Five things: Rocky road

Ryan Lambert
October 24 2013 08:45AM

1. Roadtrippin' ain't easy

So the Flames enter today 1-3-0 on their current roadtrip, and 2-3-1 away from the Saddledome overall. In those six games, they've given up (get this) 22 goals, which is obviously way too many. Frankly, in the three games in which they've gotten their five road points, they've been lucky to escape; that Washington game was a disaster, the Columbus game flat-out bizarre, and the win over the Kings muddled by a slew of late penalties.

This is, one suspects, kind of the Flames everyone thought they'd be getting when the year began. They have seemingly little in the way of an ability to put together a complete game, particularly away from home, and that's kind of the hallmark of deeply flawed NHL teams these days. They'll occasionally do things well, even more rarely they'll do them really well, but there's always a deficiency of some kind: defensive letdown, offensive sputtering, goaltending gaffes (and man, the team's save percentage to this point in the season is a robust .894), special teams trauma. These have all plagued the team at one point or another on the road. Fortunately, the road run comes to an end tonight with what will probably be a loss to Dallas (statistically speaking).

The Flames schedule, in looking at it, is weird, isn't it? Three-game homestands abound in the early going, though two are merely broken up by a one-game swing out to Winnipeg and back in mid-November. Maybe the team builds up its confidence again starting on Saturday, but the stretch at the end of this coming home run is brutal. Hosting Detroit, at Chicago, at Minnesota, at St. Louis, at Colorado, hosting San Jose. Woof. Really good chance they might come out of that with zero points.

2. Monahan's increased responsibility

By the time you read this the Flames will have already announced their in-no-way-shocking decision to keep Sean Monahan with the big club despite the fact that it's a terrible idea, and in the run-up to that announcement they've done all they can to justify it.

He jumped from 15:10 at San Jose, where he was eaten alive at even strength, to 21:11 at Los Angeles, where he was eaten alive. That was then scaled back, somewhat, to 19:26 in Phoenix, where he actually did pretty well (something in the 48 percent corsi-for range). Of course, in those three games he also had two goals and an assist, the latter of which was actually at 5-on-5, so all the evidence mounted perfectly for Hartley and Feaster to make this wrong decision.

No crying when he stops getting literally every bounce to go his way a month from now.

3. Everyone coming back

What has been remarkable about the Flames' ability to continually be at least in some ways competitive during this early-season stretch is that there are still so many important players hurt. The run-up to the Phoenix game saw Calgary bring David Jones back into the lineup, and Matt Stajan was along for the ride as a kind of prelude to their likely returns tonight in Dallas. Of course, then Mark Giorgado got injured in warmups (something I'll address in a minute) and now the whole thing is on its ear again.

The good news is that all these players slotting back into the lineup for the first time in weeks puts the team in a position to start sitting Brian McGrattan for once, and that's always going to be viewed by all sane people as a good decision,

4. The Giordano injury

Boy does this put the Flames in a bad position. Chris Breen drew in Tuesday night as a result, which was nice for him since it was his first-ever NHL game, but that is a gaping hole in the defense to leave. The Flames' bottom-3 or 4 defensemen are, of course, uniformly garbage. The odds, I think, are probably good that Chris Butler is reinstated back into the lineup even though it's a terrible idea, just because you don't know how Breen holds up over a long period. (As I write this, I should note that there's been no word whatsoever on his status or how much time he'll miss.)

At some point, you'd almost rather just have TJ Brodie push Wideman-like minutes every night just to make up some of the difference so the goalies don't get shelled. Not that it matters, really, since that's already happening, but this has to be a major point of concern.

5. Something that just occurred to me

The Flames' third loss in four games the other night kind of reminded me that I hadn't checked where they were in the standings for a minute, and also served to re-inform me that oh yeah Phoenix is a division game now. I was legitimately shocked, therefore, to see the Flames, who have only lost three games out of their first nine, sitting sixth in the division.

Granted, they have a game in hand on a few teams ahead of them, but nonetheless, they already appear to be on the outside looking in. What was that stat Elliotte Friedman had the other day about being four-plus points out of the playoffs on Nov. 1 being really in tough to make it? Well, the Flames are currently four back of Phoenix for the third and final guaranteed playoff spot in the Pacific, and that could be a major problem going forward.

That's interesting, though. We could more or less know the Flames' chances of making the playoffs a week from now. Never too early to start the fire sale, I guess.

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Yer ol' buddy Lambert is handsome and great and everyone loves him. Also you can visit his regular blog at The Two-Line Pass or follow him on Twitter. Lucky you!
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#51 KetchupKid
October 24 2013, 02:12PM
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Ramskull wrote:

RE: Monahan

"Good decisions are based on knowledge not on numbers" - Plato

Lambert loves to present CORSI as some sort of chucker stat and comes across as someone who fails to understand the physical actions that drive the mathematical representation. When Ryan can do nothing but provide math with no concrete examples of what mistakes ultimately drive his CORSI and how these mistakes are better addressed at the junior level his argument breaks down. Management obviously believes that the "holes" in his game are better addressed in Calgary playing against men than they are on the other side of the continent playing against boys. Interestingly there are similarities between Lambert and Monahan. The only thing stopping them from being very good at their chosen professions is maturity. Tell me Ryan, where would you be professionally if you were not given the opportunity to write for puck daddy? Since you lack the maturity of a Friedman does that mean you should be demoted to the dark corners of the internet? Some might think so (or hope so) but I don't actually share that opinion.

I thought this WAS a dark corner of the internet.

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#52 TRAV
October 24 2013, 02:29PM
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@Justin Azevedo

Justin,

Just out of curiosity I tried searching up a Ryan Lambert Boston Globe article and din't have any luck. I sometimes read his stuff on puck daddy and was interested if he maintained a similar style with the globe previously. I am a lousy web searcher and as I mentioned didn't have any luck. If possible could you post a link to one of his articles. I know that he does some politics and music stuff and I am just generally curious.

thanks, TRAV

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#53 ngthagg
October 24 2013, 02:35PM
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I'm not sure how the Monahan decision can be called terrible. Unlike many decisions made by an NHL GM (drafting, free agency), the ramifications can be laid out with a great degree of precision:

The Downside: for one season, three years from now, the Flames will pay Monahan a greater sum of money, and be that much closer to the salary cap. This will, in turn, only be relevant if two conditions are fulfilled: the Flames are a cap team that year, and there is a desirable free agent that they are unable to to sign. (The Flames also lose out, in theory, whenever Monahan's contract comes up in the future, but there are far too many variations for that to be worth considering.)

The Upside: First, the Flames benefit from the addition of Monahan to the roster this year. This is actually a downside if you are convinced we need to tank for the next few years, but if you believe that, then you are not worried that cap concerns three years from now will cost us an expensive free agent.

And second, Monahan's development will be improved. This would be a debatable point if he was getting his head beat in every night, but he isn't. The quality of competition, teammates, and coaching will be better in the NHL. He will be a better player sooner because of this. And potentially, he will hit a higher peak.

If we miss out on a stellar free agent three years from now because we don't have the cap space for him, I will freely admit I am wrong. But if that unlikely event does not happen, keeping Monahan up is the smart move.

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#54 kittensandcookies
October 24 2013, 02:38PM
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Jeff Lebowski wrote:

Sven wants to produce - he needs to. Sven therefore needs to get some PP time. Why is a struggling Glencross getting PP time over Sven? Because Sven hasn't earned it.

Hartley, Feaster giving gravy time to guys who earn it by concentrating on details. For Sven, I think it means him getting relentless on forecheck (he does it but not consistently) and stopping in front of the net. Monahan always stops in front of net. People think it's luck or bounces but rebounds are VERY COMMON. It's not luck, it's smarts - just look how many times Monahan is at net and it bounces away from him. Isn't he unlucky then? To me, the most impressive part of Monahan's game is how he changes speed - outer edges to slow down and bust angles. Watch his goal against Canucks - it was a 2 on 1 but if you really watch that goal - frame by frame - you might be blown away like me. The look off to remove the potential shot block. The snipe was so well disguised.

Sean isn't physically overwhelming the way a MacKinnon is. Junior isn't going to make this better. Monahan is just so disciplined and well trained. He's just been trained to cut out the BS plays all young guys seemingly have because he doesn't rely on blazing speed. How many times have you seen Taylor Hall take on 3 guys. He's gifted enough to do it but successful like 1/3 - inefficient. Monahan is like - I'll just put the puck in a smart spot and head to the net.

This will sound crazy but he reminds me of Crosby in THIS regard. When PIT played DET back to back in cup - you saw Crosby change his game. He became a direct , little flash, point producer. He just went to the net. Watch that series where PIT won.

Monahan already plays a game most people figure out after they're done playing. The smart efficient game. His most ineffective games are against tight, physical disciplined teams or against elite teams with elite depth. These just require experience. Like face offs.

It seems people's reasons for sending him down expect him to be perfect right now. No mistakes. No struggles. No learning curve. As if junior will make him a perfect player.

People are drawn to mistakes. They think they're bad. Also, people (Lambert and the like) are incapable of appreciating how good he is. Why? They rely on corsi to tell them so. If he's underwater that obviously means he was hemmed in all game and the opponents were getting prime shots from inside the circles.

Do an experiment - wait for FN to use corsi or another stat to give evidence to their conclusion about a player. PVR the game they base it on. Then watch the player's shifts. In the case of Monahan, watch where he and mates shoot puck from. Watch where opponents shoot their pucks from. Maybe it aligns with FN. Maybe not. Test out their premises. Make up your own mind but DO THE EXPERIMENT YOURSELF. Don't wait for a number and fill in the blanks afterward.

Back to Sven - I've suggested before, if Sven adopts a shooter's mentality, opponents will be forced to respect his shot. What does that mean? It means they will commit to the shot lane, giving him time and a little space and also open up the pass lane. First few shifts just rip it - he might even score - once the D start defending the shot - block attempt or just backing off - he will be able to dazzle. Sven is still maturing - he wants to make splash plays, he wants people to go oooohhh, ahhhh.

Just play direct at first. The NHL is all about smart, direct hockey. Then when you get time and space you can work your magic.

Look at how well it's worked for Monahan.

Calgary is winning more than losing currently while still balancing giving young guys opportunity. Brodie is on PP1 over Russell (sometimes it Cammy on point).

Monahan played 6 min on PP against LA (team scored 3 PP goals). Once Sven cracks special teams his numbers will explode - just watch.

Colborne is improving - he's getting more on the puck. He'll be at top of his game when it looks like the puck follows him around.

Glencross is getting brutalized on sites. He's struggling but he's always been streaky. Once Stajan and Stempniak back with him- look out.

Bouma to me looks like a guy who will score 5-10 goals a year on 4th line but once you see him in playoffs he will blow you away. I see him being a guy who will power the puck to the net and show great skills when the intensity is highest.

O'Brien played great against PHX. Breen scared him (taking ice time). Smart dump ins against Smith - Calgary never forechecked that game except when O'Brien made it happen.

Guys will come back to earth. This team still has massive holes but they never give up.

I see Cammy, Hudler and Wideman all staying long term. Good vets, good people. You keep those guys.

Jackman, DJones, Stajan (sadly but his ice time will go to Backlund), Stempniak (if they keep Hudler - Stempniak bigger return due to his outstanding play and low salary - or future FA salary $4M) will go IF they aren't making playoffs.

I thought I was done before but now I'm done.

As I've stated before. Calgary will become a POWERHOUSE very soon. There will be no joy at FN when that happens. Grin and bear it for now...

What an icky wall of text. Guess you're trying to outdo Rex Libris for highest word/useful information ratio?

Yes, I've watched Monahan play. Yes, carefully. Yes, I've noticed the same things you have. His Corsi isn't horrible. He's basically treading water on an overall basis which for a total rookie is really good.

If Baertshi is going to be scratched then guys like Jackman need to be thrown down a fiery pit. But whatever, it's one game.

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#55 Justin Azevedo
October 24 2013, 02:46PM
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@TRAV

http://thecheckingline.com/blog/mark-trible/tcl/q-ryan-lambert-puck-daddy he says in an interview here about a local boston newspaper and i vaguely recall him saying something about it at some point on twitter

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#56 jonahgo
October 24 2013, 02:57PM
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@Justin Azevedo

at what sample size does corsi (whether +/- or %) stabilize? i don't think we have a particularly good impression of monahan's true talent performance based on 9 games, whether we're talking about his goals/assists or his corsi. have there ever been studies that investigated at which sample size (in terms of ice time i assume) a player's corsi reflects his 'true talent' as opposed to randomness in the game?

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