Five things: Keep on rolling

1. Heaping praise on Giordano

I mentioned this on Puck Daddy yesterday but wanted to get a little more in-depth here: What TJ Brodie and Mark Giordano continue to do on the Flames blue line is nothing short of mind-bending.

Giordano was named the league’s Player of the Month for November, and rightfully so. The latest GVT stats (which can be extremely hit-or-miss in terms of assessing value) currently rate him as being the No. 2 player in the league behind only Sidney Crosby, which is a crazy stat that I cannot actually believe.

That is to say that, to this point in the season, no player has both contributed more goals to his team’s cause and also saved as many for his opponents’ than Giordano. It’s really remarkable how good he’s become basically out of nowhere in the last two seasons; he was kind of not even really all that much of a No. 1 guy in the lockout-shortened year (47.5 CF% in 2013, and 47.8 CF in 2011-12), but in the 100-plus games since then, he’s ground top opponents from every team into the league into a pulp.

Obviously he got a lot of Norris talk last season and probably would have done a lot better in the voting, if not won the damn thing outright and walking away, if he’d not been hurt. But he was so that’s a moot point. This year, if he stays healthy, he once again looks like he should be in that conversation. Right now I’d have to say he’s at the top of the ballot. 

If you want to say the Flames have been successful this season, he’s basically one of three or four reasons why.

2. …And Brodie

But I wonder how much of that success Giordano has had in the last two seasons is a direct result of him being paired with Brodie. Which he wasn’t until last season. 

Even after the lockout, his primary pairing partners were Jay Bouwmeester and Dennis Wideman (both for 300-plus minutes) and he didn’t succeed with either of them. For the entirety of his pre-Brodie career, his numbers are still very good (53.5 CF%), but it was in relatively limited minutes and against relatively soft competition. He got promoted to heavier duty with Bouwmeester and Wideman and basically drowned. Which you could have expected, to some extent, but certainly his wasn’t a career that screamed, “Future best defenseman in the NHL.”

In comes TJ Brodie getting significant top-pairing minutes with Giordano, and when they were on the ice together, their CF% broke 56. That’s a ludicrous number for anyone, especially a guy who hadn’t had much career success in driving the puck against toughs. That stretch of success has obviously continued to this day.

But how about this for a stat: In the past two seasons, Giordano and Brodie have combined for a 53.6 CF% when on the ice together. When apart, Giordano is just 47.2 percent. Brodie is 48.5 percent. It’s tough to say for sure, but I’d guess part of that is Brodie gets the slightly easier assignments of the two, but there’s no question that their styles complement each other perfectly.

It should come as no surprise, then, that in the aforementioned GVT stat, which again measures goals produced and saved simultaneously, Brodie is currently No. 5 in the league behind Jake Voracek (who’s having some kind of season let me tell you) and Tyler Seguin (basically a freak of nature talent).

Apart from “they have been extremely lucky,” these two guys are the only reason Calgary is any good at all. They both deserve Norris consideration. I’d vote them Nos. 1 and 2 right now, with little to no preference between the two of them, in fact. I’m not sure that there’s even a close No. 3.

3. Judge Jooris: Executioner

I want to also talk really quickly about Josh Jooris, who continues to be very effective at putting the puck in the net. Tuesday night, he had a hat trick against Phoenix, running his goal total to eight for the season in just 19 games. Pretty impressive stuff from the rookie (who’s 24 already).

He was a free agent signing by the team out of a very good Union College NCAA program, for which he scored 12 goals in his final season before making the jump to the pros. Likewise, he had 11 goals for Abbotsford last season, in 73 games.

So the question is, “Why is this guy closing in on the highest goal total since playing in a Junior A league about a third of the way through his first NHL season?” He was only 51st in AHL rookie scoring last season, which doesn’t exactly suggest a guy who’s on a 20-goal pace. He also didn’t shoot a lot at the AHL level (138 in 73 games is less than two shots a game).

That latter trend continues this year. In 19 games, he has just 29 shots (which is understandably fewer than his AHL shot production). And yet he has eight goals. That’s because he currently leads the league in shooting percentage, at 27.6 percent. Now, he did this kind of thing in his final year of college as well, scoring 12 times in 39 games on just 89 shots (that, too, is a pretty pathetic rate in the NCAA: 2.28 per). But it’s 13.5 percent.

You can attribute this to “He works hard,” and “He gets to the net,” and you’re right that these are both related and something that will lead to a lot of goals in theory. In actual practice, Jooris gets buried by soft competition and the team is better without him on the ice than on. One imagines that his scoring touch will magically disappear at some point in the relatively near future, and perhaps not return again any time soon.

4. Don’t laugh at Edmonton

Hilarious, I know, that the Oilers have lost so many games in a row. 

But any Flames fan who would ridicule them for it is a pair of pursed lips and a hearse away from whistling past the graveyard. There but for the grace of the hockey gods goes Calgary, because where the Flames have gotten basically every bounce this season (2nd in the league in goals for, 28th in the league in shots for), Edmonton has gotten pretty much none.

They currently rank 27th in goals for despite all that talent up front generating the 19th-most shots per game, and their defense is allowing the third-most goals despite conceding the 17th-fewest shots. Basically, they have been supremely unlucky. Maybe you think they deserve it for all that tanking, but the numbers suggest that just as the Flames should be in the league’s basement, instead of near its penthouse, the Oilers should be somewhere around the middle of the building instead of the furnace room.

Things go sideways all the time for teams in this regard; the Devils of the past few seasons were extremely unlucky in a number of ways and missed the playoffs despite being one of the best possession teams in the league. Likewise teams will, about once a year, get every bounce for a large portion of the season (Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Toronto, Colorado again, Calgary) when they shouldn’t.

Things will almost certainly turn around for Edmonton if they stick with the process they’ve had for most of this season. Things will likewise almost certainly go south for Calgary by the same token. So in three months, or next season, when Calgary is back to being a losing team and drops eight of 10, or 12 of 15, or whatever, please understand that it’s just another example of what’s going around coming around.

5. A Providence update

You might recall that a few weeks ago I mentioned that Jon Gillies had come out of the gates a little slow this season.

Gillies allowed a total of 16 goals in just five games in October, as both he and his Friars were pretty much awful for the entirety of the month. That they earned just three points of 10 from those games, then, stands to reason. Gillies was an .888 goaltender.

But since then, he’s basically been the definition of a “lights-out goalie.” In November, Providence won six of its eight games, with Gillies starting all but one. In those seven appearances, he allowed just six goals, and has shutouts in three of his last four games. The only teams to which he lost are Merrimack (10-4-1) and Vermont (11-3-1) so he’s not exactly coughing up goals to the cupcakes, y’know? And in those two losses, the problem was more with the offense, because Gillies conceded a total of three goals on 65 shots. In those two games, his team scored a total of one goal.

For the entire month, Gillies went .973. You take that for sure. And to start his December off right, he stopped 26 of 27 against Northeastern (which to be fair is a team that is, frankly, terrible).

The story hasn’t been quite so good, I’m afraid, for Mark Jankowski, who isn’t building on the success he had toward the end of last year at all. You’ll recall that he was very hot down the stretch, putting up 17 points in his final 25 games, after an 8-in-14 start, and peppering goalies with 64 shots (2.56 per). I was expecting a strong season this time out.

But so far this year, he’s back to being that first-half-of-the-year player. He has eight points in 10 games, but only one goal. More worrisome, he has just nine shots in those appearances, indicating that he’s probably been a little lucky to even score once. As you can probably infer, the entire Providence attack is struggling, with just 29 goals in the first 14 games, but he’s the No. 1 center, and he’s playing with two very good NCAA players in Trevor Mingoia and Ross Mauermann. They’ve combined for 11 goals, but four of them came in last night’s game against Northeastern (so too did two of Jankowski’s assists).

He just hasn’t been good enough, and with this being his third year, his youth or inexperience is no longer an excuse. This should be a major point of concern for the organization.

  • Aussie Flame

    Point 4. Lambert, when are you going to admit that the Oilers suck! If they continue the “process” they will end up mired in 30th place.
    They don’thave a number 1 goalie, a weak defense, only 2 NHL centres, so called “skilled” prima donna forwards that are highly overpaid for what little output they provide who play the perimeter and only exert themselves when the fairy dust descends on them.

    On top of that, their prospect bin is void of any prospects due to poor drafting the past 10 years. Anyone can pick Number 1 – and they even screwed that up by picking all forwards – including Yakupov who is not playing like a number one pick in his third year as an Oiler!

    Oiler fans chided the Flames for taking too long to start the re-build and when the Flames were finally ready to rebuild, i.e. their prospects bin was full, the Oiler fans said the Flames fans will be looking at 5 years of crap like the Oilers.

    So, stick your thoughts on Flames fans laughing at the Oilers to where the sun don’t shine!

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    On the Oilers, I don’t expect things to change for them as long as they practice at half speed and the McDavid/
    Eichel carrot is waved in their face, no matter what advanced stats suggest.

  • icedawg_42

    So what is skewing the numbers so bad wrt Flames and Oilers? When you watch the Oilers play, and see four of them attacking a single puck carrier like a bunch of peewees, well thats just plain hockeying wrong. And its happening over and over again. They.Are.Doing.It.Wrong. Flames failed the stink-eye test badly early on, I’ll agree there, but to the eye they look much better lately – I wonder if early numbers have dragged their numbers down. What’s the difference in their PDO in the first 10ish games vs the last 10ish games?

    • JMK

      Honestly, it’s really as simple as this, had the Oilers had the Flames goatending this season they’d be a lot better. the Oilers have one of the worst team save % in the least decade. They are not a team without holes but they have gotten truly terrible goaltending. These stats exist because the eye test can fool us. Especially with score effects and we are not able to watch the Oilers play every game of the season

      The Flames are still getting out cors’id almost every single game on the other hand but I think we seem to attach a narrative of hard work to it all.

        • Reidja

          I’m going to second this. If you watch the oilers play you will see a lazy, disengaged, perimeter playing, soft, slow, uncoordinated team. Chalking it up to goal tending is something someone who only looks at select stats would do.

          • Reidja

            Devin Dubnyk’s confidence was shattered playing goal behind those jokers on the oilers. He is now 5-1-1-1 with a .922 save % for the Coyotes; only regulation loss was against Flames.

        • Rockmorton65

          You are so correct. The Oilers have also started a National campaign to collect thousands of brown paper bags for fan head cover. This is an emergency
          Oiler situation. It is hoped Canada Post can handle
          all shipments. Flame fans can assist. Thankyou.

  • RickT

    I agree with most of Lambert’s article. I really like how he has written everything. Sometimes, I find he can be too aggressive, and this isn’t one of those times.

    What I am wondering, is where in the metrics, in regards to the Oilers play, does it allow for some of their glaring mistakes that leads to goals? Is it found in the PDO because the SV% of the goalie goes down?

    I.e., when N.N. and Jultz get spun around and let someone in on a breakaway – where does that show up? The Oilers could be winning the CF% in that game, but those glaring mistakes could cost them. Is that in PDO?

    Or, like when Reider got the two breaks and scored two SHG in 0:58.

    Because I am wondering if that is where there may be the anomaly that explains why the CF% and stats support the Oil, but they are still losing.

    I am usually a big proponent of the statistic in hockey, but I am afraid I may yet be woefully ignorant (though, after visiting ON a few times, I feel like I know the NewAgeSys…).

    Edit: appears icedawg had the same thoughts and asked the same question. My bad.

  • Burnward

    Might be a little late to the discussion, but I was wondering if there is any indication that the flames are generating enough consistent scoring chances to maintain their scoring pace.

    Please no shooting percentages,I know many Flames have high ones, thats part of it but not the whole picture.

    I’m curious because I didn’t see this type of offence for the team this season and I think their ability to score at this pace will tell a lot about if they can stay where they are in the standings. If it dries up wins will be harder to come by.

  • Reidja

    A couple things:

    Nice of you to mention that some nebulous “style” synergy is at play between Giordano and Brodie. In a complex system, the whole can be more than the sum of the parts. Maybe you could expand on this.

    Please tell us why the hell you are telling us about the possibility of the Flames losing games NEXT SEASON. Especially in light of your first point which shows some numbers indicating that Giordano improved from one season to the next (which we all know happens with many pre-prime players). Talking about “what’s going around coming around” next season is so outside the confines of WGAS that it’s just odd and sad at this point.

    Lambert, can you just give us a GO FLAMES GO!? One time? I know you can do it.

  • Shooter 5567

    @Scary Gary

    . Level of competition has an effect on production. I guarantee Backlund (when playing) would score more given softer minutes and more PP time.

    And if the dog hadn’t stopped to take a #&^@, he would have caught the rabbit.

    My point is that we count all goals, not just the ones scored against the top line or the number one goalie. Someone has to play against the other lines – good coaches try to make sure they have the advantage on line match ups.

    Hartley seems to be able to do this and it is a weak argument to down grade a player if he excels against the opponents his coach lines them up against.

    BTW – I have played a lot of hockey and though I am no NHL’er, I can’t imagine any minutes at that level are “soft”.

  • RKD

    I think most of us are realists. I think most of us will admit that overall, statistically, possession stats are going to be right more often than they are wrong.

    The Leafs were almost a slam dunk last year. When is the last time a team was out shot by 8 per game that made the playoffs? As for Colorado, they finished 25th overall in shots against.

    I agree, the Flames don’t get enough pressure at times in the offensive zone. Having said that, the Flames are 12th in shots against this year, quite an accomplishment considering all the rookies in the lineup. The Flames also lead the league in blocked shots, which is a bit of a dubious stat, as we all know they wouldn’t have to block so many shots if the puck spent more time in the offensive zone.

    Also, who would deny there is room for improvement on the Flames. They take out a rookie they had to shelter and install a veteran coming in off the IR (who is now being pushed by said rookie) it forces the whole team to be more accountable. There are players waiting in the wings, something we, as fans. hadn’t seen in years.

    Who was pushing the rosters in Toronto and Colorado, respectively? Who did they call up from the minors that performed like Granlund, Jooris, or even Baertschi? Colorado had a great rookie in Nathan MacKinnon last year, the Flames have a great rookie in Johnny Gaudreau, this year (not to overlook Sean Monahan the previous season).

    So, the Flames may fall back down to earth. So what! They’ve still done better than the dumpster fire all the possession experts boldly predicted prior to the season getting underway.

    The stats experts have already lost the battle. I am not saying the Flames won’t regress, nor am I saying the Flames will make the playoffs. But the team has given its fans something to cheer about that goes well beyond tanking the season and hoping for a “shot” at Connor McDavid.

    We actually get to watch a team that tries and wins.

    If the winning doesn’t continue, most of the stats experts convinced us that what has taken place thus far would never have happened to begin with.

    Because, apparently, the Flames suck. We know, we’ve only been reminded of it a thousand times.

    But I wouldn’t trade the Flames roster for either that of the Leafs or the Avs. No way in hell.

  • RKD

    One thing all this corsi talk doesn’t seem to recognize is that the flames are only allowing 29 shots per game. So sure, their corsi is low, but they are also allowing a low amount of shots through to the net.

  • McRib

    One thing you left out of your metrics Lamby…heart…Oilers have none, Calgary has some. Also some shots are better quality than others, I have seen some Oiler games and the shots they get have no traffic and are poor chances. Lot of shots, woopy de doo. I am getting bored of your articles, please less with the oh Oilers are unlucky, Flames are lucky. Booourns!

  • Parallex

    This season for the Flames has certainly gone much better than we all anticipated but one thing’s for sure.. the team is looking good!! That defensive pairing is doing a solid job – more than 25% of goals coming from the back end!
    When it comes down to it, they are winning games.

    And seriously, Lambert needs to realize it takes more than just “luck” to score goals. Luck would not bring the Oilers from 27th in scoring to 2nd. And on that note, what does the Oilers struggle have to do with the momentum of the Flames? Sure, the Flames may be on a temporary hot streak right now (but who knows??) but they can’t be compared to the Oilers. The Flames have too much heart to tank on purpose.

    This guy needs to find something better and more logical to write about.. if not, then just get rid of him.