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The optimal forward line combinations for the Calgary Flames

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Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Munnich
4 days ago
For the fourth time in the Calgary Flames’ last four losses, the Flames out-shot their opponents. Although getting a lot of shots on net is great, the Flames need to get more high danger chances. The Flames are not a dangerous team at five on five right now. One of the big reasons for that is that they have not found the right forward line combinations.
Here are what the lines looked like against the Lightning on Thursday night:
LWCRW
HuberdeauBacklundLewis
LucicKadriMangiapane
RuzickaLindholmToffoli
ColemanDubeRitchie
These lines don’t make a lot sense to me. The biggest reason is because the fourth line has been spread across three lines. Milan Lucic, Brett Ritchie and Trevor Lewis should not be playing on separate lines. Good teams assemble their best players on lines higher in the lineup.
The Flames need to load up their top three offensive lines in order to start creating more high danger scoring chances. Have offensive players play with offensive players.
I would propose that Darryl Sutter and the coaching staff try the following line combinations:
LWCRW
HuberdeauKadriPhillips
MangiapaneBacklundColeman
RuzickaLindholmToffoli
DubeLewisRitchie
Huberdeau-Kadri-Phillips
The idea of seeing Huberdeau and Kadri together on a line is really exciting. Huberdeau and Kadri are the two players with the highest offensive ceiling on this Flames roster. One got 115 points, and the other was on pace to get to 100 points last season. Add a right shooting, skilled, offensive minded Matthew Phillips to that line could make it very dangerous. Phillips arguably has the second-best vision in the offensive zone of any player in the organization. The playing making and skill on this line could be outstanding.
The Flames are right up against the salary cap, so it’ll take some work to get Phillips to fit financially on the roster. But it needs to be done. The Flames need guys who can make plays and score goals. Phillips is the best option in the organization to do just that.
Matthew Phillips has a couple nice highlights in this package.
Mangiapane-Backlund-Coleman
If you read some of my articles for Flames Nation this past summer, you’ll know that I am a huge proponent of putting Mangiapane, Backlund and Coleman together as a line once again. They were literally one of the best lines in all of hockey last season from a numbers perspective at 5 on 5.
2021-22Ice TimeCF%HDCF%xGF%GF-GA
88-11-20336:2462.83%63.57%64.1716-7
(Stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick)
(Stats Courtesy of MoneyPuck.com)
The fact that this line has not been put back to together is hard to understand. They proved last season that they are incredible in all three zones on the ice. When you’re struggling as a team to produce offense, go with what you know works. The Flames know this trio works. Put them back together.
Here are some goals where Mangiapane, Backlund, and Coleman connect as a trio on some goals.

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Ruzicka-Lindholm-Toffoli
This trio has been really good for the Flames in their short time together. Adam Ruzicka seems to be a perfect fit with Elias Lindholm and Tyler Toffoli. These are three smart, skilled forwards who all bring different attributes to the line. Lindholm is the one driving the line at both ends of the ice. He has arguably been the Flames best and most consistent forward since this line was put together. Toffoli has a great shot and puts himself in positions to score. And Ruzicka’s simple, yet effective game has complimented his veteran linemates well.
This line has also put up some fantastic numbers in their short time together. The Flames could have two dominate possession lines 5 on 5 in 88-11-20 and 63-28-73.
2022-23Ice TimeCF%HDCF%xGF%GF-GA
63-28-7342:3169.62%63.16%65.91%4-1
Dube-Lewis-Ritchie
This line is essentially the leftovers after the top nine was put together. But I do think they could work well. Especially on the forecheck. Ritchie and Dube are two of the Flames more effective forechecking forwards. Ritchie uses his size, physicality and reach to break up plays. Dube uses his speed to his advantage to pressure opposing defensemen into forcing plays. Adding someone with Lewis’s smarts and veteran presence to this line has the potential to make it work.
I would have Milan Lucic and Kevin Rooney as healthy scratches. Lucic is not bringing enough to the game night in and night out to justify him being in the lineup on a nightly basis. Let alone playing on a line with Kadri and Mangiapane. And Rooney has not been very impressive thus far.
What do you want to see the lines look like moving forward? Let us know in the comments section!

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