All the focus this week has been on the hopeful return to form of superstar Jonathan Huberdeau, but the other forward signed long-term with the Calgary Flames will play a key role in the team’s success next season. Nazem Kadri was incredible out the gate last season, but his play got progressively worse as the season wore on.
Whether this was due to overexposure to whatever venom Darryl Sutter injected into the locker room or something else remains to be seen, but there is no denying that Kadri is a key piece on the team and essential to their success. While last season didn’t go his way, Kadri did develop some chemistry with a few other forwards, and this could indicate who will start on his wing heading into the 2023–24 season.
Using NaturalStatTrick.com, Kadri had varying degrees of success with the wingers on the Flames’ roster. Only considering those who played at least 10 minutes with Kadri at 5v5 and are returning to the team next season, leaves us with eight players: Blake Coleman, Matt Coronato, Jakob Pelletier, Huberdeau, Andrew Mangiapane, Walker Duehr, Dillon Dube, and Adam Ruzicka. Here’s how Kadri did with each of them.
|Linemate||TOI With||CF% With||Kadri CF% Without||CF% Without Kadri|
Kadri did well on shot attempts with almost every single winger he played with, all except Ruzicka. His best linemates for Corsi were Coronato and Coleman, which is an early candidate for a line combo next season. Kadri also had solid numbers with Pelletier over a larger sample size.
The early line that we saw with Kadri between Mangiapane and Dube also shows up here as a very valid combination, and very effective at driving shot attempts.
It’s interesting that Huberdeau shows well here despite a very obvious lack of chemistry with Kadri last season via the eye test.
|Linemate||TOI With||SCF% With||Kadri SCF% Without||SCF% Without Kadri|
Going deeper, the same general pattern exists. Coronato and Coleman are both in the top three, along with Pelletier. Once again, Huberdeau shows well, but Mangiapane doesn’t. Together, Mangiapane and Kadri were underwater in scoring chances, and both did better when split up. Something to keep an eye on.
Ruzicka is, once again, not a good linemate, but in just 13 minutes of ice time you can’t really be sure.
|Linemate||TOI With||HDCF% With||Kadri HDCF% Without||HDCF% Without Kadri|
Looking at high-danger chances—the grade-A ones that generally lead to goals—Kadri’s best linemate from last year was Coronato. It was only in around 14 minutes of ice time, but this is very intriguing. Many are penciling Yegor Sharangovich in on the other side of Huberdeau’s line, so maybe the Kadri line is the best spot for Coronato.
Now the struggles with Dube and Mangiapane are starting to show. They may have driven shot attempts, but they did not do a good job at creating high-danger opportunities and allowed more than they generated. Coleman is a very strong player with Kadri here, and both players performed better when paired up.
Another solid showing from Pelletier on Kadri’s wing—it sure looks like there is something there.
|Linemate||TOI With||xGF% With||Kadri xGF% Without||xGF% Without Kadri|
Finally, looking at expected goals we see a very good showing with almost everyone, but the Dube and Mangiapane with Kadri line is again one of the worst. Coleman and Coronato lead with Pelletier close behind. Huberdeau is also one of the better players, but he performed better on expected goals when away from Kadri.
Kadri’s most ideal linemates
Based on the advanced stats from last season, there is a clear winner here. Kadri starting on a line centering Coleman and Coronato seems like an easy choice and it makes sense on paper, too. Coleman is a forechecker but defensively responsible, Kadri loves to carry the puck, an Coronato is a young sniper. It looks like a good combination of talent.
Another option would be to have Kadri centre the two rookies, skating between Pelletier and Coronato. This would be a speedy and skilled line, good defensively, and allows Kadri to really take the wheel and show the young guns how it’s done.
Now that Ryan Huska is behind the bench and will be promoting a more creative offense, Kadri could really blossom. Hopefully Huska identifies the best linemates for him and uses his knowledge from last year to his advantage.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire