Flames Since the Deadline


One of the sad realities of being a Flames fan the last few years has been the club’s tendency to stumble down the stretch. Under Playfair, the club went 9-8-1 the last 6 weeks before slinking into the post-season and getting roasted by the Red Wings. In Keenan’s first season, Calgary went 8-6-1 down the stretch. Last year was the famous Jokinen/injury/cap pinch fiasco and the record was appropriately poor: 9-11-0.

In 2009-10, Calgary’s record is semi-respectable (although still mediocre) 10-7-0. However, the Flames results don’t link up to their performance in my estimation – I’ve personally found their play wanting ever since I praised their potential turn around during the Olympic break and with questions being raised about Jarome’s recent cold streak, I think it’s worth taking a look at the underlying numbers – especially given Darryl Sutter’s decisions at the trade deadline. With Calgary still looking offensively lackluster, Daz sold Boyd for pennies on the dollar, swapped superfluous back-ups and then installed another immobile, overly expensive blueliner on the deadline. So…how have the possession numbers looked ever since?

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Not good.

The link shows the Flames ES corsi ratios starting March 3rd. Several things become clear looking at the stats:

– The Flames corsi has cratered this month. The team is marginally over .500 over the course of the season, but since the Olympic break the team is underwater.

– The primary culprit is the top end of the roster. The deletion of Jokinen and addition of Stajan, Hagman and Kotalik has done precisely nothing to improve the Flames ability to move the puck north apparently. In fact, the team got markedly worse. Not even the typically reliable Bourque or Langkow were able to keep their heads above water during the now annual spate of March suckitude.

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– The worst player on the team by this metric over that stretch? One freshly signed Matt Stajan (who has one point in his last 7 games, BTW), with a cool .428 corsi ratio. He’s only managed a putrid 5 ES shots in that 16 game sample. I’m pretty certain Dustin Boyd had comparable stats prior to his ouster, and he was playing 7 minutes a night with the likes of Eric Nystrom, Brian McGrattan, etc.

– Jarome’s struggles are real. He’s obviously not alone – none of the Flames ostensible top 6 forwards were full value over this period – but given his pay-check and the letter on his jersey, a lot of the blame is his to shoulder. Jarome’s results aren’t even good relative to your plain, old, run-of-the-mill capable NHL forward, let alone a previously elite superstar (.442 corsi ratio). He has less shots at ES (14) than Nik Hagman (21), David Moss (16) and Ales Kotalik (16) and none of those guys plays as much as Jarome.

Jokinen and Iginla struggled to play in a power versus power role to start the season and many of us theorized that Jokinen was the problem. I think what we’re beginning to realize it wasn’t just Pumpkinhead sinking the partnership.

– The lone bright spot has been the third unit of Dawes, Moss and Conroy (although Curtis Glencross was beating up the fourth liners before he went down for the count). Ironically, Dawes has the best ratio on the squad since injuries forced him out of the pressbox (.622). Some of that, obviously, is playing in favorable circumstances (offensive zone draws, lackluster opposition), but that’s probably all that can be asked of a guy making less than $1M. Moss is just behind him at .600. At least some portion of the roster is pulling their weight.

– The Flames .588 WIN% is mostly due to the percentages. More specifically, it’s because of Kipper’s eye-popping .938 ES SV%, although a SH% of 9.3 certainly doesn’t hurt.

– Backlund’s numbers are decent (.515), but keep in mind he’s had the easiest zone start of any Flame skater (59.4% offensive zone draws). He also enjoys a PDO of 104.3. So while he’s looked pretty good while the team has struggled here, expectations for him should be tempered somewhat. The circumstances have been buttery soft and the puck has bounced right for him during his cup of coffee.

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Overall I find these numbers extremely discouraging. There’s been injuries to some useful players down the stretch here (Glencross, Higgins and Langkow), but that’s not enough to explain the degree to which the team has failed to control the puck since they returned from the break. My view isn’t toward the post-season, which I consider irrevelevent at this point, but to next year since this roster is all but locked up heading into 2010-2011. The fact that the organization has managed to up it’s cap commitment in the final quarter of the season and somehow get worse is, I think, a fairly powerful indictment of some of the decision makers.

More on that very soon.


    Sheesh! Doom and gloom… I bet this stuff kills at parties!

    But you're right on. And you certainly don't need advanced stats to back up the main points (e.g. Kipper's hot, Iginla's not).

    I also think you're intentionally understating the 'short term' losses of Langkow, GlenX, and Higgins to underline your 'long term' message: this team needs to address some serious, structural problems but has unwisely priced itself out of an affordable remodeling.

    One 'short term' question though… do some of the poorer recent numbers partly reflect the seesaw/'whatever it takes' nature of these crazy end of the year games? i.e. prevalence of sitting on leads, defensive shells, and rope-a-dope Avalanche style hockey?

    • I'm no Kent, but the Flames have had a propensity toward sitting on leads, defensive shells, etc. throughout the year. I don't think their play style has changed notably, so much as they've gotten worse at the style they were engaged with.

    • Well, I actually began the piece with an eye to looking at only Iginla's struggles and perhaps how the loss of Langkow had exacerbated then. But when I looked at the numbers I saw that basically the whole team (including 22 himself) have been bad since the break ended. Losing those guys certainly hasn't helped (the 4th line was actually pretty effective before Glencross went down, for instance), but the fact that the stats are basically terrible all around convinced me to go with the tact that I did.

      I'm not sure the poor stats reflect any particular strategy either. It's true that in, say, WAS the Flames sat on a lead and the Caps buried them, but in the 2 games prior (NYI, BOS) CGY never once saw a lead and they were killed in those games too. It just looks like the struggles of a mediocre hockey club, really.

  • Re Backlund – Aren't PDO and Corsi independent of one another? While I recognize a good zone start is most helpful to upping his Corsi, his positive Corsi has nothing to do with the bounces.

    Regardless, I would still take a rookie playing what appears to be second or third toughest comp and making good on o-zone starts to run a positive Corsi ratio over the alternative.

    Also, you point out Boyd as comparable to Stajan, but I don't recall Boyd having any run taking on tough competition this year, quality of teamate duly noted. Of course, Boyd ranked a fourth round pick and Stajan a multi-year multi-million dollar deal…