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Blake Coleman’s production in 2023-24 was unexpected but not underappreciated

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
1 month ago
If the Calgary Flames were to have any success in the 2023-24 regular season, it would be due to a return to form from the biggest name, highest-paid players. I already wrote a report card on Jonathan Huberdeau’s semi-return to form, especially in the back half of the season. On the other hand, there were players on the roster who have always been consistent in most areas but could have used a big year to help boost the Flames offence. Blake Coleman is one of those players.
Coleman is in the third year of a six-year contract worth $29.4 million, with an annual average value of $4.9 million. He was a huge contributor to the Flames this past season, and watching him consistently hit career-highs was a major positive to take away from this season, even if he doesn’t ever do it again.

The past

Drafted in the third round of the 2011 NHL Draft by the New Jersey Devils following a year in which he scored 92 points in 59 games for the Indiana Ice of the United States Hockey League, Coleman attended Miami University.
(As a current Miami student, I have to say the obligatory “Go RedHawks.” But I digress.)
After spending four years in Oxford, Ohio, and leading some of the most successful teams in program history, he moved on to the AHL with the Albany Devils. He would make his NHL debut with New Jersey in 2016-17, scoring only two points in 23 games. Coleman played a total of 52 games with 29 points in Albany.
By 2017-18, Coleman was a full-time NHLer and was a key part of the middle-six in New Jersey. Over the course of his 237 games played with them, he scored 57 goals and registered 37 assists for a total of 94 points. But, in the 2019-20 season, the Tampa Bay Lightning would covet his services and make a trade for him in exchange for Nolan Foote and a conditional 2020 first-round pick that turned into now-San Jose Sharks defenceman Shakir Mukhamdullin.
Coleman would be one of the most important pieces of the Lightning’s eventual Stanley Cup-winning roster, starring on a tenacious and skilled third line with Yanni Gourde and Barclay Goodrow. But he only played 64 games for the team before being signed by the Calgary Flames as a free agent.
In the two seasons before 2023-24, Coleman played 163 of 164 possible games and scored 71 points, super respectable for a player in the middle six charged with more defensive responsibilities than anything. But, this past season was an excellent example of what Coleman can do offensively on arguably Calgary’s best line.

The present

The past year was a revelation for Coleman. Like many others on the Flames roster, with a new system brought in by head coach Ryan Huska, he found his scoring touch even at the age of 32.
In 78 games, Coleman registered 54 points, beating his previous career-high by 16. He also hit the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career. It was the third time he had even hit the 20-goal plateau, the last time coming in 2019-20 when he scored 21 goals with the Devils before being moved to Tampa Bay.
On a line with captain Mikael Backlund and Andrew Mangiapane, Coleman contributed both offensively and defensively. They ranked only slightly behind Connor Zary-Nazem Kadri-Martin Pospisil for the best line on the Flames in terms of expected gaosl for percentage (xGF%), and they were consistently thrown out against the opponent’s top line to try and keep them from putting goals up on the board.
They did a pretty good job of it as well.
It’s also worth mentioning that even though Coleman didn’t play too many power play minutes, he was used consistently throughout the season on the penalty kill, where he was a major contributor to the Flames finishing ninth in the league in that category. He also finished in sole possession of fourth place in shorthanded goals among all NHL players. He finished behind Travis Konecny (6), Simon Holmstrom (5), and Sam Reinhart (5).
So, even when he was on the ice to play defence, he found ways to contribute offensively as well.
Of course, his high goal total at the end of the season was aided by a career-high 15.7% shooting percentage. His previous was 11.5 in 2020-21 with Tampa Bay. But, he was doing plenty of great things to try and keep the team afloat for as long as possible, and he was one of the players that Huska could throw out on the ice in any situation and be confident that there would be maximum effort and likely good results.

The future

The future for Coleman is an interesting one.
With the Flames where they are in the standings, his value sitting as high as it has ever been in his career, his age, and his no-trade clause moving to a modified no-trade clause with a 10-team no-trade list at the start of the 2024-25 season, there are some supporters who believe general manager Craig Conroy should sell off Coleman to the highest bidder. And with three years remaining on his deal at $4.9 million average annual value, it might not be a bad idea to at least test the market.
But, as long as he remains on the Flames, Coach Huska will consistently use him in plenty of different scenarios. There will likely be a drop in his scoring, as a 15.7% shooting percentage for a player that has had it sit around 10% the rest of his career is not sustainable. But the good news is that Coleman does plenty of other things well, so no one will be worrying about whether he can contribute.
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