September 01 2014 01:15PM
This final segment will examine the prospects and rookies of
the 2014-2015 Calgary Flames.
This season is shaping up to be something a little different for the Flames. They are almost universally pegged to be one of the worst teams in the league this season and are clearly rebuilding. At the same time they have some very nice players at key positions in Backlund, Brodie, Giordano, Hudler and Hiller.
Burke and Treliving will also have to take some time to evaluate some prospects at the end of their ELCs before deciding who gets re-signed. This means that there could be a lot of NHL debuts and proverbial cups of coffee in Flames silks this year which could affect roster strength at times.
Jooris, Van Brabant, Knight, Baertschi, Arnold, Wolf, Hanowski, Agostino, Acolatse, Ramage, Cundari, Reinhart, Ferland, and Elson are all entering the final year of their ELCs and the Flames will need to decide whether to retain their rights. With a number of draft picks likely to turn pro at the end of the season, there will be a number of names here who will be left by the roadside.
At the same time the recent addition of Devin Setoguchi puts a clear roadblock in front of a lot of their prospects, so those that get the call up will have either earned it or have a particular ability *coughknuckledraggersscough* that is considered desirable.
As it stands at the end of August, the Flames reserve list has 47 contracts with four, Kanzig, Klimchuk, Poirier and Bennett likely to slide as they return to junior, giving the team a little bit of room to pursue free agents, be they junior, AHL, NCAA or NHL. Billins makes it 48, but I’m not sure he would count in this situation.
So, here are my projections for the prospects that may make their way to the Flames’ roster this coming season.
|Player||gp||est. ppg||age||NHLE||NHLE ppg||Prev AHL||Est. pts|
You’ll notice I’ve listed Baertschi here as well in my previous RE article on forwards. I think he is betwixt and between on the NHL roster right now, and I’ve already said there seems a decent chance that he gets dealt this coming season for a young defender.
Gaudreau gets a real shot in this scenario, and his NHLE translates somewhat in his rookie season. We'll see what happens during the season, but I think he gives us the occasional glimpse of what he can do when a defender gets caught napping.
The rest of the group are basically call-up options that get their fair shake by season’ end. I’m working off my predictions on games played for the established forwards to provide the opportunity, so those games aren’t likely to be consecutive, and that may impact the numbers in the end.
Taking the entire roster’s points projections together the Flames would be likely to score somewhere in the vicinity of 206 goals this year, or about 2.5 goals per game. This would have put them 22nd overall in the league last season and would represent an increase of four goals over last year.
Coupling this with the improved goaltending expected of Hiller and Ramo, an estimated 2.6 goals against per game, a number that would have put them 13th in the league last season. This would translate to the Flames essentially treading water offensively, while making significant strides in goal-prevention.
That would seem to match what our eyes tell us about the team over the course of the summer.
The Flames are supposed to be a dumpster fire this coming season, challenging for the bottom of the league and in the McDavid/Eichel lottery drive.
I'm not convinced of this.
For interests’ sake I decided to take the average shooting percentages I had for every forward and defenseman and add that to the estimated save percentage, based on an historical average for Hiller and a carryover of Ramo’s previous seasons’ number, to provide a PDO number.
PDO is typically used to determine a team’s performance level. Over time it trends strongly towards an even 100%, or 1000. Teams that have a high shooting percentage or are getting extraordinary goaltending will show up in this category and a reversion to the mean can be anticipated at some point.
The SH% of all forwards and defense, with the exception of the Rookies/Prospects mentioned above where information is unavailable or sparse, was 9.63. The estimated SV% of both Hiller and Ramo was 90.85. The PDO is therefore 100.48.
This implies that the estimates I’ve done so far are as even as can be expected with perhaps a slightly optimistic bias.
There are some arguments that the reliance of the Flames on players like Engelland and Smid, whose possession numbers are the numerical equivalent of a smoking crater, will result in a reduced save rate while they are on the ice. I’m not a big believer that defenders directly impact save%, and that possession numbers are a better indication of their defensive abilities – their job is to take the puck away from the player and save% shoots up during the time when your team has the puck.
So, the PDO would suggest that the numbers we’ve arrived at are within reason and that the Flames could perform individually somewhere within the range we’ve marked. As a team, that remains to be seen. NHL history is filled with good individual efforts wasted on poor teams.
My reasoning behind believing that the Flames will not be one of the worst teams in the league this coming season though, is far less quantifiable and leans more towards the “seen-him-good”. I believe that in team sports the whole can often be greater than the sum of its parts. Hartley managed something akin to this last season, and I think he has an improved, albeit marginally, roster this season.
So, in review, here are the final estimations for games, ppg, and points for the Flames this 2014-2015 season, as well as the estimated points, goals, goals per game.
|Player||gp||est. ppg||hist. ppg||sh%||est. pts.|
Thanks to LastBigBear for pointing out an error I had made
in Monahan’s points projections. They were meant to read .45, rather than .33.
The corrections have been made and new totals are provided here.
The Flames are estimated to score somewhere in the range of 206 to 210 goals this season, depending on how you want to break down the goals/assist ratio on the total points. Phoenix scored that last season and finished 20th overall in that category (and in the overall standings). If we took that as a best-case scenario for the Flames, I think we could find the range south of that pretty easily. If you trace back three seasons (excluding the 2013 lockout year) the lowest 210 goals placed a team was 25th back 2009-2010. Buffalo scored a full 60 fewer goals last year and even though they may have improved, I'm not convinced they "found" fifty or sixty goals during the off-season.
My guess is that the Flames finish no lower than 27th overall again this season, barring catastrophic injury to a core player.
The following is the table from the article discussing goaltending. Hiller in row one, Ramo in row two, averages between the two in the third row, with goals against per game in the final column.
|Est. Flames 2014-2015 Goaltending|
|est. gp||est. sh/a||est. shpg||est. sv%||est ga/game||Last year|
On a clear day you can see the Flames' goaltending improvement from the Red Deer city limits. Picking up almost half a goal against per game is no small thing for a team that danced on the razor's edge as often as the Flames did last season.
It is one of the big factors playing into my estimation of the Flames' potential improvement this year. Brodie, Backlund, Giordano are part of the equation, but adding a solid goaltender helps to actualize their defensive strengths.
Why this song?
This was one of George Harrison’s few singles with the Beatles. Perhaps less known than While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Something, Here Comes the Sun is Harrison writing about coming through a long, cold English winter. The months were changing and you could feel the warmth on its way.
"Here Comes the Sun" was written at the time when Apple was getting like school, where we had to go and be businessmen: 'Sign this' and 'sign that.' Anyway, it seems as if winter in England goes on forever, by the time spring comes you really deserve it. So one day I decided I was going to sag off Apple and I went over to Eric Clapton's house. The relief of not having to go see all those dopey accountants was wonderful, and I walked around the garden with one of Eric's acoustic guitars and wrote "Here Comes the Sun."
I Me Mine (1980) p. 144
The Flames took their shot at the chalice a decade ago and ever since the sun has been getting further and further away, the frost creeping onto the lawn and the cold seeping into the bones.
Winter may not be over, and there is definitely a chill in the air still, but the first light of the expected spring is just beginning to creep over the horizon. Fans in Calgary are braced for another long season, but the good things coming make it all bearable.
Harrison was always my favourite Beatle. Paul always seemed to want to be in charge, John was John, and I can’t remember that other guy’s name right now. But George seemed like he was a quiet pillar of the group. He didn’t have the songwriting chops that Paul and John had. That’s no crime, they were beyond generational and we aren’t likely to see a duo like that again.
But Harrison often led the Beatles into new territory, including introducing them to Ravi Shankar and Hindu mythology and musical inspiration. He was a harbinger for them, although a subtle one.