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It’s time to move Tyler Toffoli away from Lucic and Monahan

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Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Gould
10 months ago
The Calgary Flames’ third line needs to change.
@Milan Lucic, @Sean Monahan, and @Tyler Toffoli have all had very successful National Hockey League careers. In their time together as a unit, they just haven’t been able to cut it.
Don’t get us wrong: Toffoli has given the Flames exactly what they needed since joining the team from the Montreal Canadiens last month. He’s been an upgrade on Monahan on the Flames’ top power play unit and has seven points in eight games since the trade.
The one major knock against Toffoli has always been with his skating. In certain situations — on the Flames’ power play, for instance — it’s not a huge issue. If he were playing alongside a couple of burners on the Flames’ third line, everything would probably be just fine.
Unfortunately, Toffoli’s two current linemates are also lacking in the footspeed department. Lucic has never been particularly fast, whereas Monahan’s pace has slowed considerably in the wake of multiple operations over the past few seasons.
Individually, both Lucic and Monahan are imperfect players at this point. Playing them together has significantly amplified their respective flaws.
In 252:28 with both Lucic and Monahan on the ice at five-on-five this season, the Flames have been outscored 12–5 and have managed 51.32% of the expected goals (according to Natural Stat Trick). Without either Lucic or Monahan on the ice, the Flames have outscored their opponents 94–53 while controlling 58.25% of the expected goals.
Monahan has fared slightly better without Lucic compared to the other way around, but neither player has proven to be capable of driving a line this season. The Lucic–Monahan–Toffoli line has been widely outplayed by its opposition since being put together in February, being limited to just 43.37% of the five-on-five expected goals in nine games as a unit.
The Flames’ existing third line has not proven itself capable of attacking its opponents with speed and consistent high-danger scoring opportunities. It’s time to consider moving some pieces around in the Flames’ forward lineup.

Step 1: Switch Toffoli and Coleman

Toffoli could stand to skate alongside some better playmakers at five-on-five. With all due respect to Lucic and Monahan, @Andrew Mangiapane and @Mikael Backlund have shown to be far more capable of distributing the puck and creating offence on a consistent basis in 2021–22.
@Blake Coleman is all wheels, all the time. He’s a speedy forward who can take the occasional faceoff and push possession. With 163 shots on goal in 54 games this season, Coleman is also one of the Flames’ top volume shooters. He’s capable of alternating between being a chippy defensive forward and a crafty offensive contributor on the same shift.
The Mangiapane–Backlund–Coleman line has been absolutely tremendous this season. It could always be reunited in the future. But would the second line experience that significant of a dropoff if the Flames elected to swap Coleman with Toffoli?
Adding Coleman to the third line could provide it with the boost of energy it sorely needs. Getting Toffoli on a unit with Mangiapane and Backlund could boost the team’s overall five-on-five offensive output — possibly without sacrificing the north-south effectiveness of the second line.

Step 2: Switch Lucic and Dube

Lucic and Monahan should not play on the same unit. Of the two, Lucic is the more natural fit on the Flames’ fourth line.
It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to play @Dillon Dube with a couple of grinders. If the 23-year-old forward wants to carve out a niche for himself at the NHL level, he might be best suited to try and emulate Coleman’s style of play. Dube and Coleman both have skill and wheels, but they’ve spent just 26:55 together at five-on-five this season. That’s barely anything.
Lucic needs to play a very simple game to find success at this point in his NHL career. Putting him on a line with, say, @Trevor Lewis and @Adam Ruzicka would help him accomplish more on a game-by-game basis. It seems like “less is more” for Lucic.
Any line with Monahan on it needs two speedy wingers to be able to keep up with the pace of today’s NHL. If Dube and Coleman are able to find chemistry together, the Flames might have themselves a third line that’s actually able to contribute.

Step 3: Replace Ritchie

There is lots of room for players to play different roles in an NHL forward lineup. Unfortunately, it has become very difficult to ascertain exactly what role @Brett Ritchie plays with the Flames.
The 28-year-old forward has played 28 games with the Flames this season and has yet to record a single point. He is the only forward in the entire National Hockey League to have played more than 20 games without factoring into even one of his team’s goals.
Ritchie absolutely brings physicality to the table, but the current Flames lineup is overloaded with better players who possess just as much beef. Between Lucic, Coleman @Nikita Zadorov, @Erik Gudbranson, and @Matthew Tkachuk, the Flames have more than enough functional belligerence.
It’s time for the Flames to replace Ritchie with another player who has more dimensions to his game. Bringing @Adam Ruzicka back into the lineup would be the obvious move, but the Flames have no shortage of options with the American Hockey League’s Stockton Heat (@Luke Philp, @Matthew Phillips, @Jakob Pelletier, and @Justin Kirkland come to mind) who offer a variety of different attributes.
The Flames have many internal candidates vying for a promotion. They also have the capital to potentially spend on an external upgrade (say, @Calle Jarnkrok). Either way, they should be considering their various options to phase Ritchie out of the lineup and bring in a more versatile forward who could potentially help out in multiple different bottom-six roles.

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