The Calgary Flames’ winger depth looks a tad bit different this season after losing Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk and acquiring Jonathan Huberdeau. Losing two star players and only replacing one causes some lineup shifts, the biggest one being Tyler Toffoli now on the top line and Dillon Dube moving up to the second. While the Flames winger depth has the potential to be really good, it also could end up being their Achilles heel and being a problem down the road.
Left wing depth
The players that look to be starting the season on the left wing are Huberdeau, Dube, Blake Coleman, and Milan Lucic. These four players honestly have the potential to end up being solid left wing depth, but it definitely still has its flaws.
Huberdeau is the only player here that is flawless and the only way he’ll be a problem is if he severely underperforms and then that becomes a bigger problem than just left winger depth.
Dube has shown that he might’ve finally found a spot in the top-six as he appeared to gel with Nazem Kadri and Andrew Mangiapane on the second line in the preseason. Dube has the potential to be around a 45–50 point player on that line, but he has also shown to be a very streaky player and if he continues to have streaks, that could very much cause a problem for the Flames this year.
Coleman is kind of, well, the perfect third line winger. He’s hard working, gets into the dirty areas of the game, and is good at both ends of the ice. The only problem I could see him creating is that he doesn’t score enough causing the Flames to rely too much on their top wingers.
Lucic is fine as a bottom-six winger, he has his spurts of scoring and he has his frustrating plays. If Lucic’s bad plays such as dumb penalties, unnecessary fights, or being too slow are more prevalent that could cause some issues.
Right wing depth
The Flames right wings this season consist of Tyler Toffoli, Andrew Mangiapane, Trevor Lewis, and Brett Ritchie. I’m not as high on the right wings compared to the left wings and I think it’s more likely a majority of them will disappoint.
Mangiapane is the only right wing that I have high hopes for. He’s finally going to be able to play top-six minutes for a whole year and his centre changing from Mikael Backlund to Nazem Kadri is quite a good upgrade. He scored 35 goals and 55 points last year and considering he’s now on a more offensive-minded line, those goal and point totals should rise. He’s the only true good talent, that’s it.
Toffoli has been given the opportunity every NHLer dreams of, getting to play with their team’s top skaters. Toffoli could prove me wrong, but it seems like he is not going to mesh well with Huberdeau and Lindholm.
Although Toffoli was the finisher of a really nice play in the preseason against the Jets, he seemed to not have too much chemistry and to be too slow to keep up. Toffoli could easily be underwhelming and not be the top line winger the Flames were hoping for him to be leaving a hole unless another player decides to step up.
Trevor Lewis won two cups in L.A. with Darryl Sutter as coach so obviously Sutter has taken a liking to him. Coaches having favourites is fine until they end up giving undeserving promotions. Lewis is on the Flames third line this year which shows the lack of depth. Lewis is a fourth liner, a bad one too, so to have him on the third line is a major problem.
Looking at analytics, he was among the worst offensive players this past season. Backlund and Coleman had some disappointing offensive seasons last year and sticking 16 point scorer, Trevor Lewis with them is not going to help them bounce back.
Brett Ritchie would probably be an average Cup contender‘s 13th or 14th forward. He isn’t going to create too many problems as long as he stays on the fourth line. Playing him regularly over Adam Ruzicka is a definitely a big red flag to me though.
Brad Treliving has talked about how he thinks the Flames need another forward. Although it’s more likely the Flames go out and trade for a top-nine winger, I think trading for a top-six winger would be the best route to fix the problems.
I have been huge advocate that the Flames should acquire Canucks forward Conor Garland. Garland would be a good fit in my eyes as he plays similar to Mangiapane and puts up almost identical results. Whether Garland is available though is unknown and probably unlikely.
If the Flames traded for David Pastrnak from the Boston Bruins that would definitely fix the problems but the chances of that happening are close to zero. There’s not a ton of trade rumours going around so pinning down some trade targets is kind of hard.
The possible fix is a player in the organization steps up and plays well. This could be a player such as Dillon Dube having a breakout year and finally becoming that top-six winger. It could also be the result of finally giving a player a real chance. My candidates for this would be Adam Ruzicka, Matthew Phillips, Radim Zohorna, or Jakob Pelletier.
Flames winger performances up in the air
The Flames wingers might end up being the Calgary’s weakest link this season. They have potential to be able to get the job done, but that would require some career years. If struggles are apparent and consistent, action will have to be taken either via trade or someone in the organization stepping up.
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