The Calgary Flames’ season opener against the reigning Stanley Cup champions—the Colorado Avalanche—is just weeks away. The Flames have had potentially one of the craziest offseasons of all time, with huge revamps to their core. This was headlined of course by losing key players such as Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Matthew Tkachuk and replacing them with new names in Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar, Nazem Kadri and more.
With a new look all around, what exactly are the expectations? Let’s break it down player by player.
Huberdeau is expected to be the new star in Cowtown and unless something disastrous happens, he will be. He is coming off a career season where he scored 30 goals and 85 assists for 115 points, which was good enough for second in points league-wide, tied with former Flame Gaudreau. Huberdeau will be slotted in as the first line left wing and be on a line with Elias Lindholm and one of Tyler Toffoli or Andrew Mangiapane.
For each player, we’ll look at microstats from JFresh Hockey.
Huberdeau’s analytics and microstats are projected to be very similar to last season—fantastic passing, great possession rates with good finishing. His shooting microstats and zone entries/exits aren’t the greatest and he’s still projected to struggle defensively; however, in the Darryl Sutter system, there’s a good chance he will somewhat fix some of his flaws such as defensive game and be able to build on the pros he already has.
My expectation for Jonathan Huberdeau is that he will score anywhere in between 92–102 points (with a majority of those coming from assists), put up better defensive results and build on his 5v5 game.
Elias Lindholm truly proved to be the Flames number one centre last season, scoring 42 goals and 40 assists for 82 points while finishing second in Selke voting. Lindholm was a part of arguably the best line in hockey last year and now he’ll have two new linemates, so in my opinion, this year will be a big year for Lindholm to show the value he really holds.
Lindholm’s projections for 2022–23 are a little different from his 2021–22 results. The first thing that stands out to me is that his defensive results are below-average. I do think that JFresh’s model underrates his defence by a bit, but I think in general, Lindholm’s defensive game is overrated.
Lindholm’s finishing and shooting results are great and are projected to be about the same. His possession rates from last season were also great. His power play, penalty kill and passing results are expected to take a bit of a hit which surprises me a little bit.
I’m expecting Lindholm to score 37–45 goals while putting up 75–85 points. I also expect his finishing to be about the same with his even strength offensive and defensive results being good and close to the same quality as one another.
Toffoli had a down year last season due to his underlying numbers being underwhelming. He scored a solid amount of points with the Flames, putting up 23 points in 37 games. One of the biggest complaints about Toffoli last year was that he seemed to only show up for his first 10 to 15 games as a Flame and then disappeared for the rest. Hopefully, a full offseason of training under Sutter helps him have a better year.
Toffoli is projected to perform better this season than last season. Most of his results are projected to be around the same. His shooting metrics projections stick out as they are projected to be way better than last year.
Toffoli is one of the weirder Flames to set exact expectations for. If he can build chemistry with Huberdeau and Lindholm, I’ll expect him to have a career year but if he can’t and is moved to either the second or third line, then I’d expect to see him put up his usual career averages. I’m expecting Toffoli to score 25 goals and to put up 55 points at least.
Mangiapane started out last year on a hot streak—scoring 15 goals in the first 19 games. He slowed down but still finished the year with 35 goals and 20 assists for 55 points. Mangiapane has improved every single year he’s played in the NHL and that trend should continue next year.
Mangiapane’s underlying number are projected to be pretty much the same as last season. Still great shooting, finishing, and possession rates, good passing, exits and entries, and amazing even strength results both offensively and defensively.
I expect Mangiapane to continue getting even better scoring 35–40 goals and 60–70 points and continuing to be best analytical player on the Flames. He could have an even better season than I’m expecting if he is put on the first line and builds chemistry with the Flames two best skaters in Huberdeau and Lindholm.
Kadri had a huge season last year putting up career-high numbers with the Colorado Avalanche, scoring 87 points in 71 games putting him on pace for 100 points. He then went on to win the Stanley Cup with the Avalanche being a big part scoring 15 points in 16 playoff games. There has been a lot of talk about Kadri being a Sutter style player and while I think that is the case, I still think Kadri is in for a bit of regression.
Kadri’s projections are very similar to last season’s results. The only differences I can spot is that his finishing and shooting is projected to get a boost while his defence is expected to take a hit.
My expectations for Kadri is that he’ll score 65–73 points while at least scoring 25 goals. The projections JFresh’s model has made are pretty close to what I expect Kadri to look like analytically this season.
Blake Coleman had somewhat of a disappointing first year of his new $4.9M deal in terms of points scoring 33 points in 81 games. One thing to keep in mind was that he was put on a defensive-minded line (which was also one of the best analytical lines) which would limit his offensive opportunities. Coleman did put up good two-way numbers and was a bit unlucky with a PDO of 0.995. His second year with the Flames should be better than his first.
A few of Coleman’s metrics are projected to improve or decline next season. His shooting and entries are projected to improve by a bit. While his passing and penalty kill results are projected to decline. His penalty kill WAR being projected to drop from 98% to 28% surprises me a lot. I know the projections are made using his results from the past three seasons but it’s still surprising.
I’m expecting Coleman to score 18–20 goals and to put up 35–45 points. I also expect his two-way game to continue to be as good as it was last year and for his penalty killing to not take as big of a hit as the projection card predicts.
Mikael Backlund had a pretty usual year for his standards putting up 39 points in 82 games. He seemed to struggle to put the puck into the back of the net (sometimes seeming to struggle to even hit the net) but at least his two-way game continued to be good while centring one of the best analytical lines in hockey.
Pretty much every metric is projected to take a hit this season which doesn’t surprise too much, Backlund is turning 34 years old in March so he should be on the decline of his career. He penalty kill results are projected to take a huge hit just like Coleman but I doubt that it will happen. On the plus side, at least his entries are expected to improve.
My expectations for Mikael Backlund is that he’ll score around 30–35 points while putting up a solid two-way game still and maybe only missing the net 37 times.
Dillon Dube went on a hot streak at the end of the season scoring eight goals in the last nine games. Dube ended up having a career year scoring almost scoring 20 goals and putting up 32 points in 79 games His linemates changed quite a bit which could’ve impacted his results a tiny bit but Dube has also been just disappointing since entering the NHL.
Dube isn’t what I would call an analytics darling. Overall he’s pretty average, solid offence but he struggles on defence, he has good finishing but nothing crazy. He’s projected to put up similar results with his shooting and passing metrics improving slightly.
Dube is another weird player to make exact expectations for. He could be placed anywhere from the second line to the fourth line. I’m just going guess he plays on the third. Because of that, I’m expecting Dube to put up 28–38 points and also scoring 12–15 goals.
Milan Lucic surprised me this as he scored 10 goals and ended up with 21 points. Lucic made 209 hits which was good enough for 24th in the league.
Lucic does not have good underlying numbers. The only stat he is good in is defence. His shooting stats are atrocious but hey I guess he’s projected to rip home some more one timers.
I’m expecting Lucic to score around 20 points again and to be in the top 20 for hits.
Kevin Rooney kind of just existed last season. He only put up 12 points in 61 games and didn’t have too many redeemable qualities. When it hit 2022, Rooney only had five points, two secondary assists, two primary assists, and one empty net assist.
Rooney has some of the worst underlying numbers in the league. His only redeemable quality being his penalty killing and maybe his defence.
Honestly, I don’t know have high expectations for Rooney. I’m expecting Sutter is going to either grow fond of him and not scratch him once and Rooney will score 10–15 points… or he’ll be scratched for Ruzicka by Game 15.
Trevor Lewis turned out to be one of Sutter’s favourite veterans last season barely getting scratched even when he deserved to be. Lewis played 80 games and in those games he put up 16 points.
Just like Rooney, Lewis doesn’t have too many redeemable qualities. Lewis has bad underlying numbers and is only redeemable with his penalty killing and defence.
Lewis is going to get rarely scratched, if it at all after finishing as one of the team’s fittest players, so I’m expecting him to score 10–15 points.
PTOs, depth and rookies
This is a small section dedicated to the players that aren’t guaranteed to make the Flames roster but could still get a decent amount of games in or even just make the roster.
Sonny Milano is the only player in this section I’m going to go in depth for since there’s a pretty good chance he makes the team and plays a significant role. Milano had a career year last season scoring 34 points in 66 games putting him on pace for 42 points. Before this past season, Milano put up bottom-six numbers. This past season, he played along side Trevor Zegras which could’ve been a big part of his success, but for the Flames sake, I hope that is not the case.
Milano has amazing passing metrics and is projected to put up similar passing results next season. He is projected to decline in shooting and a little bit in defence. Other than that everything looks to be around the same.
If Milano makes the team it wouldn’t surprise me if he was put on the second line. Due to that, I’m expecting Milano to scoring around 40–45 points with a good amount of those being assists. I also expect him to continue to be good two-way at even strength.
Although I’d prefer Brett Ritchie over Lewis on the fourth line, I highly doubt he gets many games in unless injuries occur. I expect Ritchie will put up 4–7 points in the games he plays and be a solid slot in if injuries happen.
If Cody Eakin makes the team, I’m expecting him to barely play any games. The amount of points he’ll put up will be a small number like 2–7 points. He will win a lot of faceoffs though.
Adam Ruzicka should at least be the fourth line centre over Rooney but it doesn’t look like that will happen. If Ruzicka is to play a full season, I expect him to put up 20–28 points and if he is a scratch for a majority of the year, only playing a handful of games, I’ll expect around 7–10 points.
It seemed like Jakob Pelletier was a lock for the opening roster heading into the offseason but that is not the case anymore. I’m expecting Pelletier to either get a small trial at the start of the year or play in some of the last few games of the year. If Pelletier is to play a full year, I expect him to score 30–35 points.
New expectations for Calgary
The Flames enter 2022–23 as strong Cup contenders, but they’ll have to prove that they are as good on the ice as they are on paper. We’ll see soon enough what that will look like for this new era of Flames hockey.