The Calgary Flames have not been the best as of late. In their last 10 they have a record of 5–4–1, while it is a winning record, every game the Flames seem to have a flaw in their game. Whether that flaw be the lack of offence, defensive breakdowns, goaltending not being good enough, or not playing a full 60 minutes.
For now, the most important flaw is the lack offence. While they have had some high scoring wins, most of those have been to the opposing goalie being bad. He wouldn’t be to save the offence alone, but there’s a good chance that Matthew Phillips could help boost it.
Phillips’ performance with the Wranglers
Matthew Phillips was recently named AHL player of the month and it was greatly deserved. In November, Phillips added nine goals and nine assists to his totals and overall he has 15 goals, 15 assists for 30 points in 20 games played and a points per game pace of 1.50. He is also a point streak that has lasted for eight games so far and has racked up 16 points in that stretch. Phillips has a shooting percentage of 27.8% which is unsustainable, but even when he regresses to the mean, his production shouldn’t take too big of a hit.
NHLe is a metric that will estimate the equivalent amount of NHL points based on a player’s performance and the difficulty of the league. While NHLe isn’t the best metric, it’s still interesting to look at. Phillips has an NHLe of 59.7 points which is close to the top of the AHL.
Phillips has a lot of tools that could be useful at the NHL level. He is a really fast skater who is great at transition which is something the Flames are missing. To add to his fast speed, Phillips has a superb shot and fantastic playmaking abilities and high compete level that gets him going into areas you wouldn’t expect a player of his size to go.
Why Phillips should be called up
Other than his crazy production, strong performances, and great skill set, there is some other factors that should play a part in the decision if Phillips should be called up.
To start, there’s a small chance that he produces less and/or looks worse than Trevor Lewis, Brett Ritchie, Milan Lucic, or Kevin Rooney. While Lewis and Ritchie have produced a solid amount for fourth liners, they have looked awful as of late and for Lucic and Rooney, they are both playing terrible hockey and both are on horrid goal droughts. Lucic hasn’t scored a goal since March 16 of this year and Rooney hasn’t scored a goal since December 7 of 2021. Phillips could get a chance and be disappointing but he’d most likely produce more than 0.33 points per game which is the highest for the four players I mentioned.
Another big factor that should play a part is the inconsistency of the Flames offence. Just a few weeks ago, the Flames scored 16 goals in about four games, ever since then, they’ve scored 18 goals in seven games with 11(!) of those coming in two games. Every player on the Flames has looked good at some point and then suddenly ghosted. It would probably be in the Flames’ best interest to try and see if the leading goal and point scorer of the AHL can help fix these offensive inconsistencies even the tiniest bit.
Even though it would be great to see Phillips get called up, there’s a slim chance he does.
Low chance of Phillips actually getting an opportunity
Below is a tweet that provides us with a few quotes from Darryl Sutter on Matthew Phillips:
After reading, it seems that Sutter thinks that even if a player is producing at the AHL, that doesn’t mean that he’s worthy to get a chance and that he won’t produce at the NHL level. Adam Ruzicka was a top producer in the AHL and then he finally got a chance and became the Flames most consistent scorer as of late. Ruzicka playing great after getting a chance doesn’t guarantee that Phillips will too, but it somewhat disproves the idea that he is not worthy of a chance because of the difference in competition level between the two leagues.
Then that begs the question of what else does Phillips have to do to get his chance? Phillips has looked great and produced at every level he’s played at, but only has one NHL game under his belt ever since he was drafted by the Flames six years ago in 2016.
Going back to Ruzicka as a comparable of this situation, the only difference between him and Phillips is that he is a big power forward and Phillips is a small playmaker. So, has Phillips not gotten his chance since he’s 5’8″ and 165lbs instead of 6’4” and 200lbs? Below we can see a chart that shows how many prospects Sutter has promoted as head coach or general manager and what the height of those players were.
Sutter has only ever promoted four prospects under 6’0″ and only one when he has been with the Flames. That prospect was Matthew Lombardi (5’11”) back in 2004.
You could argue that the Flames haven’t and won’t call up Phillips because he’d be playing with unskilled guys for seven minutes a night and it’s be a waste. The thing is though, the Flames have tried all sorts of lines including putting Coleman and Dube on the fourth line. The Flames can swap up the lines to make room for Phillips, they just won’t.
There could be other reasons that we do not know of, but with the information we have, Phillips probably hasn’t gotten his chance due to his size which is very dumb.
Deserving of a call-up
It wouldn’t hurt to give Matthew Phillips a chance. He is the AHL’s top producer and is full of great offensive skills. The Flames offence isn’t the best right now, and even if Phillips was bad on his call up, it’s not like he’ll make the offence worse. Calling up Phillips would be a low-risk, high-reward move. If the Flames call him up and he’s disappointing, just send him back to the Wranglers. If he’s good, suddenly the Flames have a good, young, offensive player with potential.
Photo by Candice Ward/Calgary Wranglers