Are the Calgary Flames performing better without Elias Lindholm on their roster?

Photo credit:Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
1 month ago
At the 2018 NHL Draft, the Calgary Flames acquired Elias Lindholm from the Carolina Hurricanes in a five-player deal that also saw Noah Hanifin arrive in Calgary. Over the next five-plus seasons, Lindholm was a fixture in the Flames lineup. Heck, he was one of the first players over the boards in virtually every game situation.
On Jan. 31, the Flames traded him to Vancouver. 18 games later, it appears that the Flames ultimately may be performing better without him than they were with him.

Team record

In 49 games with Lindholm, the Flames went 22-22-5. In 18 games without him, the Flames are 11-7-0. Their .610 points percentage without Lindholm beats their .500 record with him.
The Flames’ goals for per game increased from 3.04 to 3.44. Their goals against per game increased from 3.08 to 3.33. Allowing more goals isn’t ideal, but the team went from being slightly out-scored (by 0.04 goals per game) to slightly out-scoring (by 0.11 goals) on average.


This is one area where the Flames definitely were challenged without Lindholm. The Flames used a top three centres of Lindholm, Mikael Backlund and Nazem Kadri for the first 49 games of the season, with a rotation of fourth line centres. The club won 51.4% of their draws while Lindholm was on their roster, a definite product of him winning 55.5% by himself. Without him, the team’s face-off wins are down to 44.3%.
Part of that is Lindholm isn’t on the team to take (and win) key face-offs. The other part of it is without him, Backlund and Kadri have to take tougher draws than they had previously, which has impacted their individual results. Backlund’s face-off numbers alone have dropped from 51.9% with Lindholm to 45.1%.
(Yegor Sharangovich, who is not a natural centre and trying his best, has won just 37.9% of his draws since Lindholm moved to the coast.)

Five-on-five play

The Flames, at their core, play a puck possession game that relies on four lines and three pairings to play effectively for them to win games. They are unabashedly a team without offensive powerhouses, so they have to play a specific style.
In terms of five-on-five underlyings, their expected goals for per 60 went from 2.52 with Lindholm to 2.72 without, and their expected goals against per 60 went from 2.55 with to 2.64 without. Their actual goals for went from 2.54 with to 2.91 without, and actual goals against went from 2.67 with to 3.12 without.
In terms of process, they went from losing the expected goals battle to winning it. They’re still being out-scored at five-on-five, but they’re scoring more. (They’re generating and scoring more offensively, but they’re allowing more expected and actual goals against, as well.)

Special teams

The Flames’ power play converted on 13.8% of its advantages with Lindholm and 17.3% without him. From an expected goals perspective, they generated 8.32 expected goals per 60 with Lindholm and 9.58 without him. Both in terms of percentages and expected goals, they’ve improved without Lindholm.
The Flames’ penalty kill killed off 84.4% of opponent power plays with Lindholm and 83.3% without him. From an expected goals perspective, they allowed 8.83 expected goals per 60 with Lindholm and 7.58 without him. Their percentages are worse, but their expected goals against are improved without Lindholm.

Sum it up

Since Lindholm was traded to Vancouver, the Flames have a better win/loss record. They’re scoring more often, both at five-on-five and on the power play, and their offensive underlyings in both situations are improved. They’re also allowing more goals against, both at five-on-five and on the penalty kill. (Their defensive underlyings have improved on the penalty kill, but are worse at five-on-five.)
Generally-speaking, there appear to be more positive than negative trends in the Flames’ game since Lindholm departed to Vancouver. And it’s worth noting that the defensive challenges the Flames have seen could also be related to Chris Tanev and Noah Hanifin being traded as well.
Trading a centre as versatile and useful as Lindholm is never an ideal situation, but the Flames seem to have made the most out of the situation.
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