Black Box: Week 27



It’s small comfort, but the Calgary Flames are the best non-playoff team for the third season in a row, save for being a single point behind Dallas in 2010-11. They had a better regulation record than the San Jose Sharks, but unfortunately random skills competitions are part of today’s game and their 5-16 record were one of the many small things that did them in.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The solution is to improve from “bubble team” to “strong team” so that they aren’t relying on the breaks in order to squeeze into the post-season, something they can achieve by gradually shifting their team into a possession-based model, and signing higher-value players.

OZQoC Charts (explanation/last year)

Calgary used 26 forwards this season, one short of the club record. As expected, Jokinen, Tanguay, Iginla, Glencross and Moss all got the tougher assignments just like last year, with the main surprise being that Mikael Backlund’s role changed from more of a sheltered third-liner to those top-six type minutes.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

It was thought that Stempniak would continue to play a defensive role like last year, but he was used in a more balanced fashion instead, while Matt Stajan was surprisingly demoted into a depth position over-all. Lance Bouma was essentially promoted from a carefully-sheltered fourth liner to a regular depth forward.

We knew someone was going to play the tough minutes with Jay Bouwmeester this year, who was moved from a more balance role to a far more defensive role, but the only really big surprise this season on defense was that it was Chris Butler instead of Scott Hannan like we expected. The only real significant change in role was Cory Sarich getting an easier assignment against mostly depth-line competition.

Even-Strength Scoring (explanation/last year)

Curtis Glencross and Olli Jokinen scored at the exact same even-strength rate as last season, but saw huge drops in their possession numbers and scoring chance numbers. Interestingly, Jokinen’s goal percentage actually went up, from an almost-team-low of 44.7% to this year’s 47.5%.  Drops across the board for Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla as well, including their even-strength scoring rate. 

Mikael Backlund, who was a sheltered depth forward last year, lost almost half his scoring with his promotion this season, but managed to continue to win the possession and scoring chance battle – too bad the goals simply didn’t follow this year.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Top-Six Forward ESP/60 CEF CEA  CE% SCF SCA SC%   GF   GA    G%
David Moss        1.5   57  50 53.4% 13 16 45.5% 1.79 2.28  44.0%
Mikael Backlund   0.9   53  50 51.6% 16 14 51.7% 1.57 2.92  35.0%
Mike Cammalleri   1.9   50  55 47.4% 17 21 45.7% 2.58 2.84  47.6%
Curtis Glencross  2.1   49  57 46.1% 14 18 43.9% 2.63 3.37  43.8%
Alex Tanguay      2.0   49  58 45.5% 18 17 51.1% 2.85 2.44  53.9%
Olli Jokinen      1.8   48  58 45.3% 15 19 44.4% 2.90 3.20  47.5%
Jarome Iginla     2.1   49  60 44.8% 16 19 46.3% 2.68 2.91  47.9%

Lee Stempniak’s even-strength scoring rate was the same as last year’s in Phoenix, but there was a huge drop for Matt Stajan.

3rd Line Forward ESP/60 CEF CEA  CE% SCF SCA SC%   GF   GA    G%
Lee Stempniak     1.7   54  49 52.3% 16 14 52.5% 2.35 2.50  48.5%
Blake Comeau      0.9   50  50 50.1% 13 15 46.9% 1.29 2.03  38.9%
Matt Stajan       1.3   51  51 49.9% 14 14 50.0% 1.99 2.34  46.0%
Blair Jones       0.9   46  51 47.5% 16 16 50.9% 1.01 1.45  41.1%
Roman Horak       1.1   41  51 44.7% 12 11 51.6% 1.85 1.54  54.6%
Lance Bouma       0.7   42  54 43.7% 12 12 50.0% 0.70 2.10  25.0%
Akim Aliu         8.4   37  51 42.0% 14 14 50.0% 8.42 0.00 100.0%

The biggest drop this season was for Tim Jackman, whose even-strength scoring rate dropped from 1.6 points per 60 minutes to 0.6. He also had his possession percentage drop from 58.3% to 49.9%, scoring chances from 54.3% to 48.0% and of course his scoring percentage from 56.5% to 22.2%.  Yowch.

Depth Forward  ESP/60 CEF CEA  CE% SCF SCA SC%   GF   GA    G%
Krys Kolanos     0.5   54  49 52.5% 11 10 53.7% 1.04 1.57  39.8%
Greg Nemisz      0.0   44  43 50.5% 10 11 48.0% 2.61 1.74  60.0%
Tim Jackman      0.6   50  50 49.9% 11 12 48.0% 0.73 2.56  22.2%
Tom Kostopoulos  0.7   50  53 48.3% 12 13 48.3% 1.45 2.55  36.3%
G. Desbiens      0.0   34  45 43.0%  7  7 50.0% 0.00 0.84   0.0%
P-L. Leblond     0.0   46  58 43.9%  8 12 40.0% 4.16 0.00 100.0%
Paul Byron       1.1   35  51 41.1% 11 11 51.3% 1.63 0.54  75.1%
Sven Baertshi    3.5   31  48 38.8% 12 15 43.5% 3.52 1.17  75.1%
Raitis Ivanans   0.0   27  65 29.4%  5 27 16.7% 0.00 5.41   0.0%

Surprisingly, Calgary’s top for defensemen are ranked in the exact same possession percentage order as last year, led by Mark Giordano, who also had the exact same 50.0% goal percentage.

Top-4 Defense  ESP/60 CEF CEA  CE% SCF SCA SC%   GF   GA    G%
Mark Giordano    0.8   49  54 47.6% 14 16 46.7% 2.42 2.42  50.0%
Chris Butler     0.6   49  57 46.0% 16 18 47.3% 2.34 2.53  48.0%
Jay Bouwmeester  0.6   47  56 45.7% 14 17 46.0% 1.89 2.50  43.1%
Scott Hannan     0.5   45  57 44.1% 13 18 42.3% 2.34 2.94  44.3%

Anton Babchuk scored at the exact same rate of 1.1 points per 60 minutes, but saw drops in his percentages across the board. Cory Sarich was one of the few Flames to have his 2011-12 percentages largely match 2010-11, although this is probably a consequence of his significantly reduced role.

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%
Clay Wilson      0.0   49  44 52.9% 14 12 54.2% 1.09 1.09  50.0%
T.J. Brodie      0.6   50  47 51.5% 15 13 53.3% 2.40 2.02  54.3%
Cory Sarich      0.5   49  47 51.0% 13 12 52.8% 1.78 1.78  50.0%
Derek Smith      0.6   49  53 48.1% 15 13 53.5% 2.00 2.27  46.8%
Anton Babchuk    1.1   48  55 46.6% 12 15 44.3% 2.08 1.76  54.2%
Joe Piskula      0.0   50  59 45.9% 19 14 56.7% 0.00 5.54   0.0%

Special teams (explanation/last year)

Olli Jokinen led the team in power play scoring rate once again, increasing from 5.2 to 5.8.  His surprise challenger was Curtis Glencross, who scored at the lowly rate of 3.3 last year – although Calgary actually generated far more shots as a team (76.3) with him on the cie last year. In fact, only Lee Stempniak matched last year’s team shooting rate, with Olli Jokinen’s drop being the most significant (93.4 to 81.8).

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Primary Forwards    TOI/GP PTS/60 CE/60
Mike Cammalleri      2.9     3.1   91.5
Olli Jokinen         3.0     5.8   81.8
Jarome Iginla        3.3     4.3   81.4
Lee Stempniak        1.8     2.7   81.2
Alex Tanguay         3.1     4.5   81.0
Curtis Glencross     2.1     5.7   70.8

Matt Stajan had his ice-time cut, but had much improved results, while Mikael Backlund continued to be a very usable secondary option. David Moss took a step back from 2010-11’s success.

Secondary Forwards  TOI/GP PTS/60 CE/60
Sven Baertschi       0.6     0.0  104.0
Matt Stajan          0.5     4.2   94.1
Roman Horak          0.5     0.0   85.4
Mikael Backlund      1.1     3.9   85.0
David Moss           0.9     0.0   84.9
Tim Jackman          0.4     0.0   77.2
Blair Jones          0.8     1.8   71.9
Blake Comeau         0.7     0.0   68.8
Krys Kolanos         1.0     0.0   68.4

Mark Giordano’s scoring rate fell from 4.1 to 3.0, and his team shooting rate from 85.6 to 78.9. Jay Bouwmeester’s time was cut from 2.7 minutes per game to 2.2, and his team shooting rate dropped from 84.6 to 80.2, but his personal scoring rate jumped from 2.1 to 3.3.

Defensemen          TOI/GP PTS/60 CE/60
Clay Wilson          1.9     0.0  131.0
Anton Babchuk        2.4     1.6  102.3
Chris Butler         0.7     3.6   81.1
Jay Bouwmeester      2.2     3.3   80.2
Mark Giordano        3.3     3.0   78.9
T.J. Brodie          1.7     3.9   68.0
Derek Smith          1.0     5.1   65.8

Penalty killing

Last year’s top penalty-killing forwards were Curtis Glencross, and the departed Brendan Morrison, followed by Tom Kostopoulos and David Moss. Moss had a tough year, and Kostopoulos continued to struggle, but Tanguay was much improved, Glencross remained strong and their two new arrivals Lee Stempniak and Blake Comeau filled in nicely. 

Primary Forwards TOI/GP CE/60
Lee Stempniak     1.4    75.9
Blake Comeau      1.3    78.3
Curtis Glencross  2.1    83.6
Alex Tanguay      1.3    88.7
Tom Kostopoulos   1.5    91.2
David Moss        1.4   103.4

Calgary’s depth options were nothing to get excited about, except perhaps Mike Cammalleri.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Depth Forwards   TOI/GP CE/60
Mike Cammalleri   0.6    68.3
Mikael Backlund   1.0    90.5
Olli Jokinen      0.4    93.4
Blair Jones       0.7    97.1
Matt Stajan       1.0   113.8
Lance Bouma       0.5   119.5

Scott Hannan had a solid year on the PK, and there were big improvements from Jay Bouwmeester and Chris Butler.  Unfortunately Mark Giordano’s play returned to average, and Cory Sarich saw his playing time significantly reduced, along with his results.

Defensemen       TOI/GP CE/60
Scott Hannan      2.7    84.9
Mark Giordano     2.1    89.3
Chris Butler      2.2    92.4
Jay Bouwmeester   3.1    92.7
Cory Sarich       0.8    95.1

Goaltending (explanation/last year)

Kiprusoff was 12th in even-strength save percentage (among goalies with 20 games or more), even with Pekka Rinne and ahead of Tim Thomas. You really can’t ask for more than that (without being a bit of a jerk). 

Before the season began we mentioned that a Quality Start percentage of 60% is probably all they needed to make the post-season. They wound up at 59.8%.

Goalie           GS QS   QS%  ESSV%
Miikka Kiprusoff 68 42  61.8%  .928
Leland Irving     7  5  71.4%  .911
Henrik Karlsson   7  2  28.6%  .910

It was nice to the end the season with a couple of wins, but that really bad preceding stretch where they had only a single win in nine games, many of them against either basement dwellers or play-off spot rivals, were obviously the games that really mattered.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below


    • wawful

      Aliu was obviously stoked to be playing in the NHL and went out there with a full belly of fire when everyone else on the ice was just going through the motions and waiting for their golf-seasons to start. Still, it’s clear that he does have a decent set of tools.

      In 2007, Aliu was ranked in the top ten of his draft class, but fell to the second round due to his reputation for having poor impulse control. He put up very respectable numbers in junior but, so far, hasn’t found his scoring touch in the pro’s. It’s important to note that he’s been a goal-scorer rather than a checker for most of his career.

      The one thing that has dogged his entire career is a notable lack of discipline, whether it’s missing games because he busted his hand up in a bar brawl or incidents like what occurred on Saturday when he was ejected for mouthing off.

      Aliu could have a higher ceiling than a fourth-liner, but he could also prove to be unemployable due to his hot-headed nature. He’s definitely a high risk acquisition. Fortunately, Feaster got him cheap, so it was a relatively easy risk to take. If I were Feaster, I’d get the team shrink working overtime on Aliu through the summer.

  • Also, notice that Jarome got his head beat in this year by pretty much every measure at ES. This is what I mean when I say hockey is game of ratios/differentials, not just totals. Iggy led the team in scoring overall, but his ice time/points at ES cost the team more shots/chances/goals than he produced.

  • It’s incredibly frustrating to watch Brent Sutter continue to push the PvP matchup, especially when it’s clear that it’s not gaining us possession. Having said that, I’m not sure there is/was any solution to this on this iteration of the Flames. Although we may not be getting great results from guys like Iginla and Jokinen in this role, they may be the best of the available options to play against the Datsyuks and Kanes.

    In other words, clearly Iginla et al are underwater – but would a Jones, Stempniak, Comeau unit be able to hold the fort? And would the combination of Iginla’s sheltered CE% and the Jones’ unit’s unfavourable CE% be higher than the current usage? I’m not so sure it would be.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      I completely agree, a shutdown line would have been nice. I heard Sutter say that PvP is the way that he believes hockey should be played by the Flames, so this is part of a core philosophy for Sutter. I’d prefer it, if he played to their strengths. That said, I’m not sure how much flexibility that Brent had in playing against other team’s best lines, especially given the injuries this year. It’s not like the Flames have a version of Manny Mahotra to provide a shelter to Iginla, Tanguay and whoever centred them.

  • Over the next few weeks we’ll take a more detailed look at each of these components, so let me know if there’s anything specific you’d like those to cover.

    And yes, it would have been very interesting if they had crafted a defensive line (I was thinking Jokinen/Stempniak/Someone pre-season), in order to shelter the top line (Tanguay/Iginla/Someone) like Vancouver does.

    Then again, Edmonton does it too, so who knows.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      Robert – I think it would help a lot of you could compare some of the Flames’ numbers to what we see on other (more successful) teams. It would help provide some context and maybe give us a model(s?) of what successful teams do. At the very least it would be an interesting case study to see if there is “more than one way to win”.

  • supra steve

    Loved his enthusiasm, but I wasn’t much impressed with Aliu. Looks to be another Moss type of player at best. Didn’t think his skating ability was that great and he looked clumsy on his feet at times.

    Sadly, I was reading the Sun on the weekend where they did a full page preview of players in the system. They were trying to insinuate there is reason to be optimistic as our cupboard is in fact, not bare at all. However, in a league that is built on speed, combined with size and strength, I was left feeling somewhat discouraged at what I read. Many of the players in our system are small in comparison to bigger successful teams. The Flames are small enough already and to see the up and coming stock of players does not address their need for strong, solid players who can win battles along the board or, in front of the net where most goals are scored. No more drafting or acquiring anyone under 200 lbs.. We have enough of that ilk of players already.. Lets get some size to this team, especially up the middle and on defence.

    • supra steve

      All other things being equal, I would always take the larger player. All other things are rarely equal though. Yours is the kind of thinking that cost the Flames the services of Martin St. Louis and probably contributed to many less then optimal draft choices during the D Sutter era(size/character over smaller skill players). Baertschi and Gaudreau may have been overlooked due to size at last summer’s draft, I’m glad their skills were recognized by the Flames.

      • wawful

        I agree. If size utterly trumped skill then the NHL would be full of sumo wrestlers and there’d be no place for players like Theoren Fleury or Martin St Louis. Under Dutter, the Flames had an abundance of size and not a lot of skill. We’ve seen how that turned out. Likely the pendulum will swing the other way before too long, but it’s easier to trade skill for size than vice versa.

        Baertschi is looking more and more like the real #2 pick of his draft, and I’m flabbergasted that the Flames managed to get him. Every team that picked before the Flames, except Edmonton, is likely kicking themselves now. Gaudreau is a very long ways from turning pro, but he is also looking like he could turn into a steal.

        What I’d like to know is whether or not last years draft was a complete fluke or if the new quants the Flames have actually know what they’re doing. Sven was the highest rated player available when the Flames picked, so it’s not exactly like they did anything terribly unorthodox (until they picked Gaudreau). Only time and this year’s draft is likely to offer clues.

        I also wonder if Feaster is likely to try to stock up on picks this summer.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      I know where you’re coming from & agree that some size up the middle would help this team. There are some mid first round picks this year that are big centers I was reading about the other day.

      I personally like Radek Faska & would be thrilled if Flames could get him at 14. He’s a guy that’s moved up the rankings over the course of the year. He’s big & his scouting report indicates a strong work ethic (also in Baertchi’s report before he was drafted).

      But there was a few more in that range that could fit the mold & with the plethora of defenceman in this year’s draft, he could go 14th but still be the 5th best forward of the draft! Could be a steal.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    @ Steve

    I hated to see St. Louis go. Sure there are exceptions. And I have nothing against smaller players… But let’s focus on size combined with skill. Guys who can take the play to the boards and win more battles than they lose. Geesh.. The amount of times the Flames outnumbered other players and still lost puck battles. That needs to be addressed!

    • K Theory

      It’s all well and good to say that we should pick up players with the perfect combination of size and skill… but the simple fact is that those players are sought after by every team out there.

      If given the option, of course we should pick those players up. However, drafting in the 10-15 range you’re going to get prospects that aren’t perfect. Usually, that means sacrificing either skill or size.

      The question isn’t whether or not we should draft skilled big guys when they become available, but rather whether we would prefer high skill/smaller size or lower skill/bigger size (can’t have your cake and eat it too)

      My opinion is that it’s a whole lot easier to trade for big guys short on skill than it is to pry highly skilled players (of any size) away from teams. Go try and poach St. Louis and see how successful you are…

      Of course there’s a limit to how small we should draft (I would think Goudreau is about as small as we should go) but I’ve personally been impressed with the move to get more skilled, no complaints so far

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Not the biggest Feaster fan, but he’s gone after smaller guys in an effort to try and rapidly increase the amount of skill in the system.

    He’s also tried several reclamation projects, so I’ll give Jay props for trying to fix a very broken system. It’s a shotgun approach, but at least our future bottom 6 looks bright.

    Now we’ll have to wait and see what the team does to adress skill and youth in a top 6 capacity.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Cammalleri’s even strength play in Calgary seems to mirror what he had in Montreal. Essentially the same point scoring rate and a negative in chances/possession in hard minutes. Main difference seems to be he played harder minutes in Montreal but that was with the benefit of two-way stud center Plekanec who has no equivalent in Calgary.

    Main difference is that his snakebite on the powerplay is gone which is entirely to be expected.

    His shots have declined from the 3 per game rate he had in MTL (which should put him in the 30 goal vicinity) but he also went from undershooting career average in Montreal and overshooting it in Calgary.