Flames Blake Coleman set for 500th NHL Game

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Blake Coleman is in a reflective mood.

Hitting a major career milestone will do that to a guy, and playing in his 500th NHL game on New Year’s Eve against the Philadelphia Flyers is a big deal for the Calgary Flames winger.

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“Not bad for a Texas boy,” Coleman said with a smile.

Not bad at all, especially for a guy who didn’t play his first NHL game until he was 26-years-old and, as he noted, comes from an area of the U.S. that isn’t exactly a hotbed for developing hockey talent.

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But Coleman found a way and after stints in New Jersey with the Devils and Tampa with the Lightning, he’s become one of the most reliable players on the Flames roster and a guy who certainly looks like he’s got a couple hundred more games in him.

“There’s times where you kind of reflect on your career and this is one where you kind of look back and realize how quickly time is going. It’s definitely something I’m proud of,” Coleman said.

“It’s just how much life has changed, I guess, since Day 1 (when I was) just scratching and clawing to get a chance in this league and right now being kind of a regular, and it’s just one of those things that you kind of take for granted when you’re in the moment and just playing and grinding through games but when you hit a number like this you kind of reflect on my time in Jersey, my time in Tampa and obviously here in Calgary.”
Coleman will have a big group of family at the Saddledome for his 500th game on Sunday evening, although that’s mostly because they came into town to spend Christmas in Calgary. His parents, unfortunately, won’t be able to make it because they had already committed to going to a wedding.

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“They told me I’ve got to make it to 1,000,” Coleman said.

The way Coleman’s playing this season, that doesn’t seem like an impossible number.

While he won two Stanley Cups with the Lightning and then established himself as an important third-line piece playing next to Mikael Backlund over his first two seasons with the Flames, his offensive game seems to have taken a leap recently.

He’s currently leading the Flames with 12 goals through the team’s first 35 games and if you were to factor in the entire 2023 calendar year, nobody’s scored more for the Flames than the 23 he’s potted over the last 12 months, either.

Coleman’s career high for goals-in-a-season is 22, which he did in 2018-19 with the Devils. That’s a number that seems very reachable this year.

And if Coleman’s offensive production is a surprise to some people, it’s exactly what Coleman expects of himself.

“I feel like this is kind of back on-pace to what I should be,” Coleman said. “I feel back to myself. It was a little frustrating not getting to that level the first two years (with the Flames) and this is just kind of my expectations and now everybody in Calgary kind of knows what it’s about and the bar is where it should be.

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“I’ve always kind of prided myself on scoring being kind of a bonus in my game. Obviously, the more you can score the more you can help contribute, but the way I look at my game s I want to be a plus-player, not necessarily plus-minus but just effecting more offence than I am giving up defensively, so when you can skew the numbers a little bit further that way it means I’m doing a better job. I’m happy the pucks are going in.”

ALL-STAR NOD
Calgary Wranglers head coach Trent Cull is going to be on the bench for the AHL’s All-Star Game in February.

Cull earned that right because the Wranglers are the top team in the Pacific Division with a 19-7-3-0 record. The coaches of the teams that lead the AHL’s four divisions at the end of play on December 31 were selected.

It’s Cull’s first time coaching at the AHL All-Star Classic. He joined the Wranglers this summer after six seasons in the Vancouver Canucks organization, including five seasons as head coach of their AHL affiliates.

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