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Recapping my pre-season predictions: ‘Blake Coleman scores 20 goals and 40 points’

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Photo credit:Brett Holmes-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
1 month ago
After Darryl Sutter was fired from his position as head coach of the Calgary Flames following reports of locker room turmoil and missing the postseason by two points, new general manager Craig Conroy brought in Ryan Huska to be the man behind the bench for the foreseeable future.
With Huska as the new bench boss and new staff coming in to help coach the different positions and special teams, the hope was that there would be some offensive resurgence. The players who struggled under Sutter in 2022-23 would return to form (or, at the very least, close to it), and there may even be some players who hit some milestones.
And for the most part, that happened, especially for Blake Coleman.

Prediction: Blake Coleman scores 20 goals and 40 points

Result: Correct

It’s hard to put Coleman’s impact on the ice and on the general attitude of the fans into words. He played a fun style of hockey before coming to Calgary, and he has continued that style of play under Sutter and Huska. His consistency of playstyle led him to the kind of success he found in 2023-24 in the box score and throughout the more in-depth analytics.
Coleman’s previous career-high in points was 38 in 2022-23 with Calgary, when he played the full 82 games.
He broke that.
His previous career-high in goals was 22 in 2018-19 with the New Jersey Devils.
He broke that, too.
With 54 points in 78 games, Coleman was consistently one of the best players that Huska would throw on the ice, and, more importantly, he always seemed to find a way to score goals, breaking the 30-goal plateau for the first time in his career.
It’s almost unprecedented that a 32-year-old middle-six forward would not only be able to have a massive impact as Coleman did, but the fact that he shattered his previous career highs at this age is nothing but remarkable.
Playing with Mikael Backlund and Andrew Mangiapane, as he usually has since coming up north after a 64-game stint with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Coleman found his stride offensively, but he didn’t abandon his defensive responsibilities to score more goals or register more points overall. He knows what his role is on the team on the ice (as well as off it), and his defense stayed at an above-average level over the course of the season, per his analytics from Evolving-Hockey.
Below is his regularized adjusted plus-minus chart from Evolving-Hockey, and it’s about as impressive as one could hope for it to be for a role player:
Per Evolving-Hockey, Coleman finished sixth on the Flames in goals above replacement (GAR) and third in expected goals above replacement (xGAR). The RAPM chart also indicates that this wasn’t a case of Coleman finishing with better results than he should have on the season. Instead, it’s the complete opposite, suggesting he earned every point that went into the box score.
Of course, it’s important to mention the biggest caveat: the likelihood that Coleman will shoot 15.7% in a season again is very low. It’s the highest shooting percentage of his career, 4.2 points, which occurred with the Lightning back in 2020-21. However, the high shooting percentage doesn’t mean he wasn’t creating high-quality chances to score. His expected goal numbers say he was, and when the process is good, the results will follow.
I picked Coleman to hit 20 goals and 40 points not just because I love the way he plays but also considering he was able to hit career-high marks under Sutter while also having an around-average to below-average shooting percentage, the sky was the limit under a new regime, with linemates that he continues to grow alongside, and a rejuvenated energy in the locker.
I’m glad Coleman made me look good, unlike some of my other predictions that I’ll be covering as we move along in the early stages of the off-season!
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