We’re five games (and two weeks) into the 2022-23 regular season, and the Calgary Flames have lost once. That’s pretty good. Sure, the games haven’t been picture perfect, but they’re trending in a positive direction.
Let’s check in with the mailbag!
Via Natural Stat Trick, Jonathan Huberdeau is seventh among Flames forwards in Expected Goals For (per 60; via Natural Stat Trick), behind Andrew Mangiapane, Mikael Backlund, Nazem Kadri, Dillon Dube, Trevor Lewis and Blake Coleman. Defensively, he’s fifth among forwards in Expected Goals Against (per 60), behind Backlund, Coleman, Tyler Toffoli and Lewis.
So in short: yes, the numbers suggest that Huberdeau has been pretty much middle of the road relative to the rest of the Flames’ forward group. (His line has been buried relative to the other lines with defensive zone starts, though.)
Again via Natural Stat Trick, let’s look at the lines and sort them by ascending offensive zone face-offs – first listing tougher zone starts and then getting easier. (All stats listed are five-on-five.)
- Huberdeau-Lindholm-Toffoli: 46.2% offensive zone face-offs, 45.6% expected goals for, -1 goal differential
- Coleman-Backlund-Lewis: 47.4% offensive zone face-offs, 57.3% expected goals for, even goal differential
- Lucic-Rooney-Ritchie: 52.4% offensive zone face-offs, 34.6% expected goals for, +1 goal differential
- Mangiapane-Kadri-Dube: 59.1% offensive zone face-offs, 59.7% expected goals for, even goal differential
The Lindholm line is getting tougher match-ups zone-start-wise, likely chasing specific line matches. The Kadri like is getting a bunch of offensive zone starts, chasing scoring chances like a pure first line is usually treated. So if you want to tell yourself “Hey, the Lindholm line has some context behind why their numbers aren’t great,” you’re precisely right. Our pal Pat Steinberg wrote about it on the site on Monday, as well.
Given how three of the four lines are performing, relative to their roles, I think keeping the top two lines where they are is a good idea. If the Huberdeau line doesn’t pop offensively between now and when the Flames head on their first road trip in early November, then it might be a good idea to revisit tinkering with the mix of the top two lines. But you need to give them time to gel.
One, I like both of those players and the Vancouver Canucks are in a really tough situation right now. Two, the Flames don’t really have the cap flexibility needed to acquire either of those players (and probably don’t want to upset their current mix by moving a significant player quite yet).
Honestly, Oliver Kylington missed ALL of training camp. When he returns from dealing with his personal issue – all the best to him – he will be eligible to go to the AHL for a conditioning stint, and it seems incredibly likely that’s what eventually happens given how much time he will have missed. We’re not there yet, though. We’ll dive more into the specifics of Kylington’s situation from a roster and administrative standpoint when he rejoins the team.
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