Flames’ Coleman Struggling to Establish Offensive Game

Despite a disappointing 2020-21 season, Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving wasn’t overly active this summer as he chose to try to run it back with hopes his core could figure things out. The one notable change he did make, however, came via free agency when he signed Blake Coleman to a six-year, $29.4 million deal.

The hope was that Coleman, 30, would provide help at both ends of the ice while also being a great veteran presence given that he was apart of the Tampa Bay Lightning team that won back-to-back Stanley Cups. (from ‘Wes Gilbertson: After memorable day with Stanley Cup, Coleman ready to get to work as Flames’ prized off-season addition’, Calgary Sun, 09/22/21). Things started off great, as he was able to score his first goal as a Flame in the first goal of the 2021-22 season. Unfortunately, points have been hard to come by ever since.

Coleman Caught in Point Drought

In 21 games on the season now, Coleman has just three goals and six points. While it is very early, he hasn’t yet looked like the player who scored north of 20 goals in back-to-back seasons with the New Jersey Devils from 2018-2020.

Blake Coleman Calgary Flames
Blake Coleman, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The month of November has been particularly rough for Coleman, as he has not found the back of the net in all 14 games his team has played to this point. He is also currently riding a seven-game point drought, one he will hope to snap out of tonight versus the Los Angeles Kings.

Sutter Giving Coleman a Fair Opportunity

It isn’t as if Coleman hasn’t gotten a fair opportunity to this point. Through the quarter-way point of the 2021-22 season, he has averaged over 15 minutes of ice time a game and has gotten plenty of chances in the team’s top six. He is currently playing on a line with Mikael Backlund and the red-hot Andrew Mangiapane but has yet to hit his stride.

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Not only is he getting reps in the top six, but head coach Darryl Sutter is putting him in positions to succeed offensively. 52.8 percent of Coleman’s faceoff starts this season have come in the offensive zone, which ranks him ahead of players like Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm.

The Silver Lining

The good news for both Coleman and the Flames is that while he isn’t producing, other parts of his game have been up to par. For example, his Corsi numbers have been quite solid, as the Flames have controlled the puck for over 57 percent of the time he is on the ice. Possession numbers like that suggest his offensive game should come around at some point.

One other indicator that things could soon turn around for Coleman is puck luck. Early on, that hasn’t been on his side, as the Flames shooting percentage while he is on the ice this season has been just 7.5 percent. The only forwards on the current roster who come in lower are Dillon Dube, Tyler Pitlick, Sean Monahan and Backlund. Coleman himself has converted on just 5.1 percent of his shots this season, a number which will almost certainly increase as the season continues.

Blake Coleman Calgary Flames
Blake Coleman, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Though Coleman hasn’t found his way onto either of the team’s power-play units to this point, he has played an instrumental role on the penalty kill. He mans the team’s second unit upfront along with Trevor Lewis and has helped contribute to a penalty kill that currently ranks fifth in the league with an 87 percent success rate.

It’s not exactly a secret that this Flames team is well improved this season compared to last, and the penalty kill has been a major reason why. Though he is just one of eight regulars when down a man, he has played a big part in the improvement.

Flames Counting on Coleman to Produce More

The good news for Coleman is that he is a player that is still able to help a team out when he isn’t producing offensively. The bad news is that he was given a contract with a cap hit of nearly $5 million, which means he is expected to put up more points than he has in the early going. Thankfully, the Flames’ fantastic 13-4-5 start to the season has taken the heat off of him, but if his numbers don’t begin to improve soon, criticism could start to pick up.

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