Mid-year Update on the Flames

RexLibris
January 17 2016 11:00AM

We’ve arrived at the Flames’ update at last. Our previous two, the Canucks and Oilers, reviewed the progress of the roster players, possession metrics, sv%’s and various other metrics used to track a team.

For those interested, here's the pre-season look at the Flames.

The Flames had a tough start to the season and I suppose I could save you reading through this article by just summarizing the first few months by saying they looked lost early and were sunk by atrocious goaltending but appear now to be rounding into something resembling an NHL team.

However, let’s see if we can’t do a little better than that.

The Flames’ record after 41 games was 19-20-2 for 40 pts and they sat 6th in the Pacific and 13th in the Western Conference.

The Flames’ power play and penalty kill at the halfway mark both sat 30th in the league, at 14.4% and 74%, respectively. Of all the things we’ll look at today, this surprised me more than anything else. The roster, for all its weaknesses and mis-deployments, boasts players like Gaudreau, Hudler, Hamilton, Frolik, Stajan, Backlund and Giordano whose strengths typically manifest on special teams.

I expect this area to improve in the second half of the season as the current standings are a reflection less of where the Flames are today so much as where they had been earlier in the season.

Below is the table of the player performances thus far with their paces in several categories.

Cgy Mid Year Player Table - Excel

(Data courtesy of NHL.com and affiliated sites)

I suggest Flames fans just forget the year and refer to this season as the Season of Gaudreau, because outside of a slight down turn from Monahan and Giordano gradually rounding back into form, this team has more or less been driven, at least offensively, by the young forward.

I’m overstating obviously, but Gaudreau has likely done as much as Ramo over the course of the season to help keep the Flames afloat while the rest of the roster found its feet.

I decided to look a little deeper into his season and found that Hartley is continuing to give Gaudreau and Monahan a strong push in the offensive zone, though less so than Hudler and Granlund, and of those four and Sam Bennett, Gaudreau and Monahan have faced the weakest competition, which is almost certainly by design.

Cgy GD Mid Year - Excel

Cgy SvPer Mid Year - Excel

(Data courtesy of NHL.com and affiliated sites)

The sv% started abysmally and has improved moving closer to the league average over the course of the season thus far. Despite carrying three goalies for a good stretch of the first half, Hartley seemed to commit early and often to Ramo. That Ortio was on the roster but not playing for so long suggests a difference of opinion between Treliving and Hartley. Nothing wrong with that, but if it causes Treliving to waive a useful player like Paul Byron while his coach mothballs a young goalie in the pressbox, while still not settling on a clear starter, then it needs to be addressed.

The trendline for the Flames in sv% and goal differential has been noticeably improving. A major part of that was due to their extended winning streak in early December. They have also played in 16 one-goal games thus far, winning 12 of them. This continues a trend we’ve seen extend over two and a half seasons now.

With regards to the sv% trendline, the black line represents league average, 0.916 at the time of this writing, and so individual games shouldn’t be weighted too strongly, rather if the Flames can get their trendline above the average more often than not then good things should happen.

Cgy ScAdjFF Mid Year - Excel

(Data courtesy of War on Ice)

The possession numbers are perhaps the most encouraging of all the data gathered thus far. Or at least they likely are for those fans who look to sustainable winning trends as much as outright team performance.

The Flames, solidly subpar in that department now for several seasons, have begun to turn things around this season. Individual game numbers tend to be erratic, so I recommend looking at the trendline as it gives one the best measure of how a team is managing the puck possession aspect.

Ideally one aims for 50% or greater coupled with a low goal differential, so by those two measures the Flames are certainly trending well. Whether there remains enough time in the season for it to pay off though…?

Cgy Ramo SvPer Mid Year - Excel

Cgy Hiller SvPer Mid Year - Excel

(Date courtesy of NHL.com and affiliated sites)

The two goalie graphs are quite telling in contrasting the two seasons we have seen from Flames’ goalies. While neither started particularly well, Ramo appears to have steadily improved while Hiller is trending precipitously downwards, albeit within a much smaller sample size. We should be wary of drawing too-strong conclusions on goalie performances based on save percentages, doubly so on small sample sizes which I would argue is anything under a full season or perhaps even two.

That being said, if Ramo continues this way then the Flames would seem likely to try to extend him this year and shopping Hiller will become only a matter of time, organizational injuries notwithstanding.

Of the three teams we’ve reviewed, the Flames have the strongest lines trending upwards.

Based on current projections they have a reasonable chance to at least challenge for a playoff position this year. More on that later.

2016-01-11 11_13_10-NHL Man-Games Lost January 9, 2016 - Man Games Lost

(Courtesy of mangameslost.com)

We must consider that outside of the early season injury to Brodie and a more recent injury to Frolik, the team has largely been blessed with a relatively healthy roster.

Above is a graph taken from Man Games Lost around the 41 games-played mark.

The higher the team the greater their share of points in the standings, the further to the right the greater the number of man games lost to injury, the larger the bubble the more significant the impact of those injuries to the team based on possession metrics. Red bubbles are those outside a playoff position, blue are those inside, yellow denotes division leaders.

That the division leaders all have among the fewest impact injury losses should be self-evident. Thus far no team has had a larger injury impact than Edmonton, followed closely by Buffalo, Detroit, Philadelphia and Vancouver. The fact that only one of those teams finds itself in a playoff position also serves to remind us of the oft-overlooked impact that injuries and depth can have on a season.

Calgary has largely escaped the season to-date unscathed, with about the same level of injury impact loss as Carolina, Colorado, Arizona, Ottawa, Minnesota and Nashville. Four of those teams have playoff positions, three do not.

The Flames currently find themselves in a race with Vancouver, Edmonton, Arizona and San Jose for a Pacific Division playoff spot and among those they have the second fewest man games lost to injury with the second lowest injury impact rating.

This will be something to keep in mind as the second half of the season progresses luck has been on their side thus far.

CYdWhfKUEAAlavq.png large

(Courtesy of MicahBlakeMcCurdy@Ineffectivemath)

Initially I had estimated the Flames would end up with 90+ points and perhaps just miss out on a playoff spot. Micah Blake McCurdy over at Ineffective Math has a running projection algorithm that has the Flames estimated to finish with between 85 and 87 points. His system works off of current performance while I had based mine off of simple projections of player production leading to GF/GA and then using that to ballpark a place based on the previous season’s standings.

We’ll revisit all three teams at the end of the season to see how the estimates worked, who played above or below expectations and what areas were the most or least successful.

Brian Burke has said that he doesn’t believe that last year was a peak moment for the Flames, nor does he believe that their rebuild is finished. It will be intriguing to see once the season has concluded, once we can look back and examine this year in detail, whether the Flames took a step forward, maintained, or slipped back. For the time being every one of the items measured above is trending up with the exception of Jonas Hiller’s save percentage.

One last point. Recall all that discussion last year about the Flames regressing towards a more sustainable shooting or save percentage? Well their PDO as of Jan 14th was 99.2, or just below the standard mean, with a team shooting percentage of 8.3% and a team save percentage of 90.9%. In other words, if we take out the specifics of the wins and losses (6-0 win here, 4-2 loss there), what you are seeing from this team is pretty close to what you should expect.

Story of the Season So Far?


Heeeeerrrrreeee's Johnny! (see above)

It isn't all just about Gaudreau, but if you want to single out one storyline from the season, I think averaging just over 1.0ppg in his sophomore season is as good a place to start as any.

The team had holes all over and looked some nights like they couldn't tie their skate laces properly and he kept producing.

Now the team seems to have it's head screwed on straight and are moving forward and there's Gaudreau, way on up the path just waiting for the rest of his team to catch the hell up.

Why the song?

I’d picked Elvis for the Flames back in the initial season overview.

The first part of the year did not go as well as many had planned. In fact, it was probably pretty awful for both fans and players.

But gradually, as the games went on, things began to improve and then with a prolonged winning streak in December the Flames seemed to come around until the point now where they are a relevant team in their division, weakened though it is.

By many measures the Flames are not having a good season, and yet I get the impression that there is nothing but good feeling surrounding the team right now as they have been playing well since early December and fans are confident in the management group and the young core developing before their eyes.

The playoffs are still a long way off but the general feeling around the team seems to be positive (arena press conferences notwithstanding).

I left my home in Norfolk Virginia
California on my mind
I straddled that Greyhound
And rode into Raleigh and on across Caroline

We had motor trouble that turn into a struggle
Halfway across Alabama
And that hound broke down and left us all stranded
In downtown Birmingham

...

Sure as you're born brought me a silk suit
Put luggage in my hand
And I woke up high over Alberquerque
On a jet to the promised land

The Flames haven't won the Stanley Cup, and they may not even make it to the post-season dance this year, but I get the feeling that regardless, fans are singing with the top down as this ride rumbles on down the highway.




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#1 KACaribou
January 17 2016, 11:09AM
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Holy crap how many mid-year updates/reviews do you have to have on FN? Or is that another way of saying: I can't think of anything relevant to write about?

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#2 ultrathinzigzags
January 17 2016, 11:58AM
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?

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#3 KetchupKid
January 17 2016, 11:58AM
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KACaribou wrote:

Holy crap how many mid-year updates/reviews do you have to have on FN? Or is that another way of saying: I can't think of anything relevant to write about?

What's wrong with you exactly? Don't read the article if it doesn't interest you.

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#4 ultrathinzigzags
January 17 2016, 11:59AM
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blergghh..up at the crack of noon. This is entirely too many letters and too many numbers for such a day Rex. Still hungover and annoyed at losing to the Coilers. Always a p!sspoor morning, talk about feeling low.. I will read it later Rexy

Makes a morning rum and settles in for NFL

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#5 KACaribou
January 17 2016, 12:01PM
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KetchupKid wrote:

What's wrong with you exactly? Don't read the article if it doesn't interest you.

What's wrong with you? I thank you for your excellent advise, telling me not to read it.

But I will toss it back at you that if you don't like my comments, please don't read them. Take your own advice if you will.

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#6 Canrock 78
January 17 2016, 12:59PM
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Was the not winning the Stanley cup a shot or an error?

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#7 class1div1
January 17 2016, 01:05PM
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Everybody told me you can't go far. On thirty-seven dollars and a jap guitar. But I'm rollin into Texas with the hammer down. And a smoking little combo from the Guitar Town.

It's always about attitude and staying positive.

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#8 wot96
January 17 2016, 01:52PM
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@KACaribou

Nice. Caustic and entitled moaning about free content. You give Flames fans a bad name.

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#11 Canrock 78
January 17 2016, 02:20PM
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@RexLibris

Fair enough who did ha ha.

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#13 KACaribou
January 17 2016, 02:39PM
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RexLibris wrote:

I took the approach at the beginning of the year that the Flames, Canucks and Oilers would likely all be in pursuit of a playoff position on the assumption that the Coyotes would be well out of it and one of the three California teams might also struggle.

The concept was based on evaluating a team based on those they are running against.

So, three articles at the beginning of the year, three updates at the half-way point.

Hate to disappoint you, but there's going to be three at the end of the season, too.

Thanks for the warning

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#14 class1div1
January 17 2016, 03:09PM
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RexLibris wrote:

True.

1 point separates the Flames and Oilers this morning, yet in Edmonton there is nothing but grey skies and distant thunder while in Calgary it seems the sun never sets.

It is all about perspective, and to be completely honest, a lot of that perspective is established by the media.

The Flames have won the hearts of many in the media and fans have many reasons right now to trust that the organization will build around a core of talented young players.

After so many years, very few are giving the Oilers the benefit of doubt any longer.

When you're in the Entertainment business you should have a pulse on what the fans want and expect.

Katz and KLowe give the impression that they really don't care what the fans want.

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#15 flames2015
January 17 2016, 03:27PM
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@RexLibris

2 points separate the Flames and Oilers. With the Flames also having 3 games on hand.

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#16 Scarface
January 17 2016, 08:46PM
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hey Rex, it's hard give a Flames mid year review much credit when it doesn't once mention Brodie (other than some copy paste excel chart). Sure Johnny's been a story but you not at all acknowledging TJ tells me you don't actually watch Flames games. As such, please spare us from your words and your lame song lyrics. Thanks for coming out though.

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#17 A flash of Hugo
January 17 2016, 09:03PM
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I'm waiting for the Calgary fan base to realize that the team is fundamentally flawed. You have cancerous factions in the team.

It's going to get very messy in the years to come.

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#18 Scarface
January 17 2016, 09:08PM
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@A flash of Hugo

Buddy, go home.

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#19 A flash of Hugo
January 17 2016, 09:12PM
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Scarface wrote:

Buddy, go home.

I am home.

Watch for it... It will get messy. With all the so called talent and "the best defence in the west" The back biting and egos have already been showing.

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#20 Scarface
January 17 2016, 09:15PM
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@A flash of Hugo

And which team do you cheer for that is the epitome of success?

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#21 A flash of Hugo
January 17 2016, 09:25PM
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Well Tony, as a general rule I cheer for players as opposed to teams. I just don't like the unnecessary comment was unnecessary Loved Iginla while in the red Loved Mess in Up north.

Boston Detroit Jesus, even LA had/has more players pulling for the same goal as Calgary. There's a flaw in that room. The Sharks have it So do the Blues You can say what you want but I've seen this before.

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#22 Scarface
January 17 2016, 09:32PM
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@A flash of Hugo

I see, you're a resident Dr Phil. What's all your wonderful insight gonna cost us?

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#23 A flash of Hugo
January 17 2016, 09:40PM
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Scarface wrote:

I see, you're a resident Dr Phil. What's all your wonderful insight gonna cost us?

Well, I think the Dr. Phil reference was a little harsh... Was that something to do with bad childhood memories discovering about your parentage?

All I'm saying is there's going to be problems in that room.. It's gonna be fractured and disfunctional till its purged.

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#24 A flash of Hugo
January 17 2016, 09:54PM
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RexLibris wrote:

True.

1 point separates the Flames and Oilers this morning, yet in Edmonton there is nothing but grey skies and distant thunder while in Calgary it seems the sun never sets.

It is all about perspective, and to be completely honest, a lot of that perspective is established by the media.

The Flames have won the hearts of many in the media and fans have many reasons right now to trust that the organization will build around a core of talented young players.

After so many years, very few are giving the Oilers the benefit of doubt any longer.

That thunder that you hear is the approach of McDavid. He's played you once in his career and made you look like fools.

I'd be very careful making assumptions like that.

The kid Is a stud and is your provincial rival... Those words will come back to haunt you.

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#25 Scarface
January 17 2016, 10:19PM
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@A flash of Hugo

Your warnings of what future holds belong in a children's novel. Like you have some kind of gift to see into the inner-dynamics of NHL clubs. Buddy, spare us your super power nonsense. Every pro sports team has an element of ego. Do I think Wideman's ego is having a hard time being passed by all these guys on the depth chart? Yeah, sure do. Do I think it's gonna result in the haunting doom and gloom your inner Nostramus predicts? Hahahahaha. No thanks Hugo. Great suits though.

PS. We know McDavid is good. Did your magic 8ball tell you that as well?

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#26 Scarface
January 17 2016, 10:35PM
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@Scarface

Nostradamus

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#27 KetchupKid
January 17 2016, 11:22PM
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A flash of Hugo wrote:

That thunder that you hear is the approach of McDavid. He's played you once in his career and made you look like fools.

I'd be very careful making assumptions like that.

The kid Is a stud and is your provincial rival... Those words will come back to haunt you.

Rex is an Oil fan. Also, he's talking about media spin in the comment you're quoting, not any actual evaluation of either team.

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#28 Tenbrucelees
January 18 2016, 01:21AM
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Well I thought it was a decent read. Cheers Rex

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#29 cberg
January 18 2016, 10:27AM
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RexLibris wrote:

True.

1 point separates the Flames and Oilers this morning, yet in Edmonton there is nothing but grey skies and distant thunder while in Calgary it seems the sun never sets.

It is all about perspective, and to be completely honest, a lot of that perspective is established by the media.

The Flames have won the hearts of many in the media and fans have many reasons right now to trust that the organization will build around a core of talented young players.

After so many years, very few are giving the Oilers the benefit of doubt any longer.

I don't disagree about the fans of either team, but I think the perspective is not the MSM, but rather the reasonable expectations of eager fans that a team gifted with 4 #1 overall draft picks, a generational player and reasonably argued the richest bunch of of draft talent in NHL history ought to be able to do better than barely pulling out of dead last in the NHL.

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#30 smith
January 18 2016, 12:06PM
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@A flash of Hugo

He has played the flames twice. The first was when the flames were busy playing really badly. Yes he did well. The second game, later while the flames were playing a bit better, he had zero points and was a -2.

Maybe want to check facts a little better. Head to head against Bennet, Mcdavid is actually underwater in the NHL and the OHL. He certainly may not continue to be.

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#31 Derzie
January 18 2016, 12:10PM
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Here's my mid-year review: Brodie drives the bus. Nice core in Johnny, Monny, Sam, Frolik, Gio & Dougie. Everything else needs some sort of upgrade to get to be consistently competitive.

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#32 Tomas Oppolzer
January 18 2016, 05:26PM
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KACaribou wrote:

Holy crap how many mid-year updates/reviews do you have to have on FN? Or is that another way of saying: I can't think of anything relevant to write about?

Seriously, are you never f'ing happy??? All you ever do is complain about stuff. If you dont like an article, dont read it. Simple as that.

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