Two Games in – Deep Breaths Flames Fans

 

 

The Flames dropping the first two games of the shortened season at home seems to confirm all the worst fears of the management and fanbase. The own-zone play has been sloppy, Kipper has looked helpless and there already seems to be a growing chasm between the team’s aspirations and their outcomes.

As always, I remain skeptical of the club’s direction and ability to do anything more than run in place. That said, there’s many reasons not to overly weight the first two games of the season.

Small, Non-representative Sample

Every year I remind myself (and others) that the first 10-stretch of the season is probably the least indicative of a team’s true talent level. That’s because coming out of the off-season most club’s are acclimating to new players in the line-up and some are acclimating to new coaches. Aside from general rust after not playing for X amount of months, that also means some sort of learning curve for the new players, if not the new coaching staff.

Unfortunately, the first 10 games usually seem intuitively more important in grading a club, at least in the short term. This is because of the lack of information (first segment of the year which fans can use to judge performance) and in that vacuum fans and pundits naturally tend to assume that what they see if what they’re going to get.

Pile on top of all that the natural variation one tends to get in small samples in the NHL (weird stuff can happen over a few games as a matter of chance) and you have a segemt of the schedule which needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Finally, Calgary has lacked two major new additions to the roster in Roman Cervenka and Jiri Hudler thanks to unforeseen circumstances. It’s unknown just what sort of impact either guy will have on the club’s performance, but it’s fair to say this isn’t quite the roster Feaster envisioned when he finished building it in August. 

They Haven’t Been That Bad

I’ll stipulate the Flames haven’t been great through the first games – the defense and neutral zone puck management at certain times has been sloppy at best. Kipper looks like he’s fighting vertigo and some of the higher priced vets like Mark Giordano, Jay Bouwmeester and Mike Cammalleri are obviously fighting through some rust.

That said, both games were winnable. With a few more bounces and even slightly better goaltending, the Flames could be 2-0 right now. They outchanced the Sharks 16-10 in game one and then battled the Ducks more or less to a draw by the same metric last night:

Team Period Time Comment
CGY 1 19:38 Backlund
ANA 1 18:54 Getzlaf goal
CGY 1 17:00 Horak
ANA 1 14:32 Getzlaf
ANA 1 14:01 Selanne
ANA 1 12:30 Koivu goal
ANA 1 6:46 Perry (PP)
ANA 1 4:22 Selanne tip
ANA 1 4:00 Smith-Pelley
CGY 1 3:06 Glencross goal (tip) PP
CGY 1 0:26 Tanguay goal
       
CGY 2 18:48 Glencross goal (tip) PP
CGY 2 14:32 Baertschi
CGY 2 11:25 Comeau
CGY 2 9:58 Glencross backhand
CGY 2 9:50 Iginla
ANA 2 9:37 Perry
CGY 2 6:11 Iginla
CGY 2 4:50 Backlund
CGY 2 3:22 Tanguay
CGY 2 2:44 Horak backhand
CGY 2 1:52 Stempniak break away
       
CGY 3 17:32 Comeau
ANA 3 15:59 Cogliano tip
ANA 3 15:58 Winnik goal (rebound)
ANA 3 15:40 Palmieri
ANA 3 15:35 Palmieri
ANA 3 14:35 Ryan
ANA 3 10:47 Smith-Pelley
ANA 3 8:46 Getzlaf goal
CGY 3 6:36 Brodie
CGY 3 5:57 Stempniak goal (breakaway)
ANA 3 5:34 Palmieri
ANA 3 4:29 Winnik
CGY 3 0:25 Tanguay
       
       
ANA 17    
CGY 18    

The Flames have had both very good and very bad periods in both games, but altogether they have won at least three of them and generated more chances in aggregate (34) than they have given up (27). They have also marginally outshot the opposition 57-53 so far.

Outshooting and outchancing were big issues for the Flames last year and without Kipper standing on his head for two months they would have been out of the playoff picture by the end of February.

So far, it’s been the opposite story. The Flames have had enough chances to win each game but Kipper’s ghastly .830 SV% (in part due to defensive break-downs, in part due to bad bounces and in part due to medicore play) would be poor on the PK,  to say nothing of an overall save rate. As commenter seve927 pointed out in the post-game article below, a lot of good goaltenders have lousy save percentages through the early going. It happens.

Even if Kiprusoff is destined to regress from his noteworthy performance last year as I suspect, he’s certainly not a true .830 SV% puck stopper. The opposition has scored on 33% of their chances so far and the typical rate is about 15% – things will even out in time. 

Conclusion

It sucks to lose the first two games and the team-wide performances have been uneven at best. That said, there’s been some bright spots and we have to remember not to get too agitated about such a small sample of games given the long off-season, new faces and the nature of variance for small samples.

Truth is, we don’t really know how good or bad the Flames are yet.

  • MC Hockey

    another mark against Garth Snow would be the fact that he keeps acquiring players that have no interest in playing for him. He claimed Nabokov off waivers from Detroit (in spite of the fact that he was previously unable to lure Nabokov from Russia in the 1st place) and Nabokov refused to report to the team for the rest of the year. He came back the next season and performed well, but that’s just a dumb@ss move from start to finish.

    Then, there’s the Visnovsky trade. Last time I looked, Visnovsky was still in Europe.

    • T&A4Flames

      Yea, Snow keeps drawing negative attention to their organization by not researching or asking enough questions. How do you draw quality FA if they all think your organization sucks because of a few spoiled players.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    I haven’t been able to watch any games just read the boxscores.

    It appears to me that Calgary has had bad stretches in games where they ultimately lose. It doesn’t read like they are bad throughout.

    But when it seems guys like Bartchi, Backlund, Iggy are close to getting on track.

    I also think the additions of Hudler and Cervenka will have strong impact on the lines in terms of balance and having players comfortable (Tanguay).

    If I’m correct in this analysis I expect Calgary to be able to ice 3 dangerous lines and play very uptempo while utilizing the middle of the ice.

    Compared to years past, the Flames were a straight up and down, along the boards type of team. That is not necessarily bad but it is bad when it’s the only way you can play (as Sutter used to say).

    Once the guys counted on to produce get of the snide I’m looking forward to the results.

    As seen in other sports a team can get hot and things click. The confidence grows and something special occurs.

    The slam against Calgary is that they are old. The flip side is that they are experienced pro players who finally have some skill throughout the line up.

    As more youth is incorporated (recent drafts) I’m very optimistic about Calgary.

      • jeremywilhelm

        I think that 14th oldest is a little misleading the other way now. If you look at ages of top 6 & #1 goalie & age allocation of cap $$$$, we move back up into the upper percentile of the age category.

      • The team as a whole isn’t old. The players who matter are old, ie; on the downside of their career.

        Last year, players over 28 years old soaked up about $47M in cap space and played over 17,000 minutes. Guys in the sweet spot (23-26) made up about $6M of cap space and played less than 5k minutes. Even if you add in the youngsters below peak age, that segment had accounted for just 19% of the Flames cap and scored just 14% of the Flames points.

        With Cervenka on the roster and Backlund moving up the depth chart, those ratios should improve this season. Still, the club remains overly reliant on players whose legacy in the league outstrips their future.

        • jeremywilhelm

          Seems like cherry picking data to me. The team is the team. Sure, the impact players we are used to counting on are getting old, but Baertschi, Backlund, Brodie, Butler, Horak and Cervenka are all in early to early prime years who are being put into positions to be impact players on the team this year.

          A narrative of an old team fits previous years where Backlund and Brodie played limited minutes on low pairings/lines, not so much this year.

          So while I admit when you cherry pick the top line and #1 goalie we look old, but taken as a team on the whole, I wholly disagree.

          It just seems to me to be a storyline we are carrying over from previous years, which seem to me to be overly stated.

          You could essentially make the exact same arguments for many teams that should be ok to good this season relying a high percentage on players of a post prime age. Vancouver, Detroit, Rangers, Phoenix.

      • RexLibris

        When many pundits talk about the age of a team they aren’t describing the depth players, they generally refer to the core group of players targeted by that organization as being impact players.

        Thus the Flames average age is middle of the pack, but their principle players are all at or over 30 years of age. The inclusion of Baertschi and Brodie and the early-season showing of Backlund only helps to set this back a small degree. Those three are not a first line possibility right now, and are filling in, appropriately I think, as complementary talents who can find success against the second and third options of the opponent.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    The fact is that the team is close, but they are not close enough to be really competitive. The same team essentially if not in strict personnel, but in philosophy. The philosophy of being almost good enough and hope for a miracle as opposed to being bad and building a new foundation.

    Our best players are not as good as other teams best players. In the playoffs heart and soul might win, but through the regular season it is talent that makes the difference.

    Really torn:

    Feel like a pessimist if I say that they are going to go 2-8 to start the season.

    And yet, I can help feel like an eternal optimist if I think that they might be able to go 3-7.

  • everton fc

    As usual over the years Rex, I appreciate your post. I’ll probably get hammered for this, but here’s my POV. Random ranting. My apologies. First; “On paper”, we remain an old team. A team of experienced pros and washed up vets. The look of an expansion franchise, in many ways. The shortened season should become a laboratory. The control groups, the current roster, those in Abby, Juniors, US College Hockey. I’d probably give Gaudreau a shot late season. It’d certainly sell tickets. Can’t hurt the player, or the franchise. Maybe even Aliu, Street and Byron, if they can put up some #’s. Ditto Taylor in Abby, who should be signed. Makes most sense to see what we have. Assess values. They are all commodities…

    Many want to move Stempniak. He’s been consistent since he came here. He should be on a line with Horak, as they clicked when put together. I don’t even mind Stajan at centering them this season; he’s going to be hard to move, unless you move him in a deal similar to Regher’s. And Stajan actually can play in the NHL. If he were a 1.5mill/season 3rd line shutdown guy, he’s not a bad option. Stempniak is a good vet to have in the room, and he can produce offence. He’s been a good role-model for Horak, early last season. He has on-ice value. Maybe more than Cammy. I agree the Bourque for Cammy move is a wash-out. Ramo is the wildcard. Nothing lost. Nothing gained. Yet.

    I’ve never been a Feaster fan, regardless of his deal for Horak. He would have kept Erixon, if he could have. Call it luck. He also tossed a pick for PL3. The Regehr deal now looks like a salary dump. Still think we could have parlayed more out of the aging warrior. Jones is by far the best acquisition Feaster’s made. Comeau was a dice roll most would have taken – pretty harmless – but to me, he’s a 4th line grinder. Does anyone think Comeau can’t fill that role? If not, he should be moved in a package. Or, put him on the 4th line now. RW. Unless people prefer the aging Jackman… (I would have preferred Derek Dorsett. Still do. He’s a winner, on a bad team. He’d be an excellent Flame. We need guys like him, for our rebuild.)

    We should have moved Smith, JBo, maybe Kipper, maybe Iggy, maybe Jackman, when we had the chance. When they all had value. Smith could have given us a return last season. He was at peak value. We were loaded with defencemen of similar “ilk”. He seems to be coming back to earth. Earth, for Smith, was the AHL. But we wanted to get in the playoffs, which I guess is understandable.

    As for our goalies, let Irving and Taylor play. Up here. Now, as the backups. If Irving stuns us all, he becomes valuable. Same with Taylor, who I said we should have signed last season. Guys I’d move now, if I could, include Smith, JBo, Jackman, maybe Kipper, maybe Iginla, Cammy. I’d move them for picks, for youth, for defencemen. I might even consider moving Gio, at this point. Yes, I’d blow it up. Now. Winning the Cup in a shortened season will never be as sweet as winning it in a full season. My opinion, as a fan.

    And I’d keep Tanguay. Until we see Hudler and Cervenka on the ice, in action… Here’s hoping they can make this a winning organization. I have my doubts. Obviously. Bottom line; I think we missed an opportunity to bring in the right GM for the future. So we’ll all live through the Feaster regime. For better. For worse.

    (Tangent: Is Reinhart struggling in Abby right now? His numbers don’t look so good. -11. Ouch.)

    • T&A4Flames

      I can’t disagree with most of this. Although, I don’t believe we need to go “scorched earth.” We could, IMO, gain 2 or 3 more 1sts & probably prospects by moving some of the vets while maintaining a few of those vets to mentor and keep things competitive. I’m ok with finishing bottom 3 for 1 year but I want to see competitive hockey. Unlike the Oilers, no offence to those fans, I don’t want failure for 3,4 or 5 years before I see mild improvement. If we finish 3rd last, then 8th last and so on, that would make me happy, constant improvement. Not last (or 2nd last) 3 years running.

      I agree with keeping Tangs and probably GlenX with Hudler & (hopefully) Cervenka. As a temporary core that help bring up our youth. Trade Jarome this year to a winner; let him get that cup. I have no doubt we would see him im Flames silks before his time is done. Heck, if he wins it this year, he would likely resign in the off season.

      • everton fc

        I’d hold onto Stempniak, as well. To help with the youth. I like him. Seems a “character guy”.

        Iginla and Kipper, like the Sutters (whom I didn’t mind as much as most) are the Flames past. Like Regehr, it’s time to move on. Build the team around Baertschi. Backlund. Horak. Brodie. And so on. Even Jones fits in this new core. At least for me.

        I’d hold onto Butler, but play him where he should be played. I’d also move him, for the right component(s)…

        Did I mention I’d trade for Derek Dorsett?! 🙂

        • jeremywilhelm

          I like Dorsett as well. I posted on Rex’s rebuild blog some moves now that can fit a rebuild without giving up on playoffs & then trade deadline moves if we are clearly out of playoffs.
          1/ JBO needs a change & personally, Brodie gives us the same as JBO & is totally ready for more minutes. So moving JBO isnt waving any flag here. Ottawa is a prime target & they would part with Bishop, a 2013 1st, & if Feaster begged enough maybe even a b prospect. Bishop can come in immediately & not only backup Kipper, but probably play way more games than we would even consider with Irving.
          2/ Go hard after Nino. The Isles have one Reinhart & maybe we offer Max Reinhart, Irving, Stajan and our 2014 3rd rounder for Nino. Some may think thats an overpayment for an unproven kid, but this kid was a lottery pick 2 years ago, is big, is ready & has the Sven connection. I’d do this in a heartbeat. Stajan is playing better & his salary of 2.5 & cap hit of 3.5 mill is the type of contracts Isles like & he can play 3rd line centre for them.
          None of these deals hurt Feasters go for it image.
          Trade deadline if we are out of playoffs:
          3/If Iggy isnt signed, give him to St Louis with a 2014 2nd rounder for Rattie & St Louis 1st rounder & let Iggy win the friggin Cup.
          4/Trade Butler & Granlund to Minny for their 2013 2nd & Coyle. Butler is a reliable affordable 15 minute type dman the Wild would probably covet & having the other Granlund brother may be enough to extract that 2nd & Coyle out of them.
          5/Depending on how Bishop plays, Kipper could be expendable & I think Wash would give us their 1st for Kipper & another prospect.
          6/Cammi to any contender for a 1st/& a prospect & we pick up 1/2 of his salary for the remainder of this year & next year(final year)

          We still have great vets in Gio, Wideman, Stemps, Hudler, Tangs, GlenX, Jackman a whack of good youth injected now & we have 4 extra 2013 1sts, a 2013 2nd but no 2014 2nd or 3rd rounders but have a whack of cap space to go after free agents to fill in the holes & it will be an interesting UFA market this year.

          Personally, I think we would be a better team for this. Thats my ultra charged nuclear rebuild. God its fun being an armchair GM. 🙂