Relive the 2014-15 Calgary Flames Season

The Calgary Flames did two impressive things in 2014-15. In the second season of the rebuild, the team built upon the establishment of a style of play in the later stages of 2013-14. They also managed to bring some young skill players into their team and allowed them to be effective within the constraints of Bob Hartley’s system – such a thing didn’t really occur under the watch of Brent Sutter, for instance.

What resulted was the Johnny Gaudreau show, as the mite-sized rookie dazzled Flames fans all season long with his speed and skill. Sean Monahan built upon an effective rookie season with a mature, composed sophomore effort. And Mark Giordano had another Norris-caliber campaign.

Overall, 2014-15 was a perfect storm of a lot of factors that conspired for the Flames rather than against them. The result? They made a return to the post-season for the first time in six years.

SEASON RESULTS

Pacific Division GP W L OTL Pts GD Sh% Sv% PDO
z-Anaheim 82 51 24 7 109 +10 8.3% 91.9% 100.2
x-Vancouver 82 48 29 5 101 +20 7.7% 91.7% 99.4
x-Calgary 82 45 30 7 97 +25 8.9% 92.2% 101.1
Los Angeles 82 40 27 15 95 +15 7.6% 92.6% 100.2
San Jose 82 40 33 9 89 -4 7.1% 92.0% 99.1
Edmonton 82 24 44 14 62 -85 7.1% 90.2% 97.3
Arizona 82 24 50 8 56 -102 5.7% 91.5% 97.2


SEASON RECAP

Nobody expected very much from the Calgary Flames in 2014-15. The hope was Johnny Gaudreau would put together a full professional season without getting squished by the bigger NHLer defenders, that Sean Monahan wouldn’t regress too much from his strong rookie year, and that the rest of the team would allow the Flames to have a respectable season.

But, somehow, the Flames continued to play the same break-neck style of game that they played in the final three months of the 2013-14 season. Seemingly the entire league waited for the other shoe to drop. And outside of a sizable skid before Christmas, the Flames kept chugging along. The team had eight different three-game (or longer) win streaks. The team only had three losing streaks, though one of them was eight games long.

The Flames season can best be exemplified by two games, both against the Los Angeles Kings. On December 22, down 3-1 after two periods, the team rallied back under the power of a Johnny Gaudreau hat-trick to tie the game and win it in overtime. The other was the playoff-clinching game on April 9 when they got themselves a 2-1 lead and held on for dear life. A good deal of Calgary’s wins were by dramatic comebacks or by spotting themselves a lead and holding on for dear life. It worked often enough that they made the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Mark Giordano went down with 21 games left in the regular season and the team just kept moving forward regardless. It was that kind of a season.

In addition to getting themselves into the post-season, the Flames were fortunate enough to get the best possible first round match-up – Vancouver, who the Flames managed to beat in six games. They hit a road block in the form of a deep and skilled Anaheim Ducks team that won the Pacific Division by a mile, losing in five games.

Ignoring the bad ending, it was probably the most exciting 93 games of hockey in Calgary in over a decade.

SCORING LEADERS

Player GP G A Pts +/-
Jiri Hudler 78 31 45 76 +17
Johnny Gaudreau 80 24 40 64 +11
Sean Monahan 81 31 31 62 +8
Dennis Wideman 80 15 41 56 +6
Mark Giordano 61 11 37 48 +13
T.J. Brodie 81 11 30 43 +15
Lance Bouma 78 16 18 34 +10
Kris Russell 79 4 30 34 +18
David Jones 67 14 16 30 -3
Curtis Glencross 53 9 19 28 +3

(Regular Season)

Player GP G A Pts +/-
Johnny Gaudreau 11 4 5 9 -2
Jiri Hudler 11 4 4 8 -2
Kris Russell 11 2 5 7 -9
Dennis Wideman 11 0 7 7 -2
Sean Monahan 11 3 3 6 -3
Micheal Ferland 9 3 2 5 +3
David Jones 11 2 3 5 -1
T.J. Brodie 11 1 4 5 +3
Sam Bennett 11 3 1 4 -3
Matt Stajan 11 1 3 4 E

(Playoffs)

The Flames added Jonas Hiller in the off-season, which conspired to give them (relative) stability in net in the form of a pretty effective tandem with Karri Ramo. Hiller started 44 games and got 26 wins, along with a .927 even-strength save percentage. Ramo got 32 starts and won 15 of them, generating a .916 even-strength save percentage. Joni Ortio came up mid-season for about a week and won 4 of his 6 starts, most of them on the same big road trip. In the post-season, Hiller made 7 starts (with 3 wins) and Ramo made 4 starts, winning twice.

NOTABLE TRANSACTIONS

Brad Treliving was likely still evaluating the Calgary Flames roster early in the year, so he didn’t make a single player swap until the 2015 calendars arrived.

  • January 5, 2015: traded Corban Knight to Florida for Drew Shore.
  • March 1, 2015: traded Curtis Glencross to Washington for second and third round picks.
  • March 2, 2015: traded Sven Baertschi to Vancouver for a second round pick.
  • June 26, 2015: traded a first round pick and two second round picks to Boston for Dougie Hamilton.
  • June 27, 2015: traded up from the third round into the second with Arizona, trading two thirds for Arizona’s second round pick.

We don’t yet have the benefit of hindsight, but these picks primarily fall into the category of “These guys aren’t in our plans anymore, so let’s get something for them.” That’s generally a prudent philosophy.

Treliving was busy in free agency, bringing in Jonas Hiller, Deryk Engelland, Mason Raymond, Devin Setoguchi, Corey Potter, and minor leaguers Brad Thiessen and Sena Acolatse. He also signed Raphael Diaz after a training camp try-out. Hiller and Diaz were smart value additions, while Engelland and Raymond were expensive.

Here’s the 2015 Draft class:

Screen Shot 2015-08-08 at 11.22.32 AM

RETHINKING THE 2014-15 FLAMES

The hockey community was pretty divided about the success of the 2014-15 Calgary Flames, aside from everyone seemingly enjoying their late-game comebacks from an entertainment standpoint.

The traditionalists saw it as a triumph of style over substance. Bob Hartley had struggled to implement his system in a lockout year in 2012-13 with a veteran roster. He finally began to lay the groundwork in 2013-14, and the team went on an impressive run over the season’s final three months. The strict adherence to Hartley’s five-man forecheck system, combined with a Flames club lauded for their fitness, made the difference.

The analytics community saw it as a triumph of PDO over substance. The Flames were the NHL’s third-worst possession team, with a Corsi For percentage of just 44.4. Their goaltending was much improved over the previous season, moving from the NHL’s worst save percentage to a league-average 92.2%. But their 8.9 shooting percentage was second-best in the NHL, behind only the skill-laden Tampa Bay Lightning squad, which was enough to keep them in the playoff picture and cement a spot in the late stages of the season.

Whether your preferred explanation is “grit and hard work” or “a really strong shooting percentage,” the Flames won games because they got timely goals late in games more often than their opponents.

    • redhot1

      What did you call this Oilers year? The year of embarrassment? The year of tossed jerseys? Or maybe the laughingstock year? The (yet again) lottery year?

      You can call it the McDavid year, but you also have to lump all the ones above as well.

      • KACaribou

        Actually, for the first time in 10 years I can say I love the mold of our team.

        Finally, we got new management put in that has had a terrific offseason. We finally have centre depth with Nuge, that Connor McDavid guy, drai, lander, letestu.

        Improved our backend with Sekera for all around game, gryba with toughness and I heard cam talbot isn’t too bad either. Still would be nice to snag a #1 D.

        The flames had a terrific offseason too. However, Hudler is bound to regress. His shooting % is not going to stay that high. There’s just no offensive weapons besides the first line. The flames are basically banking on that first line to carry the load once again. Risky. I will say the top 4 D on the flames is strong.

        • redhot1

          Doesn’t change anything I said. Your team has been a complete mockery for the last several years.

          Id like the makeup of my team if I had FOUR first OV picks on it, along with several top ten picks.

          Fine, your team got better, but that’s not very hard given the state of them. If I suited up for them Id probably make their back end better.

          And please bank on Talbot ie Scrievns 2.0

          • redhot1

            I’m not saying they haven’t been a mockery. It’s been a joke. I recall the flames not doing anything from 97 until their playoff run in 04. Frolik, Bennett, Raymond isn’t exactly a “sexy” group for a second line. But like I said, they have a decent first line. It’s just bound to regress this year.

          • Cfan in Vic

            If you think Raymond is going to be on our 2nd line, it shows how little you know about the team you’re trying to talk about. 2nd will more likely include Backlund at center and Bennett on wing.

            Raymond is fodder who might just be buried in the AHL.

            I don’t think anyone is saying our 2nd line will be “sexy”. It is, however, improved over last year. And what was that about Hudler regressing, and shooting% ?

          • KACaribou

            He will be. Who else do you have to play wing on that line? Byron? Jorris?
            Regarding the regression question, Hudlers percentage will go down. It will not sustain. Also, they scored on over 10% of the shots they put on net. They found ways to come back in nearly every game that they were down by. I wouldn’t exactly call that a recipe for success? You think they can pull that off again as much as they did?

            While being one of the worst possession teams in the NHL they did manage to squeak into the playoffs.

            For all the examples listed above, it’s a fair indicator to suspect regression is on the way.

          • Cfan in Vic

            You pointed at Hudler’s sh% as reason why the first line will regress. He’s always had a high %, and last year wasn’t his highest. It was his highest % since joining the Flames because he was consistently on a line with Sean and Johnny (pretty sure those two are on the up-swing). Like I said, if Hudlers % “regresses” to about 16%, I’m sure nobody would complain.

            Yes, finding ways to come back in a game is a great recipe for success. The team also had one of the highest winning % when they were in the lead as well. Sounds pretty good to me.

            Frolik can and will play wing. Probably on the second line. Ditto for Bennett.

            They won’t be the best possession team next year, but they will be better than last year by adding quality possession players in the off season, demoting a couple guys who were anchors, and the rookies being a year older and more experienced.

            Also, you mention Byron and Jooris. They are great support pieces, and happen to be two very good possession players. They won’t be top 6 players though, they’ll be setting up our top line with the good zone starts.

          • Cfan in Vic

            So your second line will be frolik and Bennett? Bennett may be good one day. And I really do think he will be. But don’t you always make fun of the oilers for throwing young kids in the lineup and claiming they are ready for the challenge? Also, frolik on a second line? He played third line in the peg. Who will be your second line centre then? Backlund? He has yet to hit 40 points.

          • Cfan in Vic

            Backlund combined with Frolik will make a very strong possession line-up. With Bennett having the nose for the net like he does, I think that line will surprise you. I already stated that the 2nd line aren’t world beaters, we’ve been through that. You said we’d have the likes of Raymond/Byron/Jooris on 2nd line, and you’re wrong.

            To touch on whether Bennett is ready for 2nd line duties, I’d have my doubts before watching the playoffs last season, and I’m now fairly confident he’ll be fine. I wouldn’t be surprised if he scored a decent amount of points this year. And no, I don’t always make fun of your team for putting youngsters out too early. I make fun of them for doing it before they develop a 2-way game, and without the proper support pieces to keep them from falling on their faces.

            You have a tendency to keep modifying your point, once somebody shows that your full of sh*t.

          • Cfan in Vic

            I’m providing my opinion with actual facts. I’m sorry, frolik and backlund definitely aren’t second line players. Is Bennett? Maybe, maybe not? So they will be depending on That first line to do all the scoring. Backlund is a 30-35 point guy. Look at his stats. I can’t make that stuff up. He hasn’t hit 40 pts and he’s 27. Here’s another fact, if backlund was on the oilers you would be saying the exact same thing. However, since he’s a flame, he’s a fine second line centre, right?
            Maybe josh jorris will put up 80 this year though.

          • X Man

            Pardon the folks here for doubting the annual summertime oiler-fan prophesies of success…

            You guys post this same crap here EVERY summer….

            “But this year is going to be different!”….

            We’ve heard that before too…

            It’s kind of sad….

          • Tomas Oppolzer

            Okay, you say you were using facts, here are some facts.

            1) Frolik is a consistent 40-50 point guy, exactly in line with your 2nd liner in todays NHL

            2) The past two seasons Backlund has been on pace for at least 40 points but got sidetracked by injury.

            How are those for facts?

          • T&A4Flames

            There’s a difference between being on “pace” for 40, then actually getting there. The FACT is, he hasn’t hit 40 points. Not once. He’s had healthy seasons and he didn’t get there either. Backlund is a 30-35 point guy. The stats speak for themselves.

          • DestroDertell

            Do they? Copy-pasting this from the other thread:

            “Let’s compare Backlund with the other 2C in the league (or at least, getting 2C minutes).

            Name – ES points/60 (excluding 2nd assists) – Offensive Zone Starts

            Carter 1.68 56%

            Bonino 1.62 44%

            Bergeron 1.59 43%

            Couture 1.58 51%

            Plekanec 1.4 45%

            Johansson 1.3 57%

            Richards 1.19 70%

            Backlund 1.19 37%

            Brassard 1.18 56%

            Kadri 1.16 44%

            Granlund 1.15 60%

            Kesler 0.97 46%

            hahaSutter 0.95 47%

            Zajac 0.63 45%

            Toughest zone starts of the bunch and right in the middle in points. I have a hunch we’ll be OK with him.”

            Yes they do.

          • Yo Jackson, why do you care so much? Be patient and let’s see what happens this fall. You spend a lot of time trying to bring down Flames fans and even more time flexing that Connor McDavid guy, but whatever happens this season is going to happen regardless of your senseless musings.

            See the main difference between us is you spend a lot of time thinking about the future (also called dreaming). We spend a lot of time looking at the past and analyzing what we did and how we can improve. Future is speculation, past is fact.

            For example, one fact is that we made the playoffs last year and you didn’t. There is more value in this information than anything you have ever said on this forum.

          • MontanaMan

            Anyone with hockey knowledge would acknowledge that the Oilers forward group is far superior to the Flames. I agree with your assessment of Backlund but I’m in the minority on this blog. The difference between the two teams has been the coaching (will be interesting to see what new coaching does for the OIl) and defence, which in my mind is still a train wreck up north. While Calgary’s goaltending is 2A and 2B, the Oilers have had terrible tending for many years and more importantly, their defence and defensive game (all five skaters) has been horrible. So do the Oilers have top notch two lines? Yes. Do they have the overall game to compete? I doubt it.

          • Finally, a fan with some sense. I knew there were some decent ones out there. Anyway, yeah, our defence is obviously a lot worse then the flames. The two are laughable if you try and compare them.

          • RedMan

            So, Edmonton forwards are FAR superior to Flames? Based on what, exactly?

            based on how many points scored? ok, go ahead, tell us how many points your forward group scored compared to the Flames, and also compare the goal diff and +/- I’m genuinely curious to see how much better the Edmonton group is.

          • RedMan

            OK

            goals scored: Calgary 237, Edmonton 193

            goals against Calgary 213, Edmonton 276

            goal diff Calgary +24, Edmonton -83

            PP% Calgary 18.82%, Edmonton 17.67%

            Shrt hnd goals Calgary 6, Edmonton 4

            shrt hnd g against Calgary 3, Edmonton 7

            PK Calgary 80.65%, Edmonton 76.71%

            you keep telling yourself enough times, and you start to believe yourself, but please enlighten the rest of us? where are your guys better… I’m curious?

          • RedMan

            Exactly Jeff, we went through this earlier in the summer and actually you can make pretty much the exact opposite argument, minus McDavid, but Oilers fans and hockey “experts” are so enamoured with draft pedigree that pretty much nothing else matters. Oh yes, and putting up a few points pretty much makes a complete player…(sarcasm…).

          • Cfan in Vic

            Also: Avg shooting % in the NHL is around 9%. Yet, for some reason, you think having Johnny, Monahan, and Career-High-%-Hudler cranking out +10% is unsustainable?

            Weak arguments, indeed.

          • ChinookArchYYC

            The Flames might very well regress, in terms of shooting %, but the possession numbers are very likely to see a good improvement. Both Giordano and Backlund getting more games in (with no unlucky injuries), plus the addition of excellent possession players in Frolik and Hamilton will contribute to better numbers. Also to answer your question, Frolik is likely destined for 2nd line RW, and Jones likely in on the 3rd line. It was mentioned earlier, but Raymond could very well find himself in the AHL, if he doesn’t improve.

            Just a thought, given the Oilers love affair for middling wingers, how about Mason Raymond?

          • T&A4Flames

            I’m pretty sure most would, or at least will, call Bennett a “sexy” player for a 2 nd line. The difference between our players and yours is that ours play a strong 2-way game. Perhaps they won’t score as much as your high offensive group, but they won’t be scored on as much as your group either.

            The best thing your team did this summer was make Nicholson head of hockey ops. He finally did the right, or at least better, things by bringing in outside management skill. Not more Oiler boys club garbage. Drafting McDavid us nice, but lucky. Bottom line, you still have a ways to go. Upgrade on D including actual legit 1st pair players. Proven goaltending. Most importantly, some guts grit and will power to your band of losers. If they ever stop just giving up at the 1st sign of adversity, they could be dangerous.

        • Cfan in Vic

          Congrats on actually embracing a hockey conversation.

          Hudler’s shooting % over the last 4 years:

          19.7, 17.9, 15.6, 19.6

          If his % regresses to around 16, I’m sure we won’t lose any sleep. Frolik and Bennet will likely add some decent secondary scoring. The bottom 2 lines are pretty well stocked. Sure, whatever the 2nd line ends up being may not be world beating but the forward base, as a whole, are pretty complete.

        • Erico

          Typical Oilers fan… Only focused on how good they think they are going to be, without admitting to the train wreck that the last decade has been.

          Yeah yeah, we’ve all heard it, You used to be really good, and you are going to be really good. But lets not talk about the gong show in the middle.

          History and potential, no substance.

    • SmellOfVictory

      There will probably be some percentage-based regression, but there should be a possession-based progression, so it’s entirely possible that we get to watch the Flames in the playoffs again this season. If they do miss, I doubt it will be by much. The team thus far has the same guys on it, with the addition of two very strong possession players, and a number of young guys who are more likely to get better than worse.

  • Kybb79

    Oiler fans why mouth off to us? You have no respect amongst the NHL.Your team has talent but they are one dimensional with low hockey IQ.Your pretending your team is improved from last year but they improved very little.

  • KACaribou

    5-THINGS

    1) Gee I am glad people think our possession numbers will go up. That should add W’s…

    2) Also glad to know our shooting % will be respectable. Whew!

    3) How about scoring some gawddamned goals! Hope our number of goals and wins go up!

    4) BTW: Johnny Hockey is the straw that stirs the drink in Calgary. He makes everyone better. He’s why Moneyhands and Jari had career years. I think this year he will show everyone that he is one of the greatest talents in the NHL.

    5)One last thing to Oiler Fan: Hope Train 79 isn’t coming down the track at the same time as Connor McDavid. It could hurt… a lot.

  • KACaribou

    Regression? Not so sure those opinions are well thought out. Perhaps we regress in terms of shooting % but we should improve in other areas as well like possession and shots against.

    But overall we have effectively added:
    Giordano(hurt), Hamilton, Frolik, Bennett(only played 1reg season game).

    Other prospects may make the team. Our young players may improve. Watch out for Bennett especially… he is a special player.

  • Cfan in Vic

    That season last year, though! What a beauty.

    I’ve never been so thoroughly excited during a losing game as during this last season. They were pretty much always going to come back and at least make a game of it.

    So fun.

  • Burnward

    You’re right Oilers fan.

    Teams that are filled with underachieving, over-hyped, pretty boys that fold when the going gets tough are always the most intimidating.

  • RedMan

    it’s interesting how much insecurity comes through from the Oiler fans trolling here. I know, it’s just trolling, but it is so obvious it’s embarrassing. they even went to far as to name Johnny Hockey as one of the 5 most hated NHL’ers? hahaha what a compliment, and what an example of their own insecurity.

    Oiler fans talk the talk, hoping that if they say something enough times it will make it true. Hasn’t worked for the last 8 years, but one of these days it’s gotta change, or at least you would hope so. The Oilers have been so bad for so long that the league has had to start changing rules, like they did specifically for Sean Avery, to address teams that suck this bad for this long. if they don’t turn it around soon, who knows what the league will have to do to keep the Oilers from continuing to ruin the quality of the NHL? Relegation league? sure, sounds far fetched, but something has to give up north.

    They add one more first overall 18 year old and instantly put expectations of instant miracles on his shoulders while the defense arguably isn’t better, nor worse (which means it still sucks), and another unproven backup goaltender expected to have at least league average performance in front of a pathetic defense.

    Sure, maybe the new coach can get the forwards out of the mode they’ve been in for years now, the “losing now to win later, no need to play all three zones, no need to keep trying when you’re down, never stand together” mentality and finally “turn it on” and get back to business… maybe. maybe not. probably not.

    Either way, it’s fun to witness the gushing insecurity of the Oiler fans spill over here, as they insist it isn’t unreasonable to expect McDavid to get 100 pts when league leading super stars are getting in the 80’s? hahaha thanks for the humor Oiler fans.

  • RKD

    A very memorable season, after Hartley sat Wideman he played lights out for the rest of the season. Gaudreau was feeling his way out, sat a game then put up an amazing rookie season. He’s given us elite talent the Flames haven’t seen in more than a decade. Sean Monahan is a stud at center and had a great season, the next Toews. We got pretty good goaltending and the third period comebacks were amazing. Gio and Brodie played out of their minds. A great season, now with Bennett in the mix the future looks very bright. We should be able to ice a competitive team for years to come, especially now that Hamilton is in the mix.