Elias Lindholm far and away Calgary’s best new addition thus far

Of all of Calgary’s new additions over the summer, no one has made a bigger impact than Elias Lindholm through the first month of the season. Lindholm has fit like a glove on the team’s top line and has also gotten the job done when shifted to centre. Unfortunately, the gap from Lindholm to the rest of the new faces is large. There’s still plenty of time for that to change, but Flames fans were certainly expecting more from the other four offseason additions.For the purpose of this article, we’re only including established NHLers. That’s because a look at Dillon Dube, Rasmus Andresson, and Juuso Valimaki is coming a little later in November.


Right from the get-go, new head coach Bill Peters publicly stated his desire to see Lindholm with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, and that’s the look we saw to start the season. While many, including myself, wondered whether Lindholm had the offensive upside to compliment Calgary’s top two offensive players, that hasn’t been an issue. His eight goals lead the team through the first month, while his on-ice totals at five-on-five have been solid, too.

53.7 49.6 44.2 57.6

There have certainly been defensive issues with the team’s top line, with and without Lindholm on it. However, I’ve liked how relentless Lindholm has been away from the puck, which has led to numerous neutral zone turnovers and chances off the rush for Monahan and Gaudreau. Lindholm’s work on the team’s top powerplay unit has been strong, too, and he’s been a mainstay there since the start of the season.

The other number that jumps out is Lindholm’s faceoff percentage. At 57.6%, he sits in the league’s top 15 and has boosted the team in an area they’ve been historically poor in. Lindholm’s work in the dot has helped the top line and has also paid dividends when shifted to centre on another line. While the impact of faceoffs is a debated subject these days, I think we can all agree a top 15 player isn’t a bad thing.

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Finally, Lindholm offers important versatility for the Flames, and at all strengths. Peters is able to use Lindholm in a scoring role on the top line or as the anchor of another line further down the depth chart. Furthermore, he’s averaging 4:23 per game on the powerplay to go along with 1:57 on the penalty kill.

Grade: A. It’s tough not to be excited by what we’ve seen from Lindholm. While his 23.5 shooting percentage is unsustainably high, his work so far has him in line for a solid step forward in points.


Neal was brought in for one reason: to score. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened with any regularity through 13 games with Calgary. Neal’s play has been remarkably beige through the first month and if things don’t pick up soon, the five-year, $28.75 million contract he signed in July is going to start making a lot of people nervous. At five-on-five, Neal has been ineffective most of the time with a few flashes every once in a while.

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50.9 49.0 46.3

The most concerning thing about Neal is his individual offensive totals. He’s generating shots, attempts, and scoring chances at a rate below what he’s done throughout his career.

Stretch GP S/G CF/G HDSC/G SH%
Career (before Calgary) 703 3.1 5.5 1.2 12.1
Calgary 13 2.5 4.2 0.6 6.1

There are some good news items here, though. First, Neal is starting to play better and has been far more noticeable in the team’s last few games. His individual totals per game have gone up and moved a little closer to his career norm, and he’s just looked more dangerous to the eye.

As Bill Tran wrote earlier this week, some of Neal’s other five-on-five underlying numbers, like shots and shot attempts per 60 minutes, are closer to his career rates. In saying that, I think Neal is better evaluated when looking at him in all situations. When looking at those, you’ll still find Neal is down a little. His individual shots-per-60 is down to 9.7 from 10.4, while attempts-per-60 are down to 16.7 from 18.5.

Also on the bright side, Neal’s shooting percentage is significantly lower than his impressive career average; that is almost sure to normalize as the season plays out. Finally, it’s somewhat unlikely that he’s completely dropped off a cliff from one season to the next. I think Neal is capable of far more and when we start seeing it consistently, he still has the chance to be an important piece of this team.

Grade: D. I don’t think you can give a better grade than that so far, and some might think me a generous marker. As we discussed earlier this month, Calgary is still looking for the right spot to play Neal on a regular basis. Whatever the case, and wherever he plays, Neal needs to be significantly better than what we’ve seen thus far, although he’s showing signs of coming around.


Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan hasn’t been particularly bad in his first month with the Flames. Instead, he’s been okay and has very much blended into the background as part of Calgary’s bottom six forward group. Ryan hasn’t contributed a ton offensively (12 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 PTS) and his five-on-five totals aren’t anything to write home about, either.

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50.3 45.2 35.1

When Ryan signed his three-year, $9.375 million deal on July 1, most Flames fans were hoping he’d be a significant upgrade from the bottom six options we saw last season. While that’s still the case in a couple instances, it certainly isn’t as emphatic as many hoped. And, at 49.5%, Ryan’s work in the faceoff dot hasn’t been a big step forward, either.

If you separate his contract from the conversation, though Ryan has been fine. Even though he hasn’t been a big time driver, Ryan definitely doesn’t hurt the team at five-on-five. The problem is, signing a contract that carries a $3.125 million cap hit brings with it certain expectations. He’s been okay through his first month, but Calgary was hoping for a little more than okay.

Grade: C.


Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

There was plenty of excitement surrounding Czarnik’s signing on July 1. Multiple reports suggested 20 or more teams were in a bidding war for his services. And, with a pair of 60+ point seasons in the American Hockey League, there was plenty of reason to be intrigued about his offensive upside. Follow that up with an impressive preseason and you can understand why there was a little excitement surrounding Czarnik.

So far, that hasn’t translated in a big way to regular season play, at least offensively. Much like Ryan, Czarnik hasn’t been bad, but to see him with just one goal through eight games played is slightly disappointing. However, I do think we’ve seen Czarnik impact the game a little more than a few other newcomer forwards on this team. That can be seen in his on-ice rates at five-on-five.

60.6 52.3 53.1

Czarnik has spent more time on the attack than not and is averaging about two shots per game in all situations. Knowing he’s essentially shooting at 0% (his only goal came into an empty net), there’s a solid chance the puck starts going in for Czarnik if he continues to shoot it. Knowing he’s been a mainstay on the second powerplay unit, those shooting opportunities likely aren’t going anywhere.

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Grade: B. I know the offensive totals aren’t anything to write home about, but Czarnik has generally been a good, if not great, player through his first month with the Flames. He’s already been a healthy scratch five times, which I don’t believe is representative of his play.


Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

While the debate about how good Dougie Hamilton was during his three years in Calgary may never end, it’s tough to argue Hanifin has been an upgrade early on. Because they were involved in the same trade, Hanifin and Hamilton will be associated with one another, at least for the time being. Regardless of what you thought of Hamilton, though, Hanifin has yet to show he’s ready for a top pairing role in the NHL.

50.9 44.6 46.9

From a defensive perspective, Hanifin has struggled, both analytically and by the eye. No Flames defenceman has been on the ice for more five-on-five high danger chances against than Hanifin’s 59. Visually, Hanifin hasn’t been overly hard to play against; opposing players are able to gain the zone on him without a ton of difficulty and his decision making under duress has been questionable.

On a brighter note, though, Hanifin has also been on the ice for 52 high danger chances for at five-on-five, which is the highest total among Calgary blueliners. With just two assists, his offensive totals haven’t reflected it, but Hanifin has been decent in contributing to the team’s attack. While I’m not convinced he’ll ever be an elite powerplay quarterback, Hanifin’s high level skating allows him to create odd-man mismatches by joining the rush at even strength.

Grade: C. While he’s been just okay so far, the good news is Hanifin doesn’t turn 22 until January and still has plenty of room to grow. Thanks to his incredible skating and offensive gifts, Hanifin’s ceiling remains very high. I love the raw physical gifts, which is why I still have high hopes.

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    • Squishin

      There are far too many sketchy things with this organization. It seems to be more about appearing saintly to get people on their side for an arena deal, rather than actually doing productive work in the community. The greed is palpable. They have the media right in their pocket, too. Haven’t we all heard the Sportsnet guys gushing about the Flames Foundation for years? Including our local guys. I would love to see a 20-minute segment on 960 exposing the Foundation and comparing it to the others in the coutry. Of course it won’t happen..

    • MDG1600

      Yep, BS like this ain’t gonna get them any taxpayer support for a new arena. I personally can’t decide if Murray Edwards or Ken King is the bigger Jack Ass.

    • Captain Ron

      The real shame is on all of you who SHEEP are so quick to judge without knowing all the facts from BOTH SIDES.
      I have contributed a fair bit to that Foundation through both personal and business donations and have little concern that the funds were being used for anything other than their intended purpose. The Flames Foundation CEO cleared this up today on the air.

      Try engaging your brains before using your keyboards.

      • MDG1600

        The lack of transparency from the Flames isn’t CBC’s fault and any way you slice the numbers they still don’t compare favourably to the other major league sports franchises in Canada. For a team trying to get taxpayer dollars to build a new arena this has now become a PR nightmare. Of course the CEO was on the air today trying to clear things up. Maybe you and the Flames organization should be the ones engaging their brains.

        • Captain Ron

          Blah blah blah your going on about taxpayer dollars and arenas now like somehow that matters here. The PR issue was addressed by the CEO of that organization today and he stated that going forward they will publish their financials. The fact that they chose not to share that info with the CBC is their business and that alone does not mean they are doing anything wrong. So what if their numbers are a little bit different than other charitable organizations. There are many factors to consider which include the cost of the money raised etc etc etc.
          I posted my comment after hearing from both sides which means I am using my brain. Unlike dummies like you who choose knee jerk reactions and condemnation based on how you feel at the moment over knowing all the facts.

          At least Stone Cold took the time to do a little research. That’s a good example for you to follow using your brain to comment.

          I have skin in that game and see nothing there that got me upset. Like somehow the Flames organization will risk their reputation on some charitable skull duggery and fund skimming. Jeezuz come on already.

          Their events are first class and so is that organization.

      • Flames fan since 83

        I read both the article and listened to John Bean from the Flames on the radio this afternoon. (not sure if he is the Foundation CEO or what).
        John threw out numbers like 4 million raised and 2 point something donated this year. And 50/50 do not receive a tax donation receipts. And 8 million in reserve in case of emergency. Like the 75 thousand we quickly donated to Fernie when their rink failed. All pretty weak explanations I thought.
        When asked to explain how the article came to it’s conclusions, his reply was “I’m not going to explain what they do”.
        WTF? I was disappointed because I did want to engage my brain, hear what he had to say about the article and get some answers.

      • Jobu

        Jobu admits to jumping the gun somewhat (and wont get too insulted by your sheep comment).
        It was his first piece of news on a grumpy hump-day morning.


        Regardless, between the two articles, there is very much a he-said she-said thing going on. I hope that the facts eventually do reveal themselves so Jobu can continue to lose at 50/50… or hang someone… however it plays out.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      This is why the poohbahs in the east continue to regard westerners as hayseeds–crooked ones at that. If you’re going to rob the donors blind, at least use some finesse.

    • Jobu

      This makes Jobu sick. 70 cents on the dollar goes to the org? Really!?!

      A pox upon the houses of those skimmers responsible!! Hope you enjoy hell cause thats whats waiting for you.

    • Stone Cold


      Looking at that info not sure how they got 30 cents on the dollar for the Flames. Looks like they are removing the 50/50 proceeds (which make up 65% of revenue) from the the money raised.

      Revenue: $2.4M
      M&A: $0.2M
      Fundraising: $0.37M
      Gifts: $2.3M

      Revenue: $4.0M
      M&A: $0.15M
      Fundraising: $0.78M
      Gifts: $2.0M

      Revenue: $4.7M
      M&A: $0.23M
      Fundraising: $0.7M
      Gifts: $2.2M

      Revenue: $3.9M
      M&A: $0.3M
      Fundraising: $0.9M
      Gifts: $2.8M

      Revenue: $4.1M
      M&A: $0.2m
      Fundraising: $0.65M
      Gifts and Charitable Program: $2.0M ($0.3 Charitable Program, $1.68M Gifts)

      Raised: 19 M
      Donated: 11 M (58%)
      Expensive: 1 M (5%)
      Reserve: 8 M (37%)

      Seems to point to reserve funds.

      If that’s the case and it goes to the charity delayed that’s ok

      They need to be more clear on where dollars are going and they need to have an answer to these questions.

    • Flamesfan89

      Read the article carefully. Imo a fairly simplistic analysis that is based on an idea of what a charity should look like, which is just lazy broad stroked generalizations and conclusions. The foundation runs some higher cost events like golf tournaments, so will have a higher cost ratio. They don’t pocket those costs, just their niche. Secondly, that “donates only 30 cents on the dollar” is misleading.. A lot of the money is in the bank.. Which counts as “not donated”. Very short sighted logic.. I’m not privy to the charity plans but pooling for larger forms of donation could be happening. I’m not part of tge foundation. But have donated at some events. All I’m saying, don’t jump to quick judgements based on this.

      • tank_06

        Exactly they have a “rainy day” fund which isn’t counted towards being donated but is used for donations. As well they were saying on fan 960 they didn’t count the money earned from gambling and donated.

    • Chucky

      Considering that it is a CBC report it is going to be highly prejudice against any “private” foundation. Has anybody actually looked at the numbers and the foundation of this numbers.
      First question do they consider 100% of the proceeds from 50/50 draws as revenue? That would kind of make anything over 50% impossible.
      When they look at events like a golf tournament, do they include the green fees and the food cost as part of the revenue, as an example when we play in our hospital association tournament the tax receipt is for 50% of the entry fee because the rest goes to cover expenditures. I have not played in the Flames Charity tournament so question how much of the cost is considered revenue for the Foundation.
      I am not familiar with the accounting done for this report but don’t take most of these things at face value.

  • Squishin

    Good article. I agree with all of the grades, except for Czarnik’s. It’s too generous. He’s been gifted minutes on the second line, plus powerplay time, and has done nothing productive with it so far. Aside from his speed, I haven’t seen anything else to write home about. C would be a more appropriate grade.
    Hopefully the rest of these guys can pull their socks up as well. I agree with the assessments of Neal and Hanifin – they have not been as dynamic as we all hoped.
    Lindholm has been a pleasant surprise. I love the work ethic. It creates so much offence when there’s someone who will play hard on both sides of the puck.

  • Baalzamon

    Hanifin’s numbers alongside Hamonic are (strangely) fantastic though.

    The HDCA numbers for the whole team are a bit out of whack at the moment, mostly because of the New York game. I do think they’re better in that regard than they look right now (especially with Hamonic healthy).

    • Off the wall

      I found this interesting.

      The only negative GF/60 ,GA/60 5 vs 5 play, has 3 Flames players in the minus column. Via hockey reference.

      Jankowski, Neal and Valamaki.

      I’m not trying to single anyone out, just making an observation.
      I understand the grade for Neal.

      Our other new players, Lindholm, Czarnik, Hanifin and Ryan are making some kind of contribution to the team, albeit in 13 games.

    • Korcan

      Hey Baalzamon, as you can see in my post, below, i was curious about this very thing re. Hanafin’s number with and away from Hamonic. How big of a difference is there? Visually, there is a noticeable difference, but i wasn’t sure the stats would support what i am seeing.

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Neal will come around to his former self by early December. This may not be soon enough for many fans, but this is what I see happening based on observations of progress through the team’s first 13 games.

  • Garry T

    Hanifin and Ryan are really playing well. Neal is settling in nicely. He is talking to his new line mates. He will be alright. Czarnik is a buzsaw and needs some puck luck.

    • Luter 1

      Gary been smoking since legalization? Ryan is horrible, plain and simple and have no idea how he will improve, small, timid, alright skater and no shot I have seen. Little stick handling doesn’t make you an NHLer

  • scottso

    Hanifin and Ras are the same age. We seem to expect the world from Hanifin right now, but are constantly talking about how Ras is just starting out and just getting good (yet sheltered). Both have seemed great to me. Here’s hoping they’re both top-4 in coming years.

  • Korcan

    “There are some good news items here, though. First, Neal is starting to play better and has been far more noticeable in the team’s last few games. His individual totals per game have gone up and moved a little closer to his career norm, and he’s just looked more dangerous to the eye.” Agreed.

    I actually agree with Steinberg on all five of the players. I do think Neal, Czarnik, and Ryan are all struggling with bad luck and simply developing chemistry with new (and ever changing) linemates.

    I am curious to know if there is much difference in Hanafin’s stats with Hamonic vs. away from Hamonic. Simply by using the eye test, he looks to be much better with Hamonic than he was in the games when Hamonic was injured. Does the data support this? Either way, i think, based on what I’ve “seen” so far, Valimaki is more likely to be the future pairing left d than Hanafin. Hanafin is going to be good, but Valimaki looks like he is going to be exceptional. Calgary’s future looks bright on d, especially considering the ages of Valimaki, Hanafin, and Andersson. Then there is still Kylington who is off to a great start with the Heat.

    • Longshot1977

      It’s not. I’ve been thinking this since about Game #3.

      I’ve lost track of the number of times that Neal seems unready when the puck lands on his stick in a High Danger location.

    • Off the wall

      I don’t know what to read into this, but there’s something amiss.

      Point shares- take the combination of points generated by offensive play and defensive play- that have contributed to the overall points of each player.

      The only players in the negative value, in other words, their play hasn’t resulted in any points are:

      Neal, Ryan, Dube, Jankowski and Valamaki. I can understand two rookies on here.

      The other 3?

    • canadian1967

      Apparently whatever Brand of sticks Neal has been using was bought out by Bauer, and now he is having to try different stick brands and patterns trying to find something that works for him.
      Obviously he hasn’t found a stick that he is comfortable with yet.
      Here’s hoping some Sporting goods store finds a forgotten bundle in the basement and sends them to the Dome for #18.

  • MDG1600

    HELLO WEBSITE ADMIN – Not sure if there is such a person but it would be nice to fix up the Roster and Stats pages on FN so they are up to date. I occasionally go to check something only to see Stats for only 8 skaters and a roster from Oct 2017.

  • Sven

    Lindholm is what a top 5 draft selection is supposed to look like

    Czarnik deserves more ice time – his 5 on 5 numbers place him as the Flames 6th most effective forward

    Neal and Ryan are very disappointing-

    and off topic –

    but what the he!! happened to Jankowski?

    • Justthateasy

      Jankowski’s stick is way too long. He can’t work in close and he tries to reach from 6 feet away. Maybe it’s a body checking avoidance mechanism.

  • Rudy27

    Read on SportsNet that Laine only has 3 goals (1 more than Neal) for a total of 5 points. Wonder if the Jets fans are bashing him and their GM, and crying for trade?