Black Box: Week 19



“Vollman’s articles are dry and boring – for math geeks not hockey fans.” – Kenta

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Fortunately the action on the ice is more interesting than the coverage – five games into February and the Flames are yet to lose in regulation, boosting their statistical chances of a post-season appearance to the 33%-36% range, just short of their season high set in late December.  Calgary’s currently in 9th place, two points back of the final playoff position.

OZQoC Charts (explanation)

People say that you can’t compare apples to oranges, but I just did it the other day in the grocery store – it was easy!  Nevertheless, this week we’ve divided the even-strength tables based on player roles.

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The only major change on the OZQoC chart is the addition of Krys Kolanos. Unsurprisingly he’s getting exceptionally sheltered ice-time, starting in the offensive zone more than anyone else, and almost exclusively against 4th-line opponents. 

Even-Strength Scoring (explanation)

Of Calgary’s top-six forwards, Olli Jokinen is most due for a statistical regression. Only two Flames enjoy a positive scoring percentage – Jokinen and Alex Tanguay.  And while Tanguay’s might be exaplined by his team-leading scoring chance percentage, Jokinen’s can not – he’s dead last in shot percentage and well below water in scoring chance percentage. 

If the luck does start swinging against him it’s likely to swing towards Mikael Backlund, who leads the group in shot percentage, is 2nd to Tanguay in scoring chance percentage, but is inexplicably getting destroyed on the scoreboard.

Top-Six Forward ESP/60 CEF CEA  CE% SCF SCA SC%   GF   GA    G%
Mikael Backlund  0.9   53  50 51.6% 16 14 51.7% 1.57 2.92  35.0%
Mike Cammalleri  1.5   48  53 47.8% 16 19 45.3% 2.18 3.09  41.4%
Alex Tanguay     1.9   49  56 46.7% 19 16 55.2% 2.72 2.38  53.3%
Jarome Iginla    2.0   49  59 45.5% 17 18 49.0% 2.39 2.58  48.1%
Curtis Glencross 2.3   48  58 45.2% 14 17 45.7% 2.84 3.04  48.3%
Olli Jokinen     2.1   47  59 44.4% 15 18 46.9% 3.12 2.69  53.7%

There’s a steep drop in scoring when Calgary’s third unit takes the ice, both ways.  While scoring was relatively normal for Lee Stempniak, it’s effectively shut down with Blake Comeau, Lance Bouma and Blair Jones. 

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3rd Line Forward ESP/60 CEF CEA  CE% SCF SCA SC%   GF   GA    G%
David Moss       1.9   55  49 53.0% 11 14 43.3% 1.85 1.48  55.6%
Lee Stempniak    1.9   54  51 51.3% 16 15 51.7% 2.61 2.70  49.2%
Blake Comeau     0.9   48  50 49.1% 12 13 48.1% 1.16 2.40  32.6%
Lance Bouma      0.9   45  53 45.9% 13 12 50.8% 1.28 0.85  60.1%
Blair Jones      0.9   44  52 45.7% 19 19 50.6% 1.11 1.29  46.3%

Calgary’s depth lines generally enjoy more attempted shots than their opponents, are roughly even in scoring chances, but get absolutely destroyed on the scoreboard.  They have among the worst scoring rates on the team, both for and against – they even get outscored by a 3-to-1 ratio with Tim Jackman on the ice.

What makes it even more bizarre is that the results are quite the opposite for Roman Horak and Paul Byron. Even though the Flames are very badly out-shot with those two on the ice, scoring chances are about even, and they have 2 of the team’s top 3 goal percentages. 

All of this could add up to some interesting skill, or it could be a luck-based consequence of the smaller sample sizes, and soon due for a statistical regression.

Depth Forward  ESP/60 CEF CEA  CE% SCF SCA SC%   GF   GA    G%
Matt Stajan      0.9   54  46 53.9% 13 13 49.7% 1.41 2.99  32.0%
Tim Jackman      0.9   51  48 51.4% 11 12 47.2% 0.97 3.03  24.3%
Tom Kostopoulos  0.8   50  50 50.0% 11 12 47.9% 1.39 2.77  33.4%
Krys Kolanos     0.0   48  58 45.1%  8  7 54.5% 1.32 0.00 100.0%
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   39  52 43.0% 12 12 50.3% 2.05 1.50  57.7%
Paul Byron       1.0   34  52 39.7% 11 11 50.0% 1.65 0.66  71.4%
Raitis Ivanans   0.0   27  65 29.4%  5 27 16.7% 0.00 5.41   0.0%

The Chris Butler acquisition looks better and better every week.  For a fraction of Robyn Regehr’s salary Calgary received someone who can play top-four minutes.  The surprise disappointment is veteran Scott Hannan, who seems to be really struggling regardless of which type of measurement is your preferred.

Top-4 Defense  ESP/60 CEF CEA  CE% SCF SCA SC%   GF   GA    G%
Chris Butler     0.7   50  55 47.4% 16 17 48.4% 2.41 2.47  49.4%
Jay Bouwmeester  0.6   49  55 47.3% 15 17 47.6% 2.19 2.47  47.0%
Mark Giordano    0.5   47  55 45.7% 14 14 50.6% 2.10 1.99  51.3%
Scott Hannan     0.6   43  56 43.3% 13 16 44.2% 2.26 2.81  44.6%

Derek Smith’s solid 3rd-line play earned him a new contract, but don’t overlook the play of T.J. Brodie and highly-paid gritty defenseman Cory Sarich, who are playing just as well in terms of attempted shot percentage and scoring chance data.

Depth 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      0.6   50  46 51.9% 14 13 52.1% 2.07 2.17  48.8%
Cory Sarich      0.3   49  48 50.6% 13 11 52.5% 1.63 2.18  42.8%
Derek Smith      0.8   50  50 49.9% 15 13 52.3% 2.08 1.82  53.3%
Joe Piskula      0.0   50  59 45.9% 19 14 56.7% 0.00 5.54   0.0%
Anton Babchuk    0.9   39  60 39.8%  8 17 32.5% 1.45 1.74  45.5%
Clay Wilson      0.0   29  48 37.5%  5 12 28.6% 0.00 0.00   0.0%

Depending on how well the Flames continue to play, Sarich may become expendable and may be a worthwhile rental for a playoff-bound team looking for exerience, size and depth on the blue line.

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Special teams (explanation)

It was a great week for the Flames power play getting shots on net.  We’ve grouped up the apples and oranges to get a better look at how Calgary is getting lots of attempted shots with players like Mike Cammalleri on the ice, but so far it hasn’t translated into as much scoring as you’d expect.

Primary Forwards    TOI/GP PTS/60 CE/60
Mike Cammalleri      3.0     2.9   96.9
Jarome Iginla        3.3     4.2   81.7
Olli Jokinen         3.1     5.5   81.6
Alex Tanguay         3.4     4.9   78.1

Krys Kolanos has gotten some secondary power play time so far and while his name hasn’t shown up on the scoresheet, he seems to have taken over Lee Stempniak’s spot almost perfectly. 

Speaking of fit, everyone may be tired of hearing us talk about Mikael Backlund, but he might fit perfectly on that top power play unit.

Finally, notice how Curtis Glencross has the highest scoring rate on the team, but how Calgary has the worst shooting rate with him on the ice – regression could be coming his way upon his return.

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Secondary Forwards  TOI/GP PTS/60 CE/60
David Moss           1.3     0.0   88.7
Mikael Backlund      1.1     3.9   85.0
Lee Stempniak        1.7     2.0   78.6
Krys Kolanos         1.7     0.0   77.8
Curtis Glencross     1.9     6.2   64.5

Blair Jones got some extra ice-time this past week, and record his first power play point of the season, but he’s one of the few players that didn’t see a jump in attempted shot percentage – Roman Horak might be more deserving of the extra PP time.

Depth Forwards     TOI/GP PTS/60 CE/60
Roman Horak          0.6     0.0   86.9
Blair Jones          0.8     2.2   73.6
Tim Jackman          0.4     0.0   70.6
Blake Comeau         0.7     0.0   58.6

On defense T.J. Brodie and Derek Smith may have decent scoring rates, but Calgary does far better with regulars Jay Bouwmeester, Mark Giordano and depth option Chris Butler working the point with the man advantage. Too bad Clay Wilson and Anton Babchuk struggle at even-strength, because their presence could result in a real power play improvement.

Defensemen          TOI/GP PTS/60 CE/60
Clay Wilson          2.5     0.0  130.7
Anton Babchuk        1.9     3.8   99.5
Jay Bouwmeester      2.5     3.9   79.7
Chris Butler         0.7     2.9   79.7
Mark Giordano        3.3     2.6   77.6
T.J. Brodie          1.9     3.7   67.3
Derek Smith          1.4     5.2   65.1

Looking at the penalty killing side of the equation, the clock is counting down on Calgary’s season, and they could become the first team in 12 years to go an entire year without a short-handed marker.

Three of Calgary’s main penalty-killing forwards are on the shelf, but Tom Kostopoulos, the versatile Mikael Backlund and especially newcomer Blake Comeau are holding the fort just as well.

Primary Forwards TOI/GP CE/60
Lee Stempniak     1.7    76.2
Blake Comeau      1.1    81.3
Curtis Glencross  2.2    87.0
Tom Kostopoulos   1.2    87.1
Mikael Backlund   1.0    90.5
David Moss        1.5   143.1

Earlier this year Sutter flirted with the idea of using skilled veterans Alex Tanguay and Olli Jokinen as top penalty killers, but has since backed away. Given the results earlier this year, and the injuries to top players, Sutter may want to re-visit the idea of using Tanguay, Jokinen and possibly Mike Cammalleri and Blair Jones to kill penalties, instead of last week’s experiment with Lance Bouma.

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Depth Forwards   TOI/GP CE/60
Mike Cammalleri   0.8    69.0
Alex Tanguay      0.9    69.1
Blair Jones       0.6    79.7
Olli Jokinen      0.5    80.8
Roman Horak       0.2   115.2
Lance Bouma       0.4   128.1
Matt Stajan       0.6   134.2

On defense the Flames place tremendous confidence in Jay Bouwmeester, but Scott Hannan has been the real star (even though he has struggled at even strength). If things turn south for the Flames, Hannan could be a great deadline acquisition for a team looking to shore up their penalty killing.

Primary Defense  TOI/GP CE/60
Scott Hannan      2.5    81.7
Jay Bouwmeester   3.4    88.5
Mark Giordano     1.9    89.8
Chris Butler      2.2    92.7

Calgary is extremely reluctant to use anyone but the top four killing penalties, going so far as to exhaust Bouwmeester and rotate three when Mark Giordano was injured. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened had they used Derek Smith a little more often instead.

Depth Defense    TOI/GP CE/60
Derek Smith       0.4    60.0
Brett Carson      0.3   109.1
Cory Sarich       0.5   114.5

Goaltending (explanation)

Calgary’s goalies were a perfect 4-for-4 in quality starts this week.  The Flames have certainly enjoyed top-ten goaltending this year, and wouldn’t even be talking about the play-off race without them.

Goalie           GS QS   QS%  ESSV%
Miikka Kiprusoff 46 30  65.2%  .929
Leland Irving     5  4  80.0%  .922
Henrik Karlsson   5  1  20.0%  .904

That’s the way it looks after 19 weeks, at least to all us non-hockey-fan math geeks.  Until next week, keep your stick on the ice and your calculator in your pocket.

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  • everton fc

    Good to see positive commentary on Sarich’s role in Smith’s absence. Sarich is often the target for bad commentary here; but it appears he has been commendable in his “replacement role” over the last few months.

    Of course… this may make a team interested in him at the deadline. Or sooner. Hannan and Sarich would be expendable if you could pick up a 4-6 spot replacement. Babchuk could also be moved (we all hope!)

    If we do get into the playoffs… Our goaltending could make us a difficult matchup. Particularly when some of our injured bodies return to active duty.

    Just my thoughts…

  • wawful

    After all the Backlund positivity, here’s hoping he’s not injured for long! The total silence from management about his absence after his fight in the Vancouver game and the fact that they called up Paul Byron from the Heat is making things look a little grim though.

    • Hearing Backlund out 4-6 weeks upper body injury. Byron called up. Anyone else having that pit feeling in their guts. Getting a lot of breaks to win games we shouldnt, translating to not being able to sell our UFA’s because of injuries & how close we are to 8th & then we start to not get the breaks in March & we fall out of it as the injuries just start to come back. We get zero value for our UFA’s. Is that pit feeling cramps from the morning coffee or is it de ja vu?

  • Sairch is fine when he doesn’t try to do too much, is paired with a mobile partner and doesn’t spend too much time beyond the third pairing.

    The Flames goaltending has been excellent for about 6 weeks. Here’s hoping will continue indefinitely. If it falls off at all, the Flames will drop out of the playoff picture.

  • RKD

    yet another set back for micky backwards, when does the optimism fade. its starting to look to me that the swedish sensation is turning into a big time project.

  • According to Bobby Mac’s twitter feed, sounds like Backlund will be out at least a month, official word should come out today. So our centers now look like this: Jokinen, Horak, Byron, Stajan. YEEEEEEESH. If there was ever an opportunity for Stajan to improve his position in the lineup, the time is now. If the Flames make the playoffs, Brent Sutter should be a Jack Adams’s candidate. Seriously. This is getting Pittsburgh Penguins bad.

    • everton fc

      I think the team has to leverage Stajan’s experience now. He is not a 4th line centre, and could save his career with a momumental (miraculous?!) recovery as a 2nd/3rd line option.

      To me, Byron should be the 4th line centre. Jackman and Kosto can protect him.

      Kolanos is a centre by trade. Something else to consider. Or you waive Babchuk to try and open up a roster/contract spot. All this talk of Feaster stocking the farm in Abby… While I get this in one sense, we remain paper-thin down there, as well. And as an organization.

      Perhaps moving Hannan or Sarich for a spare part might be something to consider? If we could move Babchuk for a spare part… Even better.

      As for Brent’s performance with this borderline expansion team; agreed – he has done a fine job keeping this motley crew of also-rans and waiver-wire rejects competitive. Doesn’t make it easfy for Feaster and King to cut him loose if he actually scores the 7th/8th spot and makes the playoffs.

  • wawful

    It looks like Cammalleri has some experience at center and is going to slot into the second C position with Kostopolous and Comeau as his wingers. That gives the Flames a second line with a combined total of 44 points (18 goals and 26 assists)! Cripes!

    The good news is that Horak can probably handle the third line and Stajan can continue to suck on fourth if he is so inclined, although I genuinely hope the rank stench of opportunity wafting off of that giant hole at center ice manages to make him just a little bit hungry.

    One thing that is for certain is that the #1 line is going to get a *lot* of ice-time down the stretch. If they can stay hot (and Kipper continues to invent new types of saves) maybe the Flames have a chance, although one has to wonder if the team can really absorb the loss of Backlund. Backlund might not have been lighting it up, but he was playing pretty tough competition.

    I just hope Feaster has the balls to let the team tank rather than making a poor trade. I honestly can’t see any other team trading a quality pivot to the Flames right now without getting away with grand larceny.