With just a week until the NHL’s preseason schedule gets underway, the Calgary Flames still have many questions left unanswered. Team and player performance qualms aside, one of the biggest wonderments is who will fill the void left by the last team captain Mark Giordano. The role has been vacant in the two seasons after his departure, as the team elected to roll with four alternates instead. Last season, those chosen to represent the players’ voice were forwards Mikael Backlund, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Elias Lindholm as well as defenceman Chris Tanev. With the mass front office and coaching changeover, the organization experienced this past offseason, many fans and media personalities have argued it is fitting for a new captain to follow.
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On paper, the logical answer is the longest tenured Flame; Mikael Backlund. The Swede was drafted by the team back in 2007 and has been a regular since the 2009-10 season. However, “Backs” is a pending unrestricted free agent in need of a new deal at the end of the 2023-24 season, and has been noncommittal about re-signing with the Flames. Fellow long-time members Lindholm, Tanev, and Noah Hanifin are all also free agents after the upcoming campaign concludes. So maybe a player with term, say, Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri or MacKenzie Weegar? All are accomplished NHL veterans but have been Flames for just one season each, respectively. Therefore, we believe the most attractive pick should be defenseman Rasmus Andersson. Here are the reasons why.
Very Impressive Stats
On ice, Andersson has been everything the Flames would have hoped for when they drafted him 53rd overall in the loaded 2015 NHL Entry Draft. After Backlund, he has worn the flaming ‘C’ for the greatest length. The now-26-year-old rearguard broke in full-time for the 2018-19 season and hasn’t looked back since. In the past two seasons, Andersson has led all Flames defenceman in most offensive categories. In the 2021-22 season, he scored four goals and 50 points in 82 games, establishing his career high in the latter stat. This past year, he shattered his previous best for goals with 11 and added 38 assists in 79 contests.
Andersson is the prototypical power play quarterback, playing a whopping average of 2:56 on the man advantage in 2022-23. The clutch gene is also on full display with him; his four game-winning goals tied for the team lead. He thrives in all on-ice statuses, however, as he does plenty of damage at even strength and plays two minutes of shorthanded time a night to boot. In fact, no Flames skater has played more minutes than Andersson in the last two years. He is astute with his defence. He does an excellent job of clogging up the opposition’s passing and shooting lanes and led the team in blocked shots with 136. Overall, there is no playing circumstance in which Andersson cannot be trusted and his value to the team’s on-ice product is irreplaceable.
Numbers aside, Andersson consistently displays all of the necessary characteristics a successful NHL captain should have. He is not afraid to voice his honest opinions to the media. He recently discussed the team’s struggles last year, openly talked about his teammates’ contract situations, and stated that he wants to “embrace the chaos” of the upcoming year. When asked in the same interview, he stated that he “would obviously love to be” captain of the team but admitted there are a multitude of excellent leaders on the roster. Night after night, Andersson would face the music and talk to the often harsh critics of a Canadian market after leading by example on the ice. He certainly isn’t afraid to be critical when needed, stating what went wrong after a loss or what could have been done better after a win.
Andersson has displayed faith in the changes in management and coaching and has high praise for new head coach Ryan Huska, whom he worked with in the American Hockey League earlier in his career. As for the contract situations his fellow Flames find themselves in, Andersson is on the books until 2025-26 when he will be 29. His deal is team-friendly at just $4.55 million per year, which allows for more financial wiggle room to keep the team competitive and is excellent value given his production. He cares for his teammates, is invested in the organization, and has a willingness to make things work, regardless of the circumstances they all may find themselves in.
In the end, whatever choice the new staff chooses for the team captain will surely be a solid one. Andersson is a natural leader. He offers consistent, dominant play and speaks up in both the dressing room and media scrums. He’s one of the few Flames who is definitely staying put and is blatantly delighted about it. At 26, he is someone the team can grow with and potentially build around, especially if he continues to get better like he has every season. Andersson says all of the right things but lets his play do the talking when necessary, both of which are very reminiscent of the last Flames captain.