The Calgary Flames need to find some stability at fourth line centre

Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
8 months ago
When the season began, on paper, the Calgary Flames looked like a team with really good centre depth. With the likes of Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund and Nazem Kadri as their top three pivots, that laid a strong foundation. If they could find a reliable fourth line centre, that position could be a big strength.
Through 11 games, the Flames have gotten fairly solid results from their three veteran centres, but they’ve really struggled to find a reliable fourth.
Here’s a quick rundown of the non-Lindholm, Backlund and Kadri centres and how they’ve fared in the games they’ve played up the middle.
(xGF% = expected goals for percentage; OZF% = offensive zone face-off percentage; FO% = face-off percentage; GS = game score)
Opp.PlayerxGF% (5v5)OZF% (5v5)FO% (all)GS
So let’s look at the group thus far:
Adam Ruzicka played a game at centre before being moved to the wing. Per our pal Pat Steinberg of Sportsnet, Ruzicka skated on the fourth line in Monday’s practice and looks to be between A.J. Greer and Walker Duehr for Tuesday’s game against Nashville. His line got caved in against Winnipeg possession-wise, but he was fairly effective at face-offs.
Yegor Sharangovich was thrown into the fourth-line centre spot almost by default after the Winnipeg game, and he’s played seven of his 11 games as a Flame as a centre. His face-off numbers are not great, and his possession and game impact stats got worse the longer he spent at centre. His line with Greer and Duehr was pretty good from a fore-checking and chaos creating standpoint, but he’s arguably better overall as a winger when he doesn’t need to focus on the defensive responsibilities and can just use his speed to attack.
Dillon Dube has only really spent two games and change as a centre, as he moved to the wing against Seattle really early in the game and only played a couple shifts between Greer and Duehr. During his NHL career we’ve seen Dube try his best at centre but, like Sharangovich, his playing style seems better-suited to the wing. (Dube’s numbers tend to erode the longer he’s at centre.)
Finally, Matt Coronato was thrown into the centre spot against Dallas almost by default, as Dube was injured and Sharangovich had found a fairly useful spot on Nazem Kadri’s wing. Coronato played half of his sophomore college season at centre, but he didn’t have a good game against the Stars. (Head coach Ryan Huska said that the line “struggled,” which isn’t an unfair assessment.)
While the Flames have stability on their first three lines at centre, they really need somebody to grab hold of the fourth line role and make it their own. Maybe this time we’ll see Ruzicka carve out a niche for himself in that spot. If that doesn’t happen, we may see a return of the carousel of different faces in that role.
Who do you think is the Flames’ ideal fourth-line centre? Let us know in the comments!

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