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An ode to Blake Coleman’s impressive first-half of 2023-24

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
1 month ago
When Elias Lindholm was selected to be the representative for the Calgary Flames at All-Star weekend in Toronto, it was a bit of a shock. It wasn’t a shock because Lindholm isn’t a talented player or hasn’t begun to find his stride, but more because there are other players on the Flames roster that have had better seasons to this point.
Jacob Markstrom has returned to form, and Nazem Kadri has started to live up to the expectations that were set for him, but the one player that many believed should have been chosen to be the representative because of how good he has been is Blake Coleman.
It’s important to mention that, yes, Coleman doesn’t have the “star power” that most of the other players that were selected have. He’s viewed as a checking line forward with above-average defensive capabilities and a knack for scoring goals, which makes it understandable as to why Lindholm was chosen – or why Kadri would likely be ahead of him in the race as well, since they’re both viewed as top-six, high-scoring solid two-way forwards on any team they play on.
Name recognition goes a long way. But when it comes to individual performance, there isn’t a player on the Flames that has been as good through the first half of the 2023-24 season as Coleman. So, I figured it best to pay tribute to the shocking, yet most welcome exceeding of expectations by number 20.
Coleman has played in all of the Flames’ 42 games to this point, being one of eight players on the roster to do so. In those 42 appearances, he has amassed 18 goals and 17 assists for 35 points, which is first on the team.
Even though the 35 points are outside of the top 50 among all NHLers, Coleman’s total of 18 goals is tied for 23rd with the likes of Trevor Moore and Jake Guentzel, a two-time 40-goal scorer. He also sits ahead of players such as Alex DeBrincat, Mitch Marner, Brady Tkachuk, Kyle Connor, Brad Marchand, Bo Horvat, Steven Stamkos, Sebastian Aho, Adrian Kempe, Nikolaj Ehlers, and some guy on the Edmonton Oilers named Connor McDavid.
Yes, you read that right.
The best part about Coleman is not only the impact he’s having at even strength but also the impact he has on the penalty kill. He’s second in the NHL in shorthanded goals with four, behind only Travis Konecny of the Philadelphia Flyers and Simon Holmstrom of the New York Islanders, who both have accrued five.
Coleman is currently on pace for 68 points, which would shatter his previous career-high set at 38 points. He’s also four goals away from tying his career high (22) and is on pace for 35.
As far as the more in-depth numbers go, Coleman is still a way away from the top of the goals above replacement (GAR) and expected goals above replacement (xGAR) charts, but he ranks fourth in both per Evolving-Hockey. For reference, Connor Zary has the lead in both leaderboards with 9.9 GAR and 9 xGAR, respectively, which, in only 32 games played, is utter insanity.
Below is his regularized adjusted plus-minus chart from Evolving-Hockey:
As much fun as it is to read through numbers (total sarcasm), it’s much more fun to look at film and make observations of the big and little things that players do correctly (and sometimes incorrectly). So let’s take a look at some Coleman clips from the first half of the season.
Here’s Coleman’s first goal of the season, a great one-timer from the far side after a sequence of two good passes from Dennis Gilbert and Matt Coronato.

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Here’s Coleman’s second goal of the season, which happens because he’s smart about his positioning. He recognizes that there are THREE New York Rangers in the corner with Mikael Backlund and finds the open space to get a shot off. Scoring on Igor Shesterkin is not an easy feat, and Coleman makes it look easy here.

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Speaking of a goalie that’s not easy to score on, Coleman absolutely sniped a goal short side on Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros after a two-on-one rush developed:

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All of the goals I’ve shown prior to this one have been at even strength. However, the one below is a shorthanded goal. A nice play along the wall by Yegor Sharangovich starts the rush, and Coleman changes the angle just slightly to throw off the Canes goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov, and create the goal.

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Below is probably the luckiest goal out of all of the ones he has scored this season and definitely the luckiest of the ones I’ve shown here in this article. However, they all count the same. A shot from far out manages to squeak by Alexandar Georgiev after another good rush from the Coleman-Backlund-Mangiapane trio.

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And here are two of his highlights from the Flames’ most recent game against the Arizona Coyotes, which was a three-point night consisting of one goal and two assists:
This pass to Mikael Backlund is pretty much perfect:
And here’s his pass to Yegor Sharangovich on the penalty kill, waiting until the defender backed off to throw a sweet backhand right to Sharangovich’s tape.
There are so many positives to share about Coleman’s season, and we’re only halfway through. It’s hard to think of a time over the course of his 42 games played when he hasn’t been useful in some way or another. He’s an essential piece of a line that was, at one point, the only consistently functioning piece of the Flames forward core, an essential piece of the penalty kill, and a consistent contributor at even strength as well.
Even though Coleman likely won’t get the recognition he deserves through an All-Star appearance, my hope is that this article does right by the kind of production we have seen from him. He has been one of the most consistent players up and down the Flames lineup, and his production in the box score and in the more in-depth numbers has been nothing but spectacular.

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