The Calgary Flames have turned things around of late, winning four of their last six games. Despite the recent wins, the team still ranks 11th in the West and is four points out of a playoff spot. For that reason, the team is still very much in a position to retool and restructure its roster for the future. One of the centrepieces of any retool will be Elias Lindholm as the 28-year-old is a pending UFA and at this point is unlikely to re-sign in Calgary.
Unfortunately for both Lindholm and more importantly the Flames, Lindholm has had a dreadful start to the 2023–24 season. That has seen his trade value around the league undoubtedly drop, which is bad news for the Flames as they hope to recoup some major assets for their first line centre before the trade deadline. So just how bad has Lindholm’s season been and how much should the team worry? Let’s take a deeper look.
The points aren’t coming for Lindholm
After Lindholm’s disappointing 64-point season last year, the hope was he’d see his point totals bounce back towards the 70-point range this year. Instead, he’s been producing at nearly the same rate as last year, if not worse. He’s really struggled to produce and regularly finds himself off the scoresheet. Take a look at his totals this year as well as his rank around the league among forwards.
|Stat||Elias Lindholm||NHL rank among forwards|
|PP Goals||0||T-last with 306 forwards|
Yikes. Lindholm’s production has been in a word, awful, for the role he’s supposed to play. These total are even boosted by his big three-point performance in Thursday’s win against the Canucks. Prior to that game, he had just eight points in 15 games. On top of that, he was pointless in nine of his past 10 games before Thursday and hadn’t scored a goal since October 20th which was the Flames’ fifth game of the season.
In particular, his goal production has really taken a hit this year as he’s posted just three goals all season, and none on the power play. He had one in the season opener, one on October 20th, and one this past week. That’s some worrying production from a player who scored 42 goals just two years ago and is in a contract year. He currently ranks behind depth players such as Corey Perry, Tyler Johnson, Calle Jarnkrok, and Sam Carrick in the goal department. Not exactly a ringing endorsement to teams in the market for Lindholm’s services.
His current pace of three goals in 16 games translates to a 15-goal pace across an entire season. That’d be the lowest total Lindholm’s posted across a full season since back-to-back 11-goal years in 2015–16 and 2016–17, his second and third seasons in the league. To be fair he’s seeing some bad luck right now, shooting at just 7.1% which is a sizeable drop off from his career average of 12.4%. I doubt he will finish the year with only 15 goals, but at this point, it’d be a surprise if he surpasses his 22-goal total from last year.
Points-wise he sits 109th in the league among forwards behind names like Tommy Novak, J.T Compher, and of course Sean Monahan. His current point pace places him around 56 points across a full 82-game season. That would be his lowest full-season total since the 2019–20 season. His current 0.69-point-per-game rate is the lowest pace since joining the Flames in 2018.
All said, Lindholm is currently producing like a second line centre and not the high-end first line centre he wants to be paid like. On top of that, his troubling production is going to make it a lot harder for the Flames to get a solid return in any trades if he doesn’t bounce back soon.
He’s not driving play
Lindholm has never been a strong player-driver in his career despite gaining that reputation around the league. He’s more so been the benefactor of elite linemates which he of course hasn’t had the last two seasons which has certainly been evident in his underlying numbers.
This season in particular Lindholm is getting caved in at 5v5. Below are his numbers in some key metrics and rank among forwards with at least 150 minutes at 5v5. All numbers are 5v5, score- and venue-adjusted courtesy of NaturalStatTrick.com.
|Stat||Elias Lindholm||NHL rank among forwards|
If you thought his raw point production was rough, look away. Lindholm has been horrific at even strength thus far, regularly getting out-chanced and outplayed whenever on the ice. As mentioned above, he’s never been a strong play driver and typically piggybacks off of elite linemates, but this year he’s hit a new low.
He currently ranks outside the top 150 in four of the five metrics and is below water in both CF% and xGF%. It’s not just across the league his numbers look ugly, he’s also been one of the Flames’ worst forwards at even strength. Among regular Flames forwards he’s currently second last for CF% ahead of only Dillon Dube and last for xGF%. For HDCF% he ranks second last behind only Jonathan Huberdeau.
His xGF% rate of 46.24 is so low it’s currently the second-worst rate of his entire career outside of his rookie 2013-14 season. In fact, if this continues it’d be just the second season of his career where his xGF% falls below 50, along with his rookie season.
Lastly, his current xGF/60 rate is the worst of the bunch as Lindholm ranks 273rd in the NHL among 283 eligible forwards with 150 minutes at 5v5. Just let that sink in for a second. Only 10 forwards in the entire league are seeing a rate worse than Lindholm. It’s been that bad. His impacts on offence have been among the worst in the league as the Flames have been much better when he’s not on the ice. Graphics courtesy of HockeyViz.com.
The Flames need a turnaround
The season is still young, but the early returns for Lindholm in his ultra-important 2023–24 contract year have been less than ideal. He’s struggled to produce points and is regularly getting caved in at 5v5. He’s looked like a shell of his 2021–22 version that saw him post 42 goals and earn Selke consideration. If he doesn’t turn his game around soon, the likelihood of the Flames getting a big haul in return for their pending UFA centre becomes lower and lower with each passing game.