Powerplay Consistencies

About a month ago I wrote about the Flames’ powerplay differential. In it, I spoke about how the Flames were excellent at drawing penalties while taking few on their own which was leading to them being up an advantaged player more often in games than their opponents.  At the time, the Flames were second to Chicago in terms of their penalty differential and they now find themselves in first. As well, at the time of the article, the Flames were clicking at above 20% on the PP and since have dropped off a cliff.  

One thing about the Flames PP that I find really peculiar, that they have done since the beginning of the year, is that they split up their offensive talent onto two units.  They often have Gaudreau and Hudler centered by Jooris, Colborne or Granlund on one unit with Russell and Wideman on the point.  The second unit often consists of Monahan, Giordano and Brodie.  This has changed recently and they’ve put Gaudreau, Hudler and Monahan together but still run Giordano and Brodie on the other unit.  It seems extremely strange that they would spread out the minimal offensive impact players they have onto two units.

I wanted to look into if good teams tend to stack their deck (use their most offensive players on the first unit) or not as well as other consistencies amongst good PP teams. To do this, I looked at the current #1 pp unit of every team and split up the 30 teams into good (top 10), average (middle 10) and poor (bottom 10) PP teams (as of January 25, 2015). In addition to whether or not a team stacks a deck or not, I also looked at whether or not a team use multiple centers, their best face-off man, a forward on the point,the calibre of forward on the point (if a forward was used) and whether a natural RW is used on the right side of the PP.


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It’s important to note the calibre of offensive units between the good and poor PP teams is often quite different.  St. Louis doesn’t stack their deck but put out Backes, Oshie, Stastny, Shattenkirk and Steen on their first unit a team where a team like Florida does stack their deck but features a line-up of Huberdeau, Bjugstad, Barkov, Campbell and Ekblad.  Beyond offensive talent, better PP teams do a lot of subtle things that poor teams don’t.  

First, 90% (9/10) good teams stack the deck on their 1st PP unit compared to 30% for both the mediocre and poor PP teams.  The only team that doesn’t is St. Louis, ironically the best PP in the league.  They, however, have enough talent that they can justify using Steen instead of Tarasenko.  But generally speaking stacking the deck appears to be the way to go.

Second, good PP teams seem to use their centers strategically.  Good PP teams, compared to mediocre and poor PP teams, tend to use multiple centers, use their best faceoff man and have a higher average faceoff % with the center used on the 1st unit.  Why use multiple centers on a unit? The 1st center can cheat more and risk getting kicked out of the dot because of the back up center option.  Why use your best faceoff man?  Win more draws and start with the puck much more often than other teams. 

Last, good teams are more likely to use a forward on the point of their PP.  Furthermore, good PP teams that do use a forward on the point tend to use one of their best players on the point (e.g., Malkin, Datsyuk, Voracek) compared to mediocre/poor teams that are more likely to use a support player (e.g., Reilly, Burrows, Perreault).


With the information provided here, what should the Flames do about their abysmal powerplay?  If it was me, I would absolutely stack all of the talent they have on the 1st unit.  A combination of Gaudreau, Monahan, Hudler, Brodie and Giordano makes sense.  If you’ve noticed, they’ve used this combination on rare occasion throughout the year and while they haven’t scored the chances generated have been nothing short of ample.  If we factor in the center advantage seen by good PP teams, they might want to consider putting Backlund on the ice instead of Brodie and run a 1st unit of Backlund, Monahan, Hudler, Gaudreau and Giordano.  If we assume that teams have better success if they have one of their better forwards play the point and QB the PP or serve as the one-time shot then moving Gaudreau or Hudler to the point makes sense.  What to do with the 2nd unit? We can assume that they won’t score nearly as much as the 1st unit.  Their job, essentially, should to be to not get scored on and chip in a goal every so often. I would put their best FO man on the ice (Stajan), in an attempt to start with the puck more often, their best remaining possession players (Byron, Brodie and Glencross) and Wideman’s shot. 

What say you?

  • I agree with you regarding go with your best on the first power play unit and maybe put a defensively responsible forward like Backlund on the point. Hartley seems to be of the viewpoint that if you spread the top talent on both units then it would be more difficult to defend against. Your analysis proves that wrong.

  • scoopz

    Honestly I think Hartley is well aware of how his #1 unit should look like, however it seems that he rewards good play by letting those players go on the PP, often with Gio/Brodie.

    • Kybb79

      If the rumours are true that Stajan and Raymond are going to LA there better be some REALLY good pieces coming back with Richards….

      This is a big moment for BT….we will see.


    • piscera.infada

      The only way I actually see it being a reasonable trade (if it happens) is if a good asset comes back, and the ability to retain up to half of Richard’s salary makes him a lot more palatable to other teams–I imagine there are a lot of teams that would be more willing for add Richards at a 2.5 million dollar cap hit. That my friends, is using cap-space to your advantage.

      • piscera.infada

        The two (Stajan/Raymond) for one deal sounds a wash financially and doesn’t get LA out of cap jail so I don’t think they will do it.

        LA needs to take back less salary than they give up and not keep any of Richards or they have to throw in another player.

        This only make sense if one or more picks or prospects come back with Richards.

        • piscera.infada

          Sorry, let me rephrase. I agree, I don’t think you’ll see the two for one. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if you see a somewhat reasonable contract dealt for him (ie. maximize return with Richards). Engelland or Smid aren’t bad bets there, you have their contracts for two more years as opposed to the next 5, and they’re substantially cheaper saving roughly 2.5 million in cap-space over those two years. As such, the Kings likely have to part with something good in order to make a trade palatable for the Flames.

          If the Flames make the deal, they then retain salary, and trade him to someone in desperate need of NHL centres. Richards at, say a 2.5 (or even 3.0) million dollar hit for the next 5, is very reasonable. Thus, the Flames can flip him at that rate, and likely gain something in return that way as well.

          The only issues with this are: a) Treliving would need to ensure there is a market for him at a lesser hit (and of course, this is the biggest issue), and b) taking on 2.5 million of dead cap-space for 5 years is far less than ideal. As such, the return would have to very good in both transactions to make the trade worthwhile overall.

          If you’re one of the “cap-sace as an asset” individuals, this would be the perfect scenario to see how it works in practice.

          In short, if a Richards trade were to happen, it’s not so he can play for the Flames for five years. You may need to hang on to him for the rest of this season, maybe next season, but you’re essentially “buying” him to sell him.

          I definitely have my doubts about how realistic this scenario is, and it’s definitely assuming a great deal of risk. Personally, I would just leave well enough alone, and not venture into those waters. I liked Richards as a player for a long time. Now, he’s lost a step, and I’m very skeptical of injecting youth into a room with Richards given all the rumours (and yes, they’re only that) we hear about him off the ice.

  • prendrefeu

    To LA: Stajan / Raymond

    To CGY: Richards, 2x 1st Round Draft Pick (2015 and 2016), Four unbranded equipment bags, 430 hockey sticks, 600 pucks, and a picture of the LA Kings signed by the entire team stating “We all wish we were on the Flames”


  • everton fc

    Are their any good d-man in the 3/4 slot on a team looking for spare parts/to dump salary, who is good on the PP??

    If Richards talk is heating up, they should ask for Miller on the farm. He’s putting up points, was a character guy on a questionable Sault Greyhounds squad, but has struggled in his own end a bit, from what I read. Still, he has offencive tools I think we were all hoping a guy like Eric Roy could bring (man, is he squandering an opportunity to sign here with only 3 goals as an over-aged player. Always like Roy, but so it goes…)

    I don’t think L.A. will move Forbort. Like I said yesterday, Gravel may be the best of this bunch. Still, I see no reason we help the Kings. (Richards was decent on the PP in the past…!!!)

    Would have been nice if they still had Linden Vey. He’d be a good fit here.

  • beloch

    Richards contract is so damned ugly. He’s signed until 2020. If the Flames picked up Richards, that cap hit would be with them right through the most competitive years of the youngest rookies playing right now. The return for taking that contract on would need to be something special! I’d insist on a very high quality defender or blue-chip defensive prospect myself.

    So, what could the Flames do with 5 more seasons of a guy who looks almost ready to retire? I say demote Richards and, if anyone claims him (unlikely), consider it a huge win. While he’s in Adirondack, make him Brian McGrattan’s pet project. Get that dude off the crank and blow before calling him back up.