2023-24 Calgary Flames predictions: MacKenzie Weegar finishes top 10 in Norris Trophy voting

Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
11 months ago
MacKenzie Weegar was always going to be the backup piece in the return for Matthew Tkachuk from the Florida Panthers. After Jonathan Huberdeau scored 115 points, he was the main grab. Being able to replace the offensive skill that Tkachuk brought to the lineup was the biggest factor, and the spotlight was on the winger going into 2022-23. However, with that spotlight focused elsewhere, Weegar was able to have one of the best seasons of his NHL career, and it’s because he had such a good season that I think he will be able to replicate his success (in a different way) in 2023-24.

Prediction: MacKenzie Weegar finishes top 10 in Norris Trophy voting

Everyone who is familiar with Weegar knows the kind of game he plays. He’s a physical defenceman that is capable of generating offence with solid puck movement up the ice through the neutral zone and stifling opposition with lockdown defence, and he showed that he can adapt to different systems going from the Andrew Brunette Panthers in 2021-22 to the Darryl Sutter Flames in 2022-23. The former was one that relied on speed and precision to create offence through transition, even though it might result in some poor defensive results. One could describe it as chaos with good results. The latter was, as Sutter’s systems always are, run through the defensive zone, relying on structure and focusing more on not allowing the opponents to score instead of outscoring your opponents.
Below is Weegar’s regularized adjusted plus-minus (RAPM) impact via Evolving-Hockey in Brunette’s system:
And here is his RAPM impact in Sutter’s system:
With Weegar’s clear ability to adjust, I have a hard time thinking that he won’t be ready for the changes that new head coach Ryan Huska is going to make when it comes to how the team is going to play through the three zones. And, considering he was eighth overall in Norris voting with the Panthers and 14th overall with the Flames, I’m going out on a limb and saying that Weegar will put himself back into the top 10 of the Norris Trophy race by the end of the season.
It’s no secret anymore that the Norris isn’t an award that a player like Weegar has a good chance of winning, simply because of the kind of hockey that he plays every night. However, if Huska’s system can help him produce even a smidge more offence (which is a huge factor in the voting), it would go a long way to helping Weegar make his way back into the top 10.
Last season in 81 games, Weegar registered 31 points and finished outside the top 10. In 2021-22, he finished with 44 points in 80 games and finished inside the top 10.
It’s important to note as well that the outcome of this prediction is also influenced by the outcome of the season that the Flames have. If Weegar has an incredible season, but the Flames are a subpar team, his individual performance will almost certainly be overlooked. However, if Weegar can help push this team back into the postseason, whether it’s through strong two-way play or a focus on a specific end of the ice, I could easily see him working his way back into the Norris Trophy conversation by year’s end. No matter what, he will be an important member of this squad going into 2023-24.

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