Starlight

So previously we have examined the defense, goaltending and
established forwards for the Flames this coming season. You can read about the
forwards here and the defense and goaltending here

This final segment will examine the prospects and rookies of
the 2014-2015 Calgary Flames.

This season is shaping up to be something a little different
for the Flames. They are almost universally pegged to be one of the worst teams
in the league this season and are clearly rebuilding. At the same time they
have some very nice players at key positions in Backlund, Brodie, Giordano,
Hudler and Hiller.  

Burke and Treliving will also have to take some time to
evaluate some prospects at the end of their ELCs before deciding who gets
re-signed. This means that there could be a lot of NHL debuts and proverbial
cups of coffee in Flames silks this year which could affect roster strength at
times.

Jooris, Van Brabant, Knight, Baertschi, Arnold, Wolf,
Hanowski, Agostino, Acolatse, Ramage, Cundari, Reinhart, Ferland, and Elson are
all entering the final year of their ELCs and the Flames will need to decide
whether to retain their rights. With a number of draft picks likely to turn pro
at the end of the season, there will be a number of names here who will be left
by the roadside.

At the same time the recent addition of Devin Setoguchi puts
a clear roadblock in front of a lot of their prospects, so those that get the
call up will have either earned it or have a particular ability *coughknuckledraggersscough*
that is considered desirable.

As it stands at the end of August, the Flames reserve list
has 47 contracts with four, Kanzig, Klimchuk, Poirier and Bennett likely to
slide as they return to junior, giving the team a little bit of room to pursue
free agents, be they junior, AHL, NCAA or NHL. Billins makes it 48, but I’m not
sure he would count in this situation.

So, here are my projections for the prospects that may make
their way to the Flames’ roster this coming season.

 

Player gp est. ppg age NHLE NHLE ppg Prev AHL Est. pts
Baertschi 41 0.42 21 NA NA 0.7 17
Gaudreau 70 0.55 20 49.44 0.6 NA 38
Van Brabant 15 0.08 22 NA NA NA 2
Wolf 15 0.1 24 NA NA NA 1
Agostino 12 0.2 22 33.11 0.4 NA 2
Arnold 12 0.25 22 30.44 0.37 NA 3
Knight 20 0.35 23 NA 0.37 0.64 7
Granlund 20 0.35 21 NA 0.35 0.85 7
Jooris 10 0.25 24 NA 0.3 0.37 3
Hanowski 20 0.25 23 28.8 0.29 0.56 5
Reinhart 12 0.26 22 21.7 0.26 0.64 3
Ferland 10 0.29 21 24.1 0.29 0.56 3
Bennett 9 0.33 18 27.5 0.33 NA 3
Wotherspoon 22 0.18 21 14.9 0.5 0.19 5
Acolatse 3 0.1 23 11.76 0.14 0.38 0
Ramage 2 0.01 23 0 0 0.02 0
Cundari 3 0.1 24 12.9 0.15 0.42 0

You’ll notice I’ve listed Baertschi here as well in my
previous RE article on forwards. I think he is betwixt and between on the NHL roster
right now, and I’ve already said there seems a decent chance that he gets dealt this
coming season for a young defender.

Gaudreau gets a real shot in this scenario, and his NHLE
translates somewhat in his rookie season. We’ll see what happens during the season, but I think he gives us the occasional glimpse of what he can do when a defender gets caught napping. 

The rest of the group are basically call-up options that get their
fair shake by season’ end. I’m working off my predictions on games played for
the established forwards to provide the opportunity, so those games aren’t
likely to be consecutive, and that may impact the numbers in the end.

Taking the entire roster’s points projections together the
Flames would be likely to score somewhere in the vicinity of 206 goals this year,
or about 2.5 goals per game. This would have put them 22nd overall in the league last season and would represent an
increase of four goals over last year.

Coupling this with the improved goaltending expected of
Hiller and Ramo, an estimated 2.6 goals against per game, a number that would
have put them 13th in the league last season. This would translate to the Flames essentially treading water offensively, while making significant strides in goal-prevention.

That would seem to match what our eyes tell us about the team over the course of the summer.

The Flames are supposed to be a dumpster fire this coming
season, challenging for the bottom of the league and in the McDavid/Eichel
lottery drive.

I’m not convinced of this.

For interests’ sake I decided to take the average shooting
percentages I had for every forward and defenseman and add that to the
estimated save percentage, based on an historical average for Hiller and a
carryover of Ramo’s previous seasons’ number, to provide a PDO number.

PDO is typically used to determine a team’s performance
level. Over time it trends strongly towards an even 100%, or 1000. Teams that
have a high shooting percentage or are getting extraordinary goaltending will
show up in this category and a reversion to the mean can be anticipated at some
point.

The SH% of all forwards and defense, with the exception of
the Rookies/Prospects mentioned above where information is unavailable or
sparse, was 9.63. The estimated SV% of both Hiller and Ramo was 90.85. The
PDO is therefore 100.48.

This implies that the estimates I’ve done so far are as even
as can be expected with perhaps a slightly optimistic bias.

There are some arguments that the reliance of the Flames on
players like Engelland and Smid, whose possession numbers are the numerical
equivalent of a smoking crater, will result in a reduced save rate while they are
on the ice. I’m not a big believer that defenders directly impact save%, and
that possession numbers are a better indication of their defensive abilities –
their job is to take the puck away from the player and save% shoots up during
the time when your team has the puck.

So, the PDO would suggest that the numbers we’ve arrived at
are within reason and that the Flames could perform individually somewhere within
the range we’ve marked. As a team, that remains to be seen. NHL history is
filled with good individual efforts wasted on poor teams.

My reasoning behind believing that the Flames will not be
one of the worst teams in the league this coming season though, is far less
quantifiable and leans more towards the “seen-him-good”. I believe that in team
sports the whole can often be greater than the sum of its parts. Hartley
managed something akin to this last season, and I think he has an improved,
albeit marginally, roster this season.

So, in review, here are the final estimations for games,
ppg, and points for the Flames this 2014-2015 season, as well as the estimated
points, goals, goals per game.

Player gp est. ppg hist. ppg sh% est. pts.
Hudler 80 0.7 0.56 14.2 56
Stajan 70 0.48 0.48 13.3 33
Glencross  78 0.6 0.55 15 47
Raymond 75 0.5 0.49 9.7 38
Monahan 75 0.4 0.45 12 30
Colborne 80 0.35 0.35 12 28
Jones 70 0.4 0.45 13.7 28
Backlund 73 0.5 0.41 8.5 37
Byron 70 0.38 0.36 15 26
Baertschi 41 0.42 0.47 8.7 17
Bouma 73 0.18 0.16 5.1 13
Bollig 70 0.15 0.11 4.4 11
McGrattan 60 0.1 0.09 5.1 6
Setoguchi 73 0.48 0.54 11.4 35
Giordano 82 7.1 0.53 0.44 43
Brodie 82 4.1 0.32 0.46 26
Wideman 75 6 0.47 0.47 32
Engelland 75 5.7 0.14 0.19 11
Russell 70 5.2 0.35 0.29 25
Smid 76 3.6 0.11 0.13 8
Wotherpsoon 30 0.5 0.15 0.19 (AHL) 5
Van Brabant 15 0.08 NA 0.05 2
Agostino 12 0.2 NA 8.3 2
Gaudreau 70 0.55 NA NA 38
Wolf 15 0.05 NA NA 1
Arnold 12 0.25 NA NA 3
Knight 20 0.35 NA NA 7
Granlund 20 0.35 NA NA 7
Jooris 10 0.25 NA NA 3
Hanowski 20 0.25 NA NA 5
Reinhart 12 0.26 NA NA 3
Ferland 10 0.29 NA NA 3
Bennett 9 0.33 NA NA 3

Thanks to LastBigBear for pointing out an error I had made
in Monahan’s points projections. They were meant to read .45, rather than .33.
The corrections have been made and new totals are provided here.

The Flames are estimated to score somewhere in the range of 206 to 210 goals this season, depending on how you want to break down the goals/assist ratio on the total points. Phoenix scored that last season and finished 20th overall in that category (and in the overall standings). If we took that as a best-case scenario for the Flames, I think we could find the range south of that pretty easily. If you trace back three seasons (excluding the 2013 lockout year) the lowest 210 goals placed a team was 25th back 2009-2010.  Buffalo scored a full 60 fewer goals last year and even though they may have improved, I’m not convinced they “found” fifty or sixty goals during the off-season.

My guess is that the Flames finish no lower than 27th overall again this season, barring catastrophic injury to a core player.

The following is the table from the article discussing goaltending. Hiller in row one, Ramo in row two, averages between the two in the third row, with goals against per game in the final column.

Est.
Flames 2014-2015 Goaltending
est. gp est. sh/a est. shpg est. sv% est ga/game Last year
68 1944 28.5 91.2 2.5 2.9
14 401 28.6 90.5 2.7
90.85 2.6

On a clear day you can see the Flames’ goaltending improvement from the Red Deer city limits. Picking up almost half a goal against per game is no small thing for a team that danced on the razor’s edge as often as the Flames did last season.

It is one of the big factors playing into my estimation of the Flames’ potential improvement this year. Brodie, Backlund, Giordano are part of the equation, but adding a solid goaltender helps to actualize their defensive strengths.

Why this song?

This was one of George Harrison’s few singles with the
Beatles. Perhaps less known than While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Something,
Here Comes the Sun is Harrison writing about coming through a long, cold
English winter. The months were changing and you could feel the warmth on its
way.

Harrison:

“Here Comes the Sun” was written at the time when
Apple was getting like school, where we had to go and be businessmen: ‘Sign
this’ and ‘sign that.’ Anyway, it seems as if winter in England goes on
forever, by the time spring comes you really deserve it. So one day I decided I
was going to sag off Apple and I went over to Eric Clapton’s house. The relief
of not having to go see all those dopey accountants was wonderful, and I walked
around the garden with one of Eric’s acoustic guitars and wrote “Here
Comes the Sun.”

I Me Mine (1980) p. 144

The Flames took their shot at the chalice a decade ago and
ever since the sun has been getting further and further away, the frost
creeping onto the lawn and the cold seeping into the bones.

Winter may not be over, and there is definitely a chill in
the air still, but the first light of the expected spring is just beginning to
creep over the horizon. Fans in Calgary are braced for another long season, but
the good things coming make it all bearable.

Harrison was always my favourite Beatle. Paul always seemed
to want to be in charge, John was John, and I can’t remember that other guy’s
name right now. But George seemed like he was a quiet pillar of the group. He
didn’t have the songwriting chops that Paul and John had. That’s no crime, they
were beyond generational and we aren’t likely to see a duo like that again.

But Harrison often led the Beatles into new territory,
including introducing them to Ravi Shankar and Hindu mythology and musical
inspiration. He was a harbinger for them, although a subtle one.

Like his bandmate and friend, he died too young, but he left
us some damned-good music, and even when he was reflecting on his mortality, he
saw the glint of sunlight in the gloaming.

  • Koolmoedee

    Am I the only one who thinks a little bit of patience is in order with regards to Baertschi? He’s a 2011 draft pick, and while he hasn’t locked down a full-time roster spot yet, few members of his draft class drafted later than him have established themselves yet either.

    I don’t hear anyone clamouring to trade all the players with even fewer games than Baertschi, which include: Guadreau, Nathan Bealieu, Oscar Klefbom, Rickard Rackell, Tomas Jurco, John Gibson, Tyler Wotherspoon, and many other quality prospects. And how many of those players have the offensive upside of Baertschi?

    I recognize this is the last year of his ELC, but I don’t see why his contract situation needs to force him to accellerate his development. Some players take a while to develop but are worth the wait. Backlund was a 2007 pick who didn’t establish himself until last year. Brodie was a 2008 pick whose first full NHL season was last year. On Detroit, Gustav Nyquist was a 2008 pick who still has yet to playa full NHL season.

    • RexLibris

      No that is fair.

      I usually say five years from draft is the rule before making any kind of real assessment on the prospect.

      I don’t know what he’ll yet become, but I suspect we’re looking at a decent complementary scorer down the road.

      Personally, I’d leave Baertschi in the AHL this season unless he flat-out earns his spot on the roster in camp. He’s a valuable prospect to retain and develop.

      That being said, if you could trade Baertschi for a young defenseman like Tyler Myers, I think you’d have to take that seriously, because the Flames have very little coming by way of blueline help and a surplus of young forwards.

      • Parallex

        Blah, Myers? Why?

        Seriously… why? Myers hasn’t been good since his rookie year… and it’s not like “he only doesn’t look good because of Buffalo” hasn’t looked good he just doesn’t look good period. I’m not completely opposed to trading him at the right price but the right price isn’t a more expensive guy with even more bloom off the rose.

        • RexLibris

          I’m picking Myers because he is a young defender whose name has been thrown out as possible trade bait.

          To be perfectly honest, I doubt the Sabres would consider that trade straight across.

          It was meant as an example of moving a young winger for an available, and NHL-ready, young defender.

    • RexLibris

      I don’t have my notes in front of me right now, but I think I took an average of his four NCAA seasons to work out an NHLE.

      Using the 67.2 would give him an estimated 0.8 ppg in his rookie season.

      That is some very rarified air and I don’t believe those kinds of expectations are justified in this case.

      Aiming for 38 to 40 pts in his first pro season is probably closer to level. Not saying he can’t, or even won’t, beat that, but I’ve been down this road before and caution is advised.

      • beloch

        Okay. Gaudreau’s NHLE checks out if it’s an average. I randomly did another spot-check (Reinhart) and the only 21.7 that came up was his WHL average NHLE (not including AHL). Also, why are there so many N/A’s?

        e.g. You can calculate a NHLE for Wolf, although it shouldn’t be considered terribly reliable due to his age/league. Did you put N/A for players you don’t think NHLE is representative for?

        • RexLibris

          Yeah, the NAs were there because the majority of their careers were now in the AHL and I just didn’t have the necessary data at hand to make an educated guess.

          Part of what I did in establishing an NHLE was to factor WHL, then try to account for AHL time.

          In Reinhart’s case I believe my process was to take his WHL points as a total rather just one season (again, working without my notes at this moment).

          Looking over Reinhart’s numbers, his ppg pace went from 0.88 in the WHL, to 0.64 in the AHL. A reasonable adjustment when going from junior to pro.

          In this light, a move down to .26 for what amounts to a rookie season (he only has 19 NHL games to date, so still qualifies for the Calder) playing a difficult position seems fair.

          It would mean a goal or assist every fourth game.

          With regards to Wolf, I’m not sure what to expect, aside from some penalties and a good chance to be underwhelmed no matter the expectations. DEL is off-off-off Broadway and I’m not sure how his play will translate. Think of how Cervenka struggled to adjust coming from the KHL.

  • Koolmoedee

    9 more sleeps until the young stars tournament and some of these young guys get ti strut their stuff and determine the peeking order. As the Flames have not announced who is going yet I have a number of questions:

    1. Is Sven going to the young stars. In a previous post it was suggested because of number of NHL games played he might not be there. Last years YST was not good for Sven as he came in with wrong attitude. Hopefully if he is there he comes with the right attitude and sees this as an opportunity to be one step ahead of other?

    2. Injury and health front. Will Poirier and Spoon take place after their shoulder surgey? How well has Ferland knee recovered and will the Flames experiemnet with him at RW? How is Sieloffs game after missing most of last season? How bad was Klimchuks injury at the WJC camp?

    3. Wolf? Will he be there and if he is how well does he do?

    4. Who will Ortio’s backup be at the YST?

    The rest of my questions will be answered on the ice as the prospects work to earn their spots in the organization.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Well written and argued Rex.

    I’m not convinced that this team will do better than 26th overall. While the goaltending has improved, the forward ranks appear to be more of a push than an improvement. The biggest reasons for the Flames falling rather than rising this year are ‘being a know entity’ and the strength of the western conference.

    The Flames will surprise no team this year, and few teams will be willing to take a night off against them. I believe fewer teams will willing to put their backup in against this team, especially as playoff races tighten up. This is particularly true in the west where there are 5 powerhouse teams and two or three playoff spots will be up for grabs for the remaining 7 of 10 teams. Points within the west will be hard to come by. The Flames for at lest 12 teams will be absolute ‘must wins’ all season long. If the above is true, the Flames may struggle getting 15 wins in the western conference and would have to rely on beating eastern conference team to reach 500 hockey. This is the worst case scenario, but I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibilities.

    • RexLibris

      Never underestimate another team’s ability to “play to the level of their competition” as most Hockey Canada teams have managed to do for years now.

      My optimism for the Flames this year comes more from the depth of their forward lines. Not depth in the sense of having three scoring lines and a top-drawer checking line, but three lines that have at least in the past shown an aptitude for putting the puck in the net, as well as two good centers who have shown an ability to help keep the puck out of their own.

      Seriously, the addition of Setoguchi changes things in a significant, though subtle, way.

      To take the depth metaphor a little further, the Flames’ forward lines may only be waist deep, but it goes out further than one expects.

      Contrast the Flames’ roster with that of the Coyotes.

      They aren’t too far apart and the Flames actually have some noticeable advantages in a few areas. http://www.capgeek.com/coyotes/

      Could the Flames beat the Coyotes in the standings? They may not be favourites to, but I wouldn’t say it is necessarily out of the question.

      And that isn’t even discussing Vancouver, Edmonton, Nashville, Minnesota, Winnipeg, and perhaps a declining San Jose.

      Then you take into account Ottawa, the Islanders, Florida, Buffalo, Toronto, and Heaven Only Knows what the Flyers will be like this season.

      The Flames are a bad team.

      I don’t believe they are the worst.

      • Greg

        I agree. The Coyotes shed Riberio, Vrbata, Morris, and another year off Doan’s career this off season, and Sam Gagner doesn’t exactly off-set all that. I’m surprised they haven’t been talked about more in the McDavid sweepstakes. I don’t think they are worst-in-the-league obviously, but they belong in the conversation as much as, say, Winnipeg does now.

        There’s a lot of bad teams heading into this season. Buffalo, Ottawa, Florida, Calgary, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Arizona, Carolina, etc. Flames won’t make the playoffs, but they are for sure not guaranteed to be bottom 5 either. Unfortunately. I hate purgatory.

        • RexLibris

          The positives are that the Flames could acquire another 1st round pick if they can move Glencross. Not guaranteed by any means, but if they can get another pick, then it could take some of weight off their 1st rounder this year.

          Also, if the Flames finish somewhere north of 26th overall, then it puts that much more pressure on the 2013 draft class, specifically Klimchuk and Poirier, to become difference makers.

          Speaking from experience, nothing derails a rebuilding effort more quickly than poor to mediocre drafting.