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The Milan Lucic era in Calgary is likely over after 2022-23

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Photo credit:James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
9 months ago
Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter is all about his overly-physical veterans that stereotypically play a “grit and grind” type of game, so it was no surprise to anyone that Milan Lucic got the kind of playing time he did. Even when there were other options available to help make the team faster and more skilled, like Jakob Pelletier, Lucic got the nod.
There’s something to be said about the kind of impact a player like Lucic can have in the bottom half of an NHL lineup. No one wants to mess with him. I mean, look at Trevor Zegras’ reaction after Lucic gave him an extra shove along the wall.
The physical presence is something that can be useful, especially for a team with playoff ambitions. However, if that is a player’s only redeeming quality, there are some big problems.
In 77 games during the 2022-23 season, the 34-year-old forward Lucic scored 7 goals and 12 assists for 19 points, which is the lowest mark of his career. He also registered the lowest average time on ice for his career at 11:18.
It’s easy to see in this visual that the kind of effect Lucic had on the lineup was entirely negative. Not only did he not contribute offensively, but his defence was abysmal, and he took an exorbitant amount of penalties, some of which ended up costing the Flames valuable goals against.
Lucic, in terms of statistical rankings, stayed pretty stagnant for the entire season, ranking last in goals above replacement (GAR) and expected goals above replacement (xGAR). He also ranked second to last in expected goals for percentage (xGF%) sitting at 49.21 percent, only ahead of Dillon Dube (48.9%).
The key to mitigating the poor impact that Lucic had was combining him with Trevor Lewis and Walker Duehr. Lewis, a player with strong defensive results, and Duehr, a ball of energy that used his frame and forechecking ability to create havoc and generate offence. I wrote an article about those three and their performance before the season ended, and they were playing as well as anyone might want a fourth line to play. Lucic was the weak link of that line, but he found a place in the lineup with players that complement him, so even though his performance overall wasn’t strong, it was good to see him find a group of players he could stick with.
No matter the kind of impact Lucic had on the ice, he did enjoy his time in Calgary and noted that the fans made hockey fun for him again.
Calgary fans can likely expect to see Lucic around the NHL more next season. He wants to keep playing, but he’s not sure where yet. With the direction that the Flames are heading–getting younger, faster, and more skilled with players like Pelletier and Matthew Coronato–it’s for the best that they don’t bring back Lucic now that his deal has expired. However, the kind of impact the Flames faithful made on him over his four years in Calgary shouldn’t be overlooked.

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