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.

  • NateBaldwin

    I’m honestly hoping for a bottom five finish, it’s a shortened season, and a deep draft. This is the year to sell assets and jumpstart a nuclear rebuild. They won’t… but it would be nice.

    • First Name Unidentified

      ^^^ THIS

      short season (minimal pain) + deep draft = nuclear rebuild.

      Also, remember when the national news headline out of Flames training camp was the “stunning save” Kipper made in practice. Could that have been the high point for this season?

      • RexLibris

        I’ll pile on since this has more or less been my position for 3 years plus.

        In both games, it seems that once the opposition stepped it up, the Flames were outmatched. They only thrived when SJ and AD took their foot off the gas or hadn’t yet stepped on it.

        The common theme: our top players were no match for theirs.

    • Subversive

      Yeah, if there was ever a year to do it, this is the one. Short season, so the pain of losing will be as short as possible, deep draft, and tons of money coming off the books after the season. Perfect timing.

      • DangleSnipeCelly

        I couldn’t agree more… sell sell sell. Not because of the two loses, because of the last three + seasons. This is the perfect situation.

        Heck if we can pickup Rattie and draft Jones – add them to SVEN and TSpoon we can have our own mini Winterhawks team!

        I’m starting to feel like Kipper will not be a tradable asset… I feel retirement to Finland coming after this season.

  • jeremywilhelm

    Bouwmeester to St. Louis for Berglund and a First? Think they’d do it? It’ll be a late first. Move Kipper to the wings for Franson and Reimer/Scrivens? Scrivens and Reimer look like an excellent set of young goalies.

    I’m surprised Franson isn’t playing more, I believe Chemmy looked at his numbers last season and he was deceptively good.

    I have no idea why I’m posting trade ideas, I just had these stuck in my head.

    • RexLibris

      Last I’d heard was that Berglund was on St. Louis’ untouchable list. Rattie might be a piece in play.

      Reimer and Scrivens would be an excellent duo for a rebuilding team. They could almost guarantee a high pick.

      I don’t mind Franson, but I think he needs to be slotted in to a depth position. Trying to make him a key defensive option would be a big mistake at this point in his career.

      The Cammalleri trade idea is interesting (T&A4Flames). Cammalleri to a team for a 2nd line center option is intriguing. I can’t think of many 2nd line centers that are readily available, but a few years back Carter and Richards appeared to be locked up for the long-term, so anything is possible.

    • RexLibris

      Thinking of trades myself. JBO has the skills but he so badly needs a fresh start with a new team. Personally, I think we could trade him & let Brodie take his place in the top 4 & we wouldnt be worse off by it. I was thinking Ottawa is shopping for D & send him there for a 1st, Bishop & another prospect as Ottawa has tons of them. Either that or Detroit may still be interested. I think we need to keep Kipper.If we trade him, well then, thats waving the white flag too soon. We have too many forwards once Cerevenka & Hudler are back, something has to give. I like the direction we are going but circumstances are lining up that we will have a great draft pick whether we sell off or not. We need to give Hartley a full training camp to get the flow of the game to his liking. I like where this is headed.

    • No Franson, he’s awful. As bad as Kipper’s been, I would rather keep him over trading him for that. And Scrivens was the dude who gave up 2 in 3 seconds to Abby. Plus it’s to the Leafs, so no.

      J-Bo for Berglund and a 1st would be incredible, but very highly unlikely. Berglund’s an extremely talented young guy and someone I doubt St. Louis would part with.

  • T&A4Flames

    “the roster Feaster envisioned when he finished building it in August.”

    Please don’t say “finished” building. I sure hope he’s not done.

    I’m really starting to thing that Cammi, as much as I love the guy, is a bit superfluous. Once Hudler and Cervenka draw back into the line up, I think it would be wise for Feaster to package Cammi with other assets and get a center that can legitimately play a top 2 center; closer to 1st line.

    I said before the season began that if Baertschi won a spot on the roster, we would have to move some wingers, preferably LW. Of course, getting a legit center is only “if” we are “going for it.” At this point, I’m still on the trade for picks train. Cammi for a 1st + would be sooooo nice. Who needs scoring from the wing?

  • jeremywilhelm

    Enjoyed your article.
    Also, I feel teams with new coaches are a a disadvantage to start this season
    without pre-season to introduce new systems.
    My formulas have Cgy challenging for bubble playoff spot.