FN Mailbag – April 3, 2015

Mailbag

It’s the final countdown. The last hurrah. Do or die. The Flames have just five games left in 2014-15. Five chances to complete their Cinderella season and punch their ticket to the playoffs. By this time next week, it may well be down to the final contest against the Winnipeg Jets. 

And, of course, that means there’s lots to talk about in the weekly mailbag. This time around we look at pending free agents, the Flames blueline (again), Flames goalies (again), shot quality and Phil Kessel. 

A couple of weeks ago, the answer was clearly Kari Ramo. And a few weeks before that, it was obviously Jonas Hiller. If we look at their stats this season, the answer seems to get a bit clearer. While there isn’t much to choose from between each guys overall SV% (.912 for Ramo vs .915 for Hiller), there’s a clear advantage when we consider even strength save rate. 

So far this year, Hiller has saved an above average 92.4% of shots he’s seen at 5on5 this year, while Ramo is at a below average 91.6%. The reason they are close overall is Hiller has struggled a lot on the PK, with just a SV% of just 81.5%. That’s terrible, but unlikely to continue since specials teams save rates tends to bounce around wildly.  

While we’re only talking about 49 games and 33 games for each guy respectively, these numbers accord with each guy’s career norms. Hiller has consistently been a better goalie than Ramo for years, so it shouldn’t be surprising he has the better results this year. 

Short answer: Jonas Hiller.

These questions are somewhat related, so I put them together. 

With Gio, Calgary is obviously in a tough spot. He’s roundly considered to be one of the best defenders in the league and has been grossly underpaid relative to his contributions the last few seasons. He’s also the club’s captain. If we look at his peers, we see PK Subban ($9m/year), Shea Weber ($7.8M/year), Ryan Suter ($7.53M/year), Kris Letang ($7.25M/year), Drew Doughty ($7.0M/year) and Zdeno Chara ($6.92M/year). Heck, even Dion Phaneuf makes 7 bills a year. All of these guys signed long term deals as well. 

So the discussion will start at $7 million for 5+ years and go up from there. The good news is, Giordano is probably worth that number right now. The bad news is, he’ll be 33 when his new contract kicks in and on the back 9 of his career. That means there’s significant risk to inking him to those dollars for that long. 

Of course, given the state of the Flames blueline, the team can’t really afford to lose Giordano. That means they’ll pay whatever he asks for. Let’s $7.5M for 6.

As for improving the blueline, this issue has been raised frequently in the mailbag and for good reason. It’s an the most obvious area of concern for this club moving forward.

As mentioned previously, Brad Treliving is going to have to get creative to improve the back-end this summer. We can’t be sure which UFA’s or players will be available for trade, but something akin to what Garth Snow pulled off this past off-season, grabbing both Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk for marginal futures, is what would have to happen to really move the dial.

This is another option for improving the defense corps, although a long shot at best since most clubs will match any offers that are proffered to worthwhile players. Also, GM’s aren’t too eager to surrender the compensation it takes to land big name RFA’s.

Calgary’s best option, should they go down this road, would be to target a club with salary cap concerns. Probably the only guy who is both worthwhile and on a cap challenged team is Dougie Hamilton. The Bruins had to sacrifice Johnny Boychuk to the cap gods this year and have raises for Torey Krug ($3.4M), Reilly Smith ($3.5M) and David Krejci ($7.25M) set for next season. On top of all that, Boston will have to re-sign or replace Daniel Paille, Greg Campbell, Carl Soderberg, Matt Bartkowski and Adam McQuaid. 

Of course, keep in mind if the Flames decide to offer Hamilton anything between $3.5-5M, it will cost them a first and third round pick in the 2016 draft. Assuming the Bruins let him walk. 

Possible, yes. Probable, no. 

Whatever place decides to sponsor FlamesNation. *hint hint*

Shot quality has been the wondrous golden unicorn that many have chased since we started playing with the numbers in the NHL. Originally it was assumed that scoring chance counting would give us insights into the relationship between possession and chances. However, when we started to collect chances and correlate them to corsi, we found there wasn’t much difference between the two ratios. 

For example, after multiple seasons of chance counting I found the correlation between scoring chance differential and corsi differential was around +0.7 over time. Others found as strong or stronger relationships. Which meant we weren’t really capturing much additional information through by counting chances every night. 

In addition, we also learned that shooting percentages and save percentages tend to regress heavily towards the mean in the NHL (thus the importance of PDO). In light of that insight, we found that searching for differences in ability to drive shot quality was often just being fooled by randomness, with natural variance seeming to frequently masquerade as an ability to influence frequency of goals. 

In truth, there is likely a real difference between players and teams in terms of driving shot quality, especially in terms of shooting percentage. That said, we don’t really have the required information or statistical models required to effectively identify it just yet. 

No, of course not. In fact, many of us secretly hate the game and all this fancy stat malarky is actually a clandestine plot to ruin it for everyone! Bwahahaha!

Kessel is an interesting target for the Flames. Things have obviously gone sour in Toronto and it wouldn’t surprise me if the player is looking for a way out this summer. Brian Burke is also obviously a fan, having traded for the player during his days in Toronto.

That said, it’s good to keep in mind that Kessel is a rather one-dimensional player. He’s elite at that one dimension (scoring goals), but he’s not a guy that plays a strong two-way game or drives possession. On top of that, Toronto isn’t going to give him a way for a package of uncertain futures. The asking price for Kessel will start at an impact roster player or grade A prospect and go up from there. 

I think it would be worth considering since his stock will likely never be higher. Despite his notable scoring rates this year, Wideman remains a mediocre even strength defender who should ideally be sheltered at 5on5. However, the Flames blueline situation is such that moving Wideman could result in an even bigger gap in the back-end than what already exists. Likely the only way Calgary deals Wideman is they find as good or better alternative in free agency (i.e.; Mike Green).

  • Greg

    As much as I love Gio, I’d rather the flames trade him then sign a $7.5M x 6 year deal. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think any of those comparables signed those long deals at the tender age of 33 did they? I have to think that would factor heavily in the negotiations.

    I’m fine with even $8 or $9 million, as long as it’s 2 or 3 years. Beyond that, the dollar amount has to come down to avoid a cap-tostrophe at the end of the deal.

    • Avalain

      Gio is a pretty loyal guy & obviously not a greedy one either. He knows his age is going to hamper the length of the contract & his agent is probably there too. If Gio wants the big payday & his agent can see where the Flames Cap situation is & will be the next few years they will probably go at Flames with a 3 year 9.0mill per be able to justify this contract in the market place. But they will probably convince Flames that he will be able to play at a high level for at least 4-5 years. I would imagine 8 mill for 4 years is on the table & they will ultimately land at 5 mill for 7.0 mill per, similar to what Iggy got. They may be able to shave the Flames up to 7.5mill for 5 years & call it a day. Personally, I have no problem with that. If we start getting into 9.0 mill for 7 years, we may have to trade him, but I just don’t see Gio doing that. Too much of a class act & the smittens 4.0 mill he has been getting the last how ever long, Im sure he doesn’t want for much.

    • Greg

      I’m highly doubtful Gio will be “full value” if he’s making $7.5M at 38 years old. As fun as this year has been, and as exciting as next year could be, this is a team that will be better in 4-5 years then they will in 1-2. That’s exactly when they are going to need cap space to keep the young core together and surrounded with deep support. $7.5 might sound like a bargain for Gio now, but it will look like a lot of dead cap space when he’s 37 and 38.

      I’d rather they gave him $10M for 3 years, and then resign again for whatever he’s worth at that point.

      • Greg

        I hear what your saying….but there will be competition to sign him. In his view he will have bargaining power based on his performance. $10M for 3 yrs is actually less than what he makes now so that offer would be laughable.

        Given that he keeps himself in great shape, defensemen have it easier as they get older, he is your captain, top 5 defenseman in the league I think Flames will need to suck it up and give him the bucks but try to minimize the term to 4-5 yrs given his age.

    • Greg

      Also, front loading doesn’t help anymore. If a player doesn’t finish the contract, any cap advantage gained in the early years gets immediately tacked on to whatever years are left. It can be a franchise killer.

  • I’d take Gio at 7ish for 5 years. Something like 9, 9, 7, 6, 5..plus they can offer some guarunteed money and some great bonuses for when he turns 35 to sweeten the deal and make things worth his while. Anything over 7.5 aav though and I’m out.. I’d say move him on while his value is high.

    Given what the D not even at the same calibre as him brought in return at the deadline. I’d be asking for a 1rst rd pick + A prospects + lower end picks/prospect at minimum. That would be my starting point. The only thing I’m budging on is the lower end picks/prospects.

    But just as an example because Kent proposed it on Twitter. If say Edmonton came calling as soon as the Flames season ends offering their 2015 1rst rd pick this offseason. I’d be telling them that they could have Gio for nothing less than a 2015 1rst + Eberle + 2016 3rd/4th.

    From there I’d be packing a couple of those 2nd’s and 3rds we got to etiher move up in the draft order and get a couple more 1rst rd picks or pick up a couple better defencemen as replacement via trade. One thing I learned from 2012 & 2013’s draft is in a deep draft where the focus is on 2 players there are players to be had. With all the hype on Eichel and McDavid those going in the 15-45 spots may get over looked. Look at Matta, Tarsenko, Grigerenko, etc. There’s players that seem to step up right away who are drafted in lower spots and our job is to find those types of guys in this draft. No more Mark Junkowski’s