FN Mailbag – February 13, 2015

Mailbag

It’s time for another edition of the FN Friday Mailbag and there’s lots to talk about. The trade deadline looms, wildcard teams are nipping at the Flames heels and the club continues to defy expectations (despite suffering two of its toughest losses of the season in the last week or so).

Let’s start with some questions about the Flames blueline. 

This will likely come down to the  perceived fit between the new guy and Wideman or Russell. That said, my eyes and gut say “Wideman”, because I think he struggles more often south of the redline and I think the coaching staff trusts him a little less defensively. 

Diaz’s future with the Flames depends on a number of factors: the development of Tyler Wotherspoon, the continued health/play of both Engelland and Smid and whether the team can acquire other, better defenders via trade or free agency. 

I think Diaz has been the best of a bad bunch on the third pairing this year, so it’s definitely possible he gets re-upped if a few other things fall into place. 

The closer the Flames are to a playoff spot on March 2, the more likely it is they won’t be moving Glencross for futures, even though I contend (like I did with Cammalleri), trading him would be the right move. As unexpectedly good as this season has been, the Flames are still a team that can’t really afford to let noteworthy assets walk away for nothing. 

Of interest to this discussion is a recent article by Travis Yost at TSN, looking at the value of different draft picks and the probability of getting an NHL player as you collect assets. Worth a read

Only if someone blew down the doors with an incredible offer, which is unlikely. 

The Flames are nicely set up for their goaltending succession plan moving forward. Hiller has proven he can be a capable NHL starter this year, which gives Joni Ortio a nice environment to come in as backup next year and learn the craft without any pressure to grab the starters job right away. That also leaves the AHL job up to Jon Gillies, who will probably turn pro next. 

Calgary should shop Ramo this year. They will have the opportunity to shop Hiller next season if it looks like Ortio will be able to grab the reins. 

Calgary’s ability to stay out of the penalty box is one of the “non-percentage-based” factors that has helped them exceed expectations this year. 

The Flames have been short-handed just 130 times so far. The median rate in the NHL is 174, a differential of 44 penalties. To put that in another light, Calgary has spent just 213 minutes killing penalties. The next best team has spend 234 minutes on the PK. Winnipeg, the worst team in the league by this measure, has spent over 398 minutes killing penalties. That’s a 185 minute differential, and the season isn’t even over yet. 

The Flames PK is a mediocre 79%, so it’s even more important they stay out of the box. 

Anyways, assuming a steady 79% kill rate, the Flames have saved about 10 goals versus the median penalty rate in the NHL. If Calgary was addicted to PIMs like Winnipeg, they likely would have given up an additional 22 goals (!) to date. In terms of standings value, that’s worth about 3 points and 7 points, respectively. 

A profound effect. Calgary’s season has been uncanny in a number of areas. Combined with their sky high shooting percentage, their weird proclivity for incredible 3rd periods and raw lack of penalties explained above, their performance in extra time is the other big contributor to the Flames Cinderella story. 

The Flames have gone beyond 60 minutes 13 times to date. Their record is an incredible 10-3, including a 3-1 record in the shoot-out. This is especially key because many of Calgary’s playoff spot competitors have struggled in extra time, including LAK (2-12), DAL (3-8), SJS (4-8) and MIN (4-7). 

As thought experiment, If you reversed the Kings and Flames fortunes in OT/SO (so 12-2 for LAK and 3-10 for CGY), LA would have additional 10 points, meaning they’d be at 70, tied with CHI for 4th in the Conference. Calgary, on the other hand, would drop 7 points leaving them at 56, ahead of only ARI and EDM in the West.   

  • RE: Trading a goalie. I’d trade Ramo too, but a cursory glance doesn’t really show much of a market for him.

    There are a lot of teams that are already basically out of the playoff picture, and adding a backup goalie who can be had as a UFA this summer does not strike me as the kind of thing any of those teams would trade appreciable assets for.

    Nor do most teams in either conference in or near playoff spots have goaltending situations where Ramo comes in and would be markedly better than the options they have. Especially in the West, where the Flames are in a scenario where the teams they’re in the race with are not likely to want to help Calgary get better, and vice versa.

    So really that leaves two options: package him with someone else for something that addresses a need, or ship him to a team in the mix with an injured goalie. That’s Philly or the Rangers right now, basically.

    The Flames need some depth at D. If you’re going to make those moves, that needs to be something that comes back. Failing that, trade him for draft picks.

  • Good questions and answers. Nice to finally see some analysis on the positive stats that the Flames have. It seems this site has been ignoring those stats and never trying to see if they explain the success. Instead the site keeps on harping on how this run is unsustainable.

  • everton fc

    Diaz will be “re-upped”. Not just because he’s sort of earned it, but Hartley and Cloutier are big fans.

    The Rangers need a goalie. I’d be phoning them. John Moore, Conor Allen and Dylan McIlrath could all be available. Kevin Klein, as well.

  • everton fc

    Seeing as the Flames have been getting little to no help in the scoreboard department lately with a whole bunch of games going to overtime and thus becoming a mathematically illogical three point game I wanted to look at the conference standings with a different point scheme, one not involving the loser point. Because no one wants to reward a loser! (No McDavid for you Edmonton!)

    The results of assigning 2 points for a regulation win, 1 point for an overtime/shootout win and 0 points for any loss in regulation or a extra time is as follows with their total points beside: (In brackets is the teams relative position change within their conference to the current system)

    West

    1. Nashville Predators – 63
    2. St. Louis Blues – 62 (+1)
    3. Anaheim Ducks – 58 (-1)
    4. Chicago Blackhawks – 57
    5. Vancouver Canucks – 53 (+2)
    6. San Jose Sharks – 52 (+1)
    7. Calgary Flames – 50 (+1)
    8. Minnesota Wild – 50 (+1)

    9. Winnipeg Jets – 48 (-5)
    10. Dallas Stars – 47 (+1)
    11. Los Angeles Kings – 46 (-1)
    12. Colorado Avalanche – 35
    13. Arizona Coyotes – 33
    14. Edmonton Oilers – 27

    East

    1. Tampa Bay Lightning – 64 (+1)
    2. Montreal Canadiens – 61 (-1)
    3. New York Islanders – 60
    4. New York Rangers – 58
    5. Pittsburgh Penguins – 56
    6. Detroit Red Wings -56
    7. Washington Capitals – 52
    8. Boston Bruins – 48

    9. Florida Panthers – 42
    10. Toronto Maple Leafs – 42
    11. Columbus Blue Jackets – 40
    12. Philadelphia Flyers – 39
    13. New Jersey Devils – 38
    14. Ottawa Senators – 36
    15. Carolina Hurricanes – 33
    16. Buffalo Sabres – 25

    Interesting. There is not much change in the eastern conference. Colorado (9-11), Anaheim (12-7), Winnipeg (8-10), Nashville (11-6), Florida (6-11) lead the league in overtime games and it seems that good teams tend to win overtime games whereas bad teams lose these games. This holds true as the top 15 teams in the NHL win 59.8% of their overtime games and the bottom 15 win just 41.2% (There are anomalies such as Buffalo 70%!! and Tampa Bay 40% which are due to small sample size,

  • everton fc

    Less than 10 games in overtime).

    So for all the talk about the Kings having great fancy stats and possession numbers (which is a topic for another time) it seems clear that their record in the overtime period is indicative of something with their team. What that something is, I couldn’t tell you. Personally I think it is a lack of desire and effort and a country club mentality around the team (sound at all familiar to a Darryl Sutter team in Southern Alberta from a few years ago).

    The boys of the flaming C have a tough road here on in, one that’s not helped too much by adjusting the standing points system, but might just might be aided by stellar late game play. Enjoy the ride!

  • DoubleDIon

    Very interesting data regarding the shootout and penalty differential. On paper, I thought we’d be better than Edmonton and Phoenix this year if Brodano continued to be an elite pairing like they were last year. Admittedly, I never thought we’d be competing for a playoff spot, but I legitimately felt the Preds wouldn’t either… Seriously, how shocking has their season been?

    • Purple Hazze

      If their overtime records were reversed and we had 56 pts, that would still be 10 pts up on phoenix, so your thought of us being much better than Edmonton and Arizona is right. At 56 pts we’d actually be one up one the Avalance as well and right in the pack fighting for a playoff spot.

  • beloch

    Re: Wideman on the third pairing
    Wideman is indeed not very good in his own end, so putting him on the third pair would mean Hartley would have to completely change how the third pair is deployed. Currently, they’re buried in defensive zone starts, which is precisely where you don’t want Wideman. If the Flames do pick up a legitimate #3D, it might be best to trade Wideman while he has pretty counting stats to pump up his value.

    Re: Diaz
    Diaz was disastrously bad early in the season. He made some brutal errors that led to him being benched halfway through games and then relegated to the press box for months. Since he’s returned to the lineup he’s been much better. If he maintains his current level of play he’s a better option than Engelland or Smid. If he falls back into his old habits though… Hartley had better be riding Diaz hard to make sure that doesn’t happen. This doesn’t seem to be Wotherspoon’s year, given how many times he’s been called up, only to sit in the press box.

    Re: The Flames and Penalties
    In addition to not taking many penalties, the Flames have drawn the fifth highest number of powerplay minutes in the league. This is why the Flames have a pretty average number of power play goals despite having a weak PP%. While the Flames would benefit greatly in the regular season from improving their powerplay, it’s hard to say if their clean play will really be an advantage in the post-season when the ref’s inevitably put their whistles away. Dirtier teams may have the advantage.

  • Ari Yanover

    I can easily see Diaz getting re-signed, especially now that he’s been granted a spot on the top powerplay unit alongside Gio. He’s cheap right now and he’d probably be, at least, a cheap depth retainer. I feel we’re finally at the point where when Smid gets healthy he won’t be automatically slotted back in above Diaz, which… took long enough.

    The Flames have a pretty ridiculous PDO at 4v4 play, leading the league with a 115.6 PDO, and having it seriously pay off for them with a +8 goal differential. Their luck in OT has been huge, especially considering they’re still a sub-50% CF team in that circumstance. It’s made it really, really fun, though.

  • What do you get for Glencross? I mean if you get a 2nd rounder or more then do it but if it is anything like the apparent offer was for Cammy (a 3rd round pick) then keep him if we are in the playoff race.

    IIRC 3rd round picks have less than a 7% chance of making the NHL (and most are not going to make more than the bottom 9 if forwards). These can be picked up on waivers or be had as UFA pretty cheaply most years. The chance to get into the playoffs surely is worth more than that?

    If we are way out of the playoff picture then go for it. I just don’t think that will be the case by the trade deadline (here’s hoping anyway).

  • BurningSensation

    Given the above;

    1. Hartley’s coaching has to be considered one of the reasons why the Flames have taken so few penalties, and is therefore also a huge reason why he deserves to be coach of the year should the Flames make the playoffs.

    2. I’m not sure you can make anything out of the 4×4 PDO given the sample size of minutes. That said, I have all the time in the world for Joe Colborne on the roster. Even if he maxes out as a below average player, his killer hands in the shoot out make him worth every penny he’s paid.

    3. The predominant narratives for the Flames season so far have been; ‘The Flames aren’t very good, and should be among the worst teams of the year, and if theyt aren’t, it’s just unsustainable good luck’, and ‘Screw you statshead, the Flames are winning because of hardwork, team spirit, and hockey tape’. Both are right, and both are wrong.

    The Flames aren’t very good when you just look at the possession stats (and to be clear, the Flames are not a good possession team – but there is clearly lots of hope that the kids will improve in this regard over time), but they aren’t over performing because of luck, they are outperforming expectations because they have been exceptionally disciplined, very good 4×4, and have Colborne, Gaudreau, and Monahan killing it in the shootout.

    • Man, I am so tired of this f@*#ing Possession debate. For a team that is so piss poor in possession stats, they sit in a playoff spot. Ok lets all go along with it’s pure luck . Then you have the LA Kings, best possession team in the league. No one should touch them right, they have the puck all the time, they will score more because of the kazillion shots they take, right. Yet here they are having a horrible season & yesterday a loss to our beloved horrible Flames, would have seen the Kings playoff chances flatlining. So are we going to say they have had incredible bad luck now?

      We are now over 2/3rds into the season & analysts & other teams alike are saying the Flames are playing good hockey. Simple as that. Flames are playing way better hockey this year & we are winning some of the games we had lost by 1 goal last year. Didn’t hear the continual narrative about how unlucky the Flames were last year, how they were going to progress to more wins because they would get better luck. This year Gaudreau is having a Calder Nominee season, Monahan isn’t having that sophomore slump like Makinnon is, goaltending is way better than we got from last year & the biggest thing is Brodano has been healthy & playing up to their potential, to the point Gio is mentioned in Norris trophy talk. All these are facts & I am blown away at the progress this team has made from last year. Can we just end the debating who is right, stats are claiming Flames are lucky & the hockey results are saying the Flames have been playing way better. To me, this year a new core is rising from the ashes. @ short years ago we had no idea where our new core would come from.

  • My question is what is Diaz doing on the first power play unit. I was quite comfortable with Brodie/Gio on the #1 unit but for whatever reason, the two have been split. Diaz does absolutely nothing for me – he’s supposed to have a big shot but he never uses it and looks for pass first. Big shooters think shoot first (think Weber) and if the forwards know it, they head to the net. The bottom three D are all very expendable, including Diaz. I would look to pick up a decent 5/6 guy, bring up Wotherspoon and use the best of the worst as a 7th defenceman.

  • loudogYYC

    The current Flames are good enough that they can survive without Glencross. He might be a top 6 fwd in ice time, but really he’s a bottom 6 winger so a top heavy team could really use him. I’m thinking Winnipeg, Anaheim, NYR or maybe even Washington could benefit from having Glenny in their bottom 6.

    LW is the Flames deepest position and at some point guys are gonna have to move on if we want to see kids like Baertschi, Ferland or Reinhart play in the NHL. May as well pick up a draft pick in the process.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I have been been in the Russell camp most of this season, where 5 on 5 is concerned. On balance, I think he’s a more useful player than Wideman (points notwithstanding). Beloch makes an interesting point. Given Hartley deploys the third pairing in tough situations, putting Wideman there is not a good plan.

    Hartley’s strategy to bury a 3rd pairing would be a great, if he could count on some quality tough-minute D-men. This is a luxury the Flames do not have, since Brodano can’t play 60 minutes. So, my question (Russell vs. Wideman) is still perplexing. Unless of course, the Flames aquire 2 new top 4 defenceman.

    Anyway thanks for tackling my question Kent.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      Simple, see if Wideman can get us a 1st out of Detroit or Dallas or even Anaheim. Why not, he’s been playing 2nd pairing this year & his counting points are excellent. Sell high, still has term & then flip a 3rd & Reinhart to Edm for Petry or Weiroch or Arizona’s Mihalek. Ride the rental in the 2nd pairing with Russell to the end of the year, use Diaz on the PP (which they seem to be doing anyway) & we’re up a 1st rounder. Make a youth for youth move at the draft to acquire a young NHL ready blue chip defender.