The Calgary Flames, while not necessarily at their own will, completely revamped their roster this offseason. Gone are two star players in Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, and in essentially as replacements are Jonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri. Due to the sheer skill possessed by Huberdeau, paired with the playoff pedigree and sandpaper style from Kadri, many believe this team has a better chance to win the Stanley Cup next Spring than they did this past season.
While the excitement surrounding both players shows how great of a market Calgary is, it is important that fans don’t set unrealistic goals for each individual. Both are great players, but both are also coming off of career years, meaning they may have trouble duplicating that exact same success in 2022-23. Let’s take a more logical approach of what to expect from them this year.
Huberdeau Likely to Lead Flames in Scoring
With both Gaudreau and Tkachuk out of the picture, Huberdeau will likely be atop the Flames leaderboard in points by season’s end. That said, his new centerman in Elias Lindholm is no slouch and should be right there with him.
This past season, Huberdeau scored 30 goals and 115 points in 80 games. The 115 points tied Gaudreau for second in lead scoring, just eight shy of Connor McDavid. As mentioned prior, it was a career year for the 29-year-old. In fact, it was the first time in his career that he had broken the 100-point barrier, and the second time he had cracked 90. That is important to keep in mind when it comes to reasonable expectations for him in 2022-23.
While Huberdeau is the more offensively gifted, he would be the first to admit a large chunk of his success came from playing alongside Aleksander Barkov. The two had been teammates since the 2013-14 season and developed great chemistry along the way. Playing with Lindholm isn’t much of a downgrade, but it may take the two some time to develop the same level of chemistry. (from ‘George Richards: ‘We should be brothers’: Chemistry of Barkov and Huberdeau leads to Panthers record book,’ The Athletic, 04/19/22).
In large part due to his 100-point year, it seems there are many fans throughout the entire NHL that believe this may continue to be the norm for Huberdeau moving forward. While he is undoubtedly one of the more skilled wingers in the NHL, last season was an anomaly in terms of scoring, as eight players reached the illustrious 100-point mark. That will decrease in 2022-23 and will serve as a reminder of just how hard it is to reach that feat.
A more reasonable approach for Huberdeau this upcoming season is 80-plus points. That may be slightly conservative, but it is important to remember that getting settled on a new team can take players some time. That said, he should be counted on to finish the season at a point-per-game pace or just slightly above. Anything more than that would be outstanding, but it shouldn’t be the expectation.
Kadri in Line for Regression Offensively
For nearly a decade now, Kadri has been a very effective two-way centerman in the NHL. He can score, defend, and welcomes physical play. He has many similarities to Tkachuk in that he can put points on the board while doing everything he can to agitate other teams’ top stars.
Kadri comes to the Flames having put up an 87-point year with the Colorado Avalanche, a number he was able to hit in just 71 games. It was undoubtedly a fantastic season, though one isn’t likely to repeat itself. Everything seemed to align for the 31-year-old, who, prior to 2021-22, had broken the 60-point barrier just once in his career.
While crazier things have happened, it would be unwise to bank on Kadri putting up a similar stat line to what he had last season. A regression from an offensive standpoint is likely, something that you can bet general manager Brad Treliving factored in when signing him as a free agent this August.
This isn’t to say that Kadri won’t be effective. Having him as a second-line center behind Lindholm gives the Flames one of the best one-two punches in the entire league, as both can put up offense while also shutting down opposing players. That offense, however, will likely be more in the range of 25-30 goals and 55-60 points, numbers much more in line with what he has done through the majority of his career. If he is able to produce at that pace, fans will quickly love him in Calgary, thanks to all the other intangibles he provides.
Passing of the Torch
Though neither player may play to the same level from an offensive standpoint as they did this past season, that doesn’t mean that fans’ excitement regarding them and the Flames team shouldn’t be through the moon. This roster has gone through a major change, one that likely had to happen in order to experience playoff success. Whether or not they are able to remains to be seen, but the intrigue is much higher than it was in past years, trying to repeat things in hopes of a different result.
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.