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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 Flames Christmas Wish List

Knowing what the Flames have gone through the last two weeks, our number one wish is everyone comes out of COVID protocol recovered and healthy. We’re hoping to see Calgary back on the ice after Christmas, but before that we’ve got a few on-ice wishes to get to. Merry Christmas if you celebrate and be well!

Blake Coleman: better luck

The Flames signed Coleman primarily for his proven two-way game and ability to go head-to-head with top opposition. Coleman is a smart player that helps drive play, which we’ve seen during his first two months in Calgary. In saying that, the Flames also paid Coleman $4.9 million annually to help with secondary scoring. At four goals and seven points in 27 games, it’s safe to say there’s room for a little more offence.

Encouragingly, Coleman’s offensive struggles seem to be the product of bad luck and percentages as opposed to a lack of effectiveness. He’s generating five-on-five shots (12.7 S/60) and attempts (18.9 CF/60) at the highest rates of his career. Conversely, Coleman’s 5.3% five-on-five shooting percentage is the lowest since his first partial NHL season in 2016-17. If, likely when, that rectifies itself, Coleman’s totals will start to look better.

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Mikael Backlund: a delayed Olympics

The joint NHL and NHLPA decision to back out of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing was equal parts understandable and disappointing. We know why going to China isn’t feasible, but it doesn’t make it any less of a bummer for those of us excited to see the return of true best-on-best hockey. But, as colleague Frank Seravalli pointed out recently, there are many players quietly hopeful the Beijing games get postponed a year.

That outcome would keep the door open for NHL players to participate. And it would keep the hope alive for a player like Backlund. With the league not participating in 2018, and Backlund being 32, this was his first, and likely only, shot at representing Sweden at the Olympics. Backlund has played for his country many times, but a chance at the Olympics would be once in a lifetime.

Juuso Välimäki: more NHL playing time

We can agree Valimaki needs to be playing games, whether it be in the NHL or the AHL, as opposed to sitting and watching. That said, I’d like to see the 2017 first round pick earn some more NHL playing time this season. With six points in six games, Valimaki has been solid while playing big minutes since being sent to AHL Stockton. The more that continues, the better chance of a recall in 2022.

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Johnny Gaudreau: a new contract

This one’s pretty simple. The pending unrestricted free agent is having a great year on one of the NHL’s best lines. With his great start, Gaudreau has added leverage to his negotiating stance, but that doesn’t change were I stand. I believe the Flames have to do whatever it takes to keep Johnny in the fold. We’re talking about one of the most productive players in franchise history. I just don’t see how they’re truly better off trading Gaudreau or letting him walk.

Andrew Mangiapane: home cooking

A league-leading 16 of Mangiapane’s 17 goals have been scored in 17 road games this season. 17 of his 20 points have been recorded away from Scotiabank Saddledome. That leaves Mangiapane with just one goal and three points in 11 home contests. I don’t even know how you wrap your head around splits like those.

If anything, we’re talking one of the most popular players on the team. A few more goals on home ice would be a good way to celebrate.

Sean Monahan: body armour

Coming off major off-season surgery, Monahan’s game has yet to return to the automatic 20-goal form from his first seven NHL seasons. Who knows, it may never get back to that level. But I give Monahan credit: he’s done his absolute best to be effective in an unfamiliar bottom six role.

Prior to the team’s COVID pause, Monahan’s game was showing signs of coming around, which is good news. With that in mind, a little good injury luck is in line for Monahan after all the things he’s played through in recent years. Failing good luck, a solid suit of armour would do the trick.

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Elias Lindholm: some league-wide recognition

I wrote earlier in December about Elias Lindholm deserving to be a focal point of this season’s Selke Trophy conversation. It’s important to start banging the drum for Lindholm early because, let’s face it, he’s just not a household name league-wide. Fans in Calgary know what Lindholm is capable of, so more recognition around the NHL will only help his cause in the chase for a major trophy.

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