The Calgary Flames are a better team via addition through subtraction

Photo credit:© Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Munnich
10 months ago
Looking at this season alone, the Calgary Flames are going to be a better hockey team than they were last season. And they’re better through addition by subtraction.
The Flames are a better organization right now than they were at this time last season both on the ice and off the ice.

On-ice improvements

The Flames roster is going to be a lot younger than it was in the 2022-23 campaign. And that is a good thing.
The Flames have moved on from veteran, fourth line players like Milan Lucic, Trevor Lewis, and Nick/Brett Ritchie. They are going to replace them with younger, faster, more talented players in Jakob Pelletier, Matthew Coronato, Walker Duehr, and Adam Ruzicka. That is a huge upgrade.
No disrespect to Lucic, Lewis, and the Ritchie brothers. They all played their roles to the best of their abilities. But those players had a hard time keeping up in today’s NHL.
The Flames were badly outplayed when Lucic and Lewis were on the ice together.
Lucic W/O Lewis466:3454.22%19-2650.72%48.89%
Lewis W/O Lucic450:0457.26%15-1853.51%50.30%
Lucic & Lewis Together374:5753.15%12-1848.38%48.03%
Not on the ice2625:1058.54%136-10757.30%55.41%
(All stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick)
Just look at the gap in results when you look at what the Flames were able to accomplish with Lucic and Lewis not on the ice compared to when they were.
The Flames outscored their opposition at 5-on-5 136-107. A 29-goal difference. When Lucic and Lewis were on the ice, they were outscored by 6.
You can make a strong argument that the fourth line was one of the biggest reasons as to why the Flames missed the playoffs last season. The margins were so tight last year. All the one goal games and losses in overtime. A few of those could have been avoided with a more competitive fourth line.
And that’s exactly what the Flames are going to have next season. A younger, faster, more skilled group of players to place throughout the bottom of their lineup.
That instantly makes the Flames a more dangerous team.

2023-24 forward line projection

The big thing that sticks out to me when you look at this forward group is how much faster they are going to be in the bottom six. Pelletier and Duehr can fly. And Ruzicka and Coronato are both decent skaters.
Those changes instantly make the Flames a better team.
Then there is the defense, The Flames went through a lot of sixth defencemen last season. Michael Stone, Troy Stecher, Connor Mackey, Dennis Gilbert, and Nick DeSimone all played games with the big club. But those minutes are going to be replaced by Oliver Kylington who is returning to Calgary next season.
Another huge upgrade for a Flames team that barely missed the playoffs. Calgary can now put together three defence pairings that can be relied on in almost any situation and match up at 5-on-5.

Defense pairing projection


Off the ice

Although Darryl Sutter is a hall of fame calibre coach, the Flames are going to be better off with Ryan Huska in charge. As we all know now that Sutter was not the right coach for this group of players. Sutter clearly wore out his welcome through his extremely demanding style of coaching and old school communication tactics.
The atmosphere around the team is going to be more fun and positive for the players which should lead to better performance on the ice.
The biggest on ice changes we are going to see from the new coaching staff is more creativity in the offensive zone and a new power play. This should lead to the Flames scoring more goals and allowing the likes of Huberdeau, Lindholm and Kadri to increase their point production.
We can also expect to see the Flames actually practice the power play, 3-on-3 overtime, and the shootout. Something we barely saw from the team last season. That should help them win a few more games in OT. Something that cost them a playoff spot.
Between the addition of young players to the lineup, and the change in coaching staff, the Flames are in a position to be a better team next season. If they keep most of this group together, they will have a great chance to make the playoffs. But we will see what happens with this roster between now and the trade deadline.

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