The 2022–23 NHL season has began with a carousel of lineup changes for the Calgary Flames. Ups and downs have been a theme all season with goal scoring being a huge hole in the team’s overall performance. New players always bring different connections and breaking up one of arguably the best statistical lines in NHL history was bound to have a trickle down effect. That’s even more emphasized when you add in the fact that the team was heavily top line dependent on scoring.
Head coach Darryl Sutter‘s had his fair share of trio’s in the forward group, some good, some frankly head scratching. We’ll take a look at the top three statistical lines with a minimum of 25 minutes TOI compiling Corsi for (CF%) and expected goals for percentage (xGF%). Additionally, we’ll present the unhonourable mention to the worst line we’ve seen.
All stats from Evolving-Hockey.com.
1. Ruzicka – Coleman – Backlund
11 GP, 59.47 TOI, 4 GF, 1 GA
As for the advanced metrics the lines xGF% comes in at a strong 61.44% and a CF% of 58.18%. Very respectable numbers from a line that easily passes the eye test. The Flames seem to have discovered a gem as Adam Ruzicka‘s finding his stride in this latest stint with the club. He’s driving play and fits perfectly with Blake Coleman and Mikael Backlund‘s playstyle. Together, they’re a great possession and defensive line, while also producing on the front end.
Hopefully we get to see the line hit the ice together again before the end of the season but at the same time, I think I can speak for all of the Flames faithful saying that Matthew Phillips in the lineup is better for the time being.
2. Huberdeau – Lindholm – Toffoli
24 GP, 152.7 TOI, 3 GF, 2 GA
With a tough start to the season and some time apart, the three veterans have started to gel nicely. Jonathan Huberdeau has broken out as a tremendous defender statistically and his offensive production has increased to a point per game over his last nine games.
Advanced metrics have shown improvement throughout the season with a spike recently. Overall the line’s xGF% and CF% sits third on the team at 57.77% and 55.12% respectively. Not numbers that leap off the page but with the amount of time the lines played together and their slow start, they deserve to be in the #2 position.
Huberdeau and Elias Lindholm are catching their stride well now but Tyler Toffoli has been the most impressive thus far. His offensive and defensive advanced metrics are among the league’s best. If not for some unlucky bounces and posts, Toffoli would likely be running away with the points race on the team as well. That being said, it’s a big if and the Flames need offensive production like a fish in a desert needs water.
3. Ruzicka – Lindholm – Toffoli
16 GP, 85.4 TOI, 6 GF, 3 GA
Goal lights are the theme of this line to say the least averaging a goal for every 14 minutes. Ruzicka’s chameleon-like ability to produce with everyone he’s played with is evident once again.
Advanced metrics for the line are quite comparable to Lindholm and Toffoli’s other combination with Huberdeau. Almost reversed from the previous line with a xGF% of 55.71% and a CF% of 57.06%. Great goal production in a short span of time together but also having some trouble keeping them out of their net.
With Huberdeau’s recent success, it’s likely he holds onto his place with Lindholm and Toffoli. The 5v5 production of these three is mouth watering but obviously it’s a line we won’t see long-term unless an injury or major swing in play comes on the scene.
Ritchie – Rooney – Lucic
13 GP, 81.5 TOI, 3 GF, 4 GA
Anyone surprised? I’m not. Where do I even start with this group. Not a good start, not a good middle, and as it seems now, not a good end. With Milan Lucic being a healthy scratch back-to-back games and Kevin Rooney clearing waivers last week, it looks as though the finale to this show on ice has come and gone… thankfully.
Advanced metrics are just as ugly as the box score with a xGF% of 45.02 and a CF% of 48.17. Ouch, that’s among the bottom 15% in all the lines league-wide included in the statistics.
Definitely not something anyone needs to see anymore. Milan Lucic used to captivate hearts in the Saddledome and make electric hits and puck battles to swing momentum. Those intangibles that Darryl values so much in a veteran cup winner have been absent of late. The crucial attributes that Lucic supposedly bring to the team are certainly not worth $6,000,000 a year. I know Sean Monahan‘s time with the Flames was up but man do I wish we had traded Lucic’s $6M instead of Monahan’s.
The Phillips Factor
The addition of Matthew Phillips has changed the lineup drastically and will likely bring more changes in the coming weeks to Christmas. Phillips’ 30-day window before he would have to pass through waivers would make his last game likely January 6 against the Islanders at home. His 30-day window would close on January 8, where the Flames start a five-game road trip in Chicago.
Make sure to circle that road trip on your calendar if it looks like Phillips may be on the bubble but I’d hope his production starts to flow. He’s looked good with time on the second power play unit, nailing a post on Monday night in Montreal. Aside from that he’s played hard and looked better every game. Hopefully he can be at least part of the solution to this revolving door of lines we’ve seen this season and black hole of an offence.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire