Season Preview: Flames Forwards Reasonable Expectations



One thing that tends to pop up around this time of year is posts and articles about the output one can reasonably expect from the main players for the upcoming year. Of course, if you take a trip to your local messageboard you will quickly discover that expectations are usually actually quite unreasonable – in part because fans hopes spring eternal in the off-season and in part because people tend to project skaters totals outwards based on, say career totals (+10-25% or so), rather than probable role on the club.

Of course, the truth is there are only so many minutes to go around each night. You could fill an entire forward group with "50 goal" scorers, for instance, but not everyone is going to score 50 – even if they call manage to perform well.

Last year, the Flames averaged about 48 minutes of even strength ice time per night, leaving a bit over six minutes per game on the man advantage and a little more than five and half short-handed. The degree a coach parses out those minutes, and to whom, goes a long way to determining each player’s output for the year.

If there is 48 minutes of ES ice time up for grabs each night and Jarome Iginla gets about 16 of them, that leaves just 32 minutes for the other three right wingers and so on. With that in mind, I drew up a table of expected nightly ice time at both 5-on-5 and on the PP for each Flames forward:

RW ES ice time ESP/60 Expected ice expected ESP PP ice time PPP/60 Expected ice Expected PPP Total
Iginla 16 2.3 1312 50 4 4.21 328 23 73
Moss 13 1.8 1066 32 0.5 3.56 41 2 34
Stempniak 11 1.7 902 26 1.5 3 123 6 32
Jackman 8 1.5 656 16 0 0 0 0 16
Tanguay 15 2.2 1230 45 3.5 2.95 287 14 59
Glencross 13 2.05 1066 36 1 3.5 82 5 41
Bourque 12 2.1 984 34 1.5 3.1 123 6 41
Hagman 8 1.75 656 19 0 3.6 0 0 19
Jokinen 13 1.75 1066 31 3 4.13 246 17 48
Backlund 13 2 1066 36 2 3.5 164 10 45
Morrison 12 1.8 984 30 0.5 3 41 2 32
Stajan 10 1.75 820 24 0.5 2.75 41 2 26

Assumptions (skip this if you don’t care too much about the details)

The table also contains expected scoring rates at both game states, averaged from each guys last three seasons worth of data. If there wasn’t three years worth history (ie: Backlund) I made an educated guess based on his existing rates and my own estimation of his talent level.

The estimated ES and PP ice time was based on how each guy was used last year plus an approximation of where he would land on the depth chart in 2011-12. The aforementioned 48 ES minutes was parsed out by this method, as well as 6 minutes per game on the PP (since I don’t expect the Flames to draw penalties at quite the rate they did last year).


– Averaging previous scoring rates smoothed out the outliers and regressed everyone towards their career norms. This is the reason Iginla and Tanguay fall back a tad by this method – they had slightly higher than normal results all around last year.

– The Flames "too many wingers centers" conundrum is kind of expressed here. Although the overriding depth is actually a strength of the club, the dearth of offensive opportunities eventually means the organization will likely be paying Stajan and Hagman north of $3M+ to score an expected 26 and 19 points respectively. That isn’t necessarily because they are terrible…it’s because there is only so many minutes to go around up front.Of course, if they put up that sort of production they certainly will look terrible relative to their paychecks.

– The prior point is why guys at the bottom of rotation are usually "energy players" or "checking lines": because offense is expensive to purchase and it doesn’t make sense to invest it in the guys who skate 10 minutes per night or less at ES (and 1 minute or less on the PP). The only time pricey depth of this sort becomes a real boon is when a large wave of injuries wipes out the skaters ahead of the bottom-enders on the depth chart. Of course, if you can get guys on value deals to score at decent rates with minimal opportunity (David Moss) then you are ahead of the game. Of course, those guys usually end up working their to the top of the roster and become more expensive in the long-run (Glencross, Bourque).

– I excluded unknowns like Horak, Ivanans, PL3 and other various injury call-up types. The expected ice time and point totals of those included are projected over a full 82-game season for the sake of simplicity.

– We see a number of players falling back as a matter of regression, including Tanguay, Iginla and, to a lesser extent, Glencross. Bourque falls down to 41 points because he figures to be the third line LWer right now. If he regains his form and lands back in the top-six, he’ll get more ice time and more points. Jokinen falls back a bit due to ice time and the chance he’ll score a bit less frequently with the man advantage,

– Backlund indeed projected to have a breakp-out campaign if one assumes he was going to not be the Flames 4th line center. We’ll see where he lands upon his return and if can score at a 45-point pace. One of Morrison or Stajan will likely get some of his PP minutes while he’s in the infirmary, so adjust expectations accordingly.


Overall, I think the results are fairly reasonable. They are also in the ballpark of Rob Vollamn’s comparables using his Snepsts System, so I think we’re on the right track. Clearly it looks like the Flames won’t score quite as much this season, although having six guys crack 40+ points is still a fairly decent accomplishment.

  • SmellOfVictory

    Damn Kent, I was hoping for 100 point seasons from Iggy and Tangs. hahaha just kidding. The predictions are entirely reasonable, I really hope Stajan can have more than 26 points. Could you imagine, 26 points for a player payed 3.5 million bucks. Thanks Sutter…

    I think Moss will have a good year around 40-50 points if he stays healthy, Bourque around the same. Stempniak I hope gets more points than projected, but I don’t know. I guess we’ll begin to find out 3 nights from now!

  • marty

    Good read Kent, i do feel that iggy and tangs will be a lil higher but time will tell the most important thing this season is the goals against go down this year and that is the key to getting into the playoffs. cmon saturday.

  • marty

    Sure supports what Ive been ranting about the last while. Our bang for our buck sucks. That is Feasters biggest challenge. Consider if Backlund were healthy you have the following:
    Iggy 7.0 mil Backlund 1.3mill Tanguay 3.5mill ==== 11.8mill
    Glencross 2,5mil Joker 3.0mill Moss 1.3 mill===6.8mill
    Bourque 3.3mill Horak/Morrison1.2mill Stempniak 1.9mill=====6.4mill
    Hagman 3.0mill Stajan 3.5mill Kostopolous1.3mill 7.8mill

    Players you cant fit on the 2nd or 3rd lines are playing on the fourth line & the cost of that line is greater than the 2nd & 3rd lines. Something is just wrong with this. You have Jackman/Bouma & PL3 that would make a hell of a smashem energy line at a cost of less than 2.0mill. You have Byron/Horak/ Stempniak that would make a decent 3rd line & let the kids develop some offensive side to there game & also work on the defensive side as well & groom them for a future top 6 at a cost of less than 3.0mill. We suddenly have the $$$ to sign a top 3 player & upgrade our 2nd line. People think Im nuts building a team based on salary but as long as you are getting a reasonable bang for your buck, it’s the best way to your assets in a cap league. 4th line will only get so many minutes, why would you spend that kind of $$$ on the 4th line.

    I do think DSutter had a more solid hockey sense/street smarts over Feaster but Feaster is a very intelligent business man/lawyer who is smart enough to have hockey people involved in the hockey decisions.His moves so far have made sense to me & I expect this to be the last year we have such an out of whack allocation of $$$ to assets.

  • marty

    Holy crap! I have always been a hockey fan..Starting out skating on a frozen field with those skates with extra blades on em.. Met Leaf Players…Bought standing room tickets at the Gardens..I watch the Flames, and I am a Flames fan being in the city now over 10 years. Not a stats guy..Seriously it is all about a team gelling and being a team no ? I know the league has changed since 04 but lets see what these guys can do?… I like what I see so far and the position the Flames are in today and for the future…. Sometimes the games last year seemed boring to watch that is my only concern as an actual fan to watch some fing hockey. Dont care for the play it safe kinda stuff. Would rather watch a team go for it and play some hockey that is fun to watch 🙂

  • icedawg_42

    Good stuff Kent, I think this illustrates again that having such a glut of 2nd/3rd line type guys (“20+ goal scorers” as Dutter called them) isn’t necessarily a great idea. Sure it’s fantastic if all these 20 goal scorers score 20 goals – but with alloted ice time, can that reasonably be expected? You need top end guys, and you need energy type guys…there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that separation in the cap world.

    • It’s technically not bad in itself to have a lot of these players. The problem is when all of them are getting paid at the top-end of the market for their previous output in more offensively rich roles. Matt Stajan and Nik Hagman are great fourth liners to have at 1-1.5M each. At $6.5 million, though, your returns on investment are limited.

  • xis10ce

    There are some players might surprise us this year. Stempniak coming from the heavily defensive minded Pho. Olli and Hagman being on contract renewal years might turn it up because they got the fire under their asses. And G.Roberts summer may pay off for Stajan, expecially if he moves up to the 3rd line (which I consider to be more of a 2.5line than a 3rd) he’ll see more minutes and better wingers.

    • Stempniak’s ESP/60 rate was the most stable on any player on the team – right around 1.73 or so for the last three years. Playing in PHX didn’t seem to hurt that part of his game. He just got less minutes than in TOR.

  • Dr. Nick

    I think Matt Stajan, aka. Matty Franchise, will bank 26 points or more by the trade deadline and will bring back the 2nd round pick the Flames traded away.

    I may be sniffing glue, but believe me it is good glue.

      • Dr. Nick

        I think if he trades in the composite stick for a wood stick, he might shoot over 10%, and that could make the coaches give him that extra time. If a wood stick is good enough for Al MacInnis, it should be good enough for Matty Franchise.

  • MC Hockey

    Great analysis on the expected scoring Kent and yes, excellent Herald article! It’s nice to see some FN readers pay attention to the solid journalism in the Herald as it works well with your excellent work on the Nation Network so you should be in the Herald. Anyho…I hope the Stempy, Haggy, and Stajan totals are higher and the latter two are traded for some solid checkers (like a John Madden in his prime) so we have a real shutdown 3rd line to supplement the OMG line who will do some of that.

  • MC Hockey

    Super job again Kent. I hope people – via your other advanced stats – can understand JayBo’s true value for solid all-around, minute-muching pay and not expect 50 points from him. And maybe Butler can surprise and score 25. But just wait till Edmonton fans make comments with their “haha’s” and so forth (think Nelson on The Simpsons)….no actually this would be too complicated for many of them (just kidding).