Five things: A compendium

1. Building a new rink

Saw where the Flames basically went to the Calgary City Council hat in hand and crying poor about their lack of a new rink, probably because that kind of nonsense has worked so well in Edmonton (and other cities around North America, as well, obviously, but you have to think the provincial aspect of this was the main driver that led them to think they’d have success).

The city council has so far wisely declined to give the Flames any taxpayer money to build their new rink, but this kind of thing often shifts when rink plans — which Calgary has yet to formally announce — tend to include the idea of “rejuvenating” or “developing” a specific area of the city around a brand new arena. It has long been shown that the economic benefit of such projects, which is so often promised by the suits representing local sports teams, is little more than a fallacy at worst and pie-in-the-sky daydreaming at best (here’s a great book on the subject, available cheap, and I would urge residents of any city considering such a deal to educate themselves. And here, too, is a great visual representation of it from Deadspin.).

With the acknowledgement that as a resident of Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America, I have no financial skin in the game with regards to a deeply expensive rink being built in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, I would say that in general, you should really try to oppose such a thing with all your might. The Red Sox have been forced to go into their own pockets to improve Fenway Park over the last decade-plus and they’re still doing great financially. The Patriots built their own stadium (way out in the suburbs) on nothing but private money. The Bruins and Celtics play in TD Garden, which opened in 1995 and likewise received no taxpayer funds. The New England Revolution, a Major League Soccer team that currently plays in the Patriots’ stadium in Foxboro, has long explored a more metropolitan soccer-specific stadium, but has basically been told at every turn the team — which is owned by mega-wealthy Pats owner Bob Kraft — would receive no public funds for that enterprise either.

Obviously there’s a long way to go before anything is finalized, and the city is continuing to weigh the efficacy of even giving the team free land on which to build the stadium. But as a general rule, when it comes to “giving billionaires public money or assistance,” I’d say you probably don’t want to do that. 

And please remember that the Flames are in no danger of moving. Don’t let that be held over your heads either.

2. Waiving Setoguchi

This is a who-cares type move, and that’s it, but it’s also the only transaction the Flames are probably going to make for a while apart from the odd call-up and activation from the IR, etc.

And, well, you had to know that was coming. This is a player who has nothing left to offer at the NHL level, which is kind of amazing if you think about it. When you can’t even hack it in the Flames’ shallow forward corps, that is a major problem.

You’ve seen all the stats on him already but here they are again just for fun: Just 12 shots in as many games, no points, soft minutes, etc. Impossible to defend him, really (except to say that his on-ice shooting is 2.82, and his on-ice save percentage is .857, and those two things are going to make a player look worse than he is).

The good news for the Flames, if you want to call it that, is this move theoretically opens up a roster spot for a kid to play in. And if you remain concerned about a “veteran presence” or whatever, the good news is Devin Setoguchi-type players are basically available on the waiver wire almost every day (Winnipeg just waived TJ Galiardi, who is at least comparable as far as I’m concerned). You can get ’em for nothing. It doesn’t matter at all.

3. Considering comebacks

Speaking to suddenly underperforming goaltending and a poor roster, by the way, is the fact that the Flames still demonstrate some ability to make games interesting in the third period when they trail. This is an uncommon skill, especially among teams that are as bad as the Flames (still 29th in possession numbers, baby!).

And yet here they are, with 10 points on the season when trailing after two periods, which they’ve done 12 times out of 23. It didn’t work out Tuesday, because they spotted Anaheim three goals in the first 40 minutes, and boy is that trend going to continue the rest of the season, no matter how much the goaltending normalizes to being a little lower than league average.

What’s interesting to me is that, not counting whatever happened in last night’s game, the Flames have actually outscored opponents 34-15 in the third period and overtime this season, which is just a crazy-high number. 

In fact, 34 goals is almost exactly half of the team’s total of 70 through 23 games, and that’s a number that can’t hold up no matter how hard the team works. Especially because the other 36 are spread disproportionately in the second period (23, meaning Calgary has just 13 goals in first periods this year). And even scoring 23 in the second puts the Flames minus-4 in terms of second-period goal differential. They’re minus-8 in the first.

After that Anaheim game, Jonas Hiller said that they basically can’t keep counting on being able to mount furious comebacks forever, and he’s right. Just another hallmark of how screwed this team is (and should have been all along) when it stops getting bounces.

4. Worrying about defense

Does it strike anyone else as a point of concern that the Flames, who started out the season so well in terms of keeping the puck out of their own net, are now very much not doing that?

Dating back to the start of November, and not including last night in San Jose, Flames goalies have allowed 37 goals in 11 games, or 3.36 per night. That’s up significantly from October’s 27 in 12 (2.25 per game).

And what’s amazing about this to me is that the Flames aren’t allowing significantly more shots against or anything like that. They are, in fact, allowing fewer: They conceded 29.45 per night in October in all situations, and that’s dropped to 26.86 per this month. So what this tells us, I think, is not so much that the team’s defense has gone to hell, but rather that the kind of ludicrous goaltending it received early on has now, predictably, evaporated.

Calgary’s save percentage through those first 12 games was .928, with Jonas Hiller’s .941 in seven appearances really pacing things. And now that Hiller entered last night’s game at .884 in November, it should come as little surprise that the team’s .876 overall is dead last in the league.

So yes, it really is all down to goaltending, which has regressed to a level I think most should have expected. While Hiller wasn’t anywhere near as good as his October showed, he’s also not as bad as November’s numbers. Right in the middle, you say? That’d peg him at .914 for the year, which is only a slight step above his average for the last three seasons. Who could have guessed that?

5. Checking on Hickey

Over the past few days, I’ve had the chance to see 2014 third-round pick Brandon Hickey play twice (first on Friday, and again on Tuesday). And I have to say he has looked very impressive for Boston University.

He’s a first-year player for top-ranked BU — one of four on their blue line, in fact — but he’s already logging heavy minutes and being counted on in key situations. Tuesday night I thought he was absolutely fantastic, and his coach agreed.

Said BU bench boss David Quinn following Hickey’s latest and best effort at the NCAA level: 

“I thought he played very well tonight. I thought he defended well. He moves so quickly, skates so well. He’s got a cannon for a shot and he was active offensively. He’s really coming on. He’s a very good player now, and he’s got a great future for us.”

In that game alone, he put seven of BU’s 42 shots on net all by himself, and got an assist in the 3-2 overtime loss. And while NCAA doesn’t track individual corsi ratings or time on ice or anything like that, he was a major reason BU out-attempted Harvard 87-45 in all situations over the 65 minutes despite having just two power plays apiece.

And overall this season, in BU’s 11 games, Hickey has been on the ice for 14 goals for (of the Terriers’ 39 overall), and just five against (out of 21). At 5-on-5, the numbers are even better: 11-3 (out of their 30 for and 13 against).

It’s still early yet, but if he can build on this, which you’d assume he can, it looks like Calgary might have a good one here.

    • Subversive

      The owners don’t want that because they make less money. They want to own it, but they want the taxpayers to fund it. It’s a scam that we should not fall for.

  • Subversive

    Could not agree more on public money for private stadiums. It should be vigorously opposed.

    I’m fascinated by the fact that they are still winning, even though their goaltending has been poor recently. I’d really like to see a month over month comparison of the possession numbers etc, to see if they are playing in a more sustainable way.

  • Subversive

    Point #1 why do people get so upset when the need for a New Arena? It is the citiy’s responsibility to have a modern barn! And hockey is not the only tenant! There are so many other forms of entertainment that can be seen in a new arena! Any modern city that does not have a new arena is a Joke!

    • Subversive

      The other tenants are:

      – The Calgary Hitmen (owned by the same people)
      – The Calgary Roughnecks (owned by the same people)
      – Various concerts and trade shows, etc (pay rent to the same people)

      Why should the city fund a building that makes money for private owners?

  • Burnward

    Good point on the goaltending. Looks like the team got through the expected regression period just fine.

    Hiller is 38th in the NHL at .913, Ramo T-40th at .911.

    • RedMan

      Hiller’s .913 sv % is tied for 24th in the league, Ramo’s .911 is tied (with Lundqvist, among others) for 26th in the league.

      Flames 5 on 5 sv percentage for the year now sits 15th in the league through 24 games at .923

      Seems like where the teams save percentage is now at is more indicative of what we can expect for the rest of the year.

  • RedMan

    OK please join me guys and lets see what news headlines would look like if our beloved Lambert reported on other industies besides hockey!!

    I’ll start with a hypothetical news flash from the food industry.

    News: young unknown chef shocks the world by baking the best pie ever created.

    Lambert reports: “unproven upstart used all the sugar… current baking unsustainable.”

    Now I cant be certain of this, but there is always a possibility that the Flames Nation could reward the best fake Lambert report with a free t-shirt or game tix or new car or something!!

    lets be creative and funny and respectful…. GO!!!!

  • Burnward

    The only way I see any tax dollars going toward a new building, is if it is a multi-purpose facility. Maybe a Flames/ Stampeders joint stadium, with a soccer pitch. If it’s just a new arena they want, they might as well just renovate the Dome.

    • playastation

      LOL.

      So the Flames goaltending is now bad (the worst in the league apparently). They’re still winning. So with a regressed PDO, where should we expect to be? Are they still bad? Will they be worse next year?

      If the Flames could only score in the first period. He would write about how bad they are because they can’t score in the third period.

      Question, are the Flames forward rookies bad? Mono, Johnny, Ferland, Granlund, Jooris, Sven. Are they thin or inexperienced? What is your talent evaluation of them Lambert? We expect their possession numbers to be bad because they’re rookies. Are they projecting to be terrible? Can you explain things in your articles if you’re gonna make statements about them?

      I was reading we’re like top 15 in franchise value? Making around a hundred million a year (I’ll imagine they’ll only make more since the are so many jerseys they can sell with all the kids that are up). I don’t think the city or the province should give us money for the rink. We already have problems with money in Alberta with those awesome transfer payments. Let alone the fact that the price of oil is falling off the face of the earth. The ownership group makes over a hundred million a year just on the team alone, let alone whatever they did before the bought into the Flames. Take a loan out for 300 million. Pay back 30 million a year. You’re good.

      Good news on Hickey.

      Actually I give up. Some of this article is good. Some of it is hard to read. Why even bother supporting each point when you’re gonna throw out some unsubstantiated point with no supporting arguments?

      Typical Lambert. This article would be a good one. Except he looks like that Rick Bell dude in the Sun with the nonsensical stuff 3 or 4 times per article.

  • Burnward

    Good article Ryan – not that you need anyone’s affirmation.

    Completely agree with point 1. Completely.

    And 2. Though I still think it was a smart move by BT, it just didn’t work out.

    And regarding 5 – oh would it be nice if they picked up another diamond in the rough.