Calgary Flames

Flames Sunday Census: Which Flames are behind Calgary’s success?

The Calgary Flames have one of the top points percentages in the league. The October schedule has given them games in hand over virtually every team, but they’re eighth overall thanks to their 5–2–0 record. While it’s obvious that Nazem Kadri has been Calgary’s October MVP, which other players have helped drive the Flames to success? We asked, you answered.

Want to take part in Sunday Census polls? We send them out every week on our Twitter at @wincolumnCGY. Follow along or send in ideas for the next poll!

The Flames are playing as team

Outside of Kadri, there are several candidates that have been integral to the Flames’ hot start, and to be fair a four-option poll doesn’t quite cover all the players that should be listed. This is exactly by design though, as head coach Darryl Sutter has drawn attention away from individuals and has talked about the Flames as a complete team time and time again.

To be focusing on the top players is antithetical to the Flames’ mantra this season. However, among fans of the team, it’s hard not to look at the number and performances and picking out the highlights. So with that said, who else has been important to the Flames’ success?

This week’s poll lists Jonathan Huberdeau, Rasmus Andersson, Michael Stone, and Jacob Markstrom. They each have contributed in different ways and that’s not even the complete list. In fact, several replies in the tweet have also noted Mikael Backlund, MacKenzie Weegar, and even Brett Ritchie.

Again, the fact that this exercise isn’t that straight forward and that people have various candidates is a good problem to have.

Let’s breakdown each player’s case.

Huberdeau’s on-ice presence

To be fair, Huberdeau has been off to a slower start than ideal. Despite that, he still has five points in seven games. While his line hasn’t been the Flames’ best by any means, it’s a trio that needs time to marinate to really develop chemistry. The Flames’ top line of years past had Elias Lindholm and Johnny Gaudreau playing together for years before the addition of Matthew Tkachuk.

This time around, Lindholm has two new linemates and the skillset that Huberdeau and Tyler Toffoli bring are just vastly different.

This year’s first line is far from playing optimal, but it doesn’t mean they haven’t been dangerous on the ice. Using this chart from to break down teammates and opposition, the one thing that largely stands out is how often Huberdeau faces top defenders. The bottom right chart has the blue bar surpassing the red average line at the #1 position, which reflects this.

Contrarily, his forward opposition has been more or less average, and as the Flames have been on a lengthy homestand, some usage has even been more favourable when him facing off against bottom-nine talent more often than first line talent. This is seen in the top left chart where the bars in the #5 and #11 position exceed the red line whereas none of the bars in #1 through #3 do.

Huberdeau’s been effective when it comes to his on-ice presence alone, but soon his on-ice performance should follow suit.

Markstrom’s steadiness in net

In the first few games of the season, Markstrom looked a bit worse for wear as he let in a couple of goals he probably still wants back. It was not typical of him, but he’s quickly regained his form and has been saving more goals than expected. It was a big turnaround for him as he’s gotten more confident with each game, and had yet to record a loss as the Flames headed into their late-October break. His first loss came yesterday at the hands of the Oilers, in their last game of October. Not a bad month for Markstrom.

Despite his record, he hasn’t been anywhere near the Vezina conversation as of yet. This while being one offseason removed from being a finalist just last season. It’s expected that the Flames will use a more even split of starting Markstrom versus Daniel Vladar, but so far this season, neither of them have had a truly bad game. You need your goaltending to be reliable and that’s what the Flames have gotten so far.

The Michael Stone story

Incredibly, Stone’s lore with the Flames’ simply gets better year after year. His story went from being an overpaid defender leading to a buyout, to battling health issues and making a comeback, to finally infamously guaranteeing himself a perennial one-year contract every training camp. Simply, he is a player that gives more than he takes.

From being a seventh defender, taxi squad regular, to now a slapshot specialist on the Flames blueline, he’s really found his footing with the Flames and has been a big name on the scoresheet and more.

Two goals and three assists from a player on a $750K contract is incredible value and no one really understands his role better than Stone does. He’ll chip in when he’s needed to, wherever that might be. Right now, he’s needed to round out the defence corps, and he’s taken that opportunity in stride.

The rise of Rasmus

After a huge bounceback year for Andersson in 2021–22, the defender has shown even more improvements thus far. While he and Noah Hanifin haven’t been the best at shutting down opposition at 5v5, Andersson’s been a great quarterback on the power play and has been decent on the penalty kill too.

Four of his seven points have come on the power play, and he’s in sole possession of second in team scoring.

To put it simply, everyone knew he would be a key player in playing big minutes and having a big impact on the ice, but right now he’s also making a big impact on the scoresheet too. Interestingly, his main defensive partner Hanifin has yet to pick up a point, which makes Andersson’s impact on offence all the more valuable.

Andersson was the runaway winner as the Flames’ most important player behind Kadri.

Other MVPs for Calgary

As mentioned, the replies also had write-in votes for other players. There’s no shortage of valuable players on this roster.

The MVP acronym for the Flames would be more appropriately adjusted to stand for “Mixed in with other Valuable Players.” The Flames are playing the game as a team game in and game out, and it’s working.

Which player has been the most valauble to you? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @wincolumnCGY.

Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire

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