Despite the Calgary Flames failing to make the postseason in 2022-23, there are still plenty of reasons for Flames fans to tune in. The franchise has a ton of former players taking part in the postseason this year, including some pretty prominent players that are stealing headlines. It seems like every other day this postseason there’s another story about a former Flame having a big night whether on the scoreboard or elsewhere.
Some examples are success stories you can root for, while others are a painful reminder of what could have been. Let’s take a look at every former Flame in the second round of the 2022–23 playoffs and how they’ve performed thus far.
The Flames rival to the north has a couple Calgary representatives—one of whom is Derek Ryan. Ryan was one of the more underrated Flames during his time with the team, and many fans hoped he would re-sign in Calgary back in 2021. At 36 years old, his role on the Oilers has been minimal, as he’s mainly skated on the team’s third or fourth line and is averaging 11 minutes a night. He’s also posted just one point in six games.
That said, he’s still posting insane underlying numbers. He actually leads the entire playoffs for CF%, xGF%, and HDCF%. It’s certainly not enjoyable for Flames fans to see Ryan continue his elite defensive play for their rival after walking in free agency.
Another former Flame who flew under the radar in Calgary but now plays in Edmonton is Brett Kulak. Kulak was acquired by the Oilers as a rental last season, but has stuck around as a mainstay in the Oilers lineup since. He’s currently playing on the team’s third pairing and has one point in seven games while averaging 15 minutes a game.
Like Ryan, his impact has come away from the scoresheet. He currently ranks first among all active defencemen in the playoffs for CF%, and second for both xGF% and HDCF%. Needless to say it stings to see Kulak put up such impressive results in Edmonton after the Flames traded him away for pennies.
Toronto Maple Leafs
If there’s one guy you can root for in these playoffs as a Flames fan, it’s former captain Mark Giordano. Giordano spent 15 years in Calgary yet this season was his first trip to the second round. The Flames truly failed him during his time here so it’s nice to see him finally get some extended playoff action at age 39—even if it is for the Leafs.
As expected of a 39-year-old, Giordano’s role on the Leafs has been pretty minimal as he’s acted as their number six defenceman and has two points in eight games. It’s been a rocky playoffs so far for Giordano, but regardless it’s great to see the Flames’ longest serving player in franchise history get to challenge for the Stanley Cup.
Another longtime Flames defender in T.J. Brodie is also finally experiencing some playoff success this season in Toronto. Brodie played in Calgary for 10 seasons and made the second round just once in 2014–15. Unlike Giordano however, Brodie is still a key contributor in the NHL and is currently second on the Leafs in ice time with nearly 23 minutes a game.
In their Round 1 series win against Tampa Bay, Brodie played on the team’s top pair and penalty kill unit. He may not have a ton of points right now, but he’s been one of Toronto’s key players thus far in the playoffs at age 32. Like Giordano, it’s easy to root for Brodie.
Calle Jarnkrok’s time in Calgary was short but memorable for all the wrong reasons. Acquired at the deadline last season he would manage just one goal in 29 games with the Flames. He matched that total in one single playoff game in Toronto, scoring in Game 1 of their first round series. That said, he hasn’t scored since.
Jarnkrok has played up and down the lineup in Toronto, sitting at around 14 minutes a night with three points in eight games. He also plays on Toronto’s second penalty kill unit. When the Flames acquired him, they were looking to get the Swiss-army knife player Jarnkrok has been this year.
Although it’s very easy to forget, Erik Gustafsson is a former Flame. The current Leafs defencemen was picked up at the 2020 deadline by Calgary and played 17 games for the Flames between the regular season and playoffs before leaving that same year in free agency.
Gustafsson is currently listed as Toronto’s eighth defenceman and has suited up for one single game thus far, logging just seven minutes of ice time.
New Jersey Devils
One of the more divisive Flames players in recent memory in Dougie Hamilton is looking to make his second trip to the Conference Finals since being dealt by Calgary in 2018. Hamilton had a monster regular season as one of the Devils’ best players, and has continued that strong play in the postseason. He’s currently skating on the Devils’ top pair and power play unit.
He hasn’t been putting up a ton of offence, but his underlying numbers have been great thus far in the postseason. He ranks 11th among defencemen for CF%, fifth for xGF%, and third for HDCF% in the playoffs. We miss you Dougie.
We saved the best and most painful team for last. Matthew Tkachuk’s torrid pace thus far was the inspiration for this post. He’s taken over the 2023 playoffs. Tkachuk is performing in the playoffs exactly how Flames fans always pictured he would—just for a different team. He currently leads the entire playoffs in both points and assists. His 10 points at 5v5 are also first in the league.
During Tkachuk’s time in Calgary, it’s fair to say we never got to witness a single healthy, peak Tkachuk playoff run. In 2016–17 and then in 2018–19 he was only 19 and 21 respectively. In 2019–20 he was forced out with a concussion in the first round. Last season in 2021–22 he suffered a hand injury in Game 1 of the playoffs that hampered him the rest of the way.
Overall in 27 playoff games with the Flames across four playoff runs, he managed 15 points. This season in Florida he’s already matched that total with 15 points in nine games. His 10 assists are already more than the eight he posted in his 27 playoff games in Calgary.
Tkachuk and the Panthers actually finished the regular season with fewer points than the Flames and were a single regular season loss away from missing the playoffs entirely. However with the Panthers now sitting just two wins away from the Conference Final on the back of Tkachuk. They’ve already made it further than the Flames ever progressed in six seasons with him in the lineup.
So far this playoffs, he’s the front-runner for the Conn Smythe Trophy.
It’s playoff time, which means it’s time for Sam Bennett to turn it on. He’s called Playoff Sam Bennett for a reason, as he always kicks it up a notch come the postseason. Despite his lack of success in Calgary, he was always one of the team’s top players in the playoffs.
After an abysmal showing in the playoffs for Florida last year, Bennett is back to his old ways this year. He’s currently sitting on four goals and seven points in eight games and ranks fourth on the Panthers in scoring. To make things even more painful, Bennett has been centring Tkachuk on the Panthers’ second line that has wreaked havoc all playoffs.
It was never going to work in Calgary no matter what some people suggest, but it’s still painful to see the team’s highest draft pick in franchise history achieve playoff success elsewhere.
Ryan Lomberg is of course a lesser known former Flames but he spent six years in the Flames organization and suited up for 11 NHL games. After signing with the Panthers in 2020, he became a full-time NHLer immediately. In the playoffs this season he’s played primarily on the Panthers’ third line averaging about 12 minutes a game.
Unfortunately he went down with an injury in Game 4 of the first round and hasn’t played since. In the four games he played he had no points. Lomberg isn’t a world beater, but once again it’s not great seeing a player the Flames developed and had right under their nose go on to become an NHLer elsewhere.
A painful postseason
Somehow the Flames have managed to inflict a lot of pain on us this postseason despite not even playing. The amount of former Flames in the postseason this year seems much higher than normal, with some easy to root for while others are a tough reminder of things gone wrong in the organization. Here’s hoping we can watch current Flames next season.
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