Handing out Calgary Flames 2022-23 regular season awards

Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
11 months ago
Boy, what an exhausting season that was. At the conclusion of their game against the San Jose Sharks, the Calgary Flames gave one last salute to the fans as their 2022-23 regular season came to a close. An up-and-down season full of turmoil, under-performance, and straight-up bad luck ended on a high note, but it mercifully gasped its last breath.
However, with the season ending and the off-season imminent, it gives us writers plenty of things to talk about, both good and bad, and it allows us to talk about them in creative ways. One way, for instance, is the topic of this article, handing out awards to different Flames players for their performances this season. I’m going to use both real and fake awards to take a look back at the players who deserve to be recognized for their play this season on both ends of the spectrum.

Flames Hart Trophy: Tyler Toffoli

It feels like this is one of the awards that isn’t going to be super controversial. Toffoli hit a career-high in goals (34), assists (39), and points (73) and led the team in goals above replacement (GAR) and expected goals above replacement (xGAR) by an absurdly high margin, and the number of times he came through clutch late in a game, especially toward the end of the season, is hard to count. He’s the reason the team was able to remain in the race for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Being able to maintain an expected goals for percentage (xGF%) of over 55 percent for 82 games is incredible, and Toffoli did that too. He was easily the best player for this Flames team across the season and especially when they needed him most.

Flames Not-So-MVP: Milan Lucic

This selection also feels like one that isn’t going to be contested very hard. For Lucic, think of everything that Toffoli did but the opposite. He hit a career-low in points and was consistently a detriment to the product on the ice. His metrics like GAR and xGAR were low, and it was only on a fourth line with Trevor Lews and Walker Duehr where it didn’t seem like he was a complete liability. Those two players made up for a lot of the errors that the veteran forward made. His $5.25 million contract was an even bigger burden on Lucic and his play, and considering some of the things he’s said in exit interviews and the rumours that are circulating, it doesn’t sound like he will be back to don the flaming C.

Flames Norris Trophy: MacKenzie Weegar

Well, at least one of the big pieces from the Matthew Tkachuk trade did well this season. Although Jonathan Huberdeau under-performed due to a multitude of reasons, Weegar did not. He was almost everything that the Flames’ top-four could have asked for. Not only was he a strong puck mover, but his two-way play was also excellent. He ranked sixth in xGF% with just over 57 percent at 5-on-5, third in GAR, and third in xGAR. Weegar’s offensive impact wasn’t as high this season as it was with the Florida Panthers under Andrew Brunette last season. However, the defence was among some of the best in the NHL in terms of high-danger chances allowed. The physicality piece was big in Darryl Sutter’s system, and even though the performance of Huberdeau might have soured some fans on the Tkachuk trade, there’s plenty to like about Weegar’s season, and he deserves recognition for being their most impactful defenceman this season.

Flames Not-So-Best-Defenceman: Michael Stone

There wasn’t really a defenceman within the Flames’ top four that didn’t play at an above-average level over the course of 2022-23. The new addition Troy Stecher was a ball of energy and made a huge impact since coming over to Calgary at the trade deadline from the Arizona Coyotes, so that leaves us with Michael Stone. Despite the clutch game-winning goal against the Anaheim Ducks after coming back into the lineup, it was a very up-and-down season for the depth defenceman. The numbers suggest that he was around average with an xGF% around 50 and sitting around replacement level in both GAR and xGAR. However, the results paired with the sample size just weren’t good enough to convince me that he wasn’t the worst of the Flames’ defence group.

Best Vibes Player: Jakob Pelletier

It didn’t matter whether or not the young forward Pelletier was in or out of the lineup; he was the ultimate vibes player after coming up to the NHL. Although he may not have produced the kind of box score results some anticipated, he made a tangible impact using his speed and skill to distribute the puck and create chances. However, it wasn’t just that he was fun to watch, but it was that on a team full of players who didn’t look like they were having fun most of the time, he did. I mean, just look at this:
And this:
The kid is a ball of energy that loves to be in the position that he’s in. There are so many more clips I could have put in here, too, which is the best part. He deserves this award.

Most Energetic: Walker Duehr

When I think of this award, I like to think of a player that’s different than vibes. Duehr is someone that fans and media noticed every night when they tuned into a game. His physicality, married with speed and forechecking ability, as well as his talent to pry pucks off of players and generate scoring chances through it, made him a huge boost to the bottom six of a team that lacked speed and compete. So, yes, he doesn’t have the same energy as Pelletier, and this explanation is not scientific at all, but I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone within the organization or outside of it that believes Duehr wasn’t an integral part of bringing this team to life when he was on the ice, even if it was by just constantly churning his legs and making something happen.

Unluckiest Player: Blake Coleman

The decision for this award was probably the hardest of them all. If Andrew Mangipane didn’t hit his offensive stride, scoring 11 points in his final 14 games, including 4 goals, I would have made him the winner of this award based on his analytics. However, because he did, I had to look for another winner. That’s when Pelletier came into play, and while there is certainly an argument to be made that he was the unluckiest player of the bunch, he also only played 24 games, and his finishing, according to HockeyViz relative to Coleman’s, was half as bad.
Coleman sits third to last (ahead of only Pelletier and Trevor Lewis) in goals for per 60 (GF/60), and the margin between that number and his expected goals for per 60 minutes is second, only to Pelletier. But once again, the fact that Coleman played a full 82-game season and his finishing was two times worse than Pelletier’s speaks volumes. So, even though he scored 18 goals, and I’d be open to hearing arguments for Pelletier, I’m selecting him as the unluckiest player on the Flames this season.
I hope everyone reading this enjoyed a mini Flames post-mortem regarding this season on an individual player performance level! I’d love to hear everyone’s picks too!

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