logo

Reuniting the Calgary Flames’ most dangerous trio would be the best thing for Andrew Mangiapane

alt
Photo credit:Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Lacoste
5 months ago
The Calgary Flames broke up their most effective 2022-23 forward line earlier this season, and it’s hurting all parties involved. Andrew Mangiapane, Mikael Backlund and Blake Coleman had been a dominant offensive line for the past two seasons, with great statistics to back them up, but they have been apart for much of the 2023-24 campaign.
With many storylines to follow this year in Calgary, including Jonathan Huberdeau’s struggles, pending free agents’ decisions, and the team’s prospects like Connor Zary, Dustin Wolf, and Matt Coronato, the 2023-24 performances of players like Andrew Mangiapane seem to have fallen down the priority list.
Andrew Mangiapane is having an average offensive year compared to his best seasons, where he scored at a 26-goal pace during the 2020-21 COVID season and peaked at 35 goals in 2021-22. This year, Mangiapane is on pace for 15 goals and we have rarely seen the offensive consistency that he previously displayed. I hypothesized that this could come down to his shooting efficiency and deployment, so I decided to investigate.
This article will analyze Andrew Mangiapane’s offensive habits and statistics to understand how he scores goals and what allows him to succeed, to offer suggestions on what he could do to return closer to the 35-goal version of himself from 2021. 

Process

I began the investigative process by watching every Mangiapane regular season goal since 2021-2022 and organizing each goal into the following categories:
Goal Types:
  • Snap Shot
  • One-timer
  • Wrist Shot
  • Backhand
  • Deke
  • Tip
  • Poke
Goal Locations:
  • Net-front
  • Slot
  • Off-wing (right side)
  • Strong Side (left side)
  • High Slot
  • Own end EN
Keep in mind that some types and locations were not needed like “Slap Shot”, since Mangiapane did not score via “Slap Shot” in my sample. From here, I was able to learn how Mangiapane scores his goals. Here is what I found (2021-Present):
All Unique Types
Count
%
Snap Shot, Net-front1119.0%
Backhand, Net-front610.3%
Deke, Net-front610.3%
Wrist Shot, Slot46.9%
One-timer, Off-wing46.9%
Tip, Slot35.2%
Poke, Net-front35.2%
One-timer, Strong Side35.2%
Snap Shot, Slot35.2%
One-timer, Slot35.2%
Tip, Net-front23.4%
Wrist Shot, Off-wing23.4%
Wrist Shot, Strong Side23.4%
Backhand, Off-wing11.7%
Wrist Shot, High Slot11.7%
Wrist Shot, Own end EN11.7%
One-timer, High Slot11.7%
One-timer, Net-front11.7%
Snap Shot, Off-wing1
1.7%
This matches up quite well with the ‘goals’ diagram from InStat from the same sample of seasons (2021-2024), where Andrew Mangiapane does his best work in the high-danger net-front areas (see graph below).
This prompted me to look deeper into Mangiapane’s statistics since most of his goals are from the net-front area, which is the highest “expected goal” area, and likely the best place to score from consistently (e.g., Zach Hyman).

Basic stats: shooting percentage

When analyzing goal-scorers in the National Hockey League (NHL), one common stat to check to understand season-by-season scoring variation is shooting percentage. The simple statistic of goals divided by shots on goal helps us somewhat understand shooting patterns via luck, skill, or efficiency for players, but without much extra context. However, when comparing one’s shooting percentage (S%) with the average shooting percentage of all NHL players, we can learn a bit more about specific seasons and Andrew Mangiapane’s scoring patterns as well. Here is a breakdown of Andrew Mangiapane’s shooting percentage relative to league average in all seasons where he’s played 20+ games, alongside his goals per game (G/GP):
SeasonMangiapane G/GPMangiapane S%NHL Average S%Mangiapane S% Above Average
2018-190.1812.3%9.5%2.8%
2019-200.2515.6%9.5%6.1%
2020-210.3219.8%9.7%10.1%
2021-220.4318.9%9.8%9.1%
2022-230.219.3%10.1%-0.8%
2023-240.1911.5%10.2%1.3%
As you can see, Mangiapane finishes his chances most seasons at an exceptional rate, but has recently fallen to league average in shooting percentage, consequently scoring approximately half the amount of goals per game compared to his best seasons. I also found it cool that the average NHL shooting percentage is growing each year as well (+0.7% since 2018).
As an extension to shooting percentage, we can look at shot attempts vs. shots on goal to evaluate if Mangiapane is shooting less often than in previous seasons or if his shot attempts aren’t reaching the net as often. Here are his shooting stats from the past few seasons as well as his rates of goals per shot on goal (G/SOG), goals per shot attempt (G/SAT), and shots on goal per shot attempt (SOG/SAT):
SeasonSATSOGGG/SOGG/SATSOG/SAT
2018-19976580.120.080.67
2019-20205109170.160.080.53
2020-2116991180.200.110.54
2021-22300185350.190.120.62
2022-23343182170.090.050.53
2023-241065260.120.060.49
2023-24 Pace26312915
Here are his ‘per game’ numbers as well:
SeasonSAT/GPSOG/GPG/GP
2018-192.21.50.18
2019-203.01.60.25
2020-213.01.60.32
2021-223.72.30.43
2022-234.22.20.21
2023-243.31.60.19
Among many conclusions to be gathered from these stats, four key metrics stand out to me. First, Mangiapane is on pace for about two-thirds of the total shots on goal and roughly three-quarters of the total shot attempts he took in each of the past two seasons. He is also scoring half the amount of goals per shot attempt (G/SAT) this season, and less than half of his shot attempts become shots on goal (SOG/SAT), which is the worst shot-attempt-to-shot-on-goal rate of Mangiapane’s career so far. Mangiapane may have to be more creative this year to find shooting lanes, be more selective as a shooter, or maybe he has to shoot more. Solutions like these depend on unique in-game situations, his linemates, and more, which worries me because of his current deployment alongside Elias Lindholm and Yegor Sharangovich.

The Perk of being ‘F3’

Whether the formation of the five Calgary Flames skaters goes 1-2-2 or 2-1-2 on the forecheck, there is one position that hockey forwards love to be: ‘F3’. The ‘F3’ position can be any of the forwards, different from their set positions of ‘centre’ or ‘winger’, and simply describes the third forechecking forward, who should typically occupy the slot area and ‘finish’ any passes thrown near his spot. F1 typically hunts the puck and F2 usually occupies the strong-side boards or provides slight forechecking assistance to F1, giving F3 the optimal chance of scoring goals after successful puck retrieval and playmaking by his linemates. 
A trend that I discovered from watching Mangiapane’s goals from the last few seasons was that Mangiapane often served as a net-front ‘F3’ or collapsing ‘F3’. Mangiapane would often stay out of high-danger areas until OZ possession was achieved, where he would funnel towards the net upon possession and essentially ‘crash the net’ for ‘garbage goals’, or be ready in the slot for a pass off of a cycle. 
This season, while playing with Lindholm and Sharangovich, it seems that Sharangovich takes the shooting ‘F3’ role often and this allows Sharangovich’s play and reputation to blossom. However, Mangiapane can be found out of the play at times and forced to do the grunt work and hunt pucks instead of finishing his line’s chances at the net-front area. In Mangiapane’s case, this can plague his season because the net-front habits he succeeded with in the past are being gradually stripped from his identity, since Mangiapane is no longer able to be the finishing ‘garbage goal’ player with Mikael Backlund and Blake Coleman: two selfless puck-hunters. Mangiapane is now a supplementary piece to the top line’s success, and this could be a reason why we see Mangiapane’s playmaking (represented by assists) continue to trend upwards, while his finishing (represented by goals) continue to be average compared to past seasons.

Advanced Stats: Linemate Trends

To further prove Mangiapane’s success with Backlund and Coleman, I used NaturalStatTrick’s Line Tool and Dobber Prospect’s Line Combinations tool to evaluate Mangiapane’s linemates from the past three seasons. Here is what I found:
In 2021-22, the Mangiapane-Backlund-Coleman line was operating at a 63.2% FF% (unblocked shot attempts), a 69.6% GF%, a 64.2% Expected Goals For % (xGF%), and a 64% High-Danger Corsi For % (high-danger shot attempts) in 336 minutes at 5v5. Dobber’s model shows a 18-8 Even-Strength (ES) goal margin, and a 62.4% Corsi For % (CF%) in 338 ES minutes, miles better than the next most common line for Mangiapane (Backlund-Toffoli-Mangiapane: 9-8 ES goals, 52.9% CF% in 169 minutes).
In 2022-23, the story is the same, and an even stronger case for reviving the Mangiapane-Backlund-Coleman line. NaturalStatTrick (NST) has the 2022-23 numbers at 64.5% FF%, 72.4% GF%, 67.11% xGF% and a 65.9% HDCF% in 400 minutes together at 5v5. Dobber’s model also reflects this sentiment, with a 23-8 ES goal margin and 66% CF% in 402 minutes, significantly better than Kadri-Dube-Mangiapane (231 minutes, 12-11 ES goals, 52.5% CF%) and Toffoli-Lindholm-Mangiapane (107 minutes, 10-4 ES goals, 60.7% CF%).
These are elite, ‘99th-percentile’ numbers, better than the likes of elite lines like the Robertson-Hintz-Pavelski line in Dallas from last season.
Using the same metrics for the current 2023-24 season, NST has Mangiapane-Lindholm-Sharangovich operating at a 44.6% FF%, 46.7% GF%, 45.2% xGF%, and a 46.3% HDCF% in 173 minutes at 5v5 so far. Each of these relevant offensive metrics is below 50%, meaning that when this line is on the ice, Calgary is getting out-chanced, out-shot, out-scored, and out-done in high-danger areas. This is not what you want for a ‘top line’ in the NHL. Dobber’s model echoes this information, with Mangiapane-Lindholm-Sharangovich getting out-scored 7-8 at even-strength, and a 44.7% CF% in 175 ES minutes together. This is significantly worse than Backlund-Coleman-Mangiapane (59 minutes, 2-3 ES goals, 64.3% CF%) and even Huberdeau-Lindholm-Mangiapane (80 minutes, 7-4 ES goals, 56.6% CF%).
To put into perspective the contrast in success between today’s Mangiapane-Lindholm-Sharangovich and the old Mangiapane-Backlund-Coleman line, we can look at NHL line rankings using the popular website Moneypuck.com’s Expected Goals model. According to Moneypuck’s line rankings, Mangiapane-Backlund-Coleman was the 12th-best line in the entire NHL (212 eligible lines) to play more than 100 minutes together with a 63.7% xGF% in 2021-22. In 2022-23, Mangiapane-Backlund-Coleman was the 5th-best line in the entire NHL (223 eligible lines) with 67.8% of Expected Goals in 2022. Conversely, Mangiapane-Lindholm-Sharangovich is the 14th-worst line in the NHL (67th of 80) to already play 100+ minutes together this season, and we are barely halfway through this NHL season.
Furthermore to Calgary Flames deployment considerations, here is a well-articulated argument for Huberdeau’s case to play on the top line and consequently move Mangiapane down to the third line with Backlund and Coleman:

Conclusions and Areas for Future Research

Are you happy with a high-energy 15-goal finisher who gives his all every night? That’s what I would describe the next few seasons of Andrew Mangiapane unless his situation is analyzed internally and ameliorated. Based on what I learned from watching Mangiapane’s goals and looking into his numbers, playing with Mikael Backlund and Blake Coleman seems like a no-brainer to try to regain Mangiapane’s offensive ‘F3’ finishing identity of past seasons. Future research could help us understand more context including the differences in Mangiapane’s success off the rush vs. in-zone play and whether Mangiapane’s decision-making could use some tweaks to help himself and his linemates succeed, for example. Regardless, Mangiapane seems out of place in his current position with top-line responsibilities and his play is trending downward from both the ‘Eye Test’ and ‘Analytics’ perspectives.
Would you like to see Jonathan Huberdeau on the top line alongside the Flames’ best players and have Mangiapane with Backlund and Coleman due to their past successes? Either way, I think that players like Andrew Mangiapane, who are expected to be part of some of the Calgary Flames’ future, should be analyzed closely when they are not performing like they once were, especially since Mangiapane succeeded in the past with Backlund and Coleman who are both still on the team today and could be deployed together, unlike Huberdeau’s past success with Tyler Toffoli, for example.
Pat Steinberg of Sportsnet reported from Thursday’s practice that Mangiapane had been reunited with Backlund and Coleman as of that skate. If that carries over to the upcoming games, it’s the right move for Mangiapane’s future success.
Link to goal-tracking spreadsheet and stat tables: Mangiapane goals spreadsheet

Nation Gear’s Boxing Week Bonanza is BIGGER and BETTER than ever! From Dec 26th-31st, 2023 Save 15% on ALL merch & unlock FREE shipping on orders over $200. Check out the collections and grab some gear at nationgear.ca

Check out these posts...