Five things: Have I got a stat for you

1. The Backlund situation

So word on the street is that the Flames are actively shopping Mikael Backlund for reasons that outright defy explanation. Sure, they’re not just taking any old bodies you want to give up for him, as Carolina reportedly found to its dismay, but this is taking the sell-off of parts to an illogical extreme.

This is, for example, pretty much the textbook definition of selling low. That is, Backlund is currently on pace for about eight goals this year, which would be a career low, because he’s — somehow — shooting below his career shot percentage of 6.3, at a current level of 5.9.

Obviously, a look at the deeper numbers tells you Backlund is in fact quite valuable to the Flames despite the meager production; his corsi share prior to last night’s game was second among Flames forwards behind only Mike Cammalleri, despite far more difficult zone starts (among forwards, only Matt Stajan, David Jones, Lance Bouma, and Curtis Glencross have it tougher), though against somewhat soft competition.

He’s also just about the only useful possession forward the Flames have who isn’t older than 26. And so of course Feaster is shopping him. While one can’t opposed to entertaining offers for all players at any time just to see what there is to see, actively putting a for-sale sign around the neck of an unlucky 24-year-old center, who just happens to be dirt cheap and signed for next season, is ludicrous.

Even if you’re disappointed with the production and general lack of development of an offensive game, a $1.5 million third-line center isn’t the worst thing in the world to have on hand.

2. One change for Flames with new TV deal

With Rogers taking over the NHL TV world in Canada for the next dozen years, a lot is about to change. One thing that probably isn’t, though, is the Flames’ broadcasts. (Too bad. Watching Flames games sucks for more than just the on-ice product these days.)

However, that deal means a lot more money, specifically for Canadian teams, coming in. That might enable the Flames — and I swear to god people are already saying this already — to more heavily pursue top free agents in the near future. This is a thing the Calgary Sun is actually advocating. As if that wasn’t the problem that got the Flames into this mess in the first place.

You know how that song goes: Some things will never change.

3. This is how eager everyone is for something good to report on

Speaking of the Calgary Sun and its general awfulness: They’re already running stories on how Joe Colborne has been “a pleasant surprise.” You know old Joey Colborne, acquired on the cheap from Toronto, the guy with the same number of points (and one extra goal) as Backlund despite his shooting percentage being nearly five times higher. His corsi share, meanwhile, is just 43.6 despite starting 55 percent of shifts in the away from his own zone and playing Monahan-esque competition.

By all means let’s ship out the good 24-year-old center who’s been in the organization for years, but praise the new kid — only because he’s new — for being more or less the same player under much easier circumstances, because he got points against the Jets and Panthers. Makes a lot of sense to me.

4. An hilarious proclamation

Reto Berra as an NHL starter some day. Hahaha.

5. I spent last night with Providence College

As you may well know, the U.S.’s (superior) version of Thanksgiving is today, and yesterday was of course one of the busiest travel days of the year. But having tomorrow off, as one does, and for want of something more interesting to do than going to a bar in my hometown and seeing a bunch of idiots I went to high school with, I instead drove x hours in traffic to Connecticut — a worse place than Edmonton — to watch Providence College play Quinnipiac, one of the top teams in the country. They entered the game ranked Nos. 4 and 5, respectively.

The specific reason for my interest, beyond the fact that it was college hockey and Providence in particular, was that on Friday Jon Gillies suffered what appears to have been a groin injury and missed the second period. Though he played the next game (and was in fact spectacular against UNH in making 32 saves on 34 shots, and winning), he was also held out of practice all week. A nation held its breath.

Fortunately, Gillies was fine. He was, according to his coach, always going to start this game, and he was good — not great — in stopping 45 of 48. When you are on Gillies’ level, it seems, that kind of performance barely raises eyebrows at this point. Kind of amazing to think about.

Meanwhile, our boy Mark Jankowski did not fare quite so well. He took 21 shifts at 5-on-5 (for 13:23 ES TOI), as well as a handful on both the power play and PK. In all of them, he attempted a combined zero shots. Let me repeat that: He did not attempt one shot. This despite getting four offensive zone starts, one in the neutral zone, and three in his own. He was 2 for 6 on defensive zone draws.

But here’s the amazing part, and I swear to you it’s real: his corsi-for was just 3 (!) in the game. His corsi-against was 26. That’s a minus-23 in a game in which he took 21 shifts, and only three of them actually started in his defensive zone. The percentage for 3 of 29 is…10.3%. He was utterly dominated. What do you even say any more?

In five of his last eight games, he’s gone without a shot on goal. This is a disaster.

But hey, at least John Gilmour assisted on the game-tying goal on a 5-on-3. That’s something, right?

  • Please note, by the way, that I have previously said that bashing Jankowski or the pick isn’t really my thing any more, but when you go minus-23 and don’t attempt a single shot, you’re asking for criticism.

  • NHL93

    This was the year Jankowski was to prove himself.. and he is doing just that.

    I liked the pick and was willing to defend the pick (mainly because of his age) but skipping USHL the way he did was kind of a red flag for me and this sophomore year was supposed to be a big step forward. What’s happened?

  • It’s truly wonderful that the sentence “[Jon Gillies] was good — not great — in stopping 45 of 48” is actually a thing.

    He managed a paltry .938 save rate against the fourth best team in college hockey. What a disappointment.


  • palooza

    Nailed it Ryan, Flames are really doing their best to drive up Backlund’s value, 9 minutes on the forth line last night. All while every one in the msm and team pump Colborne’s tires for god knows what reason.

    You’d think if they were really trying to deal him there might be a little convo between management and coaching staff with the former suggesting slightly more favourable circumstances to bump 11’s numbers.

    Also Berra stinks.

  • palooza

    What a shock… another 5 things that focuses on the negative of everything. No need to mention Hudlers outstanding season, the emergence of Russel as a legit top 4, or the fact management actually looks to be staying true to this rebuild, thus far. This isnt a shower of poo… and we all apologize you were forced to take the dreadful trip to Providence and sit in a city which is not worth the ora of your glory to watch a draft pick that burnt your eyes with his horribleness. Your dedication and opinion on this team cannot be under-appreciated tho.

      • DoubleDIon

        No I realize the standings and im content with where the flames are. They are where they are supposed to be.. its a rebuild… Im not saying this is a howling success.. Im just saying we don’t need to be this excruciatingly negative towards a team that has identified that we are in a rebuild and this is going to be a difficult couple of seasons. I guess Im just very confused why 5 things has to ALWAYS be the most negative article I read about the Flames when this team is turning things around and are not riding the back of iggy and Kipper to make a “push for playoffs.” This season has been great for me so far, exciting fresh new team/talent with their ups and downs… and I personally think the hockey has been, for the most part, highly entertaining.. Something this team has been missing for a long time now.

    • mk

      Actually, watching the game last night, I thought the same thing. I saw 2 instances where that happened – odd that he wasn’t credited with shots though.

      At the same time, I saw several good plays by Backlund and B. Jones die on McGrattan’s stick (or lack of).

      • Burnward

        Yeah, last night was were it struck me.

        Does CORSI eliminate meaningless shots or does it factor in all shots? Not to start a huge conspiracy theory or anything, just interested.

  • I also watched the Quinnipiac-Providence game. And so for some context in all fairnesss to Jankowski’s line they spent a lot of time hemmed in their own end. Providence overall had a fairly poor game by their standards. They’re still building a championship team over there and not quite at the level of a Boston College, BU, or even last and this year’s UNH. I think if Jankowski was over playing with say a Gaudreau at BC he might have better numbers.

    However, this is probably the first time in a while that I feel Ryan has been fair in his criticism. The lack of shooting and the negative corsi is concerning for Jankowski. That being said in my opinion. Mark is still at minimum 3 years out of playing his first game in the NHL and management did admit this was a work in progress. I’d give Jankowski his last 2 years of college and a year in the AHL before I consider bringing him up. Unless a switch flips in that last year out of college and he suddenly puts up huge numbers. One of the things about college players that makes it a better predictor of NHL talent then the CHL right now is that college players come out of college more mature generally than CHL players plus they’re not as idolized and iconized as some of the kids in the Q, O, and W already are at 16 and 17, College kids don’t have that expectation on them.

    At this point in time, I’m not about to sell our 2012 22 pick overall down the river for pocket change. We just have to be patient and take the good with the bad.

  • DoubleDIon

    The Janko pick was brutal, but it’s been discussed to death. If we move Backlund it will be similar to the Oilers dumping Glencross and Brodziak. We’ll enter the stage where we should be competitive again and find we have no shutdown line. I had hoped Backlund would end up a 2nd line 25-25 type of guy, but that probably won’t happen at this stage.

    What’s so bad about having a 15-15 3rd line shutdown center? I get he was supposed to be somewhat more than that, but hey, I’ll take it. Most of our top picks haven’t had the kind of value Backlund does.

  • Byron Bader

    Monahan has a broken foot and Wideman has a broken hand?!!! What in sweet jebus… Is this a joke? Who do you guys like in the Flames silks next year? Ekblad or S. Reinhart? We’ve GOT to get one of them now. My goodness.

    • everton fc

      Well, you now have necessity putting the youngsters on the parent-team’s bench. I’ll assume Billins gets anotehr look. And Knight seems to be the next in line for a peak.

      Perhaps this keeps Backlund around for a while. And gives him a fair chance to either reverse current opinions, or raise his trade value.

      Looking forward to Ferland getting a chance. Hoping he earns a look.

  • Byron Bader

    Janko pick not looking promising,

    With that said Lambert Maybe your Articles need to be named 5 things about Jankowski, and cut to the chase, you seem to mention him every Thursday, seems excessive for a guy that’s not making the show.

    In short troll err I mean Lambert you can do better there is a lot more wrong than him.

  • RKD

    The problem is that Backlund wants to be a top six forward who plays on the top 2 lines, the Flames organization wants him to play on the bottom 2 lines. You need the right balance of offensive forwards and defensive forwards. If he is bottom 2 the rest of the year, he definitely won’t be able to have the offensive numbers we would all like him to have.

  • Burnward

    This article is the tale of the Flames 3 young centers….

    The prominent sections revolve around Backlund, Colborne and Jankowski…

    All three are split within the nation with supporters and haters..

    I like all three.

    Center #1: My take when it comes to Backs is I like him but I need more from him to stick on this team. He needs to play like he did last year with confidence and put up points. I understand the way he is being deployed hinders things but he needs to fight through it. He should see ice time with Sven and Hudler for a stretch, with Mony injured, so it is up to him to impress in that time frame.

    Center#2: Colborne is hotly debated because people make the treatment of Backlund all about Colborne (and Stajan). Ideally only 3 can stay but I like what Colborne brings to the table. His skill set is intriguing. People always compare his points with Backlund but Colborne has scored in clutch situations, most notably in SO situations. You can’t see that just by looking at points. I like the idea of having a huge guy with skill in my bottom six.

    Center#3: Jankowski…hmmm. Even with thoughts of Hertl in my head I still like the trade down to get Sieloff too. Now should we have taken Maata et al? I don’t know yet. Only time will tell. I realize other ’12 picks have made NHL impacts already but Jankowski was labeled a project from the beginning. The fact that he is progressing is what makes me happy. He has scored more this season than all of last season. Lets be honest, Providence is only ranked so high because of Gillies. Without him they would be terrible. They don’t score a lot beyond the first line. I’m not making excuses but why cant things be similar for Jankowski to whoever most people claim play with McGrattan. We have seen good players play with subpar teammates and it drags them down stats wise.No shots is troubling but we are seeing progression from year to year. He is 19 years old and he has outscored his goal totals from last year in a fraction of the time. As long as he is learning and improving its ok if he has a bad game here and there. Especially on a team that is not very strong from the goaltender out.

    In summary we can stop worrying because we are not going to trade Backlund, barring an amazing offer. He will get top 9 ice time. I hope he excels and makes Stajan expendable. But if not a change of scenery may be in order. I feel there is room for Colborne on this team moving forward as long as he continues to improve and use his size and reach to his advantage. Finally, Jankowski is young. Don’t give up on him yet, even if you didn’t like the pick. We still got Sieloff in the deal and Gillies with the following pick. We didn’t expect to hit a home run with Monahan so it was a worthy risk on Jankowski. Final judgement on him is years away!

    Thanks for your time.

  • acg5151

    You dismiss the idea that Reto Berra could be an NHL starter but somewhere down the line, someone laughed that a guy like Tim Thomas could be an NHL goalie. You never know with a goalie and like 6 games in is neither a time to determine whether a goalie will be great, nor a time to laugh at Reto Berra’s prospects.

  • redricardo

    This take on Backlund is 100% correct.

    People are saying now that this is Backlunds chance to “show more” and put up some points.

    Apparently I’m in the minority that feels having a solid #3 centre who drives play and costs only 1.5 million is good enough. He fills a role well, and will continue to grow. Every centre needs to be an all star first liner? Having a good player in the #3 slot… Calgary is so flush with outstanding players that we can afford to give up Backlund? Ludicrous.

  • redricardo

    I also agree and still maintain that his hockey IQ along with sufficient offensive acumen would allow him to be the defensive conscience on a second line between two offensively skilled wingers.