Now halfway through the 2022–23 season, we have still yet to see the Calgary Flames pull things together and look like a true contender. After a disappointing first quarter of the season, the Flames were able to drag themselves back into a playoff spot this quarter but just barely. They still very much sit on the playoff bubble as we enter the second half.
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 21 games between November 26, 2022, and January 8, 2023. The Flames finished the quarter with a 10–6–5 record, a slight improvement over their 9–8–3 record from the first quarter.
One positive is that the Flames’ underlying numbers were very strong and back to what we’ve come to expect, outside of high-danger chance creation. The Flames ranked second for CF%, 6th for xGF%, and 14th for HDCF% in the second quarter.
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.
All numbers are 5v5 score- and venue- adjusted (SVA) courtesy of NaturalStatTrick.com.
Is Tyler Toffoli the Flames’ best forward right now? He has a case. He’s certainly been one of their most consistent performers this season and nothing changed in the second quarter as he earns the highest grade among forwards.
Toffoli ranked fifth for CF%, xGF% and HDCF% in the quarter. Offensively he produced 10 points at 5v5 in 21 games. His 10 points were tied for second on the team, while his five goals at 5v5 were first on the entire team.
Toffoli is doing exactly what everyone expected of him when he was acquired. He’s been a perfect fit as a top-six right winger and his play has remained strong into the second half of the season.
Are we finally witnessing the long awaited Dillon Dube breakout season? His second quarter was perhaps his best quarter as a Calgary Flame. Dube is producing points at the best rate of his entire career right now.
Dube finished the quarter eighth for CF%, seventh for xGF%, and ninth for HDCF%. What earns him the second best grade among forwards is his team leading offensive production. Dube’s 13 5v5 points were first on the team, as were his nine assists and seven primary assists. His four goals were second behind only Toffoli.
Dube’s underlying numbers aren’t great, but he’s racking up even strength points right now which is a great sign for the Flames.
Mangiapane ranked second among Flames forwards for CF%, and third for xGF% and HDCF%. He also ranked first for CF/60, xGF/60. Elite. His offensive production wasn’t as imrpessive. He posted eight points and four points at 5v5 across the 21 games. His eight points were tied for fourth on the team. His four goals were tied for second though.
Mangiapane has rounded back into his dominate two-way self of late, and the offensive production should come as well in no time.
I’ve been writing these report grades for a couple years now and I don’t think Mikael Backlund has ever come in below at least a B. Once again he was one of the Flames top forwards, even if his offensive production isn’t what it once was.
Backlund ranked first for CF%, second for xGF%, and first for HDCF%. He also ranked second for CF/60, xGF/60, and HDCF/60. #BacklundForSelke anyone? Offensively he posted nine points in the quarter, which was tied for third on the team. He produced only two goals at 5v5 though, which was second worst on the team. His 52 5v5 shots were first, so there’s some bad luck mixed in there.
Backlund continues to post elite two-way results despite entering his mid-30s and remained one of the teams best players in the second quarter.
There’s no doubt that Adam Ruzicka has been the surprise of the season thus far. Halfway through the season, he’s now a fulltime regular with the team.
Ruzicka finished the quarter fourth for CF%, xGF%, and HDCF%. Not bad for a player who’s been relegated to fourth line duties of late. Ruzicka posted eight points at 5v5, tied for fourth on the team. His seven assists were tied for second on the team behind only Dube.
Ruzicka has been a much needed extra offensive threat for the Flames. Unfortunately for reason’s unknown he’s found himself in Sutter’s doghouse. The Flames would benefit greatly if he were given a fair opportunity in the second half of the season.
Never break up Blake Coleman, Mangiapane and Backlund again. Coleman is always at his best playing with the duo and he showed that in the second quarter of the season.
Coleman ranked third for CF%, and second for both xGF% and HDCF%. Only Backlund ranked ahead of him. Coleman was also first for HDCF/60. What keeps him for earning an A grade is his complete lack of offensive production. Coleman put up just five points at 5v5, worst among forwards. His one primary assist was also worst. He did however rank first for ixG at 5.62 so the goals should come.
Coleman was a integral part of the Flames’ shutdown trio in the second quarter, and his offensive production is bound to go up soon.
Jonathan Huberdeau’s underlying numbers remained incredibly underwhelming this quarter, but the good news is his offensive production finally started to come around in the second quarter.
Huberdeau ranked ninth for CF%, and xGF%, as well as 10th for HDCF%. Not great. His 10 points at 5v5 were tied for second on the team however, while his seven assists and six primary assists both ranked tied for second behind only Dube. What’s concerning is his individual shot generation has been ugly. He put up only 16 shots at 5v5 across 21 games. The total was worst among Flames forwards. He also ranked last for xGF/60 and HDCF/60.
Huberdeau finally put up some solid point production this quarter which was nice to see, but his underlying numbers remained weak. The Flames need him to get back to being an MVP candidate, and fast. Playing away from Lucic will help.
Nazem Kadri wasn’t always at his best in the second quarter, but he at least continued to post decent point production when compared to the rest of the team.
Kadri finished seventh for CF%, eighth for xGF% and last for HDCF% among forwards in the quarter. Offensively he did put up 10 points at 5v5 as well as four goals. His 10 points and four goals were both tied for second among Flames forwards. His two primary assists were tied for second worst though. He did post 47 even strength shots, which was second behind only Backlund.
Kadri is one of the team’s most important players and continues to produce as such but the Flames still need him to be better going forward. Like Huberdeau, not playing with Lucic would help.
By spending considerable minutes on the Flames’ second line with two of the Flames’ best players, Milan Lucic was carried to a B grade this quarter.
Lucic ranked sixth for CF%, 10th for xGF%, and eighth for HDCF%. Better than expected, but again that has a lot to do with who he’s gotten to play with. In terms of production, his six even strength points were second last on the team. He did at least get three goals at 5v5 in the quarter despite only playing 18 of the 21 games. All three of his assists were primary assists too. He did however only register 19 5v5 shots and a team worst 32 iCF.
Lucic at least showed this quarter that he can still bring some value to an NHL team, however playing him on the second line going forward makes little sense.
Trevor Lewis continues to chug along this season, posting average at best results. In his role however he’s done a decent job and produced more offence than expected.
Lewis finished the quarter sitting 10th for CF%, last for xGF%, and seventh for HDCF%. He posted seven points at 5v5, including a surprising three goals. When Lewis is tied for even strength goals with Huberdeau, that’s not a great sign for the rest of the team but credit to Lewis.
Lewis is what he is at this point: a dependable zero upside bottom-six forward.
This grade is probably a little too harsh, but as you can tell by the above, Elias Lindholm’s shot generation completely blew up his overall grade.
Lindholm ranked last for CF%, sixth for xGF%, and sixth for HDCF%. Offensively he posted three goals and 10 points at 5v5. The problem is five of his 10 points were secondary assists. His two primary assists were tied with Lewis and Kadri for second worst among Flames forwards.
As mentioned his shot generation was not great. His 20 5v5 shots were third worst among forwards, as were his 39 iCF. His nine iHDCF were second worst as was his 1.99 ixG. His 18 iSCF were worst on the team, with Huberdeau’s 22 being second last. Lindholm continues to put up 5v5 points at a decent rate, but his shot generation was dreadful this quarter and earned him the lowest grade among Flames forwards.
Rasmus Andersson was able to improve his underlying numbers in a big way in the second quarter. To add to that his offensive production has been among the best in the entire NHL among defencemen. Overall, he earns the highest grade on the Flames.
Andersson ranked fifth for CF%, but first for both xGF% and HDCF%. His xGF/60 was also tops on the blueline. In terms of 5v5 point production he put up six points, which was the most among any Flames blueliner. His two goals were tied for first, while his four assists were second. He’s by far the Flames’ best offensive weapon on the blueline.
Andersson was able to fix his poor underlying numbers from the first quarter and put up some solid results across the board in the second quarter.
MacKenzie Weegar’s game has been more about defence than offence this season, but he still posted solid offensive results in the second quarter.
Weegar finished the quarter second for CF%, third for xGF%, and fourth for HDCF%. He wasn’t too bad offensively either, posting four points which was third on the blueline. His two primary assists were tied for first among Flames blueliners. His iCF were second.
Weegar hasn’t seen the point production many expected this season, but he’s been a dominant player when it comes to possession anytime.
Nikita Zadorov continues to have a solid 2022–23 season, as his second quarter was nearly as strong as his first. He’s done a gone a good job this season picking up the slack when other defencemen go down injured.
Zadorov was third for CF%, fifth for xGF%, but last for HDCF%. He also ranked second for CF/60. In terms of scoring, Zadorov didn’t do much. He posted three 5v5 points, with two of them being goals. His three points were fourth on the blueline, however his two goals were tied for first with Andersson.
Zadorov is very much still a third pairing defenceman, but he’s done a good job whenever called upon this season and his second quarter is further proof of that.
Chris Tanev is not offensive defenceman. His player card perfectly illustrates that. His shot generation and scoring are well below average, while is possession numbers are elite.
Tanev finished the quarter first for CF%, and second for both xGF%, and HDCF%. Only Andersson was ahead of him. His CF/60 ranked first among Flames defenders. As usual what tanks his grade is the fact he only had two points at 5v5, both of which were assists. He also posted just 11 shots and 40 iCF in 18 games.
If these were defensive grades Tanev would get an A every quarter of the season. Even if a B- isn’t great, it’s a solid grade considering the style of game he plays.
Noah Hanifin continues to struggle in 2022–23, as his second quarter was worse than his first. Hanifin’s point production has plummeted from last year and his underlying numbers aren’t great either.
Hanifin ranked last for CF%, fourth for xGF%, and third for HDCF%. His CF/60 also ranked last on the blueline. On a positive note his xGF/60 and HDCF/60 both ranked second behind Andersson. Offensively, Hanifin did put up five points which was second on the team, however all three of those were assists with three of them being secondary assists. Along with Tanev he was the only defenceman to not score a goal at 5v5.
Hanifin’s second quarter wasn’t terrible by any stretch, but it certainly wasn’t up to par with what we’ve come to expect from him.
After grading as the Flames’ top defender in the first quarter, Michael Stone’s play came crashing down in the second quarter. He very much looked like a fringe NHL defencemen in the second quarter.
Stone ranked fourth for CF%, last for xGF%, and fifth for HDCF%. Offensively he posted one single points at 5v5, a goal on December 23rd. His one point was unsurprisingly last among Flames blueliners. He did at least lead the blueline with 31 shots at 5v5.
Stone came back down to earth this quarter, and the Flames may be better off finding a replacement for him before the trade deadline.
A first half to forget
The Flames’ first half of the season as finally come to a close, and I think we can all agree that’s a blessing. The Flames second quarter may have been better than the first, but it was still far from ideal. The team really isn’t getting any A+ quality performances from any position, with most of the team in the muddy middle. If the Flames don’t start seeing some more A grades in the third quarter, things could get ugly.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire