What would ideal Calgary Flames forward lines look like?

Apr 12, 2023; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames right wing Matt Coronato (39) against the San Jose Sharks during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 12, 2023; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames right wing Matt Coronato (39) against the San Jose Sharks during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

With the NHL season officially one week away, the Calgary Flames roster continues to slim as we get closer to an opening night lineup. Starting with the forwards, the Flames have a surprising amount of firepower. How will they line up on Wednesday, October 11th against the Winnipeg Jets and what would optimal Calgary Flames forward lines look like for the forward group?

To put it bluntly, last year’s Calgary Flames offence was a tire fire. High expectations for new arrivals like Jonathan Huberdeau were cut short due to toxic locker room dynamics under Darryl Sutter, a failure to put players in a position to succeed, and overall trouble scoring goals. This year looks a little different – with not many changes other than Toffoli gone and Sharangovich in, the team looks poised for a new beginning under the lead of Ryan Huska. So, what might the opening day forward group look like? Let’s take a look, as we continue our Calgary Flames 2023/2024 Season Preview.

Line 1: Huberdeau – Lindholm – Sharangovich

It’s safe to say that Huberdeau and Lindholm will be a pair to start the season and may only be broken up because of injury or suffering play. As recently as today, Huberdeau and Lindholm remain paired. With their play styles, it makes sense – Huberdeau is a pass-first forward and Lindholm has a lethal shot, which he proved by scoring 40 on a line with Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk just two season ago.

Huberdeau and Lindholm might be the parts of the line that stick, while the right wing slot could become home to a rotating cast. Andrew Mangiapane is the forward who’s most recently skated on the top line and I don’t see him as a bad fit.

However, Sharangovich has impressed this pre-season. While he hasn’t lit up the score sheet, he’s had a positive impact on both ends of the ice. In Monday’s tilt against Winnipeg, Sharangovich landed a 1.89 game score – fifth highest on the team. He’s proven before that he can put up points when he plays with talented players, like Jack Hughes. A top line assignment gives him the best chance to prove that he was worth the price the Flames paid for him.

Sharangovich is also a left-handed shooter who has expressed a preference for playing on his off-wing, something that could benefit a playmaker like Huberdeau, who’s historically performed better with left-handed passing targets.

Calgary Flames Yegor Sharangovich
Sep 29, 2023; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames left wing Yegor Sharangovich (17) during the face off against the Edmonton Oilers during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

Line 2: Mangiapane – Kadri – Coronato

Supposedly, one of Calgary’s biggest strengths is its centre depth. While Lindholm isn’t McDavid, having a trio of Lindholm, Kadri, and Backlund down the middle is above-average depth at the position. Last year was a regression for Kadri – after putting up the best season of his career in his final year in Colorado, many expected this. For the Flames to truly unlock his potential, they have to find out who he meshes with.

Mangiapane would be a good fit, as he’s shown that he’s a positive forward on the ice with the ability to transition from defence to offence fairly quickly. He does it all and then some, along with being a ferocious forechecker. Mangiapane’s tenacity around the net could complement Kadri’s finishing.

Finally, Coronato. Where to start? The kid has been ELECTRIC this preseason an is a lock to make the team. He is something that the Flames have been missing for a long time: a right-shot forward who can shoot the puck, and shoot it well.

As of today, Coronato finds himself on the third line with Backlund. However, I believe he deserves a shot in the top six as a fantastically gifted offensive forward who can learn from the likes of Kadri and Mangiapane.

With that being said, Mikael Backlund does have the tendency to unlock the potential of younger players:

Line 3: Ruzicka – Backlund – Dube

Before I start, can I just say that Backlund is the PERFECT Flames captain for this team? He’s also one of the better third-line centres in this league and has spearheaded a shutdown line for as many years as I can count. This year may be different, as I don’t believe he has the personnel to continue in that role. Ruzicka is still a bit of an unknown commodity (due in part to Sutter’s mishandling of him last year) and Dube is another curious case – we don’t really know what we have in him. If this line can turn into a true shutdown line, it could make the Flames a very dangerous team.

Line 4: Coleman – Schwindt/Zary- Duehr

You’ve got to feel a little bad for Coleman, right? It seems every year he gets demoted to a lower and lower role, going from the second to third line, and most recently slotted on the fourth line. There is an opportunity for him to be a mentor; if he stays on the fourth line, he’ll almost certainly play alongside rookies. Both Schwindt and Zary have impressed in camp and as it stands, it will be a toss-up as to who gets the final spot, but it sure looks like Schwindt is the one penciled in to start the year. As for Duehr, he impressed in his opportunity last season, but can he can improve on it with arguably better linemates? Time will tell.

Ultimately, I believe these are the Calgary Flames forward lines to start the 2023/24 season. One thing is for certain: it’s exciting to see fresh young faces competing for lineup spots in the roster and we’ve been pleasantly surprised with more than a few. Coronato, Pelletier (prior to his injury), Schwindt, and the rest of the youngsters have continued to make a good impression and are well on their way to earning roster spots. I’m excited to see how Huska and Savard manage their offence and get the most out of their players.

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