Most teams in the NHL have that one player who can carry the bulk of a team's scoring on their shoulders. Washington has Ovechkin, Tampa Bay has Stamkos, Pittsburgh has Crosby, and Anaheim has Getzlaf. These players all have supporting casts that help them succeed too, but if you stuck them on a bad team, they would still be top 10 in league scoring.
However, when you look at the Stanley Cup Champions for the last four years, we see teams that were built for depth and that every line had the potential to score. Essentially, having top NHL talent is a huge bonus, but creating a solid team all the way through the lineup is just as important. Look at the Kings last year with Mr. Game 7, Justin Williams, and the Stanley Cup hero Alec Martinez. Neither player is known as a huge scorer, yet this proves that having a team with any player being capable to score goes a long way for a team's Stanley Cup dream.
Which brings me to this year's Calgary Flames.
Prior to this season, a smorgasboard of questions on how the Flames would score rang loudly throughout the media. And inside the head of Brad Treliving, too. Calgary had just lost its leading goal scorer Mike Cammalleri in free agency, and there didn't seem to be any possible quick fix for a team that was already in the bottom third of league scoring. Signing Mason Raymond seemed to account for part of the loss, but still, the questions only got louder as the season drew near.
Fast forward to now, the start of April and the Flames sit fifth in goals per game. How did they do this?
It all started with the environment set by Bob Hartley and Flames management, with the "everything earned, and never given" motto. Players knew heading into this season that the only way this team could succeed is that they would all have to work their hardest in order to taste victory and, dare I say, even playoffs.
While it was apparent that Calgary lacked proven top NHL goal scorers, they had many young players ready to blossom such as Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, as well as veterans such as Dennis Wideman and Jiri Hudler, who were ready to lead this team. There and then, the scoring by committee idea was made.
Now, with Michael Ferland's goal against Nashville, and Deryk Engelland's two goals against Dallas, we reached the point in which every regular lineup player has scored at least one goal this season (besides Ladislav Smid who is done for the year with an upper body injury, and only has 12 career goals, anyways).
Much of the Flames' success can be credited to how well this team has done in balancing the scoring among their forwards and defense, as well as creating an amazing top line that may be better than any line Iginla was ever on. Look at the last two games against Nashville and Dallas. Eight (!) different goal scorers and 15 different players with at least one point on a total of 10 combined goals. That is the definition of spreading the scoring if you ask me.
Here are the numbers of a few players who have had breakout seasons on the offensive side of the game:
- What more can be said about the 80 combined goals of Monahan, Hudler, and Gaudreau?
- Dennis Wideman's career high 14 goals
- Lance Bouma's 16 goals while he only had six in his career before this year
- Josh Jooris coming out of nowhere to score 12 goals, along with four game winning goals
- Mark Giordano's 48 points that could have been so much more if he didn't get injured
- Calgary has had 32 games this year with at least four goals!
All very impressive numbers for these players on a team that wasn't supposed to score much this season. While some say Calgary has been benefiting from a good shooting percentage, they are playing good hockey and taking advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. Calgary has 11 players with 10 or more goals this year. If that's not the definition of spread out scoring, I'm not sure what is.
Every forward has been contributing and each one provides an unique aspect to the game which could prove crucial down the stretch. Not to mention that 14 different players also have at least one game winning goal this year. This team is receiving help from every player and when that happens, it creates chemistry between players and an atmosphere that can win games.
As I alluded to earlier, it takes strong depth in order to create a championship team. While Calgary may not have that team right now, they certainly have the makings of a team that can field four solid lines that can score, as well as a strong prospect pool to add to it with players such as Sam Bennett, Emile Poirier, and Max Reinhart, to give a few examples. The scoring by committee program in Calgary has given them a shot at the playoffs, and whether or not that happens, this season can be considered a great step forward in a rebuild that seems to be moving forward quite well and quite quickly.
The good news is players like Johnny Gaudreau, Jiri Hudler, and Josh Jooris have all made up for losing Cammalleri's scoring and then some. And the even better news is that these players are here to stay. Here's hoping that this team develops even more depth and continues to make this rebuild get better every game for seasons to come!