Now entering the second half of the 2022-23 season, the Calgary Flames continue to struggle to cement themselves as a playoff team. After the 2021-22 full season Outstanding individual performances across the board, this season has been the complete opposite. There aren’t many players on the roster that have stood out this season, with most teams still trying to find their game.
That said, there are at least a couple of players who stand out for the right reasons—and some for the wrong reasons. Now in the middle of the season, let’s give out some Flames midseason awards.
MVP – Mikael Backlund
usually, Mikael Backlund Quietly having an outstanding season. He doesn’t get the headlines or the attention that some of the team’s star players get, but he is without question the Flames’ most consistent and best forward this season. He may not have the point totals of some other forwards, but his overall two-way game was nothing short of elite. Take a look at where he ranks among all the Flames in the key offensive metrics below. All numbers are 5v5, score- and venue-adjusted NaturalStatTrick.com.
|Offensive metric||Mikael Backlund Team Rank|
Outside of GF/60, Backlund ranks in the top three in every other key metric. He has been a force this season and created opportunities for himself and his teammates. Whenever he is on the ice, the Flames have better scoring opportunities than the opposition. Backlund being on the ice every night makes him better. This is the textbook definition of an MVP. Here’s a better look at how his teammates fare with or without him, courtesy of 5v5 Hockeyviz.com.
As good as he is in the driving game, he is perhaps even better defensively. He is a legitimate Selke candidate this year. Dom Luszczyszyn Backlund is listed as current Selke is the frontrunner for the award Earlier this month. Here’s how he ranks among Flames players in key defensive metrics this season.
|Defensive metrics||Mikael Backlund Team Rank|
Outside of Jonathan Huberdeau ranking for HDCA/60, Backlund leads in every other metric. He has been excellent defensively this season. As always, the Flames can count on him in any situation at any point in the game. With him they have been an elite team defensively. Without him it would have been a much different story. Take a look.
Backlund is quite literally a black hole defensively. Flame doesn’t give up much when he’s on ice. When he is on the bench they are bleeding more chances and against expected goals. If only the Flames could roll out a Backlund on every line. As mentioned his point total is no different, but he still ranks fifth on the team among forwards for points. Combine that with his elite underlying numbers, especially defensively, and he became the Flames MVP in the first half.
Breakout Player – Adam Ruzicka
Hype all around Adam Ruzicka Enough has died in recent weeks that he’s been buried in the team’s fourth line. That said, we can’t forget how good he looked when he did Top-six are given a chance. Ruzicka is firmly on the roster bubble going into training camp and far from a lock to even make the big club this season. He certainly didn’t have much, if any, expectations this season.
Coming into the season, Ruzicka had played just 31 games in his career, posting five goals and 11 points. If he played four fewer games in 2021-22, he would still be considered a rookie this season. Despite making the roster out of camp, he didn’t make it into either The first game is up to November 1, and only played 5:33 that night. From there though he was given an advanced role in the lineup and never looked back. Over his next 24 games, Ruzicka would light up the scoresheet, posting 20 points in 24 games. The 20 points in that stretch nearly doubled his career total from the past two seasons.
As well, Ruzicka’s 20 points over those 24 games ranks third on the Flames behind only Elias Lindholm and Tyler Toffoli. Not bad for someone who wasn’t even a lock to make the team. On a nightly basis, he was one of the team’s most reliable forwards when it came to creating offense.
Unfortunately he found his way into Sutter’s doghouse for unknown reasons and went pointless in his last 11 games. The point here, though, is probably more his situation in the lineup than his own play. During his 20 point stretch in 24 games, he averaged 13:09 TOI a night, the ninth most among Flame forwards. He was playing primarily in the top-six with Lindholm and Toffoli.
He averaged 10:23 during his 11-game scoreless streak, the second-lowest total among current Flames forwards behind only Walker Duhart. He now primarily plays on the team’s fourth line with Trevor Lewis, Brett Ritchie and Duehr. Not the right recipe for success for a talented young player. Despite this he still posted solid underlying numbers across the board this season. Kindly take a look Evolving-Hockey.com.
If given a fair chance in the lineup, I have no doubt that Ruzicka can start to contribute again. His production has been close to a point-per-game pace when given opportunities with other skill players, and he’s the perfect pick for a breakout player from the first half of the season.
Most disappointing player – Jonathan Huberdeau
It was the toughest award to decide, a perfect description of the Flames season so far. It seems like almost every player on the team has had a disappointing year, but some more than others. Both Jonathan Huberdeau And Jacob Markstrom They had huge expectations this season after their 2021-22 season. Both have been incredibly regrettable this year.
But given the massive contract he recently signed and the player he was acquired for, Huberdeau takes the title of most disappointing player from the first half in my book. Huberdeau posted the second-highest points in the NHL last season with 115 points Johnny Gaudreau. This earned him the fifth most votes for the Hart Trophy. After a huge blockbuster that brought him to Calgary, he then Signed the richest contract in franchise history A maximum of $10.5 million AAV for eight years. Understandably so expectations were sky high coming into the season.
Huberdeau failed to meet those expectations, and then some. He currently has just 31 points in 43 games. With 39 games remaining, his current pace puts him on track to post just 59 points. That would be the fewest he’s posted in an entire season since 2015-16 when he had 59 points in 76 games. That’s 56 points more than his 2021-22 total. I don’t think anyone expected him to reach 115 points again, but to have such a big drop off is a huge disappointment.
He is currently fourth on the Flames in scoring and 112th in the NHL. The highest scoring forward in the NHL has no name Connor McDavid Sitting outside the top 100 in scoring is a remarkable fall from grace. The good news is there’s still plenty of season left and Huberdeau has gotten better recently, at least. He has 22 points in his last 26 games, a 69-point pace for the entire season. Good, but still less than good hope.
He battled injuries this season and played with less than ideal linemates for much of the year. Not to make excuses for that but these two things play a big factor in production. Another positive is that his defensive game remains a weakness In strength this season. The problem is his offensive game has struggled because of this.
There’s no doubt the talent is there for Huberdeau because talent like his doesn’t just evaporate from one year to the next. The problem is we’ve only seen glimpses of it so far this season and we’re now halfway through 2022-23. He still has plenty of time to turn this season around and not make it a total disappointment, but he’ll do it faster.
Troy Brouwer Award – Milan Lucic
I’ve included a brand new prize. The “Troy Brouwer Award” is given to forwards who regularly get top-six minutes despite not deserving them. Long live #Brouwerplay. Milan Lucic Runaway favorite for this one. Despite posting just five goals in his last 101 games for the Flames, Lucic has regularly found a home in the team’s top-six. Like Brouwer before him, the decision is little in any sense.
Since December 15, Lucic is averaging 13:57 TOI a game. He is currently 13th in team scoring and last among regular Flame forwards. Nevertheless, he has cemented a spot in the Flames top-six for over a month. The Lucic, Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri line spent 156.5 minutes together at even strength and sits with a 48.5 xGF%. This number is the last of all flame lines with at least 150 minutes together.
Lucic is currently 383rd in the NHL in points and 350th in goals. Despite that he has been playing around 14 minutes a game for the past month. No player deserves this award more than Lucic.
Disappointing first half
When the list of most disappointing player options is much longer than the MVP options, it was roughly the first half of the season. The Flames have struggled to make any player stand out this season, though Backlund and Ruzicka deserve some credit for what they’ve accomplished so far. If the likes of Huberdeau and Markstrom are once again in contention for most disappointing player at the end of the year, the Flames likely won’t be in a playoff spot.
Photo by Brett Holmes/ICON Sportswear