Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Adam Ruzicka flashed early offensive potential before being parked in the press box
9 months ago
One player almost certain to benefit from the Calgary Flames off-season coaching switch will be that of Adam Ruzicka. A player who was actively contributing and helping the team win before seeing himself parked in the press box for the latter half of the season.
Some have vilified Ruzicka’s work ethic online, to which I say hogwash. When playing centre sometimes you have to be semi-stationary in a supporting role on the wall. Then from a “stand still” (most guys keep their feet moving a bit) you have to start skating at higher speeds. With those long strides of his I can imagine why some people think he’s not moving very fast, but he is.
His nose for offence in the offensive zone is his biggest weapon that got caged in 2022-23, but many others suffered the same fate. Ruzicka is not shy to shoot the puck if in a dangerous area of the ice without waiting to look off for passes. It creates more goal mouth scrambles and rebound opportunities. He especially was able to show this tendency off whenever deployed out with the second power play unit.
Questions about whether or not he would work on the wing were answered when he found instant chemistry alongside Mikael Backlund and Blake Coleman, but many players found success there too (Andrew Mangiapane, Jonathan Huberdeau). He didn’t actively contribute to any egregious amounts of defensive mishaps either – to rephrase that: he didn’t mess up any more or often than the next guy.
To me Ruzicka really did show he has what it takes to score points at the NHL level. Through Darryl Sutter’s school of hard knocks I’m sure he grew as a defensive forward as well. As the Flames get younger and in need of more cheap contracts against the cap, Ruzicka at under $800,000 should find himself with plenty of playing time.
A youth movement may be coming with the likes of Ruzicka, Jakob Pelletier, Connor Zary, Matt Coronato, and Dustin Wolf all set to take on more responsibility as the Flames hopefully get younger and prioritize speed of checking vs. size of checking. Ruzicka with his creative offensive mind and good puck handling (for a guy his size nonetheless) has the potential to be more.
In terms of grading him, well I can’t just write a whole piece without a chart to show why he got what he got – so lets throw one in here.
As usual from a Sutter coached team, very limited in terms of the amount of shots faced against. Averaging less than third line minutes for the season does somewhat limit the sample, but he did play more than the needed amount to make it a true randomized sample.
His offensive touch was easily identifiable to the start of his season. On Jan. 1 Ruzicka was a top 3 player on the Flames in xGF%, CF%, and +/- xG/60 on the team via Evolving-hockey.com. He played 28 games in that span – after Jan. 1 down the stretch where he hardly played – he ended up finishing near the bottom of the team in all those metrics as well dressing in just 16 contests.
It was a very successful start for Ruzicka when he was put in a position to be an offensive player and contributor. When his role was stripped and reduced for reasons I can only currently speculate on, he became a largely insignificant helping piece. His inability to help when the team needed him most was not his doing either as he sat in the press box with Coronato and Pelletier instead of suiting up.
Letter Grade: B-
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