April 24 2011 10:39AM
In our last installment, we perused the Flames' outshooting numbers as a team at even strength when the score was tied, as well as examining Miikka Kiprusoff's work during that game state. Today, it's time to look at the primary skaters on the club.
It's easy to look at Kipper's sub-par numbers and absolve the skaters of a lot of the blame, since the Flames had 52.6% of the shots on goal when the game was tied and still finished -8 in goal differential during that game state. That noted, there's a bit more to things than just firing Miikka under the bus and walking away. The Flames' best forwards weren't perfect by any means, and the most expensive players were as likely to give up a goal as score one. As a reminder, the primary reason that looking at EV tied information is worthwhile is that it strips away a lot of the score effect noise that we might have in normal outshooting data. Again, the data for this review comes from Vic Ferrari's timeonice.com.
The Flames as a whole had Shots/Fenwick/Corsi percentages of .526/.520/.513, which as I noted in the last piece was solidly in the middle of the pack when we looked at the top ten Western Conference teams. As we've often discussed around these parts, most clubs that go anywhere get killer performances from their best players, and the support troops are mostly along for the ride.
If we just look at the three top seeds in the conference, we'll see that Ryan Kesler's EV tied string was .540/.554/.564, Joe Pavelski's was .566/.582/.567, and Pavel Datsyuk finished with a showing of .576/.591/.610. On the off-chance you were wondering, their ZoneStart percentages were 50.0, 44.5 and 47.7 respectively, so it wasn't like they had the sorts of advantages the Sedins or the top guys with the Blackhawks were gifted with. Pavel Datsyuk missed a bunch of games, meaning that he'll never be in the Hart conversation, but he had a superb season. I'd guess more than a few Coyotes' players might advise you he was the difference in their recent series, provided they aren't too busy surfing the Winnipeg MLS website to offer an opinion.
With that sort of competition from forwards at the apex of the conference, the Flames needed similar performances to have a hope. Before we get to the individual numbers, I'm always cognizant that players can, through ZoneStart or QComp, get a leg up on their teammates in terms of outshooting numbers. What I found interesting when I looked at the Flames QComp and ZoneStart numbers was that there wasn't any one player or group of players that were handed all the heavy lifting to the exclusion of others, but that the distribution was fairly equal amongst the top seven forwards. Here's that group:
Before anything else is said, note that Stajan, Hagman and Kotalik, taking up a collective 9.5M against the cap, aren't in this group. That was not optimal, to be kind. Beyond that, it isn't hard to see who was driving the bus in terms of outshooting. The disappointing player in the group was probably Bourque, even accepting that the percentages were a bit cruel to him, since his last couple of seasons were well ahead of this sort of output. We've often mentioned that he looked a bit lost without Daymond Langkow, and I suspect that this season's indifferent performance should be seen as some proof that's really so.
Edit: I should have added the chart above before I hit publish the first time. It's the overall EV numbers in all game states for Iginla, Tanguay, Jokinen and Bourque. Note that Joker and Bourque have worse overall possession numbers than they do when the game was tied while the top duo' s were better. My suspicion is that those numbers were built because Iggy/Tanguay were used when the Flames were looking for a goal and that Jokinen and Bourque ended up defending their share of leads.
There are other items of interest there, obviously. Brendan Morrison got lit up pretty comprehensively, which certainly exposes the narrative that he was a player that made things work for Iginla and Tanguay as just that, a narrative. Olli Jokinen, despite the toughest QComp numbers, wasn't that bad. In all honesty, given the expectations for him and the role he had thrust on him, he was OK. Seriously. If he plays the same way next year, the team will have received fair value for his 3M a season. It's easy to bust on the guy for any number of reasons, and hitting 15-20 fewer goalposts would be nice, but on my list of evil doers, he's not near the top. That shouldn't preclude anyone from enjoying the inevitable Photoshop competition this off-season, of course.
The guys that carried the mail were Glencross and Moss, which really should be no surprise. Curtis Glencross has his moments where the synapse gap is greater than one might like, but he's a very solid player. His personal SH% this year might well be the high water mark in his career, so I'd advise any GM to be mindful of that fact this summer when he's looking for a contract, but that fact shouldn't obscure his fine overall play. It's also fair to note that David Moss had a few bounces go his way as well. Again, as with Glencross, a bit of good fortune at times shouldn't distract anyone from that excellent outshooting performance. Moss might have been a handy guy to have in the lineup the last few weeks of the year, and with all due respect to our learned friend from Massachusetts, he's a bit better than a C+ player, especially at his cap hit.
As mentioned in the last go-round, the Flames appeared to have three different years. So, as with Kipper's season, here's the top seven forwards by segment:
The outshooting numbers when tied were actually pretty good other than Morrison and Bourque. Stajan, who wasn't included in this set of data, actually played quite a bit with Iginla and Tanguay during this period of the season, and his performance will be examined in the next iteration of the review. No matter, it's certainly clear that the Flames couldn't throw it in the ocean for the first 2 1/2 months. If you want to blame Daz, I guess that's an option, although I can't really endorse it.
The stretch from the Dallas game on December 23rd to the St. Louis game on March 1st was Calgary's purple patch. Everything was going in the opposition net, unless you were Rene Bourque. Also, take note of Morrison's outshooting numbers. He played major minutes during this period with Tanguay and Iggy, and all three of them went right into the ditch. In contrast, this was a period where Moss and Glencross eventually went alongside Olli Jokinen. They certainly had pucks go in for them, but those possession numbers were still pretty juicy. I suspect they might not have faced the toughs every single night during this period, but they never would have faced less than second liners along the way.
The end days were tough on the club in terms of results in the standings, and note that Morrison and Moss played 1 and 6 games respectively. As hard as I've been on Morrison, it's only fair to remember that placing him with Iginla and Tanguay allowed the other forwards to play in better circumstances or with linemates that suited them, so I suppose you could argue that he took one for the team. Placing Mikael Backlund with the duo over the last few games seemed to lift their play, but given that the club played against the bad or disinterested the last 4 times out of the gate, I won't read much into any results they might have obtained. At any rate, the pucks quit going in quite as frequently for the club, and the goaltending during this period let all the air out of a group that was a body or two short.
Overall, the team's top forwards weren't openly awful, but the two "best" players, Iginla and Tanguay, never really dominated in the way that the elite players on other teams did, and in the end, you can only go as far as your top guys. I'm pretty comfortable in saying that their spotty EV play and the struggles of Rene Bourque were the largest non-goaltending contributors to the Flames missing the second season.