Black Box: Week 14



The road trips we warned you about are over, and the Flames walked away with 5 points in 7 games after 2 points in first 4, which actually isn’t that bad a fate for the league’s worst road team.  Now they’re back at home where they have 7 wins in the past 8 games, thanks most recently to their softie over Minnesota Saturday. 

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This week they should easily handle Anaheim, and hopefully beat at least one of New Jersey and Los Angeles before heading off on a reasonably easier road trip – it’s only three games and features both Edmonton, and San Jose, where even the Ducks can win (2 of their 3 road wins are over the Sharks).

OZQoC Charts (explanation)

The OZQoC Chart got a little more crowded after “everybody gets to play” week. Lance Bouma played against top competition but in the offensive zone, Blair Jones and Clay Wilson start in the defensive zone, but against the 3rd and 4th lines, and Raitis Ivanans got Scotiabank Kid minutes (and results).

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Even-Strength Scoring (explanation)

It can be daunting to make sense of all these numbers, but if you learned nothing else these past few weeks, just learn this: Mikael Backlund is actually playing very well.

You can see from the OZQoC chart that Backlund plays top-six minutes, just like Curtis Glencross, Olli Jokinen, Jarome Iginla, and Alex Tanguay.  Despite playing in those tough situations the only player with whom the Flames have greater territorial advantage is Matt Stajan – and he plays exclusively against fourth lines, and usually in the offensive zone.

Look at the numbers for yourself. The most successful of the other four top-liners, Alex Tanguay, is only at 48.0%.  The problem is that far-right column, because even though the Flames enjoy 53.9% of the shots with Backlund, and 52.1% of the scoring chances, they’re only getting 32.1% of the goals.

Also, as we’ve discussed the same sort of thing is happening to that third line of Matt Stajan, Tim Jackman and Tom Kostopoulos.

Forward        ESP/60 CEF CEA  CE% SCF SCA SC%   GF   GA    G%
Lance Bouma      5.5   99  28 78.2% 27 16 62.5% 5.49 0.00 100.0%
Matt Stajan      1.1   56  47 54.2% 14 13 52.1% 1.77 2.88  38.1%
Mikael Backlund  0.7   58  49 53.9% 17 15 52.1% 1.50 3.18  32.1%
Lee Stempniak    1.5   55  49 53.0% 16 15 51.4% 2.30 2.96  43.7%
David Moss       1.9   55  49 53.0% 11 14 43.3% 1.85 1.48  55.6%
Tim Jackman      1.1   52  49 51.3% 12 13 49.4% 1.26 3.14  28.6%
Blake Comeau     0.7   52  50 50.9% 13 13 50.4% 0.87 2.60  25.1%
Tom Kostopoulos  1.0   49  49 50.1% 12 12 50.6% 1.72 3.16  35.2%
Alex Tanguay     1.8   50  54 48.0% 19 15 55.8% 2.48 2.62  48.6%
Jarome Iginla    1.9   52  58 47.0% 17 17 50.6% 2.47 2.74  47.4%
Rene Bourque     1.4   43  51 46.1% 13 16 44.8% 2.56 2.82  47.6%
Blair Jones      1.4   41  48 46.0% 16 31 33.3% 1.42 1.77  44.5%
Curtis Glencross 2.2   49  57 45.9% 15 17 46.9% 2.69 3.12  46.3%
Olli Jokinen     2.1   50  59 45.9% 15 17 47.7% 3.01 2.92  50.8%
Brendan Morrison 1.5   46  54 45.7% 15 16 48.1% 2.31 2.31  50.0%
Greg Nemisz      0.0   34  43 44.5%  4  9 33.3% 0.00 0.00   0.0%
P-L. Leblond     0.0   46  58 43.9%  8 12 40.0% 4.16 0.00 100.0%
Roman Horak      1.4   40  53 43.3% 13 13 50.9% 2.13 1.52  58.4%
Paul Byron       1.2   35  53 40.0% 12 12 50.0% 1.92 0.77  71.4%
Raitis Ivanans   0.0   27  65 29.4%  5 27 16.7% 0.00 5.41   0.0%

The Calgary Flame who is scoring at the highest even-strength rate is Curtis Glencross, followed by his linemate Olli Jokinen – one of the few bright spots at even-strength this season.

On defense the big message is that Scott Hannan continues his deterioration since Mark Giordano’s injury. The Flames may have a lot of defensemen, but very few of them are really capable of playing in the front four, and at this stage of his career Hannan can’t carry dead weight anymore.

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Defense        ESP/60 CEF CEA  CE% SCF SCA SC%   GF   GA    G%
Brett Carson     0.0   70  41 63.4% 19 11 63.6% 0.00 5.41   0.0%
T.J. Brodie      0.9   51  44 53.6% 15 12 54.9% 2.29 2.29  50.0%
Cory Sarich      0.2   52  48 52.3% 14 10 57.7% 1.78 1.95  47.7%
Derek Smith      0.8   50  50 49.9% 15 13 52.3% 2.08 1.82  53.3%
Chris Butler     0.6   51  53 49.2% 16 16 50.4% 2.48 2.56  49.2%
Jay Bouwmeester  0.6   51  53 48.8% 15 16 48.5% 2.21 2.73  44.7%
Joe Piskula      0.0   50  59 45.9% 19 14 56.7% 0.00 5.54   0.0%
Mark Giordano    0.7   48  58 45.7% 14 15 48.3% 2.29 2.29  50.0%
Scott Hannan     0.4   44  56 44.0% 14 17 44.4% 2.38 3.06  43.8%
Clay Wilson      0.0   27  40 39.9%  4  9 33.3% 0.00 0.00   0.0%
Anton Babchuk    1.1   36  63 36.6%  8 16 33.8% 1.90 2.28  45.5%

T.J. Brodie and Cory Sarich are doing just fine against the third lines. Brodie is generating more offense than anyone but Babchuk, but without being an absolute disaster defensively like the highly paid Russian, and Sarich is doing quite well for someone who usually starts in his own zone.

Special teams (explanation)

Calgary has fallen back down below the league average, but not because of Anton Babchuk, who is as good on the power play as he is bad at even strength. Mikael Backlund also made a big jump and could currently be their best option up front with the man advantage.

Player              TOI/GP PTS/60 CE/60
Clay Wilson          1.7     0.0  346.2
Anton Babchuk        2.0     2.4  111.3
Mikael Backlund      1.1     4.1   93.3
David Moss           1.3     0.0   88.7
Blair Jones          0.4     0.0   87.9
Roman Horak          0.6     0.0   87.5
Lee Stempniak        1.8     2.3   82.3
Rene Bourque         2.9     2.7   81.1
Jay Bouwmeester      2.6     2.7   79.7
Jarome Iginla        3.3     4.2   78.3
Olli Jokinen         3.1     4.9   78.2
Chris Butler         0.8     3.5   74.0
Alex Tanguay         3.4     4.8   73.4
T.J. Brodie          2.0     3.2   71.0
Mark Giordano        3.5     3.0   70.0
Tim Jackman          0.4     0.0   67.8
Curtis Glencross     2.0     6.0   66.4
Derek Smith          1.4     5.2   65.1
Brendan Morrison     1.3     3.7   64.0
Blake Comeau         0.8     0.0   61.6

Last week we mentioned that Calgary was one of only two teams without a shorthanded goal, and as luck would have it the other (Anaheim Ducks) scored one this week, leaving the Flames as the last team to be shut-out while down a man. Let’s start a pool, who will be the first Flame to score a short-hander?  Smart money is on Curtis Glencross.

Player           TOI/GP CE/60
Jay Bouwmeester   3.7    86.8
Scott Hannan      2.7    79.8
Chris Butler      2.3    90.7
Curtis Glencross  2.3    87.1
Mark Giordano     2.2    92.6
Lee Stempniak     1.7    75.2
Rene Bourque      1.5    87.9
David Moss        1.5   143.1
Tom Kostopoulos   1.3    88.6
Blake Comeau      1.1    72.7
Alex Tanguay      0.9    70.3
Mikael Backlund   0.9    83.8
Olli Jokinen      0.6    76.2
Matt Stajan       0.6   139.5
Cory Sarich       0.5   132.7
Derek Smith       0.4    60.0
Blair Jones       0.3    71.4
Lance Bouma       0.3     0.0
Brendan Morrison  0.3    95.5
Roman Horak       0.3   115.2
Brett Carson      0.3   109.1

Kudos to Jay Bouwmeester who has really been carrying a heavy load in Mark Giordano’s absence, as Sutter is reluctant to trust anyone but him, Hannan and Butler while down a man.

Goaltending (explanation)

Only one Quality Start this week, which was Saturday’s home win over the Minnesota Wild.  Why would they play a rookie on the road against the defending Stanley Cup champions, who are fast on their way to setting a record for the most 6-goal victories in a season?

Goalie           GS QS   QS%  ESSV%
Miikka Kiprusoff 34 20  58.8%  .924
Leland Irving     4  3  75.0%  .909
Henrik Karlsson   5  1  20.0%  .904

Anyway, that’s how it looks after 14 weeks. To recap: Mikael Backlund is awesome but unlucky, Scott Hannan is struggling without Mark Giordano due to Calgary’s lack of any other defensemen who can play top-four minutes, and Anton Babchuk may really suck at even-strength, but has the skill to help one of the league’s worst power plays.

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  • Backlund’s season is simultaneously great and terrible. He’s playing very well for a guy his age, but the puck just won’t go in for him.

    At some point, it’s bound to turn around. Hopefully he continues to get ice time. It’s hard for coaches to keep putting a guy out there when the percentages go south.

    • the forgotten man

      Hi Kent,

      I really hope that the puck does start to go in for Backlund. He is integral to the Flames post-Iginla. Not sure if it extends to hockey, but my club soccer coach always told us that you can’t teach scoring…you either have it or you don’t…hence I focused on becoming a really good defender. 🙂

  • Also, one wonders how much Hannan has to do with Mark Giordano’s downturn this season given they were almost exclusively paired together. Scott’s numbers since certainly suggest he’d be detrimental at least.

    • I can’t remember who is D partner was in SJ, but looking at his numbers and how they tanked when he left SJ, (age could be part of it too) it certainly seems to suggest utilization and system aided Hannan.

      Obvious, I know.

  • Actually I wanted to say something else.

    Story telling, but I saw the coach consistently play a non offensive line whenever the team had a face off in the opposition zone on Saturday. It’s something he has been doing all season, I think Copper & Blue had the player deployment chart that said same.

    Somebody want to explain the wisdom in that? I think Sutter should be fired for that type of stuff, myself.

    • That’s been an on-going issue with Brent since he arrived. Every time he puts out a fourth line after an icing I want to tear my hair out.

      He seems more apt to use an o-zone draw to shelter the lesser lights than give his scorers he high ground. The rare exception to this is when the Flames are losing in the third period by a goal or two.

      It could be that he just doesn’t trust anyone on the club to color outside the lines in terms of match-ups as well.

      • the forgotten man

        Could also be his insistence that everyone play a “team game”. I recall that story a while ago regarding Sutter’s demands that Iginla play “for the team” and start backchecking more/harder. I don’t think he understands the concept of giving different lines different roles aside from “you’re bad, therefore you get sheltered.”

        Also, Bouma has 5.5 ESP/60 and is therefore the new Eric Lindros. All hail Lance Bouma! 😉

  • Good comments.

    It’s possible that Mikael Backlund is missing that certain something, that certain “je-ne-sais-quoi” finishing ability. If so, it’ll be an interesting case study.

    I hope they don’t give up on Backlund, because players like him almost invariably turn around, and also it’ll be interesting to see if our fancy stats are useful or not.

    As for starting their sheltered players in the offensive zone, that can make sense in many game situations. The new NHL with the loser points increases the incentive for a low-scoring game (and thus more OT/SO), so it makes sense to focus more on goal prevention than on goal creation. Boring for the fans, but a good strategy.

    The solution is to try to tighten up the depth lines so there aren’t so many players that require such shelter. And yes, if they’re trailing late in the game this strategy makes absolutely no sense at all.

    • I’d say the problem is the Flames “top line” needs shelter just as much. The Flames have one of the better 4th lines in the league most nights and, when they’re healthy, the third line is usually fine too.

      Problem is, Jarome needs the high ground to avoid being a liability these days. Sutter ends up spreading around the o-zone starts though.

      • I dont think B Sutter is that bad of a coach but he just hasnt been able to get in sync with this team & its more of a will his way & anyone with the last name of Sutter(Brent included) has probably been tuned out by most of the Vets. I think this is why there probably is a lot of truth to him not being coach next year. I look at Ottawa, a team that started their rebuild after Edmontons & that team is fighting for a top 4 playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Thats amazing & should be encouraging to fans of Calgary & perhaps we should be looking at some of their dynamics & recent history & lean toward that type of rebuild.

  • Perhaps the wrong thread to say this, but I’ll do it anyways:

    Most people, including myself, have written off the Flames playoff chances. However, looking at their schedule today, they play 23 of their last 39 games at home, where they have had success as of late. They also only have 4 games left against the East, including tomorrow night against the Devils. So, the Flames can essentially control their own playoff destiny by winning games against teams such as LA, Dallas, Phoenix and Colorado, and Minnesota, who are all in that fight for 8th. They also have 8 games left against the bottom 3 teams in the conference, Anaheim, Columbus and Edmonton.

    I’m not saying that it’s likely for the Flames to make the playoffs, however, with the amount of games left against teams that are also fighting for the playoffs, they can control their own destiny by winning these games. OPTIMISM PEOPLE, YEAH!

    • RexLibris

      Bless ya Schevvy. Take a look at the Jan. schedule & if we dont get some of our key injuries back soon, how in Gods name are we going to win 6 of the 8 games in Jan. to make it interesting. Ducks & Oilers are the only 2 games I would say OK, with the same lineup from Saturday we can maybe win. The other 6, uh oh. But hey, I like the positive waves.

      • RexLibris

        “Positive waves”? Is that a Kelly’s Heroes reference? If so, beautiful, baby! If not, well, watch the film.

        The Flames’ schedule does seem to lighten up a little. The Flames could make it interesting, but at this point, were I a fan, “interesting” and “playoff race” would be the last words I would want to hear from management right now. I’d rather be hearing “reevaluate” and “change”.

        • RexLibris

          To be honest with you Rex, if the Flames somehow, someway make it into the playoffs, that would be fine by me. What I hope doesn’t happen is that management makes trades that ignore the future in order to make a playoff run. Also, if the Flames make the playoffs, I do not want management re-signing everyone and ruining the cap space that for the first time in a long time, they have in the off-season. So basically, my view is to get as much as possible out of the roster this year, and to startchanging things up in the off-season.

          @Kevin R

          Hey, we need a change of pace around here. After this road trip, everyone’s been so darn negative and I figured I’d try to change it up. OPTIMISM FTW!

        • RexLibris

          Yeah, love the movie Sutherland did Oddball great.:-) Went to it when I was kid at the box office.

          Schevvy I hear you. That third period at the Dome had me yearning for the playoff days where we were excited about our chances & thirsting for the Red Mile or Flames in 6 show us your Tits!! Seems like so long ago.