is an even better playmaker than he is a goal scorer, and that has all the makings of being a perfect fit on the Flames’ top line.
Even if Huberdeau ends up on the second line, that’s a role he’s played extremely well with the Panthers. Realistically, Huberdeau will end up on the first line with the Flames as they don’t have top-end wingers that can usurp Huberdeau at all.
Kadri’s individual performance
|13:02 (10)||1.01 (4)||0.98 (2)||0.44 (8)||2.43 (3)||9.51 (2)||0.75 (4)|
Expected to be on the Flames second line, can you ask for a better impact centre than Kadri? His individual metrics are solid across the board as he has a penchant for offence. Depending on who his linemates end up being, he can play the role of the shooter and the passer.
Getting a centre of Kadri’s calibre to sign as a free agent was a massive move by the Flames, and they’re a better team for it.
Weegar’s individual performance
|18:00 (1)||0.32 (16)||0.45 (12)||0.52 (8)||1.28 (14)||6.08 (14)||0.31 (14)|
Weegar isn’t an offensively driven defender. He fits the bill of the defensive defenceman much better, an his individual stats reflect that. When coupling his percentages from above with his individual numbers here, it’s clear he has an impact similar to Chris Tanev.
Not one to be on the scoresheet often, Weegar’s strengths come from how he prevents his opponents from generating offence. That’s how his percentages are so high, as offence going against his favour just does not happen.
He’ll fit into the Sutter system more than just fine. I expect he’ll be the perfect stopgap while Tanev continues to recover, and then when that does happen, the Flames’ top-four will be a true defensive force with Weegar on one pairing and Tanev on the other.
New year, heightened expectations
Evidently, the Flames have some pretty solid players joining their roster. Whether they are a better club than last year will need time to answer, but when looking at their newest additions, there’s little to critique.
Yes, Kadri’s a bit older, Huberdeau doesn’t have a strong defensive skillset, and Weegar remains unsigned beyond this season. All of these criticism have very little bearing on how the Flames want to win now. It’d be nice to see Weegar sign a long-term extension, and that might be the next play in the Flames’ books anyway.
While this article breaks down 5v5 metrics only, Kadri and Huberdeau will bring plenty of firepower to the power play as well. The Flames’ biggest acquisition of the offseason was the flexibility they gained in having mobility in where their top-end players can slot into the lineup.
It’s an exciting time to be a Flames fan as Calgary ushers in a brand new era. Is it October yet?