Blake Coleman Cements the Flames' Shift to 'Darryl Sutter Hockey'

Nearing the edge of its win-now cliff, Calgary spikes its competitiveness significantly with the feisty back-to-back Stanley Cup champ.
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It was a foregone conclusion this summer that left winger Blake Coleman would score a life-changing contract. He had the Stanley Cup glow after playing a crucial role on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s back-to-back championship teams. He was a crucial contributor to the middle-six forward group. His penalty-killing acumen helped a team known for its inability to stay out of the penalty box, and he delivered a healthy bushel of offense at important moments. Across the two playoff runs, he amassed 10 goals, 26 points and a staggering 227 hits in 53 games.

Once his linemate and fellow UFA, Barclay Goodrow, scored a lucrative six-year pact from the New York Rangers paying him a $3.64 AAV, it was even more locked in that Coleman would land a massive contract, as Coleman does all the same things Goodrow does well but Coleman also brings underrated scoring ability to his gritty profile. He averages 19 goals per 82 games in his six-year NHL career.

It was a safe bet that Coleman, 29, would seek out and secure a large term and dollar figure on his next contract for two reasons: (a) as a late bloomer who broke into the NHL as a 25-year-old in 2016-17, he hadn’t earned big money yet in the NHL, topping out at a $1.8-million AAV to date; and (b) he didn’t need winning as a motivator, having earned consecutive Cup rings. 

Everything about the contract Coleman signed Wednesday as free agency opened, then, made sense: six years with the Calgary Flames with a cap hit of $4.9 million. He’s earned it and, playing on pretty much any team other than the loaded Lightning, Coleman should see an increase in his minutes, even if, on paper, he’s still the No. 3 left winger on his new depth chart behind Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk. Coleman is capable of playing center and should be a fixture on Calgary’s penalty kill. Don’t be surprised if he returns to the 20-goal club in his new environment. Over the past three seasons, among 388 forwards who have played at least 1,000 minutes at 5-on-5, Coleman sits 69th in goals per 60, placing him in the 82nd percentile between established top-sixers Evander Kane and Nazem Kadri.

From Calgary’s perspective: given the team still fashions itself a win-now operation as long as GM Brad Treliving is around, Coleman is a great fit in the short term. During the 2020-21 campaign, in which they fired coach Geoff Ward during the season and missed the playoffs, the Flames drew heat for not bringing enough competitive fire night to night (no puns intended, sheesh), and Coleman’s brand is pure heart. Signing him signals a shift in team philosophy to suit coach Darryl Sutter’s lunchpail vision, too. Coleman doesn’t tower over opponents at 5-foot-11 but brings heaviness to his game at 207 pounds.

There’s little doubt Coleman makes the Flames better right now. Six years for a forward who plays a physically taxing style, however, means this contract won’t necessarily age well after the first couple years. We’ve seen bruising power forwards such as David Backes and Wayne Simmonds fall off cliffs with their production in their early 30s, so it’s possible Coleman’s decline years arrive suddenly when he’s halfway through this deal.

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