The Flames Since the Rumble at Rogers

It’s been a long season, obviously, but as we creep into the final 10 games of this Calgary Flames season, let’s re-visit what’s probably considered the watershed moment for the club this year.

That’s right, the absolute gong show of a night at Rogers Arena on January 18.

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Five simultaneous fights, eight ejections and the Flames had to roll with just a trio of defenders for the better part of the game. And Vancouver’s coach invaded their locker room area and Bob Hartley ate a fine for starting the fourth line. The game has been held up, both by those around the team and elsewhere, as a moment were the team really came together.

But have the Flames fared markedly differently since that game as opposed to before it?

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Record: [since] 14-9-0; [before] 16-26-7

Goals For: [since] 71 (3.09 per game); [before] 106 (2.16 per game)
Shots For: [since] 630 (27.39 per game); [before] 1301 (26.55 per game)
Power-Play: [since] 63 PPGF (operating at 19.05%); [before] 160 PPGF (operating at 13.75%)
Shooting Percentage: [since] 11.27%; [before] 8.02%

Goals Against: [since] 55 (2.39 per game); [before] 153 (3.12 per game)
Shots Against: [since] 583 (25.35 per game); [before] 1436 (29.31 per game)
Penalty Kill: 53 PPGA (operating at 86.79%); [before] 162 PPGA (operating at 80.25%)
Save Percentage: [since] 90.57%; [before] 89.35%

PDO: [since] 101.8; [before] 97.5

Fighting Majors: [since] 5 (0.22 per game); [before] 25 (0.51 per game, though it’s 0.42 if you take out the brawl itself)

Obviously, most metrics are experiencing an up-tick. A lot of that can be attributed to a PDO progression-to-the-mean; better shooting percentage results in more goals for, better save percentage results in fewer against. And both can be manifest in the big jumps in special teams effectiveness.

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Player GP
Giordano 23 22 31 21
Backlund 23 19 48 19
Cammalleri 18 16 37 21
Brodie 23 13 49 14
Colborne 23 13 47 11
Monahan 23 12 42 19
Stajan 15 10 41 17
Russell 22 10 36 16
Byron 17 8 24 10
Glencross 7 7 21 12
Hudler 16 7 49 39
Galiardi 20 7 34 8
Stempniak 10 6 42 17
Wideman 13 6 33 15
Bouma 23 6 45 9
Butler 23 6 49 8
D.Jones 12 5 36 12
Westgarth 16 4 10 0
McGrattan 20 4 46 2
Smid 22 4 32 1
Granlund 7 3
Wotherspoon 10 3
Reinhart 4 2 4 0
Hanowski 8 2
Knight 7 1
Breen 1 0 5 0
O’Brien 1 0 44 3
Street 2 0 11 1
B.Jones 3 0 11 2
Agostino 3 0

(Excluded are guys that didn’t play post-Rumble, so no Sven Baertschi or Tim Jackman here.)

It’s pretty apparent here which guys are driving the bus for the Flames lately. But the huge PDO correction seems to have a team-wide effect. Almost all of the Flames regulars are producing more now than previously.

I’m skipping a goalie comparison because the Flames used four different guys (Ramo, Berra, Ortio & MacDonald), all for such a small amount that comparisons are meaningless.


Did the brawl at Rogers Arena on January 18 turn the Flames from a rag-tag group of hockey players into a bonafide team? The numbers look good, but again, I’m not convinced it’s anything more than bad puck-luck course-correcting over a long season.

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But on a certain level, it’s really funny that Brian McGrattan has more goals (2) than fights (1) since that night.

  • mk

    I don’t contribute it to changes in puck luck. From the eye test, the flames are playing much better than they had been, especially around xmas time. I think it had a lot to do with this game as well as other factors (Byron gaining confidence, giordano, glencross coming back from injury, cammi scoring, etc). A game like that brings a team together. Like a “play harder for your brother” type attitude. From everything said by the insiders (peter mahr) to the actual players, this group is close knit.

  • While the Flames have been playing better as a team, at least SOME success has to be attributed to the 3% jump in SP.

    I’ve really been enjoying watching the games – that says something when the only entertaining moments of Flames game 2 months ago were the fights!

  • The Last Big Bear

    PDO always regresses to the mean. Except when it doesn’t.

    Like for good teams. Or bad teams.

    In the 97 games leading up to the Vancouver game (ie well over a full season), the Flames sustained a PDO of 974.

    Boston, NYI, and Florida are examples in recent years of teams that maintain PDO’s 15-20 points away from the mean, and do it over sample sizes of hundreds of games.

    Regression to the mean: 70% of the time, it works every time.

    The doctor cures the patients who do not die.

    And regression to the mean explains the teams that regress to the mean. Yeah baby.

  • mk

    Looking at the team’s 5v5 Fenwick close and PDO, both these numbers started increasing in general about the time of the Canucks game. Including that game, the Flames have a 50.88% 5v5 Fenwick close since that point (higher than the season average 47.6%).

    Not only their ‘puck luck’ improve, but other measures of performance hint that they’re playing better in general.

  • MichaelD

    I don’t think regression to the mean should be thrown around as much as it is, especially of late. Give the boys some credit they’ve worked hard all year, and showed some development, now it’s starting to pay off with some nice performance stats both as individuals and as a team.

    I would contribute it more Cammalleri’s gym routine rubbing off on Backlund or something like that. Not just ‘regression to the mean’ although it’s true

    Plus the fight night probably sparked more of ‘buying into the team concept’ mentality

    • amaninvan

      I was going to point this out. Since that night the Flames have 14 W and 9 L, meanwhile the Canucks have gone 8 W and 15 L (not counting tonite’s games). Almost directly opposite fortunes since that magical night. The good guys in Red have been winning while the Blue Orca’s have slid out of playoff contention and basically have to run the table the rest of the year with wins to qualify for the post season. Its alarming and delightful to watch how quickly Vancouver has fallen, and suddenly it’s fun to be a Flame fan/ Canuck hater living on the west coast again 🙂

  • The Last Big Bear

    Flames have been competitive all season.

    Major differences, IMHO, are the removal of Berra, the addition of Giordano, and the addition of useful rookies.

    Those factors would easily up PDO.

  • RedMan

    I have nothing to ad, but am commenting out of habit.

    Since I am here anyway, might as well add that I have enjoyed this season more then I have enjoyed any other for several years.

    and now, I will attend to watching the rookies over the last 10 game, wondering if Burke gets cammi and others signed, and looking forward to seeing Johnie G and a few others at camp next spring.

      • piscera.infada

        Al Morganti – the reporter who first said it was basically a forgone conclusion he would be signing at the end of the season – was interviewed again on the Fan this morning in regards to that article. Morganti basically said nothing’s changed on that front. The quotes from his mother in that article are essentially the exact things you’d expect to hear from a mother – top priority is to finish school. The simple fact is, the kid has a very good chance at making a lot of money as an NHL player (whether he makes it or not, he’ll likely have a couple of seasons where he’ll cumulatively be paid more in next 3, 4, 5 years, than he’ll likely make in the first 10-15 years of his chosen profession after college). Why would he take needless risk by playing another year of NCAA hockey? The kid’s proven everything he needs to at that level. He also has the ability to finish his degree in the offseason.

        I’m not saying it’s 100% he signs at the end of this season, but any doubt I have is not based on that article. If he really wanted to finish four years at BC, he would have likely made that decision already, without the help of his mom.

        • BurningSensation

          I don’t think money is the primary consideration for the Gaudreau family. He is going to make the maximum entry level regardless and is aware of his potential salary growth after his second year of pro. I think King/Burke need to be creative and include an education package with the contract for him to consider. Perhaps a U of C transfer type program that Johnnie can work on during the season that will see him complete his degree while pursuing his hockey ambitions. There are various other educational alternatives available.

          As well Burke really needs too impress on Johnnie that an additional year of college will actually hamper his skill development and that he now needs to move on to the next level. I believe Johnnie has already figured this out and will make his own decision to sign on. My bigger concern is to ensure he signs on with the Flames!

          • McRib

            Agree, not sure why this isn’t said more often about being able to do your final year remotely or over the first couple of summers after signing pro. He loses his scholarship, but gets paid about five times what it was worth so that doesn’t really matter (fairly certain most NCAA kids that turn pro early do the same). He could easily take five courses for the next two summers in Boston and complete it…. I would be suprised if he hadn’t aready done some summer courses and is only 4-5 credit away from graduating already….

            You know what I don’t understand isn’t Kenny Agostino supposed to be in school at Yale right now?!?!?! Haha. Or was he not even taking courses this semester. So basically Kenny Agostino just want back another year to be with friends and will have to finish his degree remotely as well or this summer. Johnny Gaudreau is too talented to be staying in a league he has out grown because he can take a grad picture for his mom and say goodbye to friends.

          • BurningSensation

            Don’t forget Kenny is a Yale grad. Means that his intellectual level is a bit higher than most people. When he signed his EL with the Flames you can bet he was aware that they could not send him down to Abby so therefor all student loans are now all paid off…LOL!!

      • Byron Bader

        Good article. What a strange little bit at the end of that article. The part where the mom says “I don’t know if he realizes that he might be taking the job of a guy with a wife and kids” is a pretty strange thing to say. Essentially “yeah you might be good enough but don’t take another guy’s job yet”. Very empathetic of Mrs. Gaudreau but if the boy’s ready… by all means take somebody’s job! He can only play for 10-15 years. Might as well not waste a year!! He could be a star in the NHL, making $3 million + a year and have a college degree by the time he’s 23-24.

        • Byron Bader

          I don’t think it was empathy. I think she was trying to state that the NHL is at an entirely different level and with Gaudreau being so small he may not be ready for somewhat some NHLer may do to him in order to keep his job.

  • beloch

    A 4.8 spg change in shot differential is actually pretty significant, but I’d have to look closer to see if the change wasn’t more gradual. I tend to doubt a change like that would be sudden and centered on a brawl.

  • redricardo

    For a group of hockey players, regression to the mean is probably the best explanation. That’s the way the season rolls. For an extreme example, look at the Maple Leafs. Were they really good at the beginning of the year, and now they’re really bad? Or was getting outshot 2-1 a bad thing, and a harbinger of things to come, once they regressed to the mean?

    Things like “buying into the team” are more likely to occur at the fan level. We are more likely to see things we want to see, like a “plucky group of try hard players who never give up”, and as fans try to rationalize it as saying that the players we support have bought in to the team concept. As fans, we have bought into the team after an incident like Vancouver, and so we project that onto the players as we rationalize the regressing to the mean.

    Much more likely, is that it’s a combination of smaller factors. Proper ice time deployment, for example. I’d love to see a chart showing Backlund’s TOI from before the fight, when Hartley and them felt he needed to find his game, and after the fight, when they feel he has suddenly become one of the best two way centres in the game. (Something that many here have been saying for the past two years, as we begged for him to be deployed correctly.) Better players from the AHL came up that were capable of driving the play (Byron is a much more complete player than Baertschi is at this point in time). Other teams not taking us seriously at the bottom of the standings, and maybe taking a night off, or playing the backup. You add up all the small factors, and the inevitable regression to the mean, and you get a team that’s grabbed 60% of the points now that they’re actually out of the running, as opposed to 40% of the points back when it would have mattered.

    • The Last Big Bear

      Getting a new and better goalie, seeing improvement in play and an increase in ice time for a key centreman, better-performing call-ups from the AHL, etc

      None of these things are statistical regression to the mean. All of these things are describing a poor team, with a sustained poor PDO, making material improvements and seeing a commensurate sustainable improvement in their PDO.

      If you have a pair of dice, make 3 throws and get 12 each time, your average throw is 12. As you make more throws, your average will creep towards 7. That’s regression to the mean. That’s the Leafs.

      If you are the Bruins, you have loaded dice that consistently throw an average of 8 or 9. At least until they wear out, and you need to replace them with new dice.

      The Flames had crappy loaded dice, that consistently threw 4s and 5s. We replaced one of them with a normal dice, and now are throwing 6s and 7s. That’s not regression to the mean, that’s changing your underlying odds.

      They are most definitely not the same thing.

      Whoever said everyone’s PDO regresses to 1000 never had Joey MacDonald and Reto Berra take a majority of their team’s starts.

      • redricardo

        I might not have made my point clear. There are some minor cosmetic changes that have been made to the team, a couple call ups, Backlund seeing more ice, Berra out, etc…

        However, if you boil down the team record to before vs after, you’re basically looking at a 40% point share, vs a 60% point share. This is significant, and the few minor changes we’ve made won’t contribute to that big of a swing. Even when the Lightning lost Stamkos for an extended period their point differential didn’t have a swing like that.

        So, was it cosmetic changes? Was it the team “buying in”, or was it regressing to the mean?

        I take regression. And yes… I know what that means.

      • mattyc

        Completely agree, but that’s only half the story. The Flames also went from shooting 8% to shooting 11.3%. I’m skeptical that’s a sustainable number, or something we should expect next year.

  • Michael

    This is nothing more than the Flames traditional late season rally. Year in, year out, they have a dreadful start, an erratic mid season, and a late season rally. By the time they decide to rally the only meaningful thing left to play for is a new contract, and the result for the Flames is a lower draft pick.

  • BurningSensation

    I think this is one of those situations where the narrative of what happened in Vancouver is so strong that you wonder if the data supporting an improved Flames team can tie into it.

    As a fan, few things can compare this year to;

    – watching Monahan take his first meaningful steps

    – watching that gong show in Vancouver; especially the part where Torts melts down so completely he has to be suspended, putting what was already a nose-diving team into a deadly flatspin they have yet to recover from.

    – Giordano getting serious consideration for the Olympic team. On merit.

    – Watching TJ Brodie and having it remind me of a young Duncan Keith.

    – Having to reconsider what I thought Markus Granlund’s ceiling is.

    – Getting league average goaltending (or better) from Ramo.

    – Getting a 2nd rnd pick from Colorado for Reto Berra. (That said, I sort of understand what Colorado is thinking, Berra’s got elite size and athleticism for the position, but is technically on the wild side, so I bet that Roy looks at him and sees a project he can fix)

    – Gaudreau turning in another high end college performance.

    – Poirier destroying the Q.

    – 8-1 over the Oilers. Sweet C’thulu that felt awesome.

    Amazing stuff.

    Not one, but two events involving the Flames that are going to get people fired (Torts/Vancouver brass, Eakins or Lowe). Other than a Calder for Monahan, and a big package of picks for Cammamlleri this has been a pretty good year.

    • piscera.infada

      How about Backlund looking like he might have 1C potential in him yet? He’s certainly exceeded the 3C ceiling expectations a lot of people here had on him.

      Or Colborne’s transformation into a legit NHler after being moved to the wing where he can concentrate on playing a straightforward power game?

      Or that Calgary now has 15 forwards 25 years or younger who all look like they can play in the NHL in at least some capacity?

      It’s been a positive year for sure.

      • Byron Bader

        Backlund is a monster. He can keep a line afloat on his own even if it’s the 4th. Put him with 2 top-tier guys all the time for a year and I’d be interested how it shakes out.

        I agree about Colborne. He has looked quite decent on the wing when he plays a simple game. Could amount to a fine career 40-50 point third line winger.

      • BurningSensation

        I don’t know that I would go crazy and suggest that Backlund iis evolving into a 1C, but he definitely looks the part of a possession + 2C. Which is especially awesome when you look Northwards and see what a team without a 2C looks like,

        I thought Colborne was a legit player based on his shootout prowess alone (i.e. he could be a replacement level player, but his shootout skill was valuable enough to keep him around), but his development into an actual useful winger is both unexpected and something of a huge bonus.

        Burke and Feaster have done yeoman’s work rebuilding both the pipeline and improving the young->midrange age group on the roster (TJ Galiardi, etc) . By doing this they have cushioned the kids with vets and given them room to succeed without the crippling pressure that is cracking the Edm kids.

        Last but not least, you and I haven’t fought tooth and nail about anything this year.

        So we’ve got that going for us as well. 🙂

        • beloch

          Ha, well, there’s nothing to complain about really. Some of Hartley’s coaching moves earlier in the season bothered me, but that’s about it. I demanded a rebuild for 5 years and I finally got it. To complain now would just be hypocritical. There’s lots of work ahead, but right now I’m enjoying the progression.

          As for Backlund, a true #1C? Probably not, but I do think he’d have no problem playing with 2 elite wingers and more than holding his own. Plus, he actually looks like he may (potentially) have a couple of 30 goal seasons somewhere in his career and nowadays, that pretty much counts as a 1C. Him and Monahan? I’m ecstatic.

  • beloch

    Re: Backlund as a #1C

    First line “scoring” centers are often sheltered or at least given generous offensive zone starts. Take Henrik Sedin for example. Stajan is playing the toughest minutes this season, but Backlund is still facing top competition and getting 47.2% offensive zone starts. Undoubtedly he’d score a lot more than he is now were he given Monahan’s minutes. Given that he’s on a 44 point pace while playing tough minutes (and having struggled early in the season), Backlund would be a very respectable #1C if he were deployed that way. That would probably be a very dumb thing to do though.

    Forwards who can put up over 40 points a season in a two-way role are more valuable than defensively weak forwards who need significant shelter to score 60 plus points per season. If the Flames had two Backlunds, one could easily be deployed in a scoring role or they could split offensive zone-starts and both come out ahead. Two-way players give you options while offensive specialists give you requirements. I see no reason to try to convert Backlund into a soft-minutes scoring center. He’s far more valuable to the team in his current role.

    Given Monahan’s two-way pedigree, he will likely require progressively less shelter over the next several seasons. Stajan, on the other hand, is currently struggling slightly and would benefit if the tough minutes were distributed more evenly. Backlund is therefore going to remain very useful in his current role. It will be interesting to see what Arnold is capable of next season, or indeed, if any of the Farm centers are ready to take on more difficult assignments. A surplus of possession centers is the stuff dreams are made of!

    • BurningSensation

      ” A surplus of possession centers is the stuff dreams are made of!”

      Of all the differences between our rebuild and Edmonton’s, the fact Calgary has Stajan and Backlund to do heavy lifting at C while Monahan develops his game is one of the biggest (Calgary’s defense core is the other).

      If we can land a #1C at the upcoming draft (Reinhart, Bennet, or Draisatl), we could be set down the middle for a decade.

      Which would be SWEET

  • amaninvan

    Hartley deserves a lot of credit for getting these guys to buy into the team system. Meanwhile Vancouver is stuck with idiot Torts for another 4 years. Hahahahaha