How much has the Flames Goaltending Improved?

A lot. Probably.

I suppose that needs more explanation. 

There’s three main reasons the Flames were a bottom-5 team last year (besides, you know, not having a ton of talent):

1.) The first half of the season. A period during which Hartley spent experimenting with his roster and tactics, resulting in a precipitous drop down the standings. Calgary’s second half of the year was actually quite respectable from a record and underlying numbers stand point.

2.) A lot of injuries to key members of a thin roster (only 3 Flames played 80 or more games and one of them was Chris Butler).

3.) Worse than average goaltending.

We’re here to talk about the third thing. 

The club used four goalies last year: Karri Ramo, Reto Berra, Joey MacDonald and Joni Ortio. Of the four, only Ramo ended up with a respectably mediocre save rate at even strength (.919). Berra (.903), MacDonald (.898) and Ortio (.878) were all replacement level or worse. Combined, the Flames puck stoppers managed a .908 5on5 SV%, tied for last in the league with Florida. 

So we can establish that even a completely average season from Calgary’s netminding in 2014-15 will be a drastic improvement. What are the chances that will happen though? 

Actually, pretty good. I took a look at Jonas Hiller’s last four seasons worth of work and it seems the tales of his demise have been greatly exaggerated. Observe:

Season ES shots ES Saves GA ES SV%
2013-2014 1094 1012 82 0.925
2012-2013 529 495 34 0.936
2011-2012 1678 1536 142 0.915
2010-2011 1198 1115 83 0.931
Total 4499 4158 341 0.924

Over his last 4500 even strength shots, Hiller has stopped an above average 92.4% of them. In two of those seasons, he managed near elite numbers (.931 and .936) and only one year did he dip below average (.915). 

This suggests Hiller has a true talent in the .920-.925 range, absent some injury or age related step backwards. If we plug that average into last year’s shot against totals and assume Hiller splits time with Ramo we get this:

Player ES shots ES Saves GA ES SV%
Ramo 985 905 80 0.919
Hiller 985 910 75 0.924
Total 1970 1815 155 0.921

A combined .921 save rate and 155 goals against at 5on5. The Flames surrendered 182 5on5 goals last season. That’s a theoretical gain of 27 goals, a massive difference. Add 27 goals to the Flames -32 goal differential and you have a team at least sniffing around the playoffs rather than hoping for the Ekblad ball in the draft lottery. 

There are some caveats that need to applied here of course. Ramo might be worse than he was last year (unknown risk), the team may surrender more shots against this season (probably), we can’t really be sure what the division of labour in goal will be and Hiller probably won’t post a number exactly in line with his average SV% over the last four seasons. 

That said, even if we assume Hiller mirrors his worst worst performance (.915), it would still represent an improvement over the Flames goaltending from last season (approximately 18 goal gain). Of those issues, the Ramo step back is the least problematic since that would just result in more time given to Hiller. The benefits of redundancy in goal, a luxury Flames fans haven’t experienced since…uh…ever?

Conclusion

This probably sounds like bad news for those eager for the club to tank so they can draft either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. And while the addition of Hiller does improve the club’s chances of sporting at least league average netminding next year, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Flames possession and SH% take a hit as they rotate in a bunch kids at the NHL level. So don’t let this analysis dampen your optimistic pessimism (or pessimistic optimism). 

For the pollyannas out there, this means Calgary would be in a position to actually compete if everything somehow comes together and the dark lord accepts our sacrifices Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, Sven Baertschi, TJ Brodie and Mikael Backlund are all suddenly above average NHLers. It’s not something I’d call likely, but at least a sudden Cinderella turn wouldn’t be hamstrung by Ty Conklin-esque goaltending were it somehow occur.

  • Nick24

    Something people need to remember is that the Ducks were a pretty bad team just two years ago. Didn’t they have the 6th overall pick in 2012? Hiller still played decently enough in the 11-12 season. So I wouldn’t expect his numbers to be too low.

    Secondly, I’d expect Ramo to post better numbers this year than last. He’s adjusted to the game and even for the second half of last year, he played extremely well. I’m not saying that we saw the norm there, but I’d expect more consistency at a higher level from Ramo this season.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    I know it’s off topic but you gotta think the Gardiner Deal signed today says a lot about the market value of a guy like TJ Brodie.

    I have no fears of management being able to get him extended but hind sight being 20/20 it may have been worth it to roll the dice on TJ with a LT deal instead of going the ‘bridge contract’ route…

    • piscera.infada

      I think you could make the case Brodie and Gardiner would (at this point) be worth similar deals simply from a numbers point of view. Personally, I’d rather have Brodie to Gardiner, but I know their points were exactly the same last year (Gardiner played one less game) but Gardiner had more goals, their underlying stats are actually quite similar (as shown here).

      With a cap-hit of 4.05 million per, that’s pretty good money for what Brodie will bring over the next few years. If you want to give him more term, do it, give him a few extra dollars, and make it happen.

      • Matty Franchise Jr

        If the Flames get Brodie at 4 per I’ll…. well, I’m not sure what I’ll do, but it’ll most likely be embarrassing.

        Brodie is twice the player Gardiner is (and believe me, I like Gardiner). Could Gardiner score 30 points deployed as a shutdown defenseman on an awful team? I doubt it.

        As the saying goes, the proof is in the player usage chart. I’m paraphrasing of course.

        • piscera.infada

          Completely agree, Brodie’s the better player. I’m just saying, in terms of contract discussions at this point, I don’t think it’s as far-fetched as it seems. The idea that Gardiner’s deal makes Brodie far more expensive than he would have otherwise been before the deal, is somewhat false. On very facile comparison, the players seem more similar than they are different. For that reason, you’d have to think that a seven year deal at 4.5 to 5 million per (in terms of cap hit, not structure) seems like a great deal for the team, and something Brodie’s side could easily live with. I see the Gardiner deal as more of a positive starting point for the Flames than a negative. The other factor working in the team’s favour, is that Gardiner has all the hype – being in the centre of the hockey universe and all. You need to strike the long-term deal before 1) you get further (and higher priced) comparables, and 2) the hockey-world further “discovers” Brodie as the cog he is to a defensive engine. Moreover, the Gardiner deal probably makes a Brodie extension more urgent than it was previously (because of point 1, above).

          • Matty Franchise Jr

            Indeed. Given that Brodie’s closest RFA comparables are probably Josi and Gardiner, it is likely the Brodie extension won’t be too hard to swallow. That said, he’ll almost certainly get the most of the three (icetime, track-record, etc).

  • Just checked and the Flames had a lot of one goal games last year.

    24-17-7

    That’s 48! I thought we lost a lot of those but that record is decent. Does it bode well that we have better goaltending or is potentially less scoring make it a wash?

    My prediction: I think the Flames finish 23-26

    I hope I am wrong and that we are bottom 2 I just think we’ll be better. The D is the same or better (with fully healthy Gio and Wideman). I think the rooks and Raymond will optimistically make up for Cammi. I know he was a decent possession option as well so who knows?

    This is not a great team but I see Hartley squeezing out just enough to stay out of bottom 2-4.

  • MWflames

    Here’s the deal. I feel like people are looking at the end of last season and thinking “this is the flames team we currently have.” And yes they actually played quite well at the end of last year, mostly because of ramo pulling of a .930 second half, and cammalleri putting up huge numbers after the trade deadline. But hears the thing, even crappy teams can ride a few hot streaks and play above quite a bit above themselves. But what makes them crappy is that they when those hot streaks go cold, there is usually not a new hot streak to replace that production.

    How well did we play when gio went down?
    How well did we play when Cammmi went ice cold before the trade deadline?

    We’ve lost a bonafide first liner on most teams with Cammi. And with a team thats dying for a few players to play tough minutes i’m not sure i’d rather have raymond over stempniak. You cannot argue that this forward group isn’t younger and that they don’t have less depth with nhl experience.

    When the injuries add up this team is going to get very young and very inexperienced in a hurry and that is not going to produce results. The kids tend be full of piss and vinegar when they get called up, but that doesn’t last for too long IMO. I’m not sure how someone looks at this roster and says its better than last year. We might go on a hot streak like the end of last year, and yes that was a hot streak not the team playing at its expected level. But we might not get a hot streak this season. We’ll probably have dry spells worse than we did last year simply due to a little more youth in the line-up.

    And lastly for those who think this team could significantly push up the standings from last year. I’d say to you: You’re throwing all your marbles into the basket that represents Backlund, Brodie and Gio missing very little time. Because as wild as it is to think, IMO they are this team next year.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Thought I would hijack this thread to say I just noticed Tampa is almost 2 mil over cap with 24 roster players and 9 NHL dmen. Might we take Ohlund off their hands to get another asset?

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      For the record, I am not talking about Ohlund as the asset. I am talking using our cap space to take a bad contract and get an additional asset out of the deal.

      not sure why the trashes? We are the weakest prospect wise at D. I don’t think it will be taking a roster spot for someone who isn’t better served developing in the minors.. He will likely sit in the press box or get sent to minors anyways. Plus his cap hit is higher than his wage which a) makes the idea more appealing to ownership and b) increases the chances he retires before next year (dude is 37 now).

      Win win, no?

      • Greg

        I think the trashes are because TB isn’t actually over the cap. Ohlund hasn’t played since 2011, he’s on LTIR, which means TB is allowed to go over the cap by the amount of his contract – $3.6M. So they actually still have about $2M in space.

        Ditto for Philly (Pronger) and Boston (Savard). Chicago is the only team that’s actually over the cap and has to do something to get under it. With all their NM/TCs, they don’t seem to have a lot of options so I’m really curious to see how that unfolds.

        Interestingly, after the Gardiner signing the Leafs are now the next closest to having cap-compliance issues. They’ve got $300K in space, and only 6 D signed.

        If I’m the flames, I’d be really trying to target Leddy or Franson this summer. Or both.

  • Sidewinder

    Hopefully Glenny, Wideman, Jones and Ramo have a great first half and we can trade them for decent picks and or prospects. I’m not saying we tank the season we just get rid of some guys we can get a decent return for, and also let the kids play and develop, plus we finish bottom 2 by default just from having so many inexperienced players in the line up. Goaltending isn’t going to get us to the playoffs so let the kids play hard and do their best. Mcdavid would look great in a Flames uni!

  • Sidewinder

    Lots of people on here talking about hoping that we finish bottom 2. Screw that if we are talking about hope I hope we win the cup! In the land of hope I hope we beat Tampa in 4. And I hope the red mile makes a return!

    You just never never never know. That’s what makes sports and the start of a new season so great. Hope. Go Flames Go!

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    I’d probably try to sign Brodie to something like 4/4/4.5/4.5/5.5/5.5/6/6 for an AAV of $5MM. I think that’s a steal for the Flames.

    Prop or Trash? I voted Prop.

  • McRib

    I think it is during contract negotiations like TJ Brodie’s where NHL Teams are really being forced to learn Advanced Stats much quicker than most in the blogosphere world would have expected. Because you know TJ Brodie’s agent is going to be using them heavily during contract negotiations and will argue if Calgary doesn’t offer anything serious based on them, than one of the NHL teams that uses Advanced Stats will.

    Not to mention the Flames management would be wise to learn Advanced Stats during negotiations like this to counter argue the statistical figures presented by Brodie’s agent. It seems that agents are the ones bringing Advanced Stats into the mainstream quicker than most would have expected. That said I do think the Flames are more aware of Advanced Stats than they let on. Brian Burke seems to be big on the “smoke screen” tactic lately and let’s face it someone with a Harvard Law School degree clearly is at least capable of understanding new statistic theories, even if he doesn’t agree on them 100%.