Calgary Flames

How the 2023–24 Calgary Flames lineup stacks up against last season

Finally, hockey is back. The Calgary Flames will be kicking off their 2023–24 season tonight against the Winnipeg Jets. After what first looked like a crazy offseason on the horizon, the Flames were one of the quietest teams in the entire NHL this summer. As such, they’ll enter the 2023–24 season with a very similar lineup to last season’s team that missed the playoffs.

That said, even if the Flames didn’t go out and make any major changes to their roster, there are still some clear differences from last year’s lineup under Sutter. With a new coach in town—or rather, a new spot behind the bench for Ryan Huska, who has been in Calgary for the past few years—the Flames have been experimenting with some new line combos and will enter the season with some new looks all throughout the lineup. Let’s take a look at how this year’s lineup stacks up against their lineup a year ago leading up to their season opener. Here’s how the Flames will very likely lineup in tonight’s season opener.

Calgary’s season-opening lineups

And here’s how they lined up for last season’s season opener.

Flames forward line comparisons

First line

SeasonLeft WingCentreRight Wing
2023–24Jonathan HuberdeauElias LindholmDillon Dube
2022–23Jonathan HuberdeauElias LindholmTyler Toffoli

Unsurprisingly Lindholm and Huberdeau start the year on the Flames’ top line. The duo are by far the two best forwards on the Flames and at their respective positions so it makes sense they start the year as the team’s top unit.

It’s worth noting that Huberdeau was quickly taken off the top line with Lindholm last year and pretty much never got back there for reasons unknown. It’ll be interesting to see how long new head coach Ryan Huska plans to keep the two together as they haven’t shown a ton of chemistry in preseason.

The big change here is obviously at right wing as Dube slides up the lineup to take over for Toffoli who was dealt in the offseason. This is a very clear downgrade. Toffoli was tremendous last season and led the Flames in both goals and points. He’s also had a long history of producing in a team’s top-six.

Dube meanwhile has failed to make a lasting impact in the past when given a shot in the top-six, so this is a curious decision. He is coming off a career-best year with 45 points but there’s no denying he lacks the skill, experience and goal-scoring that Toffoli brought to this line.

Second line

SeasonLeft wingCentreRight wing
2023–24Yegor SharangovichNazem KadriMatthew Coronato
2022–23Dillon DubeNazem KadriAndrew Mangiapane

The Flames’ second line gets a nearly complete revamp going into the 2023–24 season as two newcomers now flank Nazem Kadri. In Sharangovich and Coronato, the Flames are hoping two snipers can add some scoring punch beside Kadri.

Sharangovich, unfortunately, had a very quiet preseason with just two assists in six games and was eventually bumped from his first line spot to the second line to start the season. There’s certainly potential here but a subpar preseason has lowered expectations for Sharangovich already.

The big addition here is rookie Coronato who had an incredible preseason with four goals and seven points in six games. After starting training camp without a roster spot locked down he forced the Flames hand and earned a top-six role.

Overall it’s clear last season’s line carries more experience but this season’s version has some real exciting goal-scoring upside if Sharangovich and Coronato can both reach their potential.

Third line

SeasonLeft wingCentreRight wing
2023–24Blake ColemanMikael BacklundAndrew Mangiapane
2022–23Blake ColemanMikael BacklundTrevor Lewis

This year’s third line is similar but clearly a big upgrade over last season’s version. Backlund and Coleman are in their usual spots but Mangiapane makes his return to the line to reunite what has been one of the best two-way lines in the league.

For whatever reason Sutter decided to break up the Coleman, Backlund, Mangiapane trio and instead went with Lewis on the right side. With Mangiapane back on the third line to start the season, Huska has ensured the Flames carry one of the best “third” lines in the league.

Fourth line

SeasonLeft wingCentreRight wing
2023–24A.J. GreerAdam RuzickaWalker Duehr
2022–23Milan LucicKevin RooneyBrett Ritchie

No line saw a bigger change from last season than the Flames’ fourth line. It’s the only line with three new faces to start the year. Craig Conroy followed through on his promise to add some youth to the Flames lineup and because of it, the fourth line looks completely different from Sutter’s veteran group from last year.

Last year the team’s fourth line carried an average age of around 31. This year it’s 25. That’s a massive shift and one that should provide the Flames with some much-needed speed and skill on the fourth line compared to last year’s gritty, veteran group.

This is very likely the Flames’ best fourth line group since the 2018–19 season and is a real breath of fresh air.

Flames defence pairing comparisons

Top pairing

SeasonLeft defencemanRight defenceman
2023–24Noah HanifinRasmus Andersson
2022–23Noah HanifinRasmus Andersson

No changes here. Despite a plethora of trade rumours around Hanifin this offseason he remains with the team to start the year and will once again be paired up with Andersson on the Flames’ top pairing.

The duo have been minute-munchers together and played a combined 974 minutes together last season, the 11th most of any pairing in the NHL.

Second pairing

SeasonLeft DefencemanRight Defenceman
2023–24Nikita ZadorovMacKenzie Weegar
2022–23MacKenzie WeegarChris Tanev

Huska has decided to split up the defensively elite Weegar and Tanev duo to start this season, likely to keep both Tanev and Weegar on their correct sides and also give Tanev some easier matchups as he enters his mid-30s.

Zadorov was one of the lone positives for the Flames last season and he’ll now get the chance to prove it wasn’t a fluke and he can handle a top-four role to start the year. The duo actually spent 449.5 minutes together last season and posted a strong 56.7% xGF% so there’s some evidence this can work full-time.

Weegar and Tanev were just so good together that we should consider this new pairing a downgrade but there’s reason to believe Zadorov and Weegar can be just as good.

Third pairing

SeasonLeft DefencemanRight Defenceman
2023–24Jordan OesterleChris Tanev
2022–23Nikita ZadorovMichael Stone

The Flames’ third pairing will look completely different compared to the start of last year as Zadorov is now on the second pairing and Stone is in a player development role with the team.

Oesterle is the only newcomer on the Flames blueline. Unfortunately, he’s typically been a below-replacement-level player in the past so he may be a downgrade from Stone. Tanev meanwhile will start the year on the third pairing for the first time of his Flames tenure. Given his injury history, it makes a lot of sense to put him in a more sheltered role. He should be able to thrive and keep Oesterle afloat.


2023–24Jacob MarkstromDaniel Vladar
2022–23Jacob MarkstromDaniel Vladar

The goaltending remains unchanged however what version of the Markstrom, Vladar duo we get this year is a massive question mark. Will it be the duo that finished fifth league wide for save percentage in 2021–22 or the one that finished 24th last season?

Overall we should expect a rebound from both that resembles a much stronger pairing between the pipes in 2023-24. If not, we could see Dustin Wolf as a full-timer in the NHL by the end of the year.

Overall changes for the Flames

Despite not making many changes this offseason, the Flames still go into the season with a much different lineup. Under Huska, the Flames have completely revamped almost every line on the team as they look to find some new pairings and lines that stick and revitalize the Flames’ offence.

Whether or not this rendition of the Flames is better than last year’s is still up for debate, but with an influx of youth in the lineup we could see a much improved group this year despite not many personnel changes.

Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire

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