How good can Calgary Flames blueliner Rasmus Andersson become?
Photo credit:Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
By Ryan Pike1 month ago
You may be forgiven if, based on the discourse surrounding the hockey club, you would think that literally nothing went right for the Calgary Flames in 2022-23. And no question, a lot of things went wrong. Their defensive zone play wasn’t great. Their power play wasn’t very good. They couldn’t get key stops from their goaltenders at key times. Heck, they couldn’t get many goals at key times, either.
But one thing definitely worked consistently for the majority of the season: defensive stalwart Rasmus Andersson.
In 2021-22, everything went right for the Flames. At five-on-five, the Flames were incredibly potent offensively and very stingy defensively. Their power play was 10th in the league. Their penalty kill was sixth in the league. Their goaltending narrowly missed winning the Jennings for the fewest goals against allowed.
Andersson was a big part of what worked in 2021-22. He was first over the boards on the blueline in every game situation; even strength, power play and penalty kill, usually alongside Noah Hanifin.
In 2022-23, things didn’t go nearly as well for the Flames. At five-on-five, they were still potent offensively but were leaky defensively – and they couldn’t get the aforementioned key goals or key stops at key times. They lost 30 one-goal games, worst in the NHL by seven. (It’s even worse when you factor in empty-netters.) They were one of the NHL’s worst overtime teams, too.
Despite all that chaos and disappointment, there was Andersson: he remained first over the boards in every game situation, and missed out on tying his season-high in points by one. He had 11 goals and 49 points in 79 games after having four goals and 50 points in 82 games the season prior, while forming formidable pairings with both Hanifin and newcomer MacKenzie Weegar.
And this was despite quarterbacking a fairly meh power play and, after missing three games after getting hit by a truck in Detroit while riding a shooter, playing the final 28 games while feeling quite sore (and admittedly not at his best).
In 51 games before his scooter accident on Feb. 9, he had 34 points in 51 games played. In 28 games after getting hit by that truck, he had 15 points. His points-per-game dipped from 0.667 to 0.536, and you could see him missing that extra oomph that allows a defender to beat an opponent to a loose puck or allows him to win a one-on-one battle in the corners.
But, again, despite the Flames seemingly fighting it as a group all season, and despite that meh power play, Andersson was on a career-best 55-point offensive pace before getting hit by a truck.
Andersson’s only 26 years old, turning 27 in October. He’s got three seasons remaining on a very team-friendly deal that pays him $4.55 million against the cap. If Andersson can fully heal up this summer and return to the Flames in anywhere close to the same form he showed for 51 games last season, he could be primed for a breakout season – especially if the Flames’ five-on-five and special teams play bounces back.
Andersson’s steadily improved since carving out a spot as a full-time NHLer back in 2018-19, and we may have yet to see him reach his developmental ceiling.
Recent articles from Ryan Pike