With the Calgary Flames season having come to an end at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers in late May, this team has plenty of time to reflect on the 2021-22 campaign. Despite the disappointment given how things ended, it was a great season for the organization, one who many doubted as a playoff team last summer.
The 2021-22 season was one of the best the Flames have ever had, as their 50-21-11 record was good enough to lead the Pacific Division and finish third in the Western Conference. While there were several players to thank for that, however, there were a few who had their fair share of struggles throughout the year, one being Milan Lucic, who we will be taking a look at here today.
One thing to note on these player report cards is that they will focus just on regular season play. Due to the Flames’ playoff run lasting just 12 games, it seems more fair to judge them on this season based on their 82-game sample instead. With that said, let’s take a look at how Lucic faired in 2021-22.
Lucic a Shadow of Former Self
It won’t exactly come as a surprise from Flames fans to hear that Lucic is far from the player he once was. During his time with the Boston Bruins, he was regarded as the most dangerous power forward in the entire league, one who was capable of scoring 30 goals a season but could also hang with anyone in a fight and wasn’t afraid to check an opponent through the boards.
That same player hasn’t been on display since his first season with the Edmonton Oilers in 2016-17. The decline from there has been a major one, and resulted in the Oilers choosing to trade him to the Flames during the 2019 offseason. In the hulking winger’s defense, he has done everything he can to turn into a solid checking fourth-line forward, and at times he has been. That said, there have been some lows as well, and this season was just that.
Despite playing in all 82 games this season, the 33-year-old managed just 10 goals and 21 points. Making that statline even worse is the fact that post-All-Star break he scored just one goal and five points in 40 games, and was often more of a liability than an asset.
Flames Will Try to Move On
While it won’t be easy given that he still has another season on his contract with a cap hit of $5.25 million, general manager Brad Treliving will do everything in his power to move Lucic this summer. With players like Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane all in need of new deals, this is a team that needs to free up some cap space, and moving Lucic would help in a big way.
Despite some fans believing Lucic’s toughness is needed in the lineup, it isn’t very effective when he is playing just over 12 minutes a game. If he were on a league minimum deal, perhaps it would be a different, but that isn’t the case. By all accounts he is a great leader and a guy that players in the locker room love, but his track record over the past four seasons proves that this isn’t simply a dip in play, but rather a major decline.
If the Flames are unable to move on from Lucic this summer, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see him spend plenty of time in the press box in 2022-23. Perhaps that would be more effective, as it would help him preserve energy while giving Darryl Sutter a player to insert into the lineup if they needed added toughness. That said, the best case scenario here is that they are able to find a trading partner and rid themselves of what was a very bad contract handed out by former Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli.
Player Grade: D
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.