Breaking down the Calgary Flames’ forward lines

Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Munnich
1 year ago
I thought now would be a great time to check in on the on ice results for the Calgary Flames’ forward lines now that head coach Darryl Sutter has been using them for an extended period of time and considering the trade deadline is rapidly approaching. There is a big enough sample size to see what groupings are working and which ones aren’t at 5-on-5.
All stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick 

Andrew Mangiapane – Mikael Backlund – Blake Coleman

The Triple B line (Bread, Backlund, Blake) has turned into the Flames number one forward line. They are the best possession line in the league by a wide margin. What is most impressive about this line is that they start 62% of their shifts outside the offensive zone, meaning they start the majority of shifts in the neutral zone or their own end, and still drastically outshoot, out chance, and outscore their opposition.
This line is relentless on the forecheck. Relentless at winning puck battles. And relentless at getting pucks on net. They are carrying this Flames team right now. That’s how good they are.

Dillon Dube – Elias Lindholm – Tyler Toffoli

This trio has found some nice chemistry with one another. The three players on this line complement each other’s games nicely. Dube brings speed and tenacity on the forecheck. Lindholm brings his smart, 200-foot game. And Toffoli is a natural goal scorer with great hockey sense.
The only thing you want to see this line do more (and it’s not just this line it’s the team as a whole) is create more quality chances rather than relying on quantity. Their HDCF% is very low for a line that is as talented as this one is.

Jakob Pelletier – Nazem Kadri – Jonathan Huberdeau

It looks like Darryl Sutter has found something with this line. They play an up-tempo style of play now that the speedy Jakob Pelletier is on this line. Huberdeau and Kadri have found some decent chemistry together and Pelletier has complimented them well.
This line will start to score more goals with Pelletier getting more time on that line and getting used to the NHL game. Their process is really good, and it’s going to turn into results sooner than later.

Milan Lucic – Trevor Lewis – rotating third player

I excluded Brett Ritchie, Adam Ruzicka, and Walker Duehr from this list because it is too difficult to combine each of their numbers with Lucic and Lewis.
Lucic and Lewis have been the two main pieces of the Flames fourth line over the last couple months.
Unfortunately, they are the one forward line that is not doing their part to stay above water. The Flames have outscored their opposition 90-68 at 5-on-5 without Lewis and Lucic on the ice. When those two are on the ice together, the Flames have been outscored 9-5.
The fourth line is stale. It needs a jolt. A boost of energy to get it back going again. In an ideal world, it would be great to have some more Wranglers featured on this line. Make a line similar to the Mangiapane-Ryan-Hathaway line from the 2018-19 Flames. A line with speed, skill, and tenacity. This current version of the fourth line is missing those elements to their game right now.
The Flames have found something with the top two lines. And it’s looking like the Pelletier-Kadri-Huberdeau line has the potential to work out in the end.
But they need to do something to the fourth line which is giving them sub-optimal performances at 5-on-5.

What would I change?

  • Keep 88-11-20 and 29-28-73 together. Those lines are working well.
  • Bring in a talented forward via trade to play with Huberdeau and Kadri. Someone like a Jonathan Drouin or Jakub Vrana for cheap. A low risk, high reward trade.
  • Sit Milan Lucic and Brett Ritchie
  • Move Pelletier and Duehr to the fourth line
I think the most optimal forward lines look like this:
X – Kadri – Huberdeau
Pelletier – Lewis – Duehr
What does your optimal Flames forward group look like? Let us know in the comments section!


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