Rasmus Andersson had himself a real rough season defensively in 2023-24

Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Stevenson
1 month ago
As the year went on and the Calgary Flames traded away some of their unrestricted free agents a lot more responsibility was placed on some veteran defencemen. Rasmus Andersson had trouble shouldering the load left on his plate from those departures.

The season

Like everyone else on the roster the first 10 games of the season really proved to be a struggle. New coach, new systems, and new learning curves. At least then the defence corps still had Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev to lean on. After a bit of an adjustment period and some forward recalls things started to look a bit better for Calgary, but not Andersson individually.
There was the suspension for the late hit on Patrik Laine that cost him four games – including the 2023 Heritage Classic. Then came the most stable months of the year where Calgary levelled out there play, but it wasn’t enough to keep him with a consistent partner. He had time with Hanifin and Weegar before the exodus that was the trade deadline.
Afterwards he was asked to carry his own defence pair which did not work out for Calgary. He started seeing high amounts of rush chances back playing with Kylington and especially with Okhotiuk.
Now i’m just discussing what’s happening in the Flames own zone with Andersson, he was more than proficient enough at keeping attacks alive along the boards and contributing to a proper offensive attack. It was just when the other team got a break for a counter-strike he and whoever he was with struggled to keep the chance from being as dangerous as possible.

The numbers

Lets start with the defence – because he gave up way too many high quality chances to be considered a long term option at number 1 defence going forward.
He had a good spot covering down and to the right side of his goaltender, but playing against top competition he faltered heavily. This does suggest the right wingers aren’t doing enough to limit the chances off the wall, but he’s responsible for the front of the net and allowing that volume of chances – directly in front of your goaltender – is never acceptable at any level.
If we look at other models outside of HockeyViz Andersson’s season does not look any better either.
In the Evolving-Hockey model there were 218 defenceman that saw over 500 minutes played. Of those 218 Rasmus Andersson ranked 214th in even strength defence and 212th in overall defence. Here’s his regularly adjusted plus-minus chart – focus on the xGA/60 which is a stat that measures the quality of chances the player is allowing relative to the entire league.
This has got to be an emphasis of correction for the coaching staff. If they want to be a competitive team they either need to A) figure out how to help Andersson improve in his defensive recognition B) change his role to not be so taxing or C) look at moving on from the player.

A noticeable pattern

If we look at Andersson’s entire career trajectory we can see a very interesting inflection point.
At the exact point where he starts to take on first line minutes everything about his game starts to drop off. His 5v5 contributions become a problem when he is playing too much.
The Flames currently only employ him and Weegar as top four options which isn’t a very positive sign once you’ve noticed this trend. With the projected roster they have going into next season I also don’t see any improvement coming in terms of extra help being inside.
All forms of improvement are going to have to come from within Andersson himself.
Personally, I believe in Andersson and his ability to recover. A new consistent partner and some forwards more familiar with what Coach Huska wants in support of the defence will be a positive impact. Will he ever hit Cale Makar impacts? No, but he can be a regularly contributing number 3 defenceman in the National Hockey League.
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