‘I’ve had a lot of chances, but haven’t been able to put them in’: Elias Lindholm scored against the Blackhawks, but his overall play has been questionable

Photo credit:Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
4 months ago
The big name from the Calgary Flames on all the trade boards around the NHL media sphere is the Swedish centre Elias Lindholm. On Frank Seravalli’s Dec. 2 edition of his trade targets list, Lindholm was the first name to appear, and for good reason. He has the ability to transform a Stanley Cup potential roster to a Stanley Cup-contending roster because of where he plays in the lineup and what he can do with elite linemates.
However, for teams that are looking to trade for him, they have to be sure that they can trust Lindholm will return to being somewhat close to the player he was with Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk on his wings instead of what he currently is.
What he currently is now isn’t good enough to get as much as some Flames fans might want in return (say, Bowen Byram), given his play and his contract status. In his post-game interview after the 1-0 win against the Chicago Blackhawks, where he scored the only goal on the power-play, he noted that he feels like he’s had lots of chances recently, but he hasn’t been able to score as much and it’s nice to see one hit the twine.
“It’s been a while. I’ve had a lot of a chances, but haven’t been able to put them in. So, it’s always nice to score again and obviously to help the team win.”
It’s true, Lindholm has been below average offensively this season, and it shows. He has 32 points in 49 games, which on the surface isn’t awful, but if he were to keep his current goal-scoring pace, it would be the lowest of his career since his 22-year-old season in 2016-17 with the Carolina Hurricanes. He’s also averaging the most ice time per game in his entire career at 20:45, which is two and a half minutes more than he was averaging that specific season and just over two minutes more than he was last season under Darryl Sutter. For even more context, Lindholm went 15 games without scoring a goal, starting on December 23rd and ending the skid on Jan. 27, so over a month without a tally.
To add to this argument, his analytics aren’t good either. Per Evolving-Hockey, he’s second-to-last in expected goals for per 60 (xGF/60), only ahead of the former Flames forward and fourth-line centre, Adam Ruzicka, and he’s only been about average defensively.
Here is Lindholm’s regularized adjusted plus-minus chart from Evolving Hockey:
In addition to that visual, here is his isolated impact from Micah Blake McCurdy’s HockeyViz site:
The best part of these isolated impact visuals is that we can see where the shots are coming from, not just different colour bars representing good or bad production in that specific area. Lindholm, per the viz, clearly loves to shoot from the right side of the ice, and he’s not getting much to the front of the net. And just as the Evolving Hockey suggests, the defensive side of the game hasn’t been anything more than average.
So, while it is good to finally see Lindholm back in the goal-scoring column, it’s obvious that he isn’t playing up to the level that he needs to be if I’m Flames management looking to maximize value in a trade and if I’m the player. The kind of contract extension Lindholm will get now is likely less money than he would have gotten had he signed with the Flames before the season started. The hope is, though, that a team like the Avalanche, who are contending for a Stanley Cup with plenty of elite players to surround Lindholm, is willing to take the gamble, move an asset or two, and acquire him to be their second line centre.
Yes, Lindholm is still a hot commodity on the trade market, but he’s also not living up the expectations that many set for him this season, including himself.

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