Flames Player Usage Charts



We’re only about half way through Hartley’s first 10-game segment as the Flames coach so we’re limited in how much we can read into his bench management so far. That said, a few things seem to be emerging in the early going as mentioned yesterday, so let’s dive in and see how each guy has been deployed and how he has fared in that role.

Player Usage Charts – Introduction

These charts help visualize three primary elements in player evaluation:

1.) Zone starts, or the ratio of offensive zone to defensive zone faceoffs for each player.

2.) Quality if Competition, or who on the other team a player faces, be it first liners or fourth liners.

3.) Corsi, or the ratio of shots for and against the occur with the player on the ice.

Of course, all of the above is considered at even strength only.

These charts starting popping up in various forms a few years ago, but one of the main proponents and innovators was Hockey Prospectus (and part-time FN contributor) Rob Vollman. This chart was submitted by him.

On the x-axis is the ratio of offensive zone draws moving from most difficult to easiest. On the y-axis is the quality of competition moving from easiest to toughest. So a guy in the upper left hand corner would be facing murders row and starting in the defensive zone all the time, while a guy in the bottom right would be facing 4th liners and starting in o-zone all night.

The color and size of each players "bubble" represents his relative corsi rate. Blue represents guys with positive ratios (above 0 or 50%) while red are players underwater (below zero or below 50%). Bigger bubbles means the player is further above or below neutral – so a big blue bubble means a high relative corsi while a big red bubble means a very low (negative) rate.

The ideal superstar plays against other players superstars, starts more often in his own zone and still has high possession numbers. Let’s call him "Davel Patsyuk". His big, blue bubble would be slightly left of Bouwmeester’s on this chart. An archetypal replacement level or worse player would look like…well Blake Comeau on this chart.


As usual, given the sample size, we should take these numbers with a pinch of salt. Quality of competition metrics are especially prone to kicking out some odd results with so few games played (although the Flames positioning on this chart more or less matches what I’ve seen by eye so far). 

In addition, Rob has used relative corsi here rather than absolute corsi for possession numbers which can be deceptive if not correctly noted. Jarome Iginla isn’t actually underwater on the season (he’s closer to even), but relative to the club’s performance his corsi rate is in the red. Ditto Hudler and Cervenka, who are actually well on the positive side of the ledger by normal corsi.

What obviously stands out is the work done by Stempniak and Backlund have done so far. They’ve started more often in the d-zone but lead the pack by wide a margin in terms of possession. They’ve mostly faced muffins so far, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Hartley starts match them a bit more against top-6 competition.

Jay Bouwmeester continues to face the toughest competition on the team and in the toughest circumstances. He hasn’t fared all that well so far, truth be told, although that defniitely has a lot to do with his struggles through the first few games. He and Giordano seem to have turned things around lately, so his results could improve as we move along.

As mentioned, Blake Comeau is playing butter soft minutes and getting killed. He was okay as a middle rotation winger last season (although he couldn’t put the puck in the ocean) but he has been legitimately terrible to start this season.

Other Stuff – Chicago Chances

I finally sat down and counted out the chances per line from the Chicago game. I limited it to even strength chances, although I can put together the PP chances per line if anyone would like as well.

Anyways, here’s how things broke down. The final numbers surprised me:

13-40-12 4 4
10-18-24 4 3
11-20-22 14 2
15-19-17 1 2
Total 23 11

Essentially, each forward unit traded chances with their counterparts…except for the Backlund unit who went all medieval on the Hawks. A lot of the damage was done in that lopsided thrid period, no doubt when the Hawks legs were gone (and they were defending a lead) so attach appropriate caveats.

Guys like Iginla and Hudler were on the ice for a lot more chances overall because they featured prominently on the man advantage, but at ES they more or less just traded blows. Which isn’t, in itself all that bad given they were facing guys like Hossa, Toews and Kane most of the night. That said, Calgary’s overall domination was built on the back of it’s third line.

    • T&A4Flames

      I really liked the GlenX-Backlund-Stempniak line. I hope that line sticks because, yea, it’s like the old GlenX-Jokinen-Moss line but with a little more skill. I was hoping to see that line this year.

      One other line I would like to see is Backs centering the Czech mates. Stajan has been good between them, but with Backs new found confidence, that could be a HIGHLY skilled unit.

  • Subversive

    Hey Kent, any chance that chart could be a clickable link to a larger version of the chart? It’s pretty small right now, hard to read without zooming the entire browser.

    • He was close to treading water a couple years ago. Last time he outchanced consistently was 2008-09…incidentally, the same year he started way more often in the o-zone and the Flames had a third line that crushed other lines most nights.

      He’s at 56% zone starts now and the Flames have been chasing a lot. I suspect that’s about the line Hartley will have to draw for the Tnaguay/Iginla duo to keep them above board, especially if they have to keep facing other team’s top lines.

  • Kevin R

    Great stuff! Hope you do it lets say after 20 games when we can see the real culprits we want to vote off the island :0

    The Czech boys are bringing the best out of Stajan & if we were smart, leave that line alone & build Stajans value. He keeps this up, we may get a 1st rounder at the trade deadline anfd shut up all the pundits that have trashed us since that nightmare trade was made.

  • Section205

    Thanks for the article and thanks to Rob for the chart. I enjoyed the analysis last year as well.

    If we are going to measure the success of each line or pairing, then I would be less interested in Corsi Rel and more interested in Corsi On, at least when analyzing the Flames.

    High Corsi Rel might mean that your supporting cast is not very good. Low Corsi Rel might mean you have a pretty good third line that is dominating the other teams lines.

    I would say that for the last several years the Flames have had depth 3rd line (and 4th line) players that were experienced veterans, highly paid and were more or less expected to take advantage of other teams’ weaker competition.

    Generally our 2nd line has been a strong line that also matches up well against opposing 2nd lines.

    Meanwhile our top line lacks a #1C and really would define success by playing even corsi vs. other top lines.

    The inverted pyramid, right?

    So it is almost a given that our Corsi rel should be in favour of our depth players who should be dominating weaker competition.

    What I really want to see is whether the top line and top D pair can meet the objective of even (or better) corsi vs top competition, thus allowing our superior depth players to take advantage.