“The Ducks are bigger, and the Flames can’t handle them.
That’s why they lost.”
Well… yes, and no. The Ducks are a bigger team: this is a fact. The Flames are not
currently able to handle the Ducks: this is also a fact. But correlation does
not equal causation.
The Flames’ problem isn’t that the Ducks are a bigger team.
It’s that they’re a better
Nobody’s saying size isn’t important…
Size is a factor in professional sports. It’s especially
important in a contact sport like hockey. And if you get the chance to take a
Johnny Gaudreau-sized Johnny Gaudreau or a Joe Colborne-sized Johnny Gaudreau,
chances are you’re going to go with the latter. That much skill and size
packaged into one player is valuable.
That said, if you’re picking between just Johnny Gaudreau
and Joe Colborne, you’re going to take Gaudreau, size be damned. Because he’s
the better player.
You win with better players.
In Game 2, the Flames opted for size over skill, and while
they gave up fewer goals, they created even fewer themselves.
It was not a viable solution.
… But you need more than just big bodies
With Micheal Ferland
unable to go, David Wolf drew into the lineup for his first ever playoff game.
David Wolf, who has an entire 28 minutes of NHL experience. Just because he’s
similar to Ferland in stature doesn’t mean he’s similar to him in not only hockey
ability, but experience. As it turned out, Wolf was one of the worst Flames possession-wise in Game 2, with a CF of 37.50%. (Only Sean Monahan was worse, at 34.48%.)
Meanwhile, Johnny Gaudreau – all of his 5’9 (allegedly), 150
lbs. (allegedly), second-on-the-team-in-scoring, potential rookie of the
year self – was sat for the entire third period in Game 1. He was taken off of
the top line in Game 2; the same line on which he was the best player.
Gaudreau was at least a positive possession player at 51.43%
CF. Not only that, but he played in far less sheltered circumstances as well,
with lesser zone starts and while being matched up more often against the
Ducks’ top line.
Gaudreau retaining his place on the top line would have made
far more sense than playing Wolf up there.
The revolving carousel of Sean Monahan’s wing
Let’s take a look at just how well the four left wingers,
all of who got turns with Monahan, did on the top line. All numbers in even strength situations:
There’s one bar that immediately stands out above the rest,
and that’s Gaudreau and Monahan’s possession stats with one another.
I mentioned earlier Monahan had the worst possession stats
of all Flames players. Game 6 against Vancouver aside, he hasn’t looked quite
like his regular season self, leading to speculation of injury. Monahan may
only be a sophomore, but over this season, we’ve all come to expect far more of
All of the left wingers had somewhat similar times with
him, so it’s fair to compare them all together. And even if Gaudreau with
Monahan received far more offensive zone starts than Monahan with Wolf or
Raymond, the difference in their possession statistics is staggering.
Neither Wolf nor Raymond had a single offensive zone start
with Monahan, but no matter Wolf’s size, he clearly wasn’t up to the task.
That’s not his fault: he’s a rookie, it’s his first playoff game, and he’s
already being tasked with going up on the top line? Ferland wasn’t ever asked
to do that, and Ferland is the better, more experienced player at this time.
Raymond’s numbers with Monahan weren’t great either, but
they were far better than Wolf’s. Wolf and Monahan were a dismal combination.
Sam Bennett was the most sheltered of all Monahan’s wingers,
and even then, they still didn’t perform that well with one another. In fact,
Bennett saw significant improvement when taken away from the Flames’ top line
Monahan only saw success with one player, and that player
was his linemate of the past few months, whom he was separated from for much of
Desperation did not pay off
Ferland being unable to play was not ideal, but it’s unclear
what Drew Shore did in Game 1 to warrant being a healthy scratch for the next
None of the Flames were particularly offensively inclined,
but Raymond was one of their best bets to score a goal in Game 2.
Both should be in the lineup for Game 3, although Shore appears to be out.
If Ferland is good to go, and it looks like he is, then he should be replacing Wolf.
Substituting size into the lineup didn’t work. Putting size
on lines with skilled players didn’t work. Size didn’t allow the Flames clean
zone entries. Size didn’t bring the Flames closer to the Ducks’ net. Size
didn’t create havoc for Frederik Andersen.
Size is not going to intimidate the Ducks, because the Ducks
are big enough already. The only thing that’s going to give the Flames a chance
is actually getting offensive pressure, and the Flames’ bigger players are not
skilled enough to do that.
Separating two of the team’s most offensively talented players did
not pay off. Waiting until the second game of the second round of the
postseason is far too late to start playing with extremely established
chemistry that has brought success before. It was a desperate move with
absolutely no payoff to speak of: the Flames did not score a single goal, and
they didn’t look like they deserved to, either.
The Flames did not magically become smaller
To start the season, the Flames were the lightest team in
the NHL with an average weight of 196.3 lbs., and one of the smallest teams
with an average height of just over six feet.
The roster hasn’t changed that much since then. Swap Josh
Jooris for Devin Setoguchi, the Flames get a little lighter, but a little
taller. They lost Brian McGrattan’s size, but McGrattan wasn’t exactly playing
much, anyway, and Ferland’s a pretty big kid already.
The point being: any size changes the Flames roster has
experienced has made them a little smaller and a little lighter, but we’re
talking about a team that’s going to burn a year of Sam Bennett’s entry level
contract on a pipe dream. Bennett is 6’1 – decent height – and 178 lbs. – not
heavy at all. And Bennett actually gives the Flames a better lineup.
The Flames have a smaller roster than the already-small one
they started with, but considering the players involved, it’s to their benefit.
This is also the same roster that got them in the playoffs
to begin with.
The Kings are one of the biggest teams in the NHL. The small
Flames eliminated them.
The Chicago Blackhawks are a pretty small team; the only
team lighter than them is the Flames. They look poised to move on to the third
Calgary made the playoffs off the benefit of league average
goaltending and one of the league’s best shooting percentages. They were lucky.
Their hard work ethic, excellent conditioning, and gritty play have also been
cited as reasons for their success.
They did all that while being a small team.
Playing bigger, inferior players did not help, is not
helping, and will not help them beat the Anaheim Ducks. Their best chance is to
do what got them there, and what got them there was Johnny Gaudreau playing
with Sean Monahan and limiting the minutes of players not quite skilled enough
to provide offence, whether they’re 6’2, 215+ lbs. or not.