Noah Hanifin has been strong offensively for Calgary Flames backend despite lackadaisical team start

Photo credit:Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
5 months ago
The Calgary Flames need players to start scoring. Bad. The players who are being paid lots of money to put pucks in the back of the net are not doing so, and it’s frustrating to watch a team with plenty of offensive weapons struggle to create anything of substance consistently through 60 minutes. However, one player on the backend has done a good job of doing so, and that’s a player whose name has been around the forefront of media articles, Noah Hanifin.
We know the kind of defenceman that Hanifin is and can be when he’s at his best. He’s a solid producer of offence in the attacking zone, and he’s also a strong driver of play through transition (last season, he was third on the Flames in possession zone entries at 5v5 at 59.5% success rate). The Flames, at this point, need anything to happen on the offensive side of the game, and they’re lucky that Hanifin has been a strong catalyst.
In seven games so far this season, Hanifin has registered four points, all of which are assists. He’s also fifth in goals for per 60 (GF/60) and expected goals for per 60 (xGF/60) at 5v5 among all Flames players. He has been creating lots of offense, and his assists against the Washington Capitals help to represent that point as well as anything.
Here’s his first, a creative pass from behind the net to Adam Ruzicka:
And here’s his second, a shot that made it through on the power play:
The biggest problem with Hanifin has been his defence. For the plus-minus enjoyers, they might point to his minus-5 through seven games as a reason to be concerned. I think his expected goals for percentage (xGF%) are sitting at 46.9% despite being well above average in terms of his expected goals for (xGF) output. He’s also second-lowest on the Flames in expected goals against per 60 (xGA/60), only ahead of his partner, Rasmus Andersson.
Of course, neither of those defencemen are meant to be putting up stellar defensive numbers, but at this point, it is a bit of a problem. Hopefully, that pair can get things in order in their own zone because we know how important they are to the Flames defensive corps.
The caveat here is that it’s still very early in a long 82-game season. Things can change very quickly, especially on a team like the Flames, who have faced their fair share of adversities already. What happens to Hanifin and his future with the team is still relatively up in the air, but he’s said he loves the team and the city. There were rumours that a contract extension could be in place very soon, but as of now, we don’t have anything set in stone.
Hanifin has been a major player on the offensive side of the game for the Flames, getting shots through from the point and creating lanes to feed the puck to his teammates. And even though his defensive game could use a little bit of work, he has been a bright spot for this team so far through 2023-24.

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