Black Box: Week 22



Probability of making the post-season, three different sites.  Doesn’t include Sunday’s games.

Team         1   2   3
Chicago     88% 87% 83%
Phoenix     84% 86% 78%
San Jose    74% 80% 72%
Dallas      63% 60% 67%
Los Angeles 43% 48% 36%
Calgary     24% 23% 28%
Colorado    18% 13% 28%

OZQoC Charts (explanation)

Changes to player usage over time has included Roman Horak and Lance Bouma being gradually but inevitably transitioned into softer roles, in favour of players like Blake Comeau and Lee Stempniak (when he was in the line-up). 

The veteran fourth line of Tim Jackman, Matt Stajan and Tom Kostopoulos have been used more defensively, so as to yield the more sheltered situations to Krys Kolanos, Paul Byron and Roman Horak.

Even-Strength Scoring (explanation)

When someone in Calgary’s top-six is on the ice (other than Backlund), Calgary will average 47 shots per 60 minutes at even-strength – that appears to be a constant.  What varies is how many of those shots will be converted into scoring chances and/or goals, and how many shots the Flames will face.

For example, Calgary converts far more of their shots into scoring chances with Alex Tanguay (and far less with Curtis Glencross), and opponents get more shots, chances and goals against Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen. 

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  1.7   48  55 46.7% 16 21 43.2% 2.35 2.88  44.9%
Curtis Glencross 2.1   47  58 45.1% 14 17 43.9% 2.72 2.98  47.7%
Alex Tanguay     2.3   47  58 44.9% 18 17 51.5% 2.90 2.36  55.1%
Jarome Iginla    2.0   47  60 44.0% 16 19 46.3% 2.49 2.78  47.2%
Olli Jokinen     2.1   47  60 43.8% 15 19 44.9% 3.11 2.80  52.6%

Replacement-level scoring levels for a Calgary depth forward is in the 0.7 to 0.9 range (of even-strength points per 60 minutes), suggesting that David Moss and Lee Stempniak are usable second-line forwards and great third-liners. 

3rd Line Forward ESP/60 CEF CEA  CE% SCF SCA SC%   GF   GA    G%
David Moss       1.6   56  50 52.8% 11 15 43.2% 1.63 1.63  50.0%
Lee Stempniak    1.9   54  51 51.3% 16 15 51.7% 2.61 2.70  49.2%
Blake Comeau     0.8   49  52 48.9% 13 15 46.1% 1.19 2.24  34.7%
Lance Bouma      0.8   43  55 44.1% 13 12 51.6% 0.82 2.18  27.3%
Blair Jones      0.9   44  52 45.7% 19 19 50.6% 1.11 1.29  46.3%

That veteran fourth line of Matt Stajan, Tim Jackman and Tom Kostopoulos reminds me more and more like my stock portfolio.  Despite the underlying numbers being decent (shot and scoring chance data), the key value (goal data) somehow goes from awful to worse-than-awful week-by-week.

The biggest difference on these depth lines is that Calgary enjoys far more shots, but far fewer of them get converted into scoring chances, and then even fewer of those into goals.  I suppose that makes sense.

Depth Forward  ESP/60 CEF CEA  CE% SCF SCA SC%   GF   GA    G%
Matt Stajan      0.9   51  49 51.0% 12 13 48.7% 1.34 2.82  32.2%
Tim Jackman      0.7   49  48 50.5% 11 12 48.4% 0.83 2.70  23.5%
Krys Kolanos     0.7   50  53 48.7% 11 10 51.6% 1.35 1.35  50.0%
Tom Kostopoulos  0.7   50  53 48.2% 12 13 47.5% 1.50 2.74  35.4%
Greg Nemisz      0.0   34  43 44.5%  4  9 33.3% 0.00 0.00   0.0%
Roman Horak      1.2   41  52 44.2% 12 12 51.5% 1.88 1.41  57.1%
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%
G. Desbiens      0.0   27  45 37.5%  5  5 50.0% 0.00 0.00   0.0%
Raitis Ivanans   0.0   27  65 29.4%  5 27 16.7% 0.00 5.41   0.0%

Think there’s a difference in the offensive abilities of Calgary’s top four defensemen?  At even-strength, apparently not.  A lot of the underlying numbers are out of their hands.  Even with the reduced number of shots and chances with Scott Hannan on the ice, for example, Calgary still scores that same 2.15 goals per 60 minutes.

Top-4 Defense  ESP/60 CEF CEA  CE% SCF SCA SC%   GF   GA    G%
Chris Butler     0.6   49  57 46.3% 16 18 47.7% 2.42 2.42  50.0%
Jay Bouwmeester  0.6   48  57 45.9% 15 18 45.9% 2.12 2.55  45.4%
Mark Giordano    0.6   47  57 45.3% 14 15 47.0% 2.15 2.23  49.1%
Scott Hannan     0.5   43  56 43.6% 13 17 43.1% 2.15 2.73  44.1%

It was a really bad week for Derek Smith, with sharp decreases in all three percentages.

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   49  47 51.2% 14 13 52.9% 2.37 2.12  52.8%
Cory Sarich      0.4   48  48 49.7% 13 12 52.0% 1.76 2.11  45.5%
Derek Smith      0.7   49  53 48.0% 14 13 52.1% 1.81 2.03  47.1%
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%

Special teams (explanation)

Calgary has a league-average power play, thanks to the big-name veteran likes of Jarome Iginla, Mike Cammalleri, Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay.  However, they don’t seem to take very many shots.

Primary Forwards    TOI/GP PTS/60 CE/60
Mike Cammalleri      2.9     2.8   94.3
Olli Jokinen         3.1     5.4   81.5
Jarome Iginla        3.3     4.2   80.6
Alex Tanguay         3.3     4.5   78.5

Despite the high number of shots taken with David Moss on the power play he has yet to register a point with the man advantage himself.  Contrast that with Curtis Glencross and his team-leading power play scoring rate, and yet with him on the ice the team is least likely to take a shot.

Secondary Forwards  TOI/GP PTS/60 CE/60
David Moss           1.4     0.0   90.4
Mikael Backlund      1.1     3.9   85.0
Lee Stempniak        1.7     2.0   78.6
Krys Kolanos         1.2     0.0   71.2
Curtis Glencross     1.9     6.3   67.4

Blake Comeau and Tim Jackman got a little time on the power play this week, but both players are still looking for their first points.

Depth Forwards     TOI/GP PTS/60  CE/60
Roman Horak          0.5     0.0   84.9
Tim Jackman          0.4     0.0   75.2
Blair Jones          0.8     2.2   73.6
Blake Comeau         0.7     0.0   59.9

Finally, here’s a look at how Calgary’s defensemen do with the man advantage.

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      2.3     3.6   80.7
Chris Butler         0.7     2.9   79.7
Mark Giordano        3.3     2.5   76.4
T.J. Brodie          1.8     3.9   69.0
Derek Smith          1.3     5.2   66.3

Penalty killing!

Game 62, Tom Kostopoulos scored Calgary’s first short-handed goal of the season to secure a 3-0 lead over Philadelphia, a game they would unfortunately lose 5-4 in a shoot-out.  Just two games later, Curtis Glencross bagged the team’s 2nd short-handed marker of the season to go up 2-0 on Phoenix.  Fortunately that time their 3-0 lead (Olli Jokinen scored a minute and a half later) just barely held up – Jarome added an empty netter.

Primary Forwards TOI/GP CE/60
Lee Stempniak     1.7    76.2
Blake Comeau      1.2    78.5
Curtis Glencross  2.2    84.6
Mikael Backlund   1.0    90.5
Tom Kostopoulos   1.4    90.9
David Moss        1.5   124.9

Due to the high volume of penalties taken this week, highly-paid veterans Alex Tanguay, Olli Jokinen and Matt Stajan saw a lot of action – and Kipper and Irving consequently saw a lot of shots.

Depth Forwards   TOI/GP CE/60
Mike Cammalleri   0.7    68.9
Blair Jones       0.6    79.7
Alex Tanguay      1.1    84.0
Olli Jokinen      0.5    90.3
Roman Horak       0.2   115.8
Lance Bouma       0.4   121.9
Matt Stajan       0.9   120.5

Chris Butler’s out of the line-up, placing a heavier burden on the remaining three primary penalty killers.

Primary Defense  TOI/GP CE/60
Scott Hannan      2.7    84.7
Mark Giordano     2.0    85.3
Chris Butler      2.2    92.2
Jay Bouwmeester   3.3    92.3

With Butler down for the count, and having to kill so many penalties this week, Brent Sutter decided to add Cory Sarich to the short-handed rotation rather than rotate three defensemen, as he did earlier in the season when Mark Giordano was out.  Given his success in limited action, Derek Smith might be worth a try instead.

Depth Defense    TOI/GP CE/60
Derek Smith       0.4    60.6
Cory Sarich       0.7   101.5
Brett Carson      0.3   109.1

Goaltending (explanation)

Despite playing well enough for Calgary to win in 5 of his 6 starts, Leland Irving has just a single victory – fortunately they haven’t hung Miikka Kiprusoff out to dry quite as badly.  It’s a shame the team isn’t taking full advantage of what could be Kiprusoff’s final top-ten-calibre season.  Had he played this way last year, Calgary may have pushed Vancouver for the division title.

Goalie           GS QS   QS%  ESSV%
Miikka Kiprusoff 54 33  61.1%  .929
Leland Irving     6  5  83.3%  .919
Henrik Karlsson   5  1  20.0%  .906

And that’s how it looks under the hood after 22 weeks.  Calgary hosts a key game against Dallas after this is written but before it’s published, followed by Montreal and Winnipeg.  Since the snowfall will help the Jets feel at home, let’s help the Habs by chanting a song from another continent and a completely different sport.

  • supra steve

    Iggy will not, at this stage, be able to lift THIS Flames team to cup contender status. He has not been able, for 3 years now, to lift THIS Flames team to playoff team status. In only one year of his career has he been able to help lift THIS franchise to win a playoff round (2004 was glorious though). He is now a wasted asset on THIS team. His best potential contribution to the Flames is in his current value as a tradeable asset. If he gets another shot at playoff glory/a cup after such a trade I would be happy for him. He is declining and THIS team is not the best place for him to do that gracefully. Trade him this summer, and lets remember him the way he was.

  • BobB

    ” It’s a shame the team isn’t taking full advantage of what could be Kiprusoff’s final top-ten-calibre season. Had he played this way last year, Calgary may have pushed Vancouver for the division title.”

    I’m interested in this line of thinking. It sounds great on first blush, but it doesn’t make any sense to me personally.

    How I see it is:

    Offence and defence are on a spectrum. Elite teams have a wide spectrum, and poor teams a narrow one.

    Calgary could play and “open” game and lose 6-5 every other night. Good offence, good possession #’s, and still 10th place.


    Calgary could play a “tight” game and lose 2-1 every other night. Great goaltending, good defensive metrics, and still 10th place.

    I see no situation where Calgary plays an open system like under Keenan and has defensive #’s like under Darryl. You can move your place on the spectrum, but you can’t drastically change the team you are. You find the system that gives you the extra 2% perhaps…. but no matter the way, we’re still missing the extra gear.

    Calgary is a middling team, with limited talent, it certainly isn’t as simple as “Had [Kipper} played this way last year, Calgary may have pushed Vancouver for the division title.”

    That’s laughable frankly. Vancouver is an elite team, Calgary scraps for wins and is a middling talent team.

    If Kipper had those #’s last year, we would have played to the score and scored less.

    • Calgary was 7th in close-game shot-based metrics in 2010-11. Vancouver was 4th, just 1.4% higher.

      Miikka Kiprusoff is stopping 93.0% of the shots at even strength, while Roberto Luongo stopped 93.4% in 2010-11.

      Note: Using close-game metrics is meant to almost eliminate the bias from score effects.

      On those grounds, it’s statisically reasonable to think that Calgary could have pushed Vancouver, assuming they got a little luck in OT/Shoot-out, if Kipper had been playing as well.

      Kipper: Taking the 3rd worst possession team in the league to within 3 points of a play-off spot despite a ridiculously unlucky 2-14 OT/shoot-out record (which cost them 6 points right there).

      • BobB

        Robert, thanks for the detailed reply.

        I understand these metrics in isolation, I just don’t see it happening in “real life”

        This, perhaps, is what you (I think) described earlier in the year in a great article as the disconnect between the advanced stats people and the “I saw it this way” people.

        I am intrigued by what you wrote above, but why doesn’t it convince me?

        My question is, what has to be sacrificed on the ice in front of Kipper to get him to play at .930evsv%???

        It’s no coincidence to me that when the flames score many goals (10/11, 08/09, 07/08) they get poorer goaltending. Tom Awad wrote about this last year (the inversion of possesion stats and sv%)

        AND … When they’re last (or near to it) in the league in Goals for, Kipper is outstanding.

        LA is that way this year, and especially under Sutter, just like with Kipper when he coached here. (Granted, I haven’t looked more into their advanced numebrs)

        • There’s always a problem when you try to explain things after the fact.

          After all, when something unfolds a certain way it’s hard to believe that it could have unfolded any differently.

          For example, don’t forget that Calgary’s shooting percentage is to credit/blame for the increases/decreases in scoring. 8.6% this year, 9.6% last year, 8.6%, 9.5%, etc!

          But if you don’t want to talk about 2010-11, talk about 2009-10 instead, because Calgary was also 7th in close-game shot-based/possession statistics that year. The difference? Kipper was far from terrible.

          In 2009-10 their regulation winning% was .590 compared with .506 in 2010-11. (They’re .500 this year).

          Same possession stats, better goalie – big boost in controllable winning percentage.

          Also, consider examining a team with whom you’re not so subjectively familiar. This year that could be Montreal, who went from 11th to 29th in close-game possession, or better yet last year’s Leafs who went from 8th to 26th.

          In both cases, goal-scoring was virtually identical across both seasons. In Montreal’s case goaltending has declined .922 to .913, and in Toronto’s case it improved from .896 to .907.

          Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it regressed to the mean, which could also partially explain Calgary too.

  • Scott


    Given how the players have performed in their roles, what would be your suggestion moving forward for this team depth wise?

    For example, can we simply change the roles for some of these players for next season to improve their stats and the teams fortunes or do we get rid of these players outright?(UFA or trade?)

    I guess i’m wondering if its this teams main problem is skill or role utilization?

    Do you think Derek Smith would be a viable option in the top four? or just a top penalty killer and a bottom pairing guy?

    • Baseball was revolutionized when people realized that winning was about getting on base, and preventing opponents from doing the same.

      Hockey is being revolutionized as people realize the game is about having possession of the puck, and denying such possession to your opponents.

      Up and down the line-up Calgary needs upgrades in the ability to control the play, and move the puck north. This can be achieved either through development, or through transactions.

      Depth moves won’t help, because that’s the area where they’re doing just fine. Unfortunately most of them, like Derek Smith, would probably get killed in the front four.

      It’s their top six and front four that are getting destroyed every night, and that’s what needs fixing in the off-season.

      • I think smart hockey people have always realized that possession wins. It’s just common sense. If you have the puck and they don’t, odds are you’re gonna win.

        I think the difference is in creating the systems to take make that happen have improved.