Mikael Backlund and Blake Coleman are the pillars of the Calgary Flames right now

Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Munnich
4 months ago
There has been a lot of ups and downs over the last couple seasons for the Calgary Flames. A divide between the roster and head coach. A general manager leaving behind a mess. Rumoured trade requests from veteran players. Hiring of a new coach and general manager. Trades. It’s been absolutely insane for the players inside that dressing room.
However, there has been one thing that has been constant. And that’s the play of Mikael Backlund and Blake Coleman. These two veteran players give the fans in this city everything they have year in, year out.
On the ice, they are two of the most reliable players in the NHL. They are going to shut down the oppositions top lines. They are going to start in the defensive zone and finish their shift in the offensive end. They are going to out-shoot, out-attempt, and out work their opponents.
Just look at some of the numbers these two have produced and their ranking among Flames forwards during a tumultuous, up and down season both with and without each other.
Both Backlund and Coleman rank in the top three of nearly every important underlying number on their own this season. They are above the 50% make in every category while the overwhelming majority of their teammates are below the 50% mark.
Coleman in particular has been impressive. The Flames have outscored their opposition 45-38 with Coleman on the ice at 5-on-5. Without Coleman on the ice, Calgary has been outscored 109-93. Coleman is also tied for the team lead in goals with 28 and is second in points with only Nazem Kadri ahead of him.
When they are together on the ice, the Flames see significantly better results compared to when they are off it.
They produce those numbers while playing against the opposing teams top lines. They start the least amount of their shifts in the offensive zone on the Flames. Backlund starts 33.7% of his shifts in the offensive zone, while Coleman starts 34.29%. The next closest Flame is their linemate Andrew Mangiapane who starts over 41% of his shifts in the offensive zone.
Backlund and Coleman also lead the Flames in the amount of shifts started in the neutral zone and in their own end.
Just when you thought their job couldn’t get any more difficult. They also play a major role on the penalty kill. The toughest minutes you can play during a hockey game. Backlund leads the team in short handed ice time and it’s not even close. While Coleman is behind him in second.
Coleman is so dominate on the PK, that the Flames have only been outscored 9-7 with him on the ice killing penalties. 92 forwards in the NHL have played at least 100 minutes on the PK. Coleman is first in goals for percentage (GF%), tied for first in goals for while on the ice with 7, and 9th in goals against.
Off the ice, both Backlund and Coleman are essential figures when setting the culture in the Flames locker room and leading the next generation of players like Connor Zary, Martin Pospisil, Matt Coronato, Jakob Pelletier, and Dustin Wolf.
They have held things together during a season that could have easily spiralled out of control. Between the bad start, roster turn over, trades, and outside noise, this season could have become a disaster of epic proportions. But I think one of the main reasons why it hasn’t been is because of the stabilizing force that are Backlund and Coleman.
The Flames and their fan base are lucky to have these two players in their organization right now. They do all the heavy lifting on the ice playing the most difficult minutes. They shelter their teammates from playing against the best players in the NHL. They play the most on the penalty kill. On top of all that they are role models and excellent leaders in the dressing room that is starting to fill up with the next generation of core players.
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