Calgary Flames

Reviewing expectations for each Calgary Flames forward with the 2022–23 season completed

The 2022–23 NHL season has come and gone—at least for non-playoff teams. To say this year for the Calgary Flames was disappointing would be an understatement. Some predicted they would be top three in the Pacific, and some even predicted them to be Stanley Cup contenders—obviously neither of these things happened. The Flames barely missed the playoffs, finished ninth in the west, and sixteenth league-wide.

The Flames’ offence stuck out to me as one of the bigger parts that made this season underwhelming, so let’s review one by one, the expectations I had made for each Calgary Flames forward before the start of the season.

Jonathan Huberdeau

Expectations: 92–102 points, better defence, build on 5v5 game

Midseason verdict: Expectations not met

Jonathan Huberdeau was arguably the most disappointing Flame this season. Huberdeau was poised to be the next star in Calgary and that didn’t happen this season. His struggles are a mixture of a loss of confidence and mojo and likely is play style not matching the system. Looking at how I expected 92 to102 points hurts because Huberdeau unfortunately set the NHL record for biggest point decline between two seasons. He did meet my one expectation of better defence, but in return it killed his offensive game.

End of season verdict: Expectations not met

Elias Lindholm

Expectations: 37–45 goals, 75–85 points, similar even strength offensive and defensive results

Midseason verdict: Expectations met

I don’t think many will disagree when I say Elias Lindholm had a dissatisfying season and a big part of that was his inconsistency. He’d go from scoring many points in few games to few or no points in many games. When I reviewed at the midseason mark, Lindholm was on pace for 76 points and finished the year with 12 fewer points than that. Looking at his analytics, Lindholm had similar offensive and defensive results at even strength, but they were pretty mediocre.

End of season verdict: Expectations not met

Tyler Toffoli

Expectations: 25 goals and 55 points

Midseason verdict: Expectations surpassed

Tyler Toffoli was undisputedly the Flames’ MVP this season. Toffoli finished the year with 34 goals and 73 points in 82 games. I did say that if Toffoli finds himself on the top line the whole year he should break his career-highs, but even then, he played better than I was expecting. He was an analytics darling posting great results at both ends of the ice and had blue all over his charts.

End of season verdict: Expectations crushed

Andrew Mangiapane

Expectations: 35–40 goals, 60–70 points, fantastic analytics

Midseason verdict: Expectations not met

Andrew Mangiapane was coming of a career year scoring 35 goals and 55 points while playing third line minutes, so it was expected that with more ice time he’d do even better, but that’s not what happened. To start the year, Mangiapane was one of the most frustrating Flames to watch as nothing was working for him.

Then he was put back on a line with Mikael Backlund and Blake Coleman and started to find his groove and even seemed to be working well with Huberdeau to end the year. As I mentioned in the midseason review article, his offensive analytics are still great, but his defence took a big hit, so it’s a toss up. I’ll admit I set Mangiapane up for failure with my expectations, but I won’t give him a free pass.

End of season verdict: Expectations not met

Nazem Kadri

Expectations: 25 goals, 65–73 points, defence to regress

Midseason verdict: Expectations met

The expectation heading into this season was for Nazem Kadri to regress as had a crazy season the year prior. Kadri scored 24 goals, so I’ll count that as a hit because it’s close enough, but he only scored 56 points and at the minimum has a nine-point difference between my expectation and reality. I was correct about his defence regressing, but that’s not something I think I should celebrate. The verdict on Kadri is a toss up and could go either way, but I was underwhelmed with his play more than I was satisfied.

End of season verdict: Expectations not met

Blake Coleman

Expectations 18–20 goals, 35–45 points, strong two-way game

Midseason verdict: Expectations met

Blake Coleman was a nice surprise this season and dare I say under-appreciated. Coleman finished the year with 18 goals and 38 points which means hits on my goals and points expectations. He continued to have a strong defensive game and stayed a strong penalty killer while improving his offensive game creating a strong two-way game.

End of season verdict: Expectations met

Mikael Backlund

Expectations: 30–35 points, solid two-way, miss the net only 37 times

Midseason verdict: Expectations surpassed

Mikael Backlund was fantastic for the Flames this season and one of their best players. I won’t lie, I thought he was going to regress this year and he completely proved me wrong. Backlund put up 56 points, (21 more than I expected!), and finished tied for third in scoring for the Flames. I expected solid two-way play and he had exceptional two-way play, arguably having Selke Trophy level defence.

For missed shots, Backlund put up 345 Fenwick, which includes goals, shots, and unblocked shot attempts, and registered 260 shots. So he missed the net 85 times this season. This expectation was a little bit in jest, but he had more goals than in 2021-22, and took way more shots in his role this season. In fact, he ended uip hitting a career-high with the 260 shots. You’re gonna miss more shots when you take more shots, there’s nothing wrong with that.

End of season verdict: Expectations surpassed

Dillon Dube

Expectations: 28–38 points, 12–15 goals

Midseason verdict: Expectations surpassed

As I said at the midseason mark, Dillon Dube had the most interesting season out of any Flame. He hit a new career-high in points with 45 and tied his career-high in goals with 18. Even with the improved stats, Dube was still streaky and inconsistent and posted some meh underlying numbers. Although he had a “breakout” year, the problems I have with him are still there, so I’ll say he met my expectations.

End of season verdict: Expectations met

Milan Lucic

Expectations: 20 points, top 20 in hits

Midseason verdict: Expectations not met

Milan Lucic was arguably one of the worst Flames this season. He did get 19 points so I’ll consider that close enough to meet my expectations of 20 points, but he finds himself at 57th in hits. With all things considered, I was not a big fan of Lucic’s play this year.

End of season verdict: Expectations not met

Trevor Lewis

Expectations: 10–15 points

Midseason verdict: Expectations surpassed

Trevor Lewis had one of the biggest fall offs of any Flame in the second half. To start the year, he was playing well and was great on the fourth line being an analytics darling, but then his offence dried up and he went back to being a player that nothing happens while he’s on the ice. He did score 20 points, so more than I expected, but once again, a majority came from the start. Due to the stronger start I’ll say he met my expectations.

End of season verdict: Expectations met

Adam Ruzicka

Expectations: If a regular, 20–28 points, if not, 7–10 points

Midseason verdict: Expectations surpassed

Adam Ruzicka is a weird player to make a verdict for. He had a hot streak earlier in the season scoring roughly 17 points in 18 games. He then had a few bad games and was shafted for the rest of the year. Ruzicka ended the season as usual healthy scratch who was lucky to fill in on the fourth line. Ruzicka did have a disappointing end of the year, but it wasn’t completely his fault as he was mismanaged. If Ruzicka got more time in at least the top-nine, I’d be able to make a clear verdict, but since he didn’t I’ll just meet in the middle and say he met my expectations.

End of season verdict: Expectations met

Jakob Pelletier

Expectations: Small trial or 30–35 points in full year

Midseason verdict: N/A

Jakob Pelletier didn’t play a full year and got more than a small trial, so the best I can do is look at what he was on pace for. He had 7 points in 24 games, so he was on pace for 23 points in a full year. That’s not ideal, but Pelletier was fantastic away from the scoresheet. He brought necessary speed, transition game, and enthusiasm to the team and created a bright spot in a depressing season.

End of season verdict: Expectations met

Final review on expectations

There is a bit of a difference between the midseason review and end of season review. At the midseason mark, three out of 13 forwards I looked at did not meet my expectations, but now five forwards did not meet them as Elias Lindholm and Nazem Kadri joined the previous three. Surprisingly, midseason mark showcased five forwards surpassing my expectations, but now it’s a measly two with only Tyler Toffoli and Mikael Backlund performing better than I expected.

I highlighted why this season was depressing even though more players were playing better than my expectations than players performing worse at the midseason mark. The reasoning I had was that the players playing worse held more weight to the team than the players outperforming my expectations which was true. This can still be applied now and to add onto it, some players that surpassed now only met and some now did not meet.

Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire

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