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Disappointing. That’s probably the best word to describe the 2020-21 Calgary Flames.
Playing in a shallow – at least in terms of top-end teams – all-Canadian division, playoffs were considered a very achievable goal for a Flames team that enjoyed success in the bubble and spent fairly big in the off-season.
Yet they missed the playoffs by four points and, realistically speaking, were all but out of the race with plenty of games remaining on the schedule.
Still, it wasn’t all bad for the Flames. There were plenty of positives, three of which I’m going to highlight in today’s post.
1. The Bread Man took another step
Andrew Mangiapane has always been a guy much more valuable than the counting numbers would suggest. But, well, it’s still good to put up points. And Mangiapane had his best season in that regard.
Mangi scored 18 goals (career high) and matched his previous high in points (32) despite playing 12 fewer games than a season ago.
What was especially impressive: the majority of Mangiapane’s production came at 5v5. Only 11 players scored more 5v5 goals than Mangiapane (15). He actually bested the likes of David Pastrnak, Alex Ovechkin, Mark Stone, Brayden Point and Max Pacioretty in that regard. Pretty good.
Mangiapane scored goals with the efficiency of an elite top line player, and he produced points at the rate of a low-end 1st liner. I think the Flames will happily take those outputs; especially when attached with all else he brings to the table.
Mangiapane ranked near the top of the team in Corsi For%, Expected Goals For% and actual Goals For% at 5v5. Only Chris Tanev’s even-strength defensive game was worth more GAR, per Evolving-Hockey.com, and Mangiapane also provided plus value on the PK.
Top-to-bottom, Mangiapane was nothing short of spectacular for the Flames this season. He’s developed into one of the most important players on the team and figures to be for years to come.
2. Johnny Gaudreau bounced back
Gaudreau was not himself last season. His teammates – Sean Monahan, especially – didn’t help the cause but he scored at just a 21 goal pace. That’s quite the dip from the 36 goals he netted a year prior.
His 5v5 efficiency also fell off a cliff. He went from producing 2.84 points per 60 minutes to 1.76. There was always going to be regression after everything went right in 2018-19 but the extreme was surprising. Suffice to say, there was more to it than percentages heading south.
Whatever the case may be, we saw a better version of Gaudreau this year. There were some hiccups along the way – particularly when Darryl Sutter first took over – but, all in all, it was a solid year.
Gaudreau recorded 2.08 points per 60 at 5v5, which was back to the 1st line rate we’d expect out of him. And he scored goals at a 28 goal pace.
That’s pretty good; even more so considering the circumstances. Sutter hockey doesn’t exactly lend itself to high octane offense and crazy point totals.
Whether Gaudreau is a long-term fit for the Flames, you can debate amongst yourselves. But if the Flames want to keep him, they obviously need him on track. And if they decide to trade him, he’s certainly more valuable when he’s producing.
So, regardless of how the Flames elect to play their hand here, it’s a good thing that Gaudreau bounced back offensively this season.
3. Chris Tanev hit the fountain of youth
I was very critical of the Tanev signing. I still maintain there’s real risk long-term – there’s a lot of mileage on his body and things *could* take a turn for the worse pretty quickly – but I’m happy to admit I was way off about what he could bring to the table in the here and now. It sure looked like his best hockey was well behind him. He proved that wasn’t the case.
From the get go Tanev was nothing short of spectacular. He was an absolute rock in his own zone all year long. Not only did he provide much-needed stability on the backend, but he brought Noah Hanifin’s game up 500 levels as well. He provided real value as an individual, and helped Hanifin do the same; making the blueline more potent.
With Mark Giordano showing more signs of age, and Rasmus Andersson not having the season anyone would have hoped for, it’s hard to imagine how poor the blueline would’ve been if not for what Tanev brought to the table.
Again, I worry about all the mileage on him. And the injuries – such as a torn pec and broken ribs – only add to the concern. But, at least for now, it looks like there’s a lot more here than I expected.
Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com and Evolving-Hockey.com