Despite all of the Bill Peters drama earlier this season, and Geoff Ward taking over as head coach, the Calgary Flames are only three points back of 1st place in the Pacific Division. An instrumental part of their comeback is the play of forward Matthew Tkachuk, as he currently is tied for the team lead in points, averaging around two more minutes per night than his previous career average of 16:50.
Despite all of his major penalties and time spent in the box due to fighting, Matthew Tkachuk far and away leads the Flames in penalties drawn this season with an impressive 22, matching his total from last season in around 25 fewer games. Tkachuk is currently 2nd on the Flames in goals and assists this season behind only Elias Lindholm and Johnny Gaudreau respectively. AB wise, Matthew Tkachuk has one of the highest AB scores in the first 3 years of his career of his draft class, with a +3.71 average score. He is the perfect combination of a physical, tough player that has elite talent, and above-average intelligence. His involvement in the Zach Kassian charade helped Calgary win the game, as he realized if he had fought Kassian, he would have negatively impacted his team. Instead, he got under Kassian’s skin and forced him to take a dumb penalty that eventually cost Edmonton the game. Right now, Edmonton is ahead of Calgary in the standings by two points; without Tkachuk’s intelligence, the Flames would be 4 points back of the Oilers with Edmonton having a game in hand. In this tight of a playoff race, everything matters, and Tkachuk’s intelligent play could be the difference between making and missing the playoffs for the Flames.
Tkachuk’s fantastic season earned him a spot in the 2020 All-Star game in St. Louis, where he grew up due to his Dad, Keith, playing for the Blues. We actually have some data on Keith Tkachuk, all be it the last three years of his career. All were negative seasons with a -2.9 average score. In those 3 seasons, Keith’s score consistently got worse, as one would expect from an aging veteran on the tail-end of his career (-1.31, -3.64, -3.75). Matthew’s brother Brady also has a -2 AB score; however, he has only been in the league for one season and appears promising enough to make the jump to a positive AB player.
With the trade deadline quickly approaching, it will be interesting to see if Flames GM Brad Treliving decides to upgrade his team, and provide more help to Tkachuk and Gaudreau. The Flames will attempt to redeem themselves after losing in 5 games to the 8-seeded Colorado Avalanche in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the #1 overall seed in the Western Conference. More to come, as we are entering the most exciting time of the hockey season.