Ranking defence corps around the NHL and where the Calgary Flames stack up

While the Calgary Flames’ goaltending situation didn’t change much in the offseason, the defence corps did receive some change. Out went third pairing defenceman Erik Gudbranson, and in came MacKenzie Weegar to play top minutes, and Nicholas Meloche and Dennis Gilbert for depth. Michael Stone is also still in the mix on a professional tryout (PTO), and projects to get a contract.

With that information, the Flames defence corps currently looks like the following ahead of the season opener.

Weegar – Tanev

Hanifin – Andersson

Zadorov – Meloche/Stone

Connor Mackey

Note: Oliver Kylington is currently away from the team due to a family matter. We wish Kylington and his family nothing but the best and hope he can find his way back to the club in due time. He would fit in the sixth defenceman spot as Zadorov’s defensie partner.

A look at defence around the league

Elsewhere. inthe NHL, there was some notable action this offseason, both via trade and free agency. On the trade side, we saw names like Brent Burns, Ryan McDonagh, John Marino, Jeff Petry, Alex Romanov, and Nils Lundkvist changed teams. On the free agent front, John Klingberg, Justin Schultz, Ilya Lyubushkin, Ian Cole, Ben Chiarot, Colin Miller, Matthew Benning, and former Flame Gudbranson found new teams.

Defence corps rankings

With ample movement, especially in the trade market, defence corps have vastly changed. Let’s take a look and rank the defence around the league, and factor where the Flames stack up.

#1: Colorado Avalanche

Devon Toews – Cale Makar

Bowen Byram – Josh Manson

Samuel Girard – Erik Johnson

They say defence wins championships. Well, this defence corps just won a championship, and is the clear number one with Cale Makar leading the way as one of the best players, let alone defencemen in the league. It should only get better as Byram continues to develop and cement himself into the top four.

#2: Vegas Golden Knights

Nic Hague (RFA) – Alex Pietrangelo

Alec Martinez – Shea Theodore

Brayden McNabb – Zach Whitecloud

The Golden Knights have lost some key forwards and goaltenders over the past few years. However, one thing has remained constant, the defence corps. Zach Whitecloud on the third pairing is just absurd, and this blueline possesses the defensive, offensive, and top-end talent.

#3: Nashville Predators

Roman Josi – Dante Fabbro

Ryan McDonagh (new) – Mattias Ekholm

Jeremy Lauzon – Alex Carrier

Mark Borowiecki

Nashville has always been known for this good blueline, and here they are again. Adding Ryan McDonagh to an already rock solid defence corps makes this group deep and tough the play against. Having an absolute stud in Roman Josi doesn’t hurt, either.

#4: Calgary Flames

MacKenzie Weegar (new) – Chris Tanev

Noah Hanifin – Rasmus Andersson

Nikita Zadorov – Michael Stone/Nicholas Meloche (new)

Connor Mackey

The Flames were fourth in my goaltending rankings, and take that same position for defence corps rankings. Weegar is an absolute stud, and his two-way ability and active stick should blend in beautifully with the Flames. Darryl Sutter worked magic with the defence last year, and it is now improved.

#5: Carolina Hurricanes

Jaccob Slavin – Brent Burns (new)

Brady Skjei – Brett Pesce

Ethan Bear – Dylan Coghlan (new)

Jalen Chatfield

The Hurricanes lose Tony DeAngelo, but replace him with Brent Burns, and add Dylan Coghlan to boost depth. Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce continue to provide tremendous value on their current contracts.

#6: Pittsburgh Penguins

Brian Dumoulin – Kris Letang

Marcus Pettersson – Jeff Petry (new)

Ty Smith (new) – Jan Rutta (new)

No one made more changes to their defence than the Penguins, and it certainly still looks very good. The top end talent is present with Kris Letang, and we will see what Ty Smith turns into.

#7: New York Islanders

Adam Pelech – Ryan Pulock

Alex Romanov (new) – Noah Dobson

Robin Salo – Scott Mayfield

Sebastian Aho

The Islanders defence got a much needed upgrade to the left side in the form of Alex Romanov. This corps boasts a ton of defensive defenders, while Noah Dobson should continue to trend upwards and contribute offensively.

#8: New Jersey Devils

Jonas Siegenthaler – Dougie Hamilton

Ryan Graves – John Marino (new)

Brendan Smith (new) – Damon Severson

Trading away Ty Smith for a more established defensive defenceman in John Marino was a fantastic move. Jonas Siegenthaler remains one of the most underrated players in the league, and Ryan Graves and Dougie Hamilton should bounceback.

#9: New York Rangers

Ryan Lindgren – Adam Fox

K’Andre Miller – Jacob Trouba

Zac Jones – Braden Schneider

This group is young, and will only get better as the seasons go by. Top-end talent is present with Adam Fox, who finds himself below the Flames in the rankings. That’s a shame.

#10: Dallas Stars

Ryan Suter – Miro Heiskanen

Esa Lindell – Jani Hakanpaa

Thomas Harley – Nils Lundkvist (new)

Colin Miller (new)

As the Flames saw in the playoffs, this corps is very good in the defensive end. Miro Heiskanen should take that next step offensively with John Klingberg departing. Newly acquired Nils Lundkvist and Colin Miller should help to provide some offence.

#11: Toronto Maple Leafs

Morgan Reilly – Jake Muzzin

Mark Giordano – T.J. Brodie

Rasmus Sandin – Justin Holl

Timothy Liljegren (injured)

Did I reconfigure this defence so Giordano and Brodie could play together again? Absolutely. Sandin and Liljegren will continue to improve, while the veteran players should provide good value.

#12: Boston Bruins

Hampus Lindholm – Charlie McAvoy (injured)

Matt Grezlyck (injured) – Brandon Carlo

Derek Forbort – Connor Clifton

Mike Reilly – Jakub Zboril

The Bruins defence corps will rank much lower until McAvoy and Grezlyck are back, but when it’s healthy, it’s real nice.

#13: Minnesota Wild

Jacob Middleton – Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin – Matt Dumba

Alex Goligoski – Calen Addison

Jon Merill

This is just solid all around, with great depth and a combination of young talent and established veterans. Jonas Brodin and Jared Spurgeon on the same blueline is very nice.

#14: Washington Capitals

Martin Fehevary – John Carlson

Dmitry Orlov – Nick Jensen

Erik Gustafsson (new) – Trevor Van Riemsdyk

People don’t know how good Martin Fehevary and Nick Jensen are. This blueline features a top-end talent in John Carlson and a very underrated top-four, but the depth just isn’t there.

#15: Winnipeg Jets

Josh Morrisey – Neal Pionk

Brendan Dillon – Nate Schmidt

Logan Stanley – Dylan DeMelo

This blueline has depth and a unique combination of skillsets. Just like the Jets, it finds itself middle of the pack, stuck in the ferocious pit of mediocrity. The Jets forward core may be incredibly weak, but at least their defence and goaltending remains strong.

#16: St Louis Blues

Nick Leddy – Colton Parayko

Tory Krug – Justin Faulk

Niko Mikkola – Robert Bortuzzo

Scott Perunovich

Another blueline that is very solid, but isn’t top tier. Giving Nick Leddy the contract they did was certainly… a choice.

#17: Tampa Bay Lightning

Victor Hedman – Erik Cernak

Mikhail Sergachev – Cal Foote

Ian Cole (new) – Philippe Myers (new)

Haydn Fleury (new)

Losing Ryan McDonagh and Jan Rutta is tough. The Lightning still have the good top-end talent, but the depth took a major hit. I’ve probably ranked this defence way too low, since everything in Tampa seems to go right these days.

#18: Edmonton Oilers

Darnell Nurse – Cody Ceci

Brett Kulak – Evan Bouchard

Philip Broberg – Tyson Barrie

Ryan Murray (new)

This defence isn’t bad. But it’s not great, either. Evan Bouchard is cool and should absolutely be on your fantasy team this year.

#19: Los Angeles Kings

Mikey Anderson – Drew Doughty

Sean Walker – Sean Durzi

Tobias Bjornfot – Matt Roy

Alex Edler

The most underrated defence corps in the league. Injuries struck last season, but young players stepped up and played a crucial part in the Kings making the playoffs. This corps should only improve over the next couple of years.

#20: Philadelphia Flyers

Ivan Provorov – Tony DeAngelo (new)

Travis Sanheim – Rasmus Ristolainen

Cam York – Ryan Ellis (injured)

Justin Braun

The left side of defence is pretty solid, while the right side will provide you with some… offence. It’s going to be a long year in Philadelphia. Someone free Travis Sanheim.

#21: Anaheim Ducks

Cam Fowler – John Klingberg (new)

Dmitry Kulikov (new) – Jamie Drysdale

Colton White (new) – Kevin Shattenkirk

Adding John Klingberg and Dmitry Kulikov certainly helps to stabilize a corps that just lost Josh Manson and Hampus Lindholm. This blueline should provide a lot of offence, but defending might be a bit of an issue.

#22: Columbus Blue Jackets

Zach Werenski – Andrew Peeke

Vladislav Gavrikov – Adam Boqvist

Jake Bean – Erik Gudbranson (new)

Gudbranson got a lot of money to stabilize this defence corps, which is certainly a choice. This defence, like the Blue Jackets, isn’t terrible, but it isn’t eye catching, either.

#23: Buffalo Sabres

Mattias Samuelson – Rasmus Dahlin

Owen Power – Henri Jokiharju

Jacob Bryson – Ilya Lyubushkin (new)

This defence is young, but is going to be real good in a few years. Mattias Samuelson is one of the most underrated players in the league, and Dahlin continues to develop his craft.

#24: Florida Panthers

Gustav Forsling – Aaron Ekblad

Lucas Carlsson – Radko Gudas

Marc Staal (new) – Brandon Montour

Losing MacKenzie Weegar really hurts this defence corps. This will be a fascinating blueline to watch, as many players will have to take a step.

#25: Ottawa Senators

Thomas Chabot – Artem Zub

Nick Holden – Travis Hamonic

Jake Sanderson – Nikita Zaitsev

Erik Brannstrom

The Senators had good offseason and improved at many positions. However, defence was not one of those positions. Chabot and Zub is nice, but the rest of the corps is underwhelming. Sanderson has a prime opportunity to grow into a top-four defenceman quickly.

#26: Detroit Red Wings

Ben Chiarot (new) – Moritz Seider

Simon Edvinsson – Filip Hronek

Olli Maatta (new) – Gustav Lindstrom

Moritz Seider is finally free of Danny DeKeyser, but now has playing with Ben Chiarot to look forward to. This corps will only get better as Edvinsson, Seider, Hronek, Lindstrom age.

#27: Seattle Kraken

Jamie Oleksiak – Adam Larsson

Vince Dunn – Justin Schultz (new)

Carson Soucy – Will Borgen

The depth is pretty solid, but the Kraken lack the top-end talent that other teams have. Seattle essentially has two second pairings and a third.

#28: Vancouver Canucks

Quinn Hughes – Luke Schenn

Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Tyler Myers

Travis Dermott – Tucker Poolman

Jack Rathbone

The Canucks look good at every position… besides defence. Quinn Hughes is nice, and the left side doesn’t look too shabby. But, a glance to the right side of the defence will hurt your eyes. Anyone have any eye wash?

#29: Arizona Coyotes

Jakob Chychrun – Victor Soderstrom

Shayne Gostisbehere – Conor Timmins

Patrik Nemeth (new) – Josh Brown (new)

I put the Coyotes up a few spots just because of Jakob Chychrun and Shayne Gostisbehere. Besides that, it’s young and can improve—but not very good right now.

#30: San Jose Sharks

Mario Ferraro – Erik Karlsson

Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Matthew Benning (new)

Radim Simek – Marcus Nutivaara (new)

Yuck. Trading away Burns hurts this defence even more than it did before. Vlasic should be a buyout candidate soon. Beyond the first pairing, analytics darling Matt Benning is the only thing that stands out.

#31: Chicago Blackhawks

Jake McCabe (injured) – Seth Jones

Caleb Jones – Connor Murphy (injured)

Alex Vlasic – Jack Johnson

Riley Stillman

Chicago traded a massive package for Seth Jones, and well, he will certainly have to carry this defence with McCabe and Murphy injured. The tank is on.

#32: Montreal Canadiens

Michael Matheson (new) – David Savard

Joel Edmundson – Justin Barron

Jordan Harris – Chris Wideman

This is certainly… a defence corps. Michael Matheson should be a fantasy sleeper, because someone needs to score points here. The tank is on.

Defence wins

Building out a team’s blue line is an ever-challenging task for teams around the league. Some teams bolster some truly impressive six- or even seven-man units capable of generating offence and shutting down their opponents, while others look set to get absolutely feasted upon.

With the Flames’ corps looking to fit in among as best-in-league coupled with their head coach being Sutter, they are expected to more than rise to the occasion. No pressure. Applying the old adage of defence winning championships, the Flames look to be in a good spot.

Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire

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