Unlike the the new-look forward lines, the Calgary Flames’ defence corps barely changed this offseason. The only major move being the acquisition of the MacKenzie Weegar and the not so devastating departure of Erik Gudbranson.
Due to the defence being almost identical to last year’s, are the expectations going to be similar, lower, or higher? Once again, let’s break it down player by player.
Weegar is the best defenceman the Flames have acquired since Dougie Hamilton and should be the new number one. Weegar is coming off a 44-point campaign in 80 games. Weegar is definitely a top-15 defenceman in my eyes and very much could be a top-10 defender by the end of the year if he flourishes in Darryl Sutter’s defensive system.
For each defencemen, we will be looking at JFresh’s analytics and microstats stat cards, similar to how expectations for Flames forwards were set.
Weegar is one of the best analytical defencemen in the league. His defence took a hit this season but it should and is projected to bounce back. He is among the best-in-league at entry denials, as well as shining at retrievals and exits. All of his analytics and microstats are projected to be better or equal to last year’s.
My expectations for Weegar is that he continues to be one of the best analytical defencemen and becoming even better in Sutter’s checking system. For an amount of points, he’s expected to be paired with Chris Tanev and they could very likely be used as a shutdown pair. On the other hand, Weegar could get more of an offensive chance than I’m expecting and could also be the quarterback of the first power play unit.
If he is used on a shutdown pair, I’m expecting around 35–45 points and if he’s given an offensive chance, I’m expecting around 50-60 points.
Ever since coming to Calgary two years ago, Tanev has been one of the league’s best and most consistent defensive defencemen. Tanev has rarely been injured since coming to Calgary, something that couldn’t be said about his time with the Vancouver Canuck. He played his first full 82-game season this past year. He put up 28 points which was a career-high but points aren’t important thing with him. Tanev finished 10th in blocked shots with 158.
Tanev’s projections and results from last year are pretty alike. He’s projected to still be fantastic at retrievals and very good at passing and exits. His shooting isn’t good and his entry denials could definitely use some work.
I’m expecting Tanev to once again be one of the best defensive defencemen in the league. His passing and retrievals should still be very good. I do not expect him to play a whole 82-game season again and he should deal with a few injuries. I think it’s fair to expect him to be top 15 in blocked shots. As for points, I’m expecting only around 15–20 points.
Noah Hanifin had a breakout season scoring 10 goals and putting up 48 points in 81 games. Hanifin also put up the best analytics of his career. Before this year, Hanifin had been just a middling player so this next season will be big for the trajectory of his career.
Last year, Hanifin was really good all around, he’s projected to put up similar results with a few metrics improving or declining. His defence is projected to decline a decent amount but that’s the only metric that’s projected to take a noticeable decline. His shooting is projected to improve a little bit and his entry chance prevention is to improve by quite a bit.
I’m a huge believer in Noah Hanifin so I’m expecting him to continuing improving. I’m expecting around 45–50 points and for his two-way game to continue getting better.
Rasmus Andersson had a big bounce back season after an atrocious 2021 season. Andersson scored 50 points last season and stuck out offensively. He should continue improving along side his partner, Noah Hanifin.
The first thing that might shock some people is his defensive numbers. I do think JFresh’s model underrates it but not by a crazy amount. Andersson excels at passing and entries and is projected to keep it up. He is solid at in-zone offence as well. He struggles with entry denials, preventing entry chances and passing entries, and exits.
My expectations for Andersson is that he scores 40–50 points. I’m also expecting for him to build a better defensive game and hopefully fix his struggles with entry denials.
The idea of Oliver Kylington as a regular in the 2021–22 lineup really heated up after a strong preseason showing playing along side Tanev. It took only one game for Darryl Sutter to try the two together in a real game and it stuck for the rest of the season. Kylington had a really strong start to the season scoring 12 points in the first 16 games. He ended the season with 31 points in 79 games.
Kylington is your textbook offensive defenceman—really good offensive metric but struggles defensively. He has really strong exit results and his projections read that it should continue. Almost every other metric ranges from average to very solid. The only metric he noticeably has bad results in is entry denials and carry-in preventions.
Unfortunately, he won’t be playing alongside Tanev as much, if at all in 2022–23. Kylington is expected to play on the third pairing and get less ice time so I’m expecting the amount of points he score to take a hit. I’m expecting him to score 20–25 points. Other than that, he should put up similar results—good offence, bad defence.
When it was first reported that the Flames were acquiring Nikita Zadorov, many fans were upset. While he still has his flaws, Zadorov had the best year of his career by far. He must of really enjoyed his time in Calgary because he re-signed for the same cap hit for two more years. He put up 22 points in 74 games which is a very good point total for a player like him.
Zadorov is projected to decline in pretty much every metric. His shooting, passing, entries and exits are all projected to take a hit. His defence and carry prevention are still projected to be good at least.
I’m expecting Nikita Zadorov to have the biggest fall off out of all the Flames defencemen. I don’t think it will be huge, but it would not be surprising if his offence took take a hit and his flaws were more noticeable. Points-wise, I’m expecting 15–18 points for him.
I’m going to quickly go over two defencemen that I think will fill in for a decent amount of games this season.
Technically Michael Stone is on a professional tryout, but it’s inevitable that he will get a contract. Stone really won fans over last season performing solid in the games he filled in for, especially in the playoffs. I’m expecting Stone to play around 20–25 games due to injuries of the main group. Also expect to see at least three patented Stone Bombs to find the back of the net in those games.
Connor Mackey won’t play as many games as Michael Stone but he has shown he can play at the NHL level. In the small amount of chances Mackey has been given he has looked very solid. I’m expecting Mackey to play 10–15 games and to score a small amount of points such as two to four points in those games.
High expectations for the best-in-class Flames defence
Although almost every defencemen on the Flames had a career season last year, it’s not protecting them from high expectations being set. The defence corps has only gotten better on paper, now has a true number one defencemen and Darryl Sutter hasn’t gone anywhere so his defensive system hasn’t left either. Factoring in all these reasons, why shouldn’t the expectations be to perform similar or better than last season?
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire