As the world continues to deal with the global pandemic, NHL hockey continues to operate in the background. This year’s iteration of the Calgary Flames are exhibiting quintessential ‘Sutter’ qualities. Tough defence, low shots against, maximizing offensive opportunities. Given the success half-way through the season, it’s obvious Sutter knows a thing our two about hockey ;). That should be early concerns that his approach to the game was antiquated.
But how good are the Flames? Are they a playoff team? Seems that way. If they continue to get stalwart goaltending and timely offence, this team could go deep. Consistently, however, is the key. With a top-line over performing by all measures, leading the league in +/- and among the top point producers. Trouble is, if they can’t get secondary scoring rolling, depth might be the achilles heel.
So let’s take a look at each player and produce the mid-season report card. In total points order, we have….:
Johnny Gaudreau – A+
Don’t know what you more you could ask for Gaudreau. Playing the best hockey of his career in his contract year. Man plays both ends of the ice, lately pulls the last seconds of the PK, and is the offensive heart of the team. Question is, can he produce during the playoffs? Question is, will the Flames be able to re-sign him for 10+ million /year?
Matthew Tkachuk – A
See above. Tkachuk has a more focussed game without the antics seen in years prior. One of the top LW in the league. What he lacks in pure speed he makes up with elite skill. Another man who’s gonna get paid big as a RFA at the end of the season. Expect him to command similar dollars (slightly less?) than Gaudreau. How will the Flames do it? They probably can’t unless the shed Monahan (so they can’t.)
Elias Lindholm – A+
Underrated, underpaid, and the 1C on the team. He plays in all situations and is in Selke consideration.
Andrew Mangiapane – A
Although Mangiapane has bounced around lines 2 and 3, he is the team’s leading goal scorer. Another RFA, he’s gonna get paid, and may be on the outside looking in. can’t see how Treliving gets it done. But let’s focus on this year. Manigiapane’s upward trajectory has yet to hit the ceiling. We’ll need him to continue his pace into the post-season.
Oliver Kylington – A
Who’s going to pick up the minutes from the departing Mark Giordano? Kylington, that’s who. Early in the season there was some question whether Sutter would give the offensive defenceman a chance. But when he got into the lineup, he never let it go. Over producing and shoring up his defensive game, the Flames have been rewarded for their patience with Kylington. Question is, can they afford him in a contract year? Given he plays with the talent called Tanev, one wonders if the GM can’t work his magic this off-season.
Rasmus Andersson – B+
He’s not scoring goals yet, but he’s playing 1-2 minute along with Hanifin. Some more offensive production is expected especially on special teams, but he’s gone about his business to take command of the top pairing.
Noah Hanifin – B+
See above. Both may end the season in the A-marks, but they’ll need to up point production. What both have displayed, however, is a total shut-down of opponent offence.
Mikael Backlund – B-
The points aren’t there, the defensive still is. As the defacto second line centre, Backlund needs to lead his line to play as both shutdown and offence. No small task.
Blake Coleman – C+
The biggest off-season acquisition hasn’t lived up to his name yet. When you look at his stats, he’s a low 20-goal scorer. So maybe we’re getting exactly what we paid for? Players to new teams take a few months to get acclimatized. Coleman coming online will do wonders to solve secondary scoring woes. We don’t want to wait for the ‘playoff performer’ like so many washed up vets before him. Coleman needs to up his game and lead.
Sean Monahan – C-
The downward trajectory continues. Off-season hip surgery put him a step behind and he’s been playing catch-up ever since. His goal scoring days seem to be behind him, which is tough because there’s no reason a team would take his $6million contract. He’s been picking up the pace lately, but Monahan needs to find his game to drive production on the now 3rd line.
Milan Lucic – B
Can’t ask anything else from the big-man who has nearly 10 goals. Calgary won the trade. Edmonton still pays Lucic ½ million to score goals. Still the league reigning heavyweight. Size matters in Sutter hockey and Lucic leads the way spending time on the 3rd and 4ht lines. Only downside, another year at 5 million.
Christopher Tanev – A
Probably one of Treliving’s best signings, holding down the fort on the 2nd pairing. He makes everyone around him better and that’s important given Kylington now sits along his side.
Dillon Dube – D
Not sure where Dube is off to. Given plenty of chance early in the season to figure out where he fits. Right now it’s on the wing since he hasn’t performed at C as Monahan was healing up. Dube has speed, but hasn’t yet asserted himself. Looks like another Bennett 2.0. THat’s unfortunate and likely one of the reasons the likes of Pelletier won’t come up early from Stockton despite success. Younger players in Calgary went through an age of being rushed to the Bigs. Dube may be one. Still time to find his role though.
Nikita Zadorov – C-
When it comes to the D Zadorov beat out Valimaki on 3rd line pair. The latter now plays in the AHL. Zadorov struggles with consistency and has been at caught in his own zone a lot. Doesn’t help he’s paired with Gudbranson. His game is one you’d expect Sutter, of all people, could improve.
Trevor Lewis – C
Sutter guy. Kills penalties. That’s about it.
Erik Gudbranson – B
Sutter guy. Questionable signing in the off-season, but at the 6th D slot he’s played well. Anchoring the PK and giving extra grit on the back end, this is actually working out for the Flames.
Brad Richardson – F
Adam Ruzicka – C+
Give the rookies a chance. Ruzicka needs to work on his conditioning and speed, but is an upgrade at 4th line C over Richardson.
Tyler Pitlick – D
Under-performer. But needs to get into the lineup and Id on’t know why he can’t. Obviously not a Sutter guy.
Brett Ritchie – F
No points. Knee injury after getting bell run in November.
Michael Stone – N/A
League minimum to play 7th D and play two games.
Dan Vladar – B+
A solid backup who will prove his metal in the second half of the season as back-to-back games pile up. We need some more wins with him, but he’s learning and has huge upside.
Jakob Markstrom – A-
With proper rest Markstrom may be in contention for the Vezina. He currently leads the league in shut-outs. When he’s on, this team is hard to beat. If he’s not, the wheels fall off.