One of the more interesting players on the Calgary Flames this season has been Adam Ruzicka. He has had one of the most up and down seasons of any Flames player in recent memory.
He started the year being scratched in 10 of the Flames’ first 11 games. Ruzicka’s game took off after becoming a regular in the Flames top 9 forward group. But then his play dropped off and was demoted to the fourth line on Dec. 19 in San Jose.
That leads us to the question of “Where does Adam Ruzicka best fit in the Flames lineup?”

The numbers

Ruzicka played some great hockey for the Flames once he got into the lineup on a full-time basis. Ruzicka played in 21 games from the time he got put in the lineup on Nov. 8 against the New Jersey Devils to being demoted to the fourth line on Dec. 19 in San Jose. In those 21 games, Ruzicka scored 6 goals and 11 assists, good for 17 points which put him second on the Flames in scoring only behind Elias Lindholm. He was tied for the second most goals and assists on the team. He did that despite playing the ninth-most minutes among Flames forwards during that time.
Advertisement
Ad
His underlying numbers were even better. Ruzicka ranked in the top four among Flames forwards in important statistical categories.
CF%
GF%
xGF%
HDCF%
Adam Ruzicka
56.86% (4th)
63.13% (3rd)
58.25% (3rd)
55.70% (2nd)
(Ruzicka’s stats at 5v5 and ranking among Flames forwards from Nov. 8-Dec. 19)
Ruzicka’s production has fallen off a cliff since his demotion to the fourth line on Dec. 19. In that time, he has played in 13 games. He has no goals and 3 assists. He’s played by far the least amount of minutes at 5 on 5 among 11 Flames forwards who played in all 13 games in that span. He has been getting the fewest amount of ice time, playing with the least skilled players on the roster. So it’s no coincidence that he is struggling to produce.
The interesting thing to note that he is still putting up strong underlying numbers compared to most of the forward on the roster, despite playing in a lesser role.
Advertisement
Ad
CF%
GF%
xGF%
HDCF%
Adam Ruzicka
 59.43% (4th)
50% (8th)
53.94% (4th)
47.37% (6th)
(Ruzicka’s stats at 5v5 and ranking among Flames forwards from Dec. 20, 2022-Jan. 18, 2023)

Linemates

Lets take a look at who Ruzicka has had the most success with this season. Ruzicka has played in a few different spots in the lineup at 5 on 5 including stints with Elias Lindholm and Tyler Toffoli, Mikael Backlund and Blake Coleman, and on the fourth line with Trevor Lewis.
Line
Ice Time
GF – GA
CF%
xGF%
HDCF%
63-28-73
86:19
6-3
55.43%
53.18%
48.48%
63-11-20
81:13
4-2
58.90%
63.08%
60.00%
63-22
119:19
6-5
57.21%
56.24%
50.00%
The number would indicate that Ruzicka’s best fit was on a line with Mikael Backlund and Blake Coleman. No surprise there as Backlund is known for elevating his linemates (aka the “Backlund Bump”).
From an eye test perspective, Ruzicka has fit in well on each line he has played on this season. He is obviously not productive from a points perspective on the fourth line, but he is still an efficient player in that role.
Advertisement
Ad

Where should he fit in the Flames lineup right now?

Here are the Flames lines as of Jan. 18, 2023 (please don’t read into the positioning of the lines, the Flames currently have three equal lines, or three second lines if you will):
Andrew Mangiapane
Mikael Backlund
Blake Coleman
Milan Lucic
Nazem Kadri
Jonathan Huberdeau
Dillon Dube
Elias Lindholm
Tyler Toffoli
Adam Ruzicka
Trevor Lewis
Walker Duehr
These are not the most optimal lines for the Flames and Ruzicka. You love what you’re seeing from 88-11-20, so you’re not going to want to break them up.
There is a case to be made to fix up the other three lines.
Here is what I would like to see with who is currently on the Flames roster.
Andrew Mangiapane
Mikael Backlund
Blake Coleman
Dillon Dube
Nazem Kadri
Jonathan Huberdeau
Adam Ruzicka
Elias Lindholm
Tyler Toffoli
Jakob Pelletier
Trevor Lewis
Walker Duehr

My two cents

The place for Ruzicka to have the most success and for the Flames to get the most out of him is in the top nine on a line with Lindholm and Toffoli. There is clearly some skill and offensive instincts in Ruzicka’s game that can complement Lindholm and Toffoli. He is a very smart player and a decent play maker and finisher. He should not be a fourth line player based off who is on the roster.
Advertisement
Ad
All stats are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick 

Let’s hear from the people!