The Calgary Flames have scored 2.70 goals per game, which is good for 16th in the NHL – this, despite the fact that their leading scorer has just 49 points this season. They’re one of six teams this year that, 70 games in (give or take a game or two for some teams), does not yet have a 50-point scorer, joining Colorado, New Jersey, Vancouver, Carolina, and Florida: teams that are, as they stand, very much not going to the postseason.
And yet without anyone with particularly big numbers, the Flames are roughly middle of the pack in the NHL in scoring. They have 12 players who have scored 10 goals: everyone in the latest incarnation of their top nine, plus Alex Chiasson, plus their top pairing defencemen.
It’s not as though the Flames are the only team to have depth in scoring – the Columbus Blue Jackets, for example, have 11 10-goal scorers, and they’re tied for third in the NHL in goals per game, so they’re doing something right – but it’s that their depth has kept them afloat throughout the year.
Compare them to, say, the top-heavy San Jose Sharks. The Sharks have four players who have double digits in goals: Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns, Logan Couture, and Patrick Marleau have combined for 102 goals. The Boston Bruins have the NHL’s leading goal scorer in Brad Marchand; their eight double digit scorers have combined for 151 goals. The Flames’ group, meanwhile, has combined for 163. They only have two 20+ goal scorers, but it’s due to everyone else chipping in as well that they’ve been able to stay in contention. (The Sharks, by the way, are 14th in goals per game, while the Bruins are 12th; for all their top end talent, they’re not all that far ahead of the Flames in goals per game.)
Here’s a points breakdown of the Flames’ lineup:
That isn’t what the lines have looked like all year – Micheal Ferland and Michael Stone’s numbers stick out like sore thumbs, considering various lineup shuffles and players coming in at the trade deadline – but it’s a pretty even breakdown. What’s the difference between the top two lines? If you send out a shutdown unit to keep Sean Monahan’s line from scoring, who keeps Mikael Backlund’s line in check (or vice versa)? The fourth line is one point away from having two 20+ point scorers. Remember when fourth lines consisted of a hapless Backlund playing in between two goons?
Now, here’s a thought: what does the lines’ scoring look like when the Flames’ top players have a full season under their new coach? No adjustment period, hopefully no injuries. Does Johnny Gaudreau hit 80 points? Does Monahan go back to being a 60+ guy? What happens if Bennett breaks out (and what happens to his linemates’ numbers along with his own)?
This is an “everything goes right” scenario, which probably isn’t going to happen, but if you add those top scoring numbers we know some of these guys are capable of with this level of depth, well – you get a top-scoring team. That’s where the Jackets are this season; they have the same number of 20+ point scorers as the Flames (13), but their top guys have been scoring a little more than the Flames’.
As things stand this year, everything has not gone right for the Flames. Gaudreau got hurt, Monahan forgot how to play for a bit, Mark Giordano isn’t putting up the numbers previously expected of him, Bennett has floundered, Troy Brouwer is doing whatever it is a Troy Brouwer does. And even with all of that, this team is still middle of the pack in scoring – and four of their 40+ point scorers are under 25 years old while the other two are two of the most reliable two-way forwards you can think of, so there isn’t too much reason to think there will be much of a drop off amongst those guys.
A smart offseason – another top four defenceman, another top nine winger (or two, unless you’re praying Ferland or a prospect is ready to bust out full time sooner rather than later) – and some young players rebounding, and this could be a formidable team up and down the lineup when it comes to offence in the near future.