Diagnosing the Flames Ills (part 13,453,434...)

Kent Wilson
March 22 2012 10:23AM



Unless Calgary goes on the sort of run down the stretch that would make 2003-04 look commonplace, a solid portion of the this off-season will again be spent picking through the rubble, trying to piece together what went wrong. Naturally, we did something similar round these parts last year and one analysis that is even more relevant for the club today is Flames and the inverted pyramid, where I showed how the club's top players actually lagged behind the depth guys in terms of driving play. 

At the time, I asserted but did not show how and to what degree this is unusual in the NHL. Luckily, JaredL of copper and blue has compiled some league-wide corsi averages for the various forward lines. His results show just how far off the Flames are in terms of puck possession.

First, here are his results:

"Below average" and "above average" are the 25th and 75th percentile respectively. What you are seeing is corsi/60 rates for players compiled between 2007-2011.

He are the Flames players individual corsi rates this season. I'll arrange them in a depth chart according to average ES ice time per game:

Tanguay (-9.61) Jokinen (-10.68) Iginla (-12.37)
Glencross (-9.10) Cammalleri (-7.02) Stempniak (+3.75)
Comeau (-2.47) Backlund (+1.91) Moss (+7.07)
Jackman (-0.80) Stajan (-1.72) Kostopolous (-4.73)
Bouma (-13.02) Horak (-9.45)  


As you can see, the Flames top-end is getting killed again this season (moreso, in fact). Not only relative to their own bottom-end, but compared to other top lines in the league. The Flames top three forwards (Tanguay, Jokinen and Iginla) are way south of even the 25th percentile of top line players in the NHL.

Of course, we're talking raw corsi here without context. Sutter has mostly gone power vs power with the big guns this year and none of them have a zone start at or above 50% (although Iggy, who has the worst possession rate amongst regular forwards, has the easiest of the bunch at 48.4).

So their circumstances haven't been buttery soft. One of the reasons some top lines have excellent corsi rates is their coach works to get them favorable circumstances, like AV and the Sedins in Vancouver. That said, the vast majority of good players tend to play against other good players most of the time in the NHL, so it's not merely tough sledding that is keeping the Flames big guns at the bad end of the ice as compared to similarly played and payed skaters.

This exercise also displays how far off the Flames are from being elite at this point. My rule of thumb for excellent-or-better possession rates has always been double digits and Jared prove that out here - the best (or most sheltered) scorers in the league have managed +11.97/60 corsi or better since 2007.   

You'll find those types of numbers in the principle forwards of just about every top level team (aside from, say, the Lundqvist based Rangers this season). For example:

Boston - Patrice Bergeron (+21.47)

Detroit - Pavel Datsyuk (+18.53)

St. Louis - David Backes (+11.35)

Vancouver - Ryan Kesler (+13.68)

Pittsburgh - Jordan Staal (+12.05)

Chicago - Jonathan Toews (+17.17)

Many of the guys I show here play some of the toughest competition on the their respective squads. the Penguins, for example, also have Malkin and Crosby with even higher possession rates than Jordan (+18.78 and +35.31 respectively) because they can send Staal out out against the other teams best. 

Great teams have players that control the play. Or, at least, have coaches who tip the scales enough so their biggest threats spend more time in the offensive zone (and good enough players elsewhere in the lineup to make that possible).

So if you're wondering this off-season where the Flames lack or what they need to meaningfully improve, look to this article as a starting point.

Former Nations Overlord. Current FN contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
#51 the-wolf
March 26 2012, 06:22AM
Trash it!
RexLibris wrote:

Then let's clarify:

My understanding of commenters here using the Philadelphia rebuild model is that they took one year where they stunk and then somehow turned that draft bonanza into the competitive team that they are today. To date they have one NHL player out of that entire draft year.

Now, on the topic of having the courage to trade away established players for prospects and picks: absolutely. That is one thing that I have noticed an almost paranoic amount of fear coming from Flames fans, and seemingly from the management also, about taking that step. It is curious because there have been numerous others who have left the organization before, but Iginla seems to be the one that nobody can fathom having to send away.

As for the Oilers, Horcoff and Smyth are third line players next season and Smyth risks tarnishing his reputation if he stays and costs the team the development of one of the younger prospects at LW (Paajarvi and Hartikainen are two potential victims of his ice time). Neither one of them would garner the return of a top defenceman or goalie. Gagner and Hemsky are needed for at least the next season in order to act as transitional talent. Gagner may also be our eventual second or third line centre depending on who the Oilers draft this year and the development of players like Lander and Pitlick. Also, I don't know that Gagner or Hemsky gets you that return at this point in their careers. They each have a long ways to go.

I guess, in the end, I don't see where the Oilers could subtract a forward worth the return of a starting netminder or a top pairing defencemen without ending up taking a step backwards.

As for trading away the draft pick, it has been, at least theoretically, on the table the last three years. However, this team is still a few years away from hitting it's stride and acquiring someone who is at the peak of their performance now risks having them in decline when the rest of the team is optimal and you have in the end paid top dollar for something you won't reap the rewards from until it has depreciated. What a top four draft pick is worth really depends on the buyer. Like you've said, it's timing and opportunity, however this team is taking a methodical approach to the rebuild so it would have to be something significant, at least positionally so.

If Suter walks on Nashville this summer then the Oilers could try offering up Paajarvi and Omark for a signed Weber, but that is all a long-shot at this point.

Agreed, but I think the Oilers need Smyth for 1 more year. And I wasn't thinking necessarily a top 2 D, just a younger D who can play solid, tough minutes and is signed for a few seasons. But then, maybe that's wishful thinking too.

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