Calgary Flames forward Blake Coleman has elevated his game in 2023-24

Photo credit:© Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports
Raz Devraj
5 months ago
Most of the time a team’s best players are usually its stars, the big boys who are expected to be consistent driving forces for a team. While the Calgary Flames don’t really have that true star aside from Jonathan Huberdeau, who has had a plethora of issues since becoming a Flame, the players who have been this team’s biggest guns are not the ones you would have expected 36 games into the 2023-24 season.  
Yegor Sharangovich, AJ Greer, Connor Zary, and MacKenzie Weeger have all been terrific this season but one guy has stood out more so than the others and in more ways than one. That man is Blake Coleman. 
Coleman was a third-round draft pick selected 75th overall by the New Jersey Devils in 2011. He did not secure a full-time job in the NHL ’til the 2016-17 season where he finished with 25 points through 79 games played with the Devils. 
Accolades-wise the peak of Coleman’s career was winning the Stanley Cup twice with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2020 and 2021 but individually he has been at his best as a Flame, especially this year with his role being elevated not only because of his strong performances but also due to the fact that he has been able to produce in more scenarios than one. 
He has always been known for his work ethic on the ice. A bottom-six role player who brings that grit, who will battle in the corners and win puck battles as well as be someone who can consistently be relied on in the defensive zone and on the penalty kill.
A great example of how Coleman has worked his way into being a top forward on this team this season is the fact that he is being trusted to play in different situations throughout the game. He plays on the third line alongside Mikael Backlund and Andrew Mangiapane, the second power play unit, the second penalty kill unit (which arguably should be the first with how insanely good it’s been), and is now being thrown out during clutch moments at the end of the game when the team is in need of a game-tying goal. The versatility Coleman has shown he is capable of this year has been through the roof. 
Last season marked a career year for the 32-year-old as he put up 18 goals and 38 points playing all 82 games. This season it seems as if the only way for him to go is up. Currently leading the entire Flames roster in goals with 13 and tied with Nazem Kadri for first in points with 26, he is on pace to have another career year in not only points but goals as well. According to Elite Prospects, Coleman is projected to finish out the year with 28 goals and 56 points which would be 6 more goals than he has ever scored in a single season during his NHL career and 18 more points than he finished with last season. 
There is always room for regression and slowing down but the fact that he is getting those opportunities at even strength, on the power play and the penalty kill, I think there would have to be something that seriously goes wrong for Coleman to finish with 18 points under than what he is projected to finish with, meaning that with the way he is playing right now the path towards a career-high in goals and points is right there for the taking. 
Another indicator that Coleman is being rewarded for his stellar play is his ice time. Coleman currently averages the third-highest ice time per game out of all wingers on the Flames roster clocking in 16:29. The two forwards who are getting more ice time are Huberdeau and Sharangovich and don’t be surprised if Coleman’s ice time continues to rise while Huberdeau’s drops.
Ice time is one thing but how does his presence affect where the puck is on the ice? According to NHL EDGE when Coleman is on the ice at even strength the puck is spent in the offensive zone 43.1% of the time which is 5.2% more than how much time the puck is spent in the defensive zone when he is on the ice. The league average for forwards sits at 40.4%.  
If that isn’t enough evidence to support the claim of just how good Coleman has been this season he also leads the team in plus/minus with a plus-14. 
The one area of Coleman’s game that has stood out far more than the rest is his production on the penalty kill. The Flames penalty kill is currently 6th-best in the league operating at a success rate of 84.2%. What makes Coleman’s existence on the penalty kill special has been his ability to score shorthanded. The reason he is able to get opportunities to score on the penalty kill is his constant hound for the puck. Pressuring the defenceman till they make a mistake as well as great anticipation of where the puck is going. He leads the Flames in shorthanded goals with four and is tied for second in the league with Flyers forward Travis Konecny; they’re both one goal behind Islanders forward Simon Holmstrom. Coleman is no stranger to scoring shorthanded. He has 17 career shorthanded goals which has him with 8th-most out of any active player. 
With top players not playing up to their expectations it’s been crucial for the Flames to have been able to get some good production out of their role players. With the way Coleman has elevated his game, he is quickly turning into one of the biggest threats this Flames team has as he continues on his quest toward another career year.

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