The Calgary Flames are bad again? We all expected growing pains to start the season after a wild offseason, but 20 games into the season and with the first quarter of the year completed, the Flames look far from the cup contender we all expected. After finishing first in the Pacific Division last season, that seems like a pipe dream in 2022–23 after the way the first quarter went.
With the first 20 games of the season (with a couple extra) officially in the books, that means it’s time for TWC’s first quarterly report card grades for 2022–23. Each quarter mark of the season we will assign a letter grade from A to F to each Flames player who logged over 100 minutes TOI in the quarter. These grades will take into consideration the 20 games between October 13 to November 25, 2022.
The Flames closed out the first quarter with a 9–8–3 record to stay just barely above .500. For comparison, they started the first quarter last season at 12–3–5. Last season the Flames didn’t lose their eighth game in regulation until they were 31 games into the season. This year it only took them 20.
Typically a lock to be among the best analytical teams in the NHL under Darryl Sutter, the Flames saw their numbers slip this quarter compared to what we saw last season. They finished the quarter sitting fourth for CF%, ninth for xGF%, and 11th for HDCF%.
How do TWC’s POET rankings work?
A reminder that these rankings are based on a model that evaluates 5v5 play. In order to grade players, we will be using the TWC Player Offensive Evaluation Tool (POET).
The model operates similarly to the power rankings model we update on a weekly basis. The player model takes specific on-ice statistics including CF% at various danger levels, xGF%; individual statistics including goals, assists, offensive contributions, and penalty differentials; and includes an adjustment for time on ice, PDO, and offensive zone starts.
Each player’s statistics are put through the model and combined to produce an overall TWCScore. These scores are then compared to the rest of the league to determine what letter grade they fall into. If their TWC score is above 0 on their player cards then they are above average compared to all other players of the same position (forwards or defencemen).
It is important to note that the model is based on player performance at 5v5. This is not meant to diminish the efforts of the Flames work on special teams, but to be more representative of a players form against equal opposition. Only players with over 100 minutes at 5v5 were given grades. Let’s see who ranks where on the Flames squad.
Who would’ve guessed? When you give a young player with talent a chance it might actually turn out well. Adam Ruzicka only played 10 games this quarter, but he made full use of them as he’s established himself as an NHL regular. It’s a small sample size obviously, but his results have been outstanding thus far.
Ruzicka ranked third among Flames forwards for CF%, fourth for xGF%, and fifth for HDCF%. Despite playing in his half of the game this quarter, he posted six even strength points which ranked tied for fourth among forwards. His three even strength goals were tied for second among Flames forwards. His xGF/60 of 3.26 was tops on the team.
Ruzicka deserves to stay in the lineup all season, as he’s provided a much needed boost to the Flames forward group in the skill and goal scoring department.
Elias Lindholm’s game has taken a step back without his two elite wingers, however he’s still been one of the team’s better forwards thus far. He’s picked it up after a slow start to the year and looks more like the player we know he can be.
His underlying numbers have been solid, albeit much lower than last season. He ranks seventh for CF% among forwards, sixth for xGF%, and fourth for HDCF%. His offensive production at even strength is what earns him an A grade. His 10 even strength points ranked first on the team, as did his seven assists and five primary assists.
What’s concerning is he ranked 11th for CA/60, and ninth for xGA/60. Not exactly the numbers you’d like to see from a supposed elite two-way player. Lindholm is still the teams best overall centre, although his two way effectiveness has been lacking this season thus far.
Nazem Kadri starting the season off on fire, but has cooled down considerably since. His start to the year keeps his grade from being lower as he’s really struggled lately.
Kadri ranked eighth for CF%, xGF%, and HDCF%. Considering the contract he received in the offseason, you’d certainly like to see his numbers ranking a bit higher than that. Offensively he’s been one of the better forwards on the team at even strength. His seven points ranked tied for third among forwards while his four goals were tied for first. His 81 iCF ranked first on the team.
Kadri kicked off the season in a big way, but has hit a bit of a rough patch. Regardless, he’s still been one of the teams better forwards thanks to his point production.
Another season, another year of Mikael Backlund being one of the Flames most dependable forwards. Despite being 33 years old now, he’s kicked off 2022–23 by not missing a beat from his exceptional 2021–22 playoff performance.
Backlund ranked first for CF%, fifth for xGF%, and sixth for HDCF% among Flames forwards. He also ranked first for CA/60 and second for xGA/60 as he’s continued his dominate two way play. His seven even strength points were tied for third on the team and his four goals were tied for first.
Backlund is doing Backlund things this season, as he’s continued to provide solid play at both end of the ice regardless of the rest of the teams results.
Backlund’s running buddy Blake Coleman has been a perfect partner, as Coleman has provided similarly strong results at both ends.
Coleman ranked fourth for CF%, seventh for xGF%, and ninth for HDCF%. Like Backlund his defensive results have been tremendous. He ranks third for CA/60, and fourth for xGA/60. His eight even strength points and six assists were both second on the team behind only Lindholm.
Coleman is the perfect middle-six winger and has formed a solid duo with Backlund. Unfortunately when he’s your second highest scorer that’s probably not a good sign for the rest of the team.
Yes, Trevor Lewis has really been this good to start the season. How much of those results have been because he’s spent most of his time playing with Backlund and Coleman? Probably almost all of them, but his results are still impressive.
Lewis ranked second among forwards for CF%, first for xGF%, and third for HDCF%. He was the only forward to rank top three in all three metrics. Offensively he only produced four even strength points across the 20 games, and just two goals which lowers his grade a bit.
Lewis has been exactly what the Flames have needed him to be this season, providing solid defensive results and not hurting the team when he’s out there.
Tyler Toffoli has done quite well with his new expanded role this season. He’s posting solid underlying numbers while also chipping in offensively much better than he did last season. He’s been a solid top-six piece for the team this season.
Toffoli finished the quarter sitting fifth for CF%, third for xGF%, and first for HDCF%. He posted seven even strength points, good to tie for third among forwards. His five assists also ranked third. His 47 even strength shots were most on the team.
This is the Toffoli we all expected when he arrived last season. He’s been a solid play driver and goal scoring threat for most of the season.
He is inevitable. Brett Ritchie’s early-season scoring surge floats his grade from being lower, but considering what he’s paid he’s done a solid job for his role thus far.
Ritchie ranked 10th for CF%, xGF%, and seventh for HDCF% in the first quarter. What makes him stand out is his even strength point production. Ritchie posted six even strength points, tie for fourth among forwards. His four even strength goals were tied for first on the Flames with Lindholm and Backlund. The issue is he’s only scored one of those goals in the month of November.
Credit where it’s due, Ritchie has been much better than expected, but when he’s tied for first on your team for even strength goals you’ve got a major problem.
What is wrong with Andrew Mangiapane? The Flames need to find out soon because he’s performed well below expected thus far. After a breakout 2021–22 campaign, there were huge expectation for Mangiapane this season and he’s failed to reach them.
Typically an analytical darling, Mangiapane’s underlying numbers have been among the worst on the Flames this season. He ranked 12th for CF%, 11th for xGF%, and 12th for HDCF%. That’s among 13 forwards. He also ranked dead last for xGA/60, a metric he’s usually leading. Offensively he’s produced at a decent rate compared to the rest of the team. He posted six points and three goals at even strength. His three goals ranked tied for second on the team.
Something is very wrong with Mangiapane right now, whether that’s an injury or something else the Flames desperately need him to find his game again as he’s one of their most important players.
Jonathan Huberdeau’s Calgary career has gotten off to a less than stellar start to say the least. We did receive some clarity on an injury that has reportedly been bugging him all season and forced him to miss three games, so his numbers should be taken with a grain of salt.
Despite the injury, Huberdeau still ranked sixth for CF%, fourth for xGF%, and second for HDCF%. After a very slow start, he was among the best forwards on the team to close out the quarter. Hopefully a sign that he’s getting back to full health. His even strength production was in a word: terrible. He only posted four points at evens, including just two goals. His four points were tied for second worst among Flames forwards.
Huberdeau’s start to the season has been rocky thus far. His injury clearly played a major factor in that, as his underlying results improved in a big way after getting back in the lineup. The Flames need the point production to come next and soon.
We may be witnessing Dillon Dube’s final games in Calgary. The 2016 second rounder has been a breakout pick every season the past couple years but has once again come out extremely flat to start the season.
Dube ranked ninth for CF%, 12th for xGF%, and 10th for HDCF%. He also didn’t do much offensively. His five even strength points were ninth among forwards. He was the only forward to not register a primary assist at even strength. His two goals were tied for second worst among forwards.
Dube has been mostly ineffective all season outside of a few shifts. The story of his career thus far.
Where do we even begin? Milan Lucic has not been good this season. Despite what his ice time says, he’s been among the worst forwards on the team all season. He deserves to be sat for a few games if not more.
Lucic ranked 11th for CF%, and last for xGF% and HDCF%. Offensively he’s produced four points at even strength, tied for second worst on the team among forwards. Even worse is the fact he has yet to score a single goal this season at any strength. Among forwards to play all 20 games this quarter, his 18 even strength shots are last, as are his 34 iCF. His ixG of 1.63 is also last.
Lucic has been dreadful in every aspect of the game and should not be a regular in the Flames lineup.
He ranked last for CF%, ninth for xGF%, and 11th for HDCF%. He’s produced a grand total of one point thus far across 15 games, an assist in the second game of the season on October 15th. Rooney has been terrible all season and is far from an NHL player.
We are officially in the Michael Stone era. Stone and his signature bomb from the point have been as effective as ever this season and the Flames legitimately missed him when he was out injured.
Stone ranked second for CF%, fourth for xGF%, and first for HDCF% among Flames defenders. He only played 10 games, but his results are incredibly impressive. Stone posted four points at even strength, including two goals. Despite playing in half the games this quarter, his two goals were tied for second on the Flames blueline. An 11.76 shooting percentage at even strength will do that.
Stone has been one of the Flames most consistent defenders this season, and is providing tremendous value for his contract. Not bad from a PTO signing.
A world where Stone and Nikita Zadorov are the two highest graded Flamed defenders offensively. That’s the world we live in now. Zadorov has been surprisingly good at both ends this season.
He finished the quarter first for CF%, third for xGF%, and fourth for HDCF%. What’s most surprising is his offensive production, which typically isn’t a part of his game. Zadorov has a team-leading four goals at even strength from the blueline, to go along with five points which ranks second. He’s also posted 39 shots at even strength, the most of any Flame defender.
Zadorov is not only posting strong defensive numbers this season, but he’s also producing on offence which makes him a very valuable piece.
It’s evident right away that Rasmus Andersson’s scoring is completely carrying his grade right now. Lucky for him these are only offensive report cards. His underlying numbers are not nice to look at.
Andersson ranked fifth for CF%, last for xGF%, and fifth for HDCF%. His offensive production meanwhile has been very solid. His seven even strength points were tops among Flames defenders, as were his five assists.
Andersson has struggled in most aspects this year, but his offensive production at even strength has been the best of any Flame on the blueline which increases his grade quite a bit.
MacKenzie Weegar has received way too much hate for this start to the season. He hasn’t seen a ton of point production, but his underlying numbers have been very solid thus far.
Weegar ranked third for CF%, first for xGF%, and third for HDCF%. That’s while playing the second most even strength minutes on the team. He posted five even strength points, although three of them were secondary assists. He’s also yet to score a goal at even strength which really hurts his grade. He did however rank first for iCF at 71 so it’s only a matter of time.
Weegar has been arguably the Flames’ most consistent defender this season, but his lack of scoring prevents him from having a higher grade in these report cards.
It hasn’t been a great start to the season for Noah Hanifin, but at the very least his point production has been decent.
Hanifin ranked last for CF%, second last for xGF%, and last for HDCF%. He’s struggled to say the least. He did however post five points at even strength, tied for second among Flames blueliners. Three of those points were primary assists, which was tops on the team. He also ranked second for even strength shots and iCF.
Hanifin has been far from his best this season, but his offensive production saved him from a much worse grade.
Chris Tanev is an elite defensive defenceman. These are offensive report cards. Thus the elite possession numbers but team low grade on the blueline.
Tanev ranked fourth for CF% and second for xGF% and HDCF%. The Flames missed him when he was out of the lineup to say the least. As usual Tanev didn’t do much of anything offensively, posting just two points and no goals at even strength. Both were worst on the team among blueliners. His 14 even strength shots and 30 iCF were also last.
Tanev has been very good this season, but when it comes to the offensive aspect of the game he struggles.
A less than ideal start for the Flames
The Flames first quarter is finally over, and what a roller coaster it was. From 5–1–0 to a seven-game losing streak, the Flames did it all in the first 20 games of the season. Plenty of the Flames most important players have had less than ideal starts to the season, which is a major reason why they are currently sitting outside of the playoffs. If things don’t turn around in the second quarter, it could mean an early end to the Flames playoffs hopes.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire