Previously I had updated my
estimates for the Flames season originally posted back when the season began. Feel
free to look back and compare, the original is broken into forwards, defense, goaltending and rookies and the first update here, but I will be including the previous estimates
in the Big Wall of Numbers below.
To begin the year I had
guessed the Flames would finish somewhere between 25th and 21st
overall in the standings, that the team would score approximately 206 goals
for, would have strong underlying possession numbers relative to their
underwhelming roster, and with solid goaltending from Hiller would probably win
a few more of the one-goal games they had lost the previous season.
The first update, posted
one-third of the way into the 2014-2015 season, showed that those estimates
were conservative in some areas (scoring) and incorrect in others (possession
strength).The Flames have been the beneficiaries of some extraordinary luck so far this season and I honestly believe that Bob Hartley’s aggressive system, simple to execute and suited to a team with speed, has found fertile ground with the Flames’ roster. All that aside, the Flames are an outlier on the scale right now. They may carry this through to the post-season, they may not. We aren’t talking Black Swan stuff here. Hartley and the Flames haven’t disproved the entire body of hockey analytics, but neither has their extraordinary season regressed on the timetable that some had believed. Sustainable? No. Due to crash like a Eurozone debt default? No again.
Analytics is best used as a diagnostic tool. Let’s let this season close and we’ll look back to discuss then. In the meantime, man enjoy the ride!
Looking back on the season
thus far, I have also counted up the number of one-goal wins and losses,
including games with an empty-net insurance goal. The Flames have been in 28
one-goal games (including shootouts) by my count and have won 15 and lost 13.
This is good news as it would
indicate that the Flames are winning close games (even if some of the
possession numbers in those games, and the season overall, would indicate that
they may not necessarily be deserving) with the majority being in regulation
time (12 regulation wins to 3 shoot-out wins) and are therefore not padding
their points in the skills contest.
When looking at the estimates
from this point forward it is important to remember that these aren’t my personal
expectations, but rather an objective, mathematical approach that draws a
straight line from where the player is today, based on what their season has
been thus far. Players like Stajan who have faced injury, or Baertschi who has
been transferred between the NHL and AHL will suffer based on this model as it
anticipates continued inconsistency. However, the advantage in this is it
provides a kind of base level of play for some of those players while giving a
clear line of sight to those who perform more consistently such as Hudler, and
gives us a red flag on the players who are overshooting the mark, such as
Giordano (no pun intended).*
*Giordano is on pace for 69
points this season. This is PK Subban, Erik Karlsson, Duncan Keith territory
for production by a defenseman. If he can sustain it then credit to him, but
that is rare company and I think we’d be rash to suggest that Giordano is
firmly established amongst those players just yet.
Here are the numbers:
As I mentioned, this model
underestimates for some players and these are NHL points we’re discussing here
so if David Wolf gets called up for a dozen games then presumably he’d be able
to register some scoring. At the same time I do not expect Sven Baertschi to
finish the season with 5 NHL points on the year. He will either be called up to
play or traded to another team and inserted into their NHL lineup. He may
finish south of 20 points on the year, but at this pace even 15 would be an
improvement. (*This was written hours prior to the announcement that Wolf, Baertschi and Wotherspoon had been recalled.)
As I mentioned before, Hudler
is the primary offensive weapon in Bob Hartley’s arsenal. Gaudreau is
surprising even his most ardent followers amongst the fan base, I believe, and
the team is buoyed by strong scoring support through the rest of the roster. The
Flames have four defenseman who could post approximately 30 points or more and Bouma
and Byron are scoring above their weight class relative to time on ice.
Now, about those goalies…
Okay, that is hard to read,
but what it says is that Hiller is more or less staying level while Ramo has
returned to earth only to see Ortio, albeit in a small sample size, take off.
Altogether, the goals against per game has remained the same at 2.37 while the
shots have come down by two per game. It sounds small, but that adds up over a
So the goalies are humming
along, the forwards are doing some dirty work on the ice and the defense is
finding holes to the net. Sticks on the ice, feet moving, battling along the
boards, keeping their heads up, outworking the opposition, yadda yadda yadda.
Look, when the season began
most media conjecture was about the extent of the Flames’ percentages in the
Connor McDavid lottery or whether Jack Eichel or Noah Hanifin might be really
good consolation prizes.
Now? Well, if you’d suggested
to a random assortment of Flames fans about the team being potential buyers at
the trade deadline you’d probably have received a confused look or
recommendations for a good therapist so you could “work through your issues”.
The Flames are in the playoff
race. Ahead of the Los Angeles Kings (coached by Darryl Sutter, that probably
feels good) and chasing down the Vancouver Canucks in the Pacific Division (now
I KNOW that feels good).
WHY THIS SONG?
John Mellencamp wasn’t
supposed to amount to much of anything. Born in the American Midwest, Seymour
Indiana, when things were turning sour and the Rust Belt was beginning to show,
he married his pregnant girlfriend right out of High School and spent his time
getting high on his in-laws’ couch and writing rock songs and playing in bands
nobody has ever heard of.
He kicked himself around for
awhile in between taking shots from record executives and managers before
getting things straightened out and emerging as a poetic storyteller of blue collar rural America.
The song is about dealing
with people telling you you’ll never amount to anything and that you’d best be
happy to have what they’ll give you. And telling them to get stuffed.
Mellencamp was the kind of young man who expected to lose but would go down grinning
with a black eye if he could bloody your nose in the process.