What are the Calgary Flames’ ideal power play deployments?

Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
6 months ago
Through 24 games of the 2023-24 season, the Calgary Flames have proven themselves to be a generally solid team with a few key flaws. The Flames are an average – perhaps slightly above-average – five-on-five team whose momentum has been derailed at key times by special teams that haven’t been up to snuff.
Simply put: their power play has become a gigantic problem.
So what can they do to fix it?
Let’s get one thing out of the way, folks: everybody in the National Hockey League is incredibly talented. But not everybody is talented at the same things, and finding success in configuring four forward lines and three defensive pairings is an ongoing chemistry experiment with component parts with their own changing lives, hopes and dreams.
The Flames regularly trot out two power play units. They’ve had iffy results, currently ranking 27th in the NHL. Only four teams have scored fewer power play goals than the Flames, and only three have allowed more shorthanded goals.
On Tuesday night against Minnesota, the Flames used these two units:
  • Unit 1: Elias Lindholm, Jonathan Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri, Yegor Sharangovich and Noah Hanifin
  • Unit 2: Mikael Backlund, Connor Zary, Andrew Mangiapane, Adam Ruzicka and MacKenzie Weegar
The units are pretty close to having the key components each needs to be successful. But much like the crew in Ocean’s 11, you need the right people with the right skills to do the job:
  • Somebody to win face-offs
  • A net-front presence
  • A puck distributor
  • Somebody with a heavy shot
You can double up on the last two roles, but you really only need one person to win draws and one person to stand in front of the goalie and make trouble around the blue paint.
The two most reliable face-off men on the team are Lindholm and Backlund, so you need to have one on each unit. Kadri is a reliable mucker-about in the blue paint, but Pospisil has begun to build such a reputation as well. And the Flames have a few wingers who can make good passes, and a few defender who can use their shots to great effect.
So here’s how we would adjust the two units:
PP1: Mangiapane – Lindholm – Kadri – Zary – Weegar
PP2: Huberdeau – Backlund – Pospisil – Andersson – Hanifin
This approach would avoid loading up one unit with the club’s “big guns,” but would keep some key duos together (Mangiapane-Lindholm, Zary-Kadri and Huberdeau-Backlund). They would also leave the team’s most consistent five-on-five forward, Blake Coleman, available for the post-PP “bump-up” shifts, where he could be placed with whichever forward duo is fresh and energetic at the time.
The Flames are a solid team at five-on-five. They have flashes of really strong play. But for whatever reason, they just don’t have the same mojo on the power play. If they want to get back to the playoffs, they need to turn that around. And they don’t necessarily need large, sweeping changes; they just need to adjust which players are on the two units, and then leave them together long enough to let them cook.

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