Now three games into the 2023–24 season, the Calgary Flames sit at a very mediocre 1-1-1. Their less-than-perfect record is in large part due to the team failing to find any line combos that stick. So far this season we’ve seen a plethora of combinations tried up and down the lineup, to little success.
If the Flames want to ensure they make the playoffs this year, they desperately need to find some chemistry in their lineup. So far it’s been mostly the opposite. Here’s how each Flames line has performed thus far three games into the season. All stats are from NaturalStatTrick.com, taken at 5v5, score- and venue-adjusted.
|Huberdeau – Lindholm – Mangiapane||22:54||65.86||67.83||83.20||2||1|
|Huberdeau – Lindholm – Dube||3:52||27.77||13.97||31.79||0||1|
The Flames made the surprising decision to start the year with Dillon Dube on the top line alongside Jonathan Huberdeau and Elias Lindholm. Unsurprisingly, this was a complete disaster and lasted just two periods (who would’ve guessed?) before Dube was removed from the top line. Looking at the numbers, you can tell why.
The trio was dominated in their four minutes of ice time together in the season opener, earning just 27.77% of the chance share and just 13.97% of the expected goal share. In such little ice time together, it shouldn’t be possible to own just 13.97% of the xGF, yet that’s what they did. They were lucky to come out of their two periods together with just one goal against them.
From the third period of the season opener to now, Andrew Mangiapane has lined up in Dube’s spot in the top line. As soon as Mangiapane joined the top unit, they saw a big increase in success. Together the trio has played 22:54 together and has posted a dominant CF% of 65.86 and HDCF% of 83.20. They’ve also contributed two goals for at 5v5, the most of any line this season.
Mangiapane has been a great fit on the top line and it would make a lot of sense to keep this trio together for a few more games to see if they can build some chemistry. Even if the eye test hasn’t been great, Huberdeau has played some good hockey alongside Mangiapane.
|Ruzicka – Kadri – Dube||18:48||65.40||62.17||53.63||1||2|
|Sharangovich – Kadri – Coronato||8:19||27.46||11.63||16.25||0||1|
The second line has been a blender thus far as Ryan Huska has tried four different wingers alongside Nazem Kadri to find something that sticks. To start the season he had two snipers in Yegor Sharangovich and Matthew Coronato alongside him. This experiment lasted just one game as the trio was crushed at even strength in the season opener to the tune of 27.46 CF% and 11.63 GF%.
Going into the second game of the season Huska completely revamped the second line, adding Adam Ruzicka and Dube alongside Kadri instead. This trio has stuck together for the last two games, to some rather strong results. Together they’ve played just under 19 minutes together and have posted a strong 65.40 CF% and 62.17 xGF%. They’ve scored once and allowed two goals against but the underlying numbers look strong thus far.
I’d say it’s worth giving the Kadri, Ruzicka, Dube trio another look as they’ve shown some flashes of chemistry—something this team desperately needs right now.
|Coleman – Backlund – Coronato||21:04||63.40||69.72||81.27||0||2|
|Mangiapane – Backlund – Coleman||7:06||56.25||73.38||100.00||0||0|
To start the season the Flames with the tried and trusted Mikael Backlund, Blake Coleman, and Mangiapane trio. As expected, they posted some elite underlying results, dominating the expected goals and high-danger chances battle. However likely due to the Flames’ lack of depth in the top-six without Mangiapane, he was removed from the third line after just one game to play on the top unit.
The past two games the Flames have had rookie Coronato on the third line alongside Backlund and Coleman. So far it’s been a real solid trio as Coronato has experienced the patented Backlund bump. The trio has dominated the shots, expected goals and high-danger chance share when on the ice together. Unfortunately, those strong results haven’t led to real results yet as they’ve been outscored 2–0 so far at 5v5.
We know that pretty much whoever plays with Backlund and Coleman will put up some solid results, but it’s turning those results into actual goals that have been the issue so far this year. That said it’s certainly worth giving Coronato a few more games here as the dam is sure to burst any game now.
|Greer – Sharangovich – Duehr||18:06||75.54||82.91||81.22||0||0|
|Greer – Ruzicka – Duehr||4:51||38.18||27.71||31.79||1||0|
The Flames have tried a couple of different trios on their fourth line so far this year, with both providing better results than their veteran groups from the last few seasons. To start the year it was the newly acquired A.J. Greer, Ruzicka, and Walker Duehr on the fourth line.
The trio played just under five minutes together and it didn’t go very well in terms of underlying numbers, but they contributed one goal in the season opener. That said, they were getting heavily out-chanced and Huska split them up after one game.
For the past two games, the fourth line has been Greer, Sharangovich and Duehr. This group has posted some dominant results so far. In both of their games together they’ve heavily outshot and outchanced the opponent when on the ice together. A positive sign that the Flames may finally have a half-decent fourth line.
Still a work in progress
The Flames’ line combinations are still very much a work in progress as each line has had multiple iterations just three games into the season. Some lines have had some strong results while others just flat out didn’t work.
It’s still early, but the lack of chemistry this team has shown thus far is close to becoming a concern. Perhaps some recently strong results from the new look lines can carry into the season but for now, it’s still a mystery as to where each player should fit in the lineup.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire