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Previewing The 2021-22 Calgary Flames: The Forwards

Blake Coleman was a nice addition, but the rest of the new hires….yikes.



2021-22 Preview: The Flames Forwards

As we get ready for the 2021-22 season, we thought we’d break down the Flames by their positions: the forwards, the defence and goaltending. Today we’re taking a look at the Flames wings and centres to see if there’s a chance for any improvement and what awaits the Flames as they gear up for another season. Before we jump into who left the Flames, who’s arrived and what we expect for the upcoming campaign, below is what the Flames looked like in 2021.

2021 Calgary Flames Offence
 155 (20th) 32 (16th)  2 (23rd)  30.2 (11th) 50.0% (18th) 18.3% (21st) 

2021 Calgary Flames Offence Leaders
Goals Assists Points PPG PPA SOG
 Gaudreau (19)  Gaudreau (30)  Gaudreau (49)  Gaudreau (7)  Gaudreau (12)   Tkachuk (151)

With that out of the way we can look at who has come and gone from the Flames forward and centre groups and see where they stand and take a guess as to IF the Flames are any better than they were last season.

Out With The Old
Player GP Goals Assists SOG PPG PIM
Derek Ryan  43  2 11 37 16 
Sam Bennett (traded)  38 4 8 67 0 19
Josh Leivo  38  50  10 
Joakim Nordstrom  44  46 
TOTALS  163  13  28  200  51 

In With The New
Player GP Goals Assists SOG PPG PIM
Tyler Pitlick (ARI) 38  56  16 
Trevor Lewis (WPG)   56  68 
Blake Coleman (TBL)  55  14  17  122  37 
Brad Richardson (NSH) 17  18 
TOTALS  166  26  30  264  59 

By the numbers the Flames are “better” with their imports as opposed to their exports. Sam Bennett leaving or being sent somewhere was a forgone conclusion so he shouldn’t even be in the mix, but because he “left” the Flames he still counts as part of the group. Blake Coleman appears to be the only real solid addition to the Flames roster up front. He’s just coming off back to back Stanley Cup Championships and that’s better than anything anyone the Flames has even dreamt about, let alone done. He should be a steadying presence on the Flames second line and his five straight seasons of 25+ points will be a welcome addition for sure. He’s also a fairly reliable player, having played no less than 66 games in a regular season (non Covid) over his career. As for the rest? You’re looking at Bottom Six plugs that will rotate in and out of the lineup, much like what the Flames let go. Pitlick, Lewis and Richardson are basically clones of Leivo, Nordstrom and Bennett. Derek Ryan holds a higher place in this pecking order as he was a leader on the ice and always seemed to give the Flames a jump start when they needed one. With that said, he had 13 points in 43 games so let’s not pretend Calgary lost a dynamic offensive player.

Looking at it as a whole, the Flames, even if Coleman was the only player added, are better ON PAPER. Then again, that’s not really saying a lot.

As for returning players, Calgary will need to lean heavily on Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm. Those three players combined for 139 points, were top three in points on the team, scored 17 of their 32 PPGs and had a total of 393 SOG. They were the Flames best three players and they will have to do more of that if Calgary has a chance at sniffing the playoffs. Johnny Gaudreau (along with Matthew Tkachuk) will especially feel the pressure as he is in a contract year and we all know the rumours and dumb things being bantered about in regards to his future with the team.

As for the rest of the groupings, Calgary will be looking for Andrew Mangiapane (looking for a big pay day as well) to keep growing and possibly making a bigger jump this season. In his three years in the league he has gotten better each season and last year was significantly better in all areas of the game. In 12 less games in 2021 he had 32 points, the same as the season before (68 games), but saw his goal totals rise to 18, a career best and good for third best on the team. Calgary will need to rely on Mikael Backlund as well, not only as a great two way player, but also as an on ice leader. Calgary doesn’t have a Captain currently and Backlund has the years and term with the Flames to put him in the mix. The 13 year veteran saw his numbers dip a bit last season, but looking at the Flames lineup he could get some consistency with his line mates who could help him pile up points (more on that in a minute). Add Dillon Dube and a hungry Glenn Gawdin to the mix and Calgary could have a decent mix of youth and veterans that could make life tough in the Pacific Division.

The wildcard in this whole scenario is Sean Monahan. Monahan has played hurt, but also played poorly. His game has completely fallen off the table over the last two seasons, following his 82 point campaign in 2018-19. His point totals for the last two years? 76. This has to be a make or break season for the Flames former top centre and it could find him either as a comeback player of the year type candidate or someone dealt as spare parts for someone at the trade deadline.

And lastly, we can’t forget about those who bring the “energy” and fill out the bottom of the roster. This group, and maybe the entire team, will be led by Milan Lucic. Looch is in his 14th season in the NHL and is VERY far removed from his 24 goal, 35 assist year with the 2013-14 Boston Bruins. But IF you can put contract numbers aside, Lucic is a decent player that fills a role with the Flames. I’m very big on giving him the captain’s “C” for the season as a veteran leader who leads by example on the ice and doesn’t give canned answers in the locker room. He’s no spring chicken, but the Flames could do much worse than having Milan Lucic anchoring their bottom six.

Now, how do these lines look for the upcoming season? Well, we’ve seen what is the best Flames line in the preseason and it should be their top line going forward…..that’s Gaudreau, Lindholm and Tkachuk. Usually the Flames try and spread the wealth, but they should throw that game plan out the window and stack that top line. They are the Flames three best players and they should keep them skating together until their opponents force them to try something different. Where the Flames do run into a bit of a log jam is Dillon Dube, Mikael Backlund, Blake Coleman, Glenn Gawdin and Sean Monahan are all listed as centres. Clearly something will have to give and some of these players will have to play forward this season.

Potential Lines

This all throwing things at a wall and seeing what sticks after the true #1 line. You could easily swap out Blake Coleman and Dillon Dube if you really wanted to and yes, sticking Glenn Gawdin with a hot mess of Lewis/Richardson/Pitlick/Ritchie isn’t ideal, but he’s clearly not ready for the 3rd line yet. I’m not thrilled with that third line, but I like the idea of younger guys playing with Mikael Backlund in the top six as he’s a veteran and he’s such a good two way player. Dube and Mangiapane never stop moving their feet and that threesome coming back on defence could be a revelation. But in actuality, the lines will probably look something more like this because Monahan can’t create his own offence and Coleman makes too much $ to not be in the top 6:

Whatever the scenario, this Flames team has a lot of fire power in the top six, but they’ll need something from their bottom six and that 4th line is going to be scary at times. Darryl Sutter tends to do things that fly in the face of what’s conventional or what “should” happen, so who knows what the lines will look like come opening night. We’ve seen the Flames really mix and match their personnel in the preseason, so Sutter isn’t afraid to put guys in different spots. What we do know is the Flames regular season is on the horizon and their forward group is “better” thanks to one addition. Now it’s a matter of if this team can come out hot and score goals like they should be able to do. Shoulda, coulda, woulda.


Matthew Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm, Johnny Gaudreau, Blake Coleman, Sean Monahan, Andrew Mangiapane, Tyler Pitlick, Mikael Backlund, Dillon Dube, Milan Lucic, Glenn Gawdin, Brett Ritchie, Brad Richardson, Trevor Lewis

by Mark Parkinson