The Calgary Flames signed yet another former Vancouver Canuck Saturday in Josh Leivo. This marks the fourth player the Flames have signed who was a member of the Canucks last season, the others being Jacob Markstrom, Chris Tanev and Louis Domingue. Leivo, who has spent the last season and a half with the Canucks, will come to the Flames on a one-year, $875,000 deal.
The 27-year-old was limited to just 36 games during the 2019-20 season, including missing the entire 2020 NHL Playoffs due to a fractured knee suffered near the end of December. At the time, the thought was that he would miss approximately 2-3 months’ time. Instead, the injury continued to linger, forcing him to sit out the remainder of both the season and playoffs. Despite the seriousness of the injury, this appears to be yet another wise gamble by general manager Brad Treliving. Here are some reasons why.
One thing the Flames struggled with during the 2019-20 season was scoring goals. They were only able to put up 204 goals in 70 games played, a 2.91 goals-per-game average. That 2.91 ranked them 20th in the entire NHL. That was a massive change from the 2018-19 season in which their 3.52 goals per game was good enough for second throughout the league, trailing only the Tampa Bay Lightning.
This is an area Leivo should be able to help out with, as he has produced solid secondary offence for the Canucks since being acquired in a trade from the Toronto Maple Leafs midway through the 2018-19 season. In a combined 85 games with the Canucks, he put up 17 goals and 37 points. Those numbers won’t blow anyone away, but they will be valuable for a Flames roster who struggled to put the puck in the net last year. That, along with his ability to play on both wings, will give head coach Geoff Ward plenty of options for his lines next season.
On top of being a solid middle-six producer for the Canucks, he was also able to gain the trust of then head coach Travis Green thanks to his impressive defensive abilities. He was often moved around the lineup, as he was a player who could be thrown on the ice late regardless of being up or down a goal. While he didn’t play as often this past season, he has been used on the penalty kill in his NHL career with both the Canucks and the Maple Leafs.
During his time with the Canucks, he also saw some time on the power play. While it remains to be seen whether or not this will happen in Calgary, he may be an option worth considering. He possesses an absolutely lethal shot that is both powerful and accurate.
Leivo brings an aspect that Treliving has been actively searching for over the past year, which is size and physicality. This started with the acquisition of Milan Lucic last offseason and has continued this offseason, with both this pickup as well as the recent signing of Joakim Nordstrom. While Leivo won’t throw his body around as much as Nordstrom, he has a big frame of 6-foot-2, 192 pounds, and doesn’t shy away from physical play.
The style of play he brings will open up more ice for whoever he is put on a line with. This is important for the regular season, but even more so for the playoffs, which has been where this Flames team has had their struggles. Despite Leivo not yet suiting up for an NHL playoff game yet in his career, he has all the attributes to be a great postseason performer.
As mentioned at the start of the article, the Flames at times will look a lot like last season’s Canucks, given that they have four of their former players. Of course, Domingue is goaltending depth more than anything and will start the season with the Stockton Heat in the AHL, but could find himself back in the NHL if either Flames goalie is to struggle or get injured.
An already exciting division rivalry between a strong Flames roster and a young star-studded Canucks squad will be that much more fun to watch given all the recent changes. While a schedule for the 2020-21 season has yet to be announced, fans of both these teams will certainly be circling the first match of these two teams on their calendars.
Former Jr. A player turned writer. Cover both the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers, and am part of both the Flames Faceoff and Oilers Overtime podcasts.