Forward line options for the Calgary Flames

Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Munnich
1 year ago
The Calgary Flames head into the 2022-23 season with some new faces who will be playing key roles for the team.
One of the most intriguing storylines to start training camp will be what the forward lines are going to look like. Darryl Sutter has a lot of different options at his disposal with the additions of Jonathan Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri and Kevin Rooney.
Let’s look at some different options for what the Flames forward lines are going to look like as of Sept. 14.
Option 1
Line 1: The trio of Huberdeau-Lindholm-Toffoli makes a lot of sense. You have Huberdeau who is one of the best play makers in the NHL on a line with two of the forwards on the roster with the best shot. Toffoli’s greatest asset is his ability to score goals. Playing him with Huberdeau would likely help get the most out of Toffoli and put him in the best place to succeed. The Flames need Toffoli to be playing at a high level like he did during his first 22 games with the Flames last season. Lindholm has a great shot and could push 40 goals again if he plays on a line with Huberdeau.

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Line 2: Mangiapane-Kadri-Coleman could be a terrific shut down line for the Flames. It could potentially produce similar possession and defensive metrics as the Mangipane-Backlund-Coleman line from last season, but with more offensive upside. Kadri is a better offensive player compared to Backlund which could help Mangipane and Coleman produce more points this season compared to last.
Line 3: This is where things get interesting. You have to wonder how the Flames are going to want to use Mikael Backlund. If they want to use him as a pure shut down centre, Dube and Pelletier might not be the best options to play with. If they want to use him in a more offensive matchups, then Dube and Pelletier could work. The interesting thing about Mikael Backlund is his ability to make his linemates better. He has done this throughout his career with former teammates like Joe Colbourne, Lance Bouma, Michael Frolik, etc. Putting young players like Dube and Pelletier with Backlund could be very beneficial for their development.
Line 4: It’s obvious that Milan Lucic, Kevin Rooney, and Trevor Lewis will be on the Flames fourth line or in the press box as a healthy scratch. Lewis and Rooney can flip flop at center. But this will likely be the Flames fourth line on a lot of nights as the roster is currently constructed.
Option 2
Line 1: The idea of Huberdeau and Kadri as a pair on the top line is very intriguing. Kadri is coming off the best offensive season of his career as he was on an 82 game pace of 100 points. Should the Flames try to take advantage of Kadri’s offensive outburst? Kadri’s most common linemates at 5 on 5 in Colorado were Valeri Nichushkin, Andre Burakovsky and Logan O’Connor. Imagine the type of points Kadri could put with Huberdeau on his wing? Dillon Dube could be a decent fit on this line. He has a good shot and can be an effective forechecker using his speed.
Line 2: Mangiapane-Lindholm-Toffoli has the potential to be a strong shut down line. Mangiapane and Lindholm are excellent two-way forwards. Over the last three seasons, Lindholm and Mangiapane have played 451:25 together at 5 on 5. In those minutes they had a 53.97% CF%, 56.10% HDCF%, and outscored their opposition 23-19. Those results would suggest that is a combination that could work. Toffoli could be a nice addition to that line. He is a smart player who can also add some more punch offensively to that line.
2019-2022Ice TimeCF%GF%xGF%HDCF%
28 & 88451:2553.97%54.76%55.64%56.10%
(All Stats Courtesy of Natural Stat Trick)
Line 3: Pelletier-Backlund-Coleman could be used as a shut down line. Playing Pelletier with two outstanding, defensive forwards would put him in a good position to learn and not be forced to be a key defensive player on that line as Backlund and Coleman would do the heavy lifting.
Line 4: Ruzicka adds a skill element to the Flames fourth line. They could use this trio when playing against top offensive teams in the league like Colorado and Edmonton. Ruzicka proved last season that he can make plays and produce points in a limited role. My only critique of Ruzicka is that he needs to get a little harder to play against. He needs to use his size to his advantage more than he currently does.
Option 3:
Line 1: I discussed this trio in Option 1.
Line 2: The Mangiapane-Backlund-Coleman line was outstanding last season. They were so good that they outperformed the Gaudreau-Lindholm-Tkachuk line from last season in some key statistical categories.
Ice Time CF%GF%xGF%HDCF%
The obvious difference between the two lines is skill level and finishing ability. Nevertheless, the Mangiapane-Backlund-Coleman line dominated their competition when on the ice together at 5 on 5. Darryl Sutter knows this trio works and can be relied upon to shut down top opposition.
Line 3: It would be tough to put Nazem Kadri on the third line to start his time in Calgary. The Flames just gave him a massive seven-year, $49 million dollar deal. I don’t think he would be happy playing on a third line with Dillon Dube and someone like Kevin Rooney or Jakob Pelletier. However, it might be in the Flames best interest to do this because of how good the Mangiapane-Backlund-Coleman line was for the Flames last season. I also added Rooney to this third line to give fans an idea of what the Flames lineup could look without Jakob Pelletier.
Line 4: The Flames signed centre Cody Eakin to a PTO. He’ll have a good chance at making the Flames as a 13th or 14th forward. I have him centering Milan Lucic and Trevor Lewis on a fourth line. This could be a very physical line for the Flames. But there is not a lot of upside with a trio like this. The Flames will need to bring in another top nine forward to round out the forward group in order to put players in the best position to succeed.
I asked fans to send me what they want the forward lines to look like next season. Let’s see what they came up with.
Let us know what you want the forward lines to look for next season in the comments section!

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