82 Games After The Rogers Arena Brawl

January 18, 2014 was a Saturday. The Calgary Flames were listing through the middle of their first rebuild season. They visited Vancouver. Bob Hartley dressed Brian McGrattan, Kevin Westgarth, Blair Jones, Ladislav Smid and Chris Butler as his starting five. The Canucks responded with five pluggers of their own.

Chaos ensued.

And since then, Calgary has emerged as one of the NHL’s most surprising teams. Last night’s game was the 82nd for the Flames since that Rogers Arena line brawl. Here’s a brief glimpse of how the team’s done in the, well, season, since all that scrapping.

(For the sake of convenience, we’ve excluded any games played last night from this analysis.)

Here’s a table of numbers, gang!

Team Record Corsi
For %
Shooting
%
Save
%
Faceoff
%
Anaheim (79gp) 49-21-9 51.0 8.5 92.5 51.5
Calgary (81gp) 45-33-3 45.8 9.0 91.8 47.0
San Jose (82gp) 45-27-9 52.6 7.2 91.8 51.8
Los Angeles (81gp) 38-29-14 55.5 7.2 92.5 51.6
Vancouver (78gp) 37-36-5 51.0 7.0 91.7 50.5
Arizona (81gp) 30-39-12 49.2 6.5 91.8 52.3
Edmonton (79gp) 26-41-12 46.6 7.2 91.2 49.3

The Flames are, shockingly, hunting with the big dogs over the past year – sitting just a smidge behind Anaheim in terms of wins overall. How the heck are they doing this?

Well, let’s go over how they’re not:

  • Corsi? Bad. Worst in the division.
  • Face-offs? Bad. Worst in the division.
  • Goaltending? Mediocre, just a smidge below league average over that span.

That leaves shooting percentage, which is the best in the division, and second only to Nashville in the entire NHL over that span. As for the reason(s) why, your guess is probably as good as mine. The Flames have been better on the rush, particularly with defenders like Giordano, Brodie, Wideman and Russell jumping in more often. They’ve added some skill in Johnny Gaudreau. Sean Monahan’s really progressed.

But, and I don’t want to be mean, are the Calgary Flames as skilled as the Anaheim Ducks? Should they have a shooting percentage that’s half a percent above Anaheim’s at even-strength? Probably not. Is it sustainable? Again, probably not, if you’re operating under the notion that the team is static.

The Flames have been improving in specific areas over the past year, and I firmly believe that this is a better and more talented team than played on January 18, 2014. But they’re probably not better than the Ducks, talent-wise, quite yet. The positive is that the team’s structured play is paying dividends, which has to work wonders for buy-in for the coaching staff long-term.

I have to admit, these numbers are a bit fascinating. The Flames have “meh” goaltending over the past year, in a span than includes really strong runs from Ramo, Hiller and Ortio (and some not-so-great runs from them, too). And their mediocre face-offs and awful possession game doesn’t seem to be dragging them down that much. And while all of these things suggest that their success isn’t sustainable, they have sustained it over 82 games already.

The big question is whether they can sustain a 57.4 points percentage (or something near that level) over the remaining 33 games. If they can stay somewhere in that ballpark, they have a pretty strong shot of being in the playoff picture when the season winds down to the bitter end. Heck, so long as the bottom doesn’t completely fall out, the Flames should be playing meaningful games into late March and early April at the very least.

  • schevvy

    Hopefully with a full season’s worth of games since that brawl people can stop saying that it’s the reason they’re winning games (looking at you, Sportsnet)

    • mattyc

      depends how good you think it is. I’m sure someone could give you a statistical answer based on the standard deviation and some confidence intervals, but would that satisfy you?!

    • schevvy

      Well Colorado had awful corsi and finished 1st in the West last year. Then this year happened. A team can get by on bad possession numbers for a bit, but if they do nothing to fix it eventually it’ll come back to bite them.

      I’m hoping Treliving realizes this and can bring in some players in the offseason or even the deadline to help with the possession

    • Derzie

      It’s all about what conclusions people draw. Standing behind your own net for most of the game with the puck is ‘possession’ but it won’t win you many games if you are down by a goal. Corsi is information that cannot stand alone.

    • Kybb79

      For Corsi advocates there is never a big enough sample size to justify believing you can win consistently with low Corsi, because the opposite is THE GIVEN, no exceptions. They just keep parading out sample size rather than admit something else is going on and digging deeper to find a better explanation.

      • Burnward

        Twitter is hilarious this year now that more people understand their magical analytic.

        Rather than accept criticism and strive to improve, they lash out like someone defending Scientology.

  • schevvy

    Flames shooting percentage is above the league average because a lot of their shots come from closer to the net unlike teams like tge Oilers who had been shooting mainly from the perimeter.

    Ryan, didn’t you write the story on shooting from different zones?

  • Derzie

    I think the wild card factor for the Flames is Shooting Percentage/Scoring Chances for and against. Their offensive zone work is a case of pouncing when they find a weakness. They tend to really ‘close in’ on the net and pick their shots. On the defensive side, they are willing to sacrifice possession as long as things stay on the perimeter. Hockey’s equivalent of curling up into a ball when being attacked. Minimizes the damage most of the time.Takes pressure off of the goalie as well. And we cannot underestimate their fitness level and belief in themselves. That manifests itself as very strong late game work. Leaders in 3rd period production. The Vancouver Affair contributed as being a foundational team moment. Getting the guys to care more about each other. The fighting itself was not the catalyst, it was the defiance of the Canucks by supporting following the lead of their coach into the trenches.

  • RedMan

    I just hope the flames brass isn’t getting all uptight about playoffs. there should be ZERO deviation from the rebuild plan, and IF they make the playoffs, it’s all fun and games. but IF they start bringing in has-been vets and trading picks or prospects for guys 30+, them imma get PO’ed.

    fine – trade redundant prospecs for weakness’ like defense, but don’t bring in anyone of 27!!! I mean it!!!

    • piscera.infada

      If that’s true (which I assume it isn’t), give them whatever they want that isn’t Bennett, Monahan, Gaudreau, or Brodie. So basically, we’re out of it…

    • supra steve

      “Oliver Ekman-Larsson is a player that we would certainly be very, very reluctant to part with,” Maloney said, “but as far as I’m concerned when you’re sitting with our record, and we’re [one of the] three or four worst records in the League, then everybody is up for grabs.”

        • Könniek

          If all we have to give up is a 3rd round draft pick for a 3rd pairing D-man rental (assuming Flames are still in the mix at the trade deadline) then do it. Don’t trade any of our prospects this year.

          If all you can get for GlenX is a draft pick don’t trade him…He is more valuable to the Flames being with the young studs fro the rest of the season. Jason Gregor of TSN1260 also believes Flames will re-sign GlenX before free agency – me too.

  • Könniek

    I think the coyotes are the exact same the Flames were when they started the rebuild. To trade OEL now would be like if the Flames traded Brodie during the 2012-2013 season.

  • RKD

    I’m not about to start thanking the Canucks for us playing so well at the end of last season or this season. Line brawls are great, personally I would like to see them more often but not at the risk of anyone getting injured in a fight. If the Canucks want to tangle with us we are more than ready. The Flames don’t back down from anyone!

  • RKD

    With any luck at all, corsi will be a topic not discussed in another year. Irrelevant and boring. Regarding the brawl, it was a great night for the Flames and the highlight of the season. The image of McGrattan with his paw in Tort’s face is an image that will I will never forget. Great night and hopefully we will never see Torts again.

    • Derzie

      Ha! Torts was in semi-retirement when he coached the Canucks! Spent very little time with the team and lived in White Rock, spending more time on the road than with the team. He signed for FIVE years for $10 Millions. Freedom 55!

  • beloch

    “We are still taking a long term view in building our team. We don’t have an appetite to trade away futures for possible fixes.”

    Treliving

    It sounds like Treliving isn’t looking to make “bold moves” before the deadline. That’s probably a good thing.

  • Burnward

    I feel like Corsi does a great job reflecting one particular strategy. However, I think the Flames, and the Avalanche last year, have different strategies that have more to do with PDO than Corsi. Obviously every team wants a high PDO but a lot of them wouldn’t risk a lower corsi to get it. I believe this is part of the Flames gameplan, collapse back, block shots and then counter punch. It can be hell for goalies and therefore increase shooting %.

    Kinda explains why Calgary’s corsi was at it’s highest level all season when they lost 8 straight. Didn’t fit the gameplan. Also explains why they lead the league in shot blocks.

    Also, I don’t buy the idea that Colorado’s unsustainable gameplan finally crashed and burnt. They had 52 wins playing that way. I think Colorados issues this season are way more likely tied to losing their number one centre and having mediocre seasons from key guys like O Reilly, Mackinnon, Varlomov and Duchenne.

    Funny no one mentions the corsi god LA kings mediocore season. Right between the Flames and the Avs.

  • Burnward

    One problem I have is that a lot of people fail to mention when bringing up Corsi is that Colorado and Toronto both had horrible corsi because they allowed a disgusting amount of shots against. Calgary doesn’t have that problem, they’re top-10 in the league in SA.