How can the Calgary Flames improve their power play in 2023-24?

Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
7 months ago
In part a consequence of the National Hockey League installing a salary cap in 2005, competition in the league has never been more challenging. In particular, five-on-five play between teams doesn’t feature a ton of margin for error, and really puts an emphasis on special teams to be a difference-maker for each club.
In 2022-23, the power play was a difference-maker for the Calgary Flames… in all the wrong ways. Can they turn it around in 2023-24?

A look back at 2022-23

The Flames’ power play was coached by associate coach Kirk Muller last season. But for whatever reason, they just never clicked systems-wise. They were 22nd in the NHL in expected goals (per 60), 15th in high-danger chances (per 60), 20th in goals (per 60) and 19th in power play conversions. The power play never got hot, and so man advantages seemed to do more to take the wind out of the Flames’ collective sails than to give the team momentum.
They used the 1-3-1 alignment on the first unit, and usually used Nazem Kadri, Jonathan Huberdeau, Elias Lindholm, Tyler Toffoli and Rasmus Andersson as their top unit. (Kadri was the “bumper,” Lindholm played net-front, and Toffoli and Huberdeau both played their off-wings.) That group scored 21 goals together.
The second unit was a bit of a hodge-podge. It was often a 1-3-1 alignment, but also shifted to a traditional umbrella approach at times. The second unit was usually Andrew Mangiapane, Mikael Backlund, Dillon Dube and Noah Hanifin, with MacKenzie Weegar, Jakob Pelletier and Adam Ruzicka rotating in the last spot. The second unit scored four or five goals, depending on how you want to define it.

A look ahead to 2023-24

The Flames made some changes during the off-season that will undoubtedly impact the power play.
  • Tyler Toffoli was traded to New Jersey.
  • Kirk Muller departed the Flames, with Marc Savard being hired as the assistant coach that runs the power play.
Also, there’s a fairly decent chance that Noah Hanifin doesn’t spend the entire season with the club, as he has reportedly told the team that he won’t be re-signing when his deal expires on July 1.
Savard taking over as head coach, along with Ryan Huska’s new job as head coach, will likely contribute to some tweaks in terms of systems and mechanics – though it seems probable that the Flames will retain the 1-3-1 scheme, as most teams in the NHL use some variation of it.
In terms of personnel changes, some players who have potential to get more power play time include Matt Coronato, Pelletier, Oliver Kylington and the newly-acquired Yegor Sharangovich. Of the four, probably the person with the best shot of getting time is Coronato, who’s a right shot (who could potentially replace Toffoli’s right shot on the top unit). Pelletier and Sharangovich should also immediately be in the mix for time on either unit. Kylington could also inherit Hanifin’s spot in the rotation, should he depart – or should the Flames just opt to start working him into the mix earlier on.
Suffice it to say: the power play was a challenge for the Flames in 2022-23. They need it to be better in 2023-24. So expect to see Savard, Huska and the rest of the Flames’ braintrust doing a lot of different things – mixing, matching and tinkering – throughout training camp in an effort to find the right mix and the right tactics when the season begins for the Flames on Oct. 11.

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