Five Things: Frozen Four

steps-to-make-elearning

1. An impetus?

A lot can be said for the Flames’ recent performances. This much is
obvious. I saw the other day where they’ve had one of the most prolific
offenses and stingiest defenses in the entire league since mid-January
or so, right around the time that Calgary and Vancouver had their
infamous brawl game, during which John Tortorella (rightly) felt so
aggrieved by the Flames’ actions that he attempted to fight Bob Hartley
between the first and second periods.

The thrust of the argument I heard was that the Flames used that
incident as something of a rallying point; that is, whatever it was that
had been ailing the team in those first few miserable months of the
season had been shaken free by having been made to get in fights with
the Canucks, and having to defend their coach from another. This is
obviously something along the lines of the “fighting motivates teams”
claptrap, and is obviously nonsense because if it’s proven that fights
have little to no influence within minutes after they happened, it’s
unlikely that Mikael Backlund is closing his eyes as he laces up his
skates, imagining the froth-mouthed insanity on Tortorella’s face two
and a half months ago, and tapping that emotion to put up five shots
against Edmonton, or whatever.

2. So what has turned things around defensively?

There is something to be said for inspiration, of course, but there’s
probably more to be said for math. The Flames goaltending was always
going to be bad the last two seasons, but in 48 games in 2013, it
was historically bad. In the first half of this season, it continued.
The fact of the matter is that almost no collection of professional goalies
anywhere in the world considered to be at anything resembling the NHL
level would be capable of letting more than 10 percent of the shots they
face get past them if they’re trying. Period. That old thing about
regressing to the mean is holding true for Karri Ramo lately. The depths
of his badness early on – and make no mistake, it was a deep and abiding
badness if ever there was one – were likely not indicative of his
overall quality. Neither is this recent hot streak, during which his
play has been exemplary.

The answer almost certainly lies somewhere in the middle and that’s what
the Flames have to work with for a few years, at least until Joni Ortio
or even Jon Gillies are ready to take the reins. Is that enough for
this team to work through a rebuild? Tough to say. As usual, we are
going to need a lot more evidence.

3. And the offense?

The same is true of the Flames’ forwards and their shooting percentages.
They were making a lot of mediocre goalies look like Pekka Rinne, and a
few very good ones look like Dominik Hasek. Again, this was over the
course of 80-something games across two seasons. Even with this huge
step forward in goalscoring, the team remains 21st in the league in
even-strength, score-close shooting percentage, following a 48-game
campaign that saw them go 13th, having played most of that time with a
higher skill threshold than what they have now.

You can’t control shooting percentage, insofar as you can’t under- or
outperform what your team brings to the table for very long. Bad as the
Flames are up front, on paper, they aren’t as bad as all that. Pucks
that weren’t hitting the back of the net then are doing so now, and it’s
confirming a lot of the things most of us probably thought all along:
Backlund is good, Cammalleri is good, Galiardi is useful, etc. One thing
that mint also be growing apparent is that the concerns from when he
signed about shooting percentage when Jiri Hudler is on the ice might
not have been well-founded. He might always just have an on-ice shooting
percentage north of 10. Some guys (but not entire teams) can do that
for much longer periods than others, and we have a lot of evidence at
this point that he might just be one of them.

Again, this kind of offensive explosion is something you shouldn’t go
around expecting to last much longer than this, but it too was probably a
long time coming.

4. Starting to think about summer

With the season now officially just about over I’ve found myself
wondering a lot about what Brian Burke is going to do this summer as it
pertains to retaining the team’s free agents, especially considering
that there’s a cap floor he’s going to have to reach.

Mike Cammalleri, I thinks we can all agree, is gone. “Sell the house”
gone. “Cut prices on his jersey in the pro shop” gone. And that’s $6
million they have to replace unless they’re prepared to overpay him
ludicrously, which I would tend to doubt. He wants to test the market,
and there are teams that can use him and offer far more attractive
options and comparable money to what Calgary will splash on him.

Other than that there aren’t too many tough calls to make. Re-up
literally all of the RFAs. Let all the UFAs walk. Most can be replaced
internally or cheaply on the secondary market, where useful veterans
aren’t so much targeted as sought out to fill holes in lineups. The
Flames have a lot of holes, and they’re not attracting any top guys to
fill them any time soon (I’d further argue they never really have). The
Flames in particular can probably get those guys by doing what the
Panthers did a few years ago: offer some very middle of the road players
some very nice contracts which are not in any way commensurate with
performance past or future.

Those are really all their options at this point. Maybe they also give
Brodie a big, long extension for huge money this summer because he
really has earned it. Mostly you have to think they hope some rookies
make the club.

5. Still more on Gaudreau and Arnold

You must by this point be sick of hearing me yammer on about Johnny
Gaudreau and Billy Arnold but I am currently writing this from the media
room at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center, where their team will play
later today in the national semifinal against a very strong Union team.
So you will have to forgive my wanting to yak about them once again.

In the past I’ve mainly used quotes from themselves, their teammates,
and their coaches to highlight and underscore how good they are. Here,
instead, are quotes from their competition: Union’s Shayne Gostisbehere
and Mat Bodie. The former is the best defenseman in the country and was
also Gaudreau’s roommate in Ufa when the USA won World Junior gold two
winters ago. The latter is a very good college defenseman in his own
right, and they combined to shutter the BC offense in an NCAA tournament
game last year, which Union won 5-1.

“He’s a great player,” said Gostisbehere. “Back [when we played against
each other in junior hockey] he was the smallest kid. He’s an amazing
player. Every time he touches the puck something special is going to
happen. The crowd gets on their feet. He’s not a kid who can just try to
hit because he’s pretty much unhittable. He’s so shifty. He’s a great
kid. He’s a very humble kid, too. He was my roommate at the
pre-tournament in Finland, and you couldn’t tell he was the best college
hockey player because he was so humble about it. He’s an easygoing kid
and definitely a great hockey player.”

Added Bodie: “We got to see [Gaudreau and Arnold’s line] a little bit.
They’re a tremendous line. It shouldn’t be about limiting the damage.
They haven’t been kept off the score sheet all that much all year. It’s
going to be about taking time and space away. It’s not simply a line
matching up or D-pair matching up. It’s the five guys on the ice. We
work as a unit in the D zone, and it’s going to be up to everyone to
chip in to try to stop those guys.”

If you want to watch this game, which really should be a good one, you’ll be able to check it out on TSN.ca and TSN2 at 3 p.m. Calgary time (5 p.m.
Eastern). Tune in live if you can.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Huh…

    If the effect of having a goon on the team isn’t statistically measurable by results within a few minutes of each fight occurring, then goons have no effect…

    Interesting…

    … in the completely retarded way.

    How about this for quantification:
    2006-07, Flames have McCarty, Goddard, and Prust. Iginla fights twice all season. Has highest PPG of his career.

    2009-10, Flames have no goon, Iginla is team’s enforcer, fights 6 times, has his lowest points total in a decade.

    Oh snap, I forgot, it’s not reflected by a positive change in the team’s average Corsi-For% in that specific game following each fight, so it totally didn’t even happen.

    Sorry. My bad.

    I suppose Iginla specifically asking for a goon to be brought in so that he wouldn’t have to fight so much is just ignorance of advanced statistics on his behalf.

  • BurningSensation

    Ok first things first;

    – Calgary’s sudden improvement may correlate with the Torts debacle, it may also correlate with sunspot activity, and it may correlate with Hartley having polyps removed from his colon. Personally, I’d say we should look hard into the sunspot activity.

    – The most reasonable explanation to me is; A. Ramo stopped being injured, and, Giordano stopped being injured. Gosh, maybe getting a starting quality netminder and a Norris calibre D-man back into the lineup helped the team improve? I know, crazy talk. I’ll move on.

    Secondly, I am a huge fan of how Hartley managed to induce tachycardia in both the Vancouver and Edmonton brass. There was absolutely NOTHING wrong with what Hartley did against Vcr, and yet Tortorella’s reaction was borderline insane. PERFECT. The job he did on the Oilers was so way beyond AWESOME (8-1) that it represents the high point of the season for me.

    Thirdly, despite the incredible offensive output Westgarth and McGrattan have put forth, I’d seriously prefer we give kiddies with some offensive ability a shot on those lines instead. More importantly, if Burke wants a team that can push other teams around he needs to find some guys who can both play AND fight.

  • Parallex

    “and, frankly, so did Vancouver.”

    No, they didn’t. Go take a look at their record around that time… prior to that game Vancouver had lost 8 of their past 10, the Canucks dive (which we all know they’re very good at doing on a nightly basis) in the standings had begun 19 days earlier.

    Trying to attribute that to the brawl is just an exercise in myth-making.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    You know what else happened since that fateful night in Vancity? Spring!!!!

    Bob Hartley is literally, with no hint of hyperbole, the God of Spring.

    Or, for the Math Crowd, A then B then C means A + B = C

  • Burnward

    That intangible is why teams like Detroit, Boston, San Jose etc. always seem to be successful.

    When the players respect the club, each other and the coach…it breeds something special in an organization.

    If our talent level ever matches the mindset this team has now, it’s going to be a very good time to be a Flames fan.

    Right now, I’m just loving the process. Hopefully we get there.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Players like McGrattan bring so much more to the table than most people give them credit for…

    Parody, due to the salary cap, in this league has made it very difficult to ice 4 lines that can play substantial minutes and compete.

    Filling out a lineup with 1 or 2 tough guys just seems to make sense. In a perfect world your 4th line has players on it that can play on the PK mixed in with a tough guy like McGrattan…

    I don’t care what anyone says McGrattan has worked on his footspeed and skating alot since his last stint here. He isn’t a huge liability out there and is loved by the team so he is an important piece even if his ice-time and offensive impact is minimal.

    I loved seeing how he was the one with a cool head in the whole Tortorella fiasco. He stopped Malarchuck from butting heads with Torts!

    I love that guy and what he brings, even if he isnt fighting!

    • Tenbrucelees

      I agree with the sentiments expressed. I also think that one thing the stat crowd don’t/can’t take into account is the human factor. I know that if I was Agostino and Big Ern gave me a punch on the arm after my first goal or if I was Stajan and he gave me a headlock after scoring the penalty shot, I would feel good. And I would value someone like Mcgrattan even if they aren’t the best skater. For sure.

    • mattyc

      Parity, due to the salary cap, makes it more important to ice 4 lines, because you can afford less stars.

      Not sure how it “makes sense” to fill out the lineup with 1-2 tough guys – why wouldn’t you just fill it out with the next two best hockey players?

      This isn’t anything personal against McGrattan – I personally like/respect him (especially as a person). But in a perfect world, you have a 4th line that you don’t have to worry about getting caught out against top 6 fwds, and you don’t have to constantly shelter their zone starts etc.

  • mattyc

    it’s unlikely that Mikael Backlund is closing his eyes as he laces up his skates, imagining the froth-mouthed insanity on Tortorella’s face two and a half months ago, and tapping that emotion to put up five shots against Edmonton, or whatever.

    This

  • Avalain

    Ok, now you’ve gone too far. You said something that I don’t think anyone on this site can really agree with. I mean “You must by this point be sick of hearing me yammer on about Johnny Gaudreau and Billy Arnold”? No way is this true.

  • BitGeek

    I’m surprised at how easily Lambert can still bait people with his comments. I wouldn’t be too upset when he says “rightly so” when he talks about Tortorella, he only says that to get a reaction. I doubt he really believes it himself.

    We should, however, be getting upset at the incomprehensible mumbo jumbo that he says in point number 3.

    If I could understand the second paragraph in his third point, then I might even be able to comment on it. It must have been a late night when you wrote that bit Lambert. Don’t you guys have editors for your work? Lol ;o)

    • Speaking of being baited: I guess I’ll bite. I mark papers for a living right now, and I’m here to tell you that Lambert’s grammar and syntax are solid. If there’s a problem with comprehension, it might be a case of PEBKAC.

      I WILL take violent exception to the idea that Tortorella’s reaction was anything but an overreaction though. Hartley’s starting line was a challenge to the Canucks’ what… manhood? and they picked up the gauntlet. If Torts had started his Sedin line, there is NO way Calgary’s goons would have just grabbed on and started punching. They would have dumped the puck and changed lines, or been scored on. Instead it turned into a pissing contest, which Tortorella next leveled with his WWF (WWE? I’m getting old) antics.

      • BitGeek

        Since you asked so nicely, I’ll oblige. However, I’m going to look like complete douche doing so. I don’t claim to have perfect grammar by any stretch of the imagination. In fact I could use some tutoring myself.

        However, I’d like to better understand what Lambert is trying to say in that second paragraph of point 3.

        “You can’t control shooting percentage, insofar as you can’t under- or outperform what your team brings to the table for very long. Bad as the Flames are up front, on paper, they aren’t as bad as all that. Pucks that weren’t hitting the back of the net then are doing so now, and it’s confirming a lot of the things most of us probably thought all along: Backlund is good, Cammalleri is good, Galiardi is useful, etc.”

        He starts off strong, and the first 2 sentences are fine. Then he refers to an ambiguous time period where pucks weren’t hitting the back of the net and are doing so now. When is “then”? I assume he means the beginning of the season. The writer shouldn’t assume the audience is familiar with the time period he is referring to. There’s nothing wrong with actually saying the pucks weren’t hitting the back of the net at the beginning of the season, or in November, or December or whenever. Just something specific. Fair enough that’s a very minor thing to quibble over.

        The rest of the sentence is not too bad, and Lambert identifies 3 players who we all figure have been playing good up till this point. The rest of the paragraph is where things start to get a little murky for me.

        “One thing that mint also be growing apparent is that the concerns from when he signed about shooting percentage when Jiri Hudler is on the ice might not have been well-founded. He might always just have an on-ice shooting percentage north of 10. Some guys (but not entire teams) can do that for much longer periods than others, and we have a lot of evidence at this point that he might just be one of them.”

        Aside from what I assume is a spelling mistake (mint=might?) in the first sentence, it seems to be missing some punctuation. It seems a little run on to me. It might be better to re-word the sentence to read something like:

        “When (insert actual name here) signed, there were concerns about his shooting percentage when paired with Jiri Hudler. It is becoming apparent that these concerns might not have been well-founded.”

        Anyway, continuing on with the way Ryan has worded this sentence….

        Lambert says – “… from when he signed…”. From when who signed? Who is he talking about? Cammalleri? Backlund? Galiardi? Someone else mentioned earlier? I am sure I am missing something here but I’m a little slow on the uptake.

        The rest of the sentence seems to be trying to join a related thought of some sort. It seems like Lambert wants to say that there are concerns about someone’s shooting percentage when Jiri Hudler is on the ice and how these concerns might not be well founded. If that is what he is saying, then that sentence is struggling to get me there.

        The next sentence starts with – “He might always”.

        Whomever “He” is… seems to be trying to accomplish two states of being. He always does something or he may do something, but “might” and “always” shouldn’t be paired together. “Always”, sounds like a definite state of being and “might”, leaves room for ambiguity. Ditch one of those words and the sentence becomes much stronger.

        The last sentence of the paragraph is not too bad. Unfortunately I still don’t know who “He” is. This is probably the key to my lack of understanding. If I had picked up on who this person might be sooner, then this paragraph would be much easier to follow.

        Look, at the end of the day, I read and write at a grade 9 level (if I’m lucky). They say that most people who read a blog or newspaper also read at this level. You have to keep things simple for your audience and spoon feed them your information. Keep sentences shorter. Don’t assume that they know exactly what you’re talking about (unless you refer them to a previous article or source of information). Lastly try to keep to one or two thoughts in a sentence to make it easier for your audience to follow along.

        What you have read above is strictly my opinion. It’s not founded in any kind of authority, because I don’t grade papers for a living or have a literary degree. Unfortunately I have to say I’ve seen Lambert produce better stuff.

        PS: He’s not the only one that makes these mistakes. Some of Kent’s articles also assume a much higher reading level from his audience. Some of his articles are unnecessarily complicated in their delivery too. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy reading them though. I quite like the work that is produced here for the most part.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    The biggest defense by the math crowd on why fighting doesn’t matter is because they are unable to quantify it in terms of results. Now your ignoring the quantified results because it doesn’t suit your argument. It must be a complete coincidence that Vancouver got bad and Calgary got good on that night.

    I am not pro-goon. Exactly the opposite. But I have played enough team sports to know that relationships, confidence, and attitude play a huge role in on ice performance. Look at the body language. Clearly these guys like each other. The ONLY way a team of this caliber has positive results over a sustained period of time is to play as a TEAM. A night like the one in Vancouver helps with that.

    I don’t think that night is the only thing that caused the turn around. I don’t even know if that was the largest factor. But only the nerd with the calculator in the back of the class (whose only pair of runners are still in the box) would suggest that it wasn’t a factor.

    • The Last Big Bear

      The problem I have mostly with the “Math Crowd” (as you put it) has to do with the rejection of ANY intangible results. Don’t get me wrong, for the most part I try to shut out most results that can’t be explained quantitatively. Nor am I an apologist for fighting in hockey (personally I find it archaic). That said, there’s just no denying that this team turned a corner with that episode and, frankly, so did Vancouver.

      It’s hard to make an argument that that strange episode didn’t galvanize the team, the coaching staff and the entire organization when the results since then have been nothing short of miraculous. Darren Haynes tweeted a few days ago that since that altercation the flames have the 9th best record in the NHL and 2nd best in the Pacific division. That’s amazing when you think that this team has a bottom 5 payroll and rookies littering the roster everywhere.

      Is the fight the only reason for the turnaround? No. But I don’t think it’s completely Bat $%^& crazy to call it a catalyst for the turnaround. The results all point to that as being the moment when the flames became the team they are today.

      We shouldn’t deny results we can’t see with cold hard numbers. The intangible, the unquantifiable, the outlier are the reason we watch sports. We love to see triumph in the face of math. We long to see victory in the face of great and terrible odds. We want to see the underdog triumph where they shouldn’t.

      • Matty Franchise Jr

        Well said & totally agree. It’s the total package that differentiates the top teams come playoff time. Talent is huge but grit & intimidation are all part of what makes teams champions & the others looking for solutions.

  • piscera.infada

    “…during which John Tortorella (rightly) felt so aggrieved by the Flames’ actions that he attempted to fight Bob Hartley between the first and second periods.”

    Rightly!? Really? That might be the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard on this site (yes, more ridiculous than any WW post). You have got to be kidding me. He saw a line-up, chose to ignore it, and when it went sideways, had a hissy-fit. Brian Mcgrattan could have rightly ended his life by smashing his head into the wall, the Canucks organization could have rightly fired him the second he made that horrible decision, Torts himself could have rightly acted like a rational human being. The only thing right about the whole situation is that he was rightly suspended for 15 days.

  • Colin.S

    Did you just say that Torterella was in the right to be angered cause the Flames started the goon squad? The only way in the world that logic would hold is if he didn’t match Hartley’s stupidity with his own, and then not just match that stupidity but go full retard after the period as well, there is no way you can say that Torts was anywhere close to being right in any sort of way. That being said, like to make it clear that I agree with most of you other assumptions about that fight, it was not that fight that resulted in the Flames playing better hockey.

  • Freakin' Saprykin

    1.”This is obviously something along the lines of the “fighting motivates teams”
    claptrap, and is obviously”…the plot of Slapshot?

    Maybe Van Brabant is our third Hanson Brother? Haha