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Calgary Flames season update: More firepower needed to boost playoff ambition

The Calgary Flames are still trying to recover from a poor start to the season but at just about a third of the way through 2023/24, they remain very much in the playoff picture.

Ryan Huska's men won only two of their first 10 games to put themselves in an early hole, but then lost only two of their next 10 in regulation as they set about the recovery.

The last seven games have been a snapshot of the season with Calgary recording some impressive wins, beating the Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars in overtime while also defeating the Carolina Hurricanes. However, the Flames have also lost four games in that run and are outside of the playoff places as things stand.

Missing out on the postseason last year cost Daryl Sutter his job, and the new head coach's remit may well be to secure playoff hockey once again. Although they are down in 10th of the Western Conference, the Flames are only three points behind the seventh and eighth-placed Arizona Coyotes and Nashville Predators, with of course plenty of time left in the season.

With two-thirds of the season still to play, here is a glimpse at the 2023/24 Calgary Flames thus far.

Record:11-13-3 (25 points)
Point Percentage:.463 (25th in the NHL)
Standings:4th in the Pacific Division and 10th in the Western Conference

Key wins:

  • 10/12/23: 5-3 vs Winnipeg Jets 
  • 11/05/23: 6-3 vs Seattle Kraken 
  • 11/28/23: 2-1 (OT) vs Vegas Golden Knights

Key losses:

  • 10/29/23: 5-2 vs Edmonton Oilers 
  • 11/12/23: 4-1 vs Ottawa Senators 
  • 12/3/23: 4-3 vs Vancouver Canucks

Key Statistical Leaders

Goals

  • Elias Lindholm: 7 
  • Blake Coleman: 7 
  • Nazem Kadri: 6 
  • MacKenzie Weegar: 6 
  • Yegor Sharangovich: 6 
  • Mikael Backlund: 6

Assists

  • Nazem Kadri: 12 
  • Rasmus Andersson: 11 
  • Jonathan Huberdeau: 11 
  • Elias Lindholm: 10

Points

  • Nazem Kadri: 18 
  • Elias Lindholm: 17 
  • Blake Coleman: 16

Plus-Minus

  • Blake Coleman: +6 
  • Connor Zary: +4 
  • Martin Pospisil: +4 
  • Mikael Backlund: +4

Power Play Goals

  • Nazem Kadri: 1 
  • Mikael Backlund: 1 
  • Jonathan Huberdeau: 1 
  • Elias Lindholm: 1

Time On Ice

  • Rasmus Andersson: 23:57 
  • Noah Hanifin: 23:03 
  • MacKenzie Weegar: 22:00 
  • Elias Lindholm: 20:48

NHL Team Stat Rankings (out of 32)

Goals scored per game:21
Goals allowed per game:26
Goals scored 5 on 5:17
Goals allowed 5 on 5:29
Power Play Percentage:28
Penalty Kill Percentage:9
Faceoff Percentage:18
Shots on goal per game:13
Shots allowed per game:8
Save percentage:22

Top Performers:

As well as trying to adapt to new head coach Huska's style and philosophy, a key contributing factor to the Flames less than stellar start is the fact that the star players are not quite delivering as they may have been expected to.

With last season's leading pointscorer, Tyler Toffoli, having departed, it is no surprise to see Elias Lindholm and Nazem Kadri leading their charts so far this season. The problem though is they are not quite matching the points-per-game ratio of 2022/23, so it might be ambitious to think the Flames can improve this season and finish in the playoff positions - unless there is a significant uplift in production from those two.

Mikael Backlund and Jonathan Huberdeau are also down on last season's numbers and there is little doubt that the key players need to step up.

On the plus side, there is something of a collective effort from a depth perspective that is at least keeping Calgary in the playoff hunt - for now - while Jacob Markstrom has perhaps performed better than the bare figures may suggest. However, in an unfortunate blow, he is dealing with a fractured finger and the Flames will need improvement from Dan Vladar.

While the penalty kill has also performed well over the opening 27 games, the same cannot be said of the power play and there simply has to be more production with the man advantage for playoff hopes to realistically be realised.

Odds

To Reach the Playoffs+165
To win Pacific Division+3300
To win Western Conference+3500
To win Stanley Cup+7000

Verdict

Much like last season the Calgary Flames are in the playoff hunt, lying just three points outside the Wild Card places after 27 games. Arizona and Nashville are not guaranteed to stay the course either, but a worry would be that the likes of the Edmonton Oilers and the Minnesota Wild have games in hand as they look to come from behind.

Having beaten the likes of the defending champions, Vegas, the Dallas Stars and Carolina Hurricanes, as well as last season's surprise package, Seattle (twice), Calgary can clearly mix it with the best on their day.

However, there needs to be more production from the top level if Calgary are to sustain a playoff challenge, while the power play simply has to get better - surely the only way is up - otherwise a postseason place may be beyond them.

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