The top 5 Flames players of 2016

It’s been an interesting year for the Calgary Flames. In 2016, we’ve seen Flames all-stars, really long winning streaks, new coaches, new goalies and a spring without playoff hockey.

As your friends at FlamesNation look back on 2016, we’ve selected the five players that performed the best over the past 12 months.

Honourable Mentions

We have three honourable mentions:

  • Michael Frolik led the Flames in shorthanded goals and was one of their leaders in puck possession metrics.
  • Chad Johnson joined the team in the fall as a backup and ended up going on a heck of a run near the end of the year. He ended up leading the team in most goaltending categories.
  • Matthew Tkachuk was drafted by the Flames in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft, made the team out of camp as an 18-year-old and ended up leading the team in puck possession.

5: Sean Monahan

Calgary’s top offensive center, Monahan was second on the club in goals over the past 12 months and led the Flames in game-winning goals. His puck possession numbers weren’t fantastic, though, and he struggled with consistency – particularly to kick off the 2016-17 side of the year.

4: Mark Giordano

Calgary’s captain played in every single game for the club in 2016. He represented his team at the NHL All-Star Game in Nashville in late January, though that was admittedly more of a product of reputation and his performance in late 2015. He was among the team leaders in assists and power play points, and he was fourth among team regulars in puck possession.

3: Dougie Hamilton

In his first full calendar year as a Flame, Hamilton was the team’s best defenseman. He scored slightly more than Giordano did, led the team in shots on goal, was second in game-winning goals and was just a hair behind Giordano in puck possession numbers.

2: Johnny Gaudreau

Easily Calgary’s most dangerous player, Gaudreau missed some time due to injury and struggled with inconsistency to begin the 2016-17 season. Despite those occasional struggles, Gaudreau’s highs were the highest of anybody else on the team. He represented the Flames in the NHL All-Star Game and scored at just shy of a point-per-game pace despite being the player most targeted by opposition defenders.

1: Mikael Backlund

2016 was the Year of Backlund. He was a model of consistency for his club, combining responsible two-way play (he was second in puck possession behind only Tkachuk) with offensive prowess while playing every game. He actually led the team in goals, was tied for the lead in shorthanded goals and second on the club in game-winners. All that while being relied upon to shut down the town opposition lines.

  • Foximus

    If the Flames young guys keep developing and their stars become consistent this team has a very solid foundation. The fact that support guys like Backlund and Frolik are mentioned is very encouraging. Gio should be replaced by Brodie soon enough and maybe the Johnson/Elliot combo becomes a dependable duo in the crease.

    All said – Treliving has done an amazing job with the Flames. He’s their #1 most impactful team member.

  • Kensington

    I think we all know JG is our most talented player and agree with your choice of Backlund as our best player as his two way shut down game combined with point production here and there was great to watch. GFG

    • Brodano12

      Man you just can’t seem to admit that Backlund is actually a good player, can you? If Tkachuk is the reason he’s doing so well right now, does that mean Joe Colborne is the reason he did so well in the second half of last year?

  • freethe flames

    And this article is why we remain a bubble team at best. Until we can honestly say that: Johnny/Monny/Tkachuk/Bennett/Dougie and TJ are the best Flames night in and night out we will remain a team fighting for an identity. That is not to say that Backs has not earned the nod for the calendar year 2016 but lets be clear he is a 3rd line 2 way forward who we expect 40 points from.

    • Baalzamon

      Yeah… a third line forward who is elite defensively and scores second line numbers…

      Seriously, people have a weird perception of league wide scoring. Since when is a 40-50 point scorer a third liner?

      • Kevin R

        I am on the Freetheflames side with perception of the start of the year. Backlund had offensive streaks but he also vanished for streaks as well, hence the WW venom. I found him frustrating at times the last few years as well. This year is the best, the most consistent I have seen Backs offensively. Yes he had the possession numbers previously, but his shots were not dangerous as a whole. This year, he has the numbers but the biggest difference is the shots & chances are way better/dangerous. It’s caused me to rethink what we have in him & whether or not he is one of our top 6 core forwards.

        I know we have had our debates on Backlund before. I think maybe FN needs to look a little closer & past the rose glasses of the analytics super hero & really decide what Backlund is & will be for the Flames. If his 45-55 points is a Elite 2nd line offensive/shutdown centre on most teams in the NHL, he will be getting paid as one. Assuming the cap won’t be going up too dramatically for the next 2-3 years, how do we financially balance our top 6 forwards & be able to have the right supporting players to be a contender. Also keep in mind Backlund will e 29 when he gets his last big shot at cashing in on a long term deal. Say what you want, but he is on pace for a 25 goal 55 point season. If he duplicates that next year, he will get Andrew Ladd/Okposo/Backes type of money as a UFA.

        So maybe we need to decide who the top line centre will be, Bennett or Monahan. Me as a GM would rather spend my $$$ on the top two lines & cheap out on the 3rd & 4th with good prospects we develop & bargain UFA signings like Versteeg. Our hole is RW, can Monahan or Bennett play that position? This may not be an issue Tre has to deal with this year, but next year I see a lot of FN posts & discussion on Backlunds new contract.

      • freethe flames

        When(if) Bennett and Monny are playing as many of us project(hope) they can he is a 3rd line center. I have no problem with that; I like Backs and feel we have a very good contract for him at this point. I have stated many times in the past that I see a good team as having a line which averages over 60 points per player, a second line over 50 points and a third line @40 points a player. The 4th line over 20; each line playing different roles but still contributing O. So I look at Frolik/Backs as being ideal 3rd liners: getting their @40 points, being very good defensively, playing on special teams and driving possession. To me that’s what an ideal 3rd line does.

        • Baalzamon

          Again, you have a very unrealistic perception of offensive production. Last season the Blues had just five players with more than forty points. FIVE! And one of those was Shattenkirk, a defenseman. The Blackhawks also had just four forwards with more than forty, same with the Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators, and the Rangers, Sharks, and Penguins had just five each.

          Your “ideal 3rd line” is, pretty much by definition, a second line.

  • Brick

    Backlund is the best center on the Flames. This team will not become a contender until our other centers improve quite a bit from where they are now. You can’t have only one center that drives possession if you expect to go anywhere in the playoffs.

    • MontanaMan

      Agree 100%. Not taking anything away from Backlund as he’s having a great year, but he simply can’t be the Flames best centre if the Flames expect to contend. Bennett and Monahan need to get it going, moving Backlund to the 3C role where he is best suited.

      • Baalzamon

        Okay, I’m really, really curious about this: On what do people base the assertion that Backlund is best suited to a third line role? Even if you discount Backlund’s defensive ability for some reason (which is legitimately top 3 in the entire league, btw), he’s still a 40 point scorer (and he hasn’t scored below a 40 point pace in FIVE YEARS). None of the St Louis Blues, Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators, San Jose Sharks, New York Rangers, or Pittsburgh Penguins had more than five forwards with forty or more points last season, which pretty much by definition makes 40 points second line production, ignoring two-way contributions (I know that’s only seven teams, but that’s out of seven total that I looked at. I’m also aware that I ignored players who scored at the right pace but didn’t play enough games, but one of the arguments against “top six forward Mikael Backlund” has long been that he’s “injury prone,” and it’s been some time since he missed a game).

  • Derzie

    Didn’t need to read the article. Backlund worship is strong here. Ignoring him (he’s not #1), the list is still skewed to this season (not Jan-Apr). Like all year end lists, they are opinions and both wrong and right depending on the reader. As long as the nation overrates Backlund, I’m doing my part to balance it by under-rating him.

    • piscera.infada

      This is about the calendar year, not this season. Tkachuk–as good as he’s been–has only been in the organization for three months. The fact that he’s an “honorable mention” is impressive in itself.