Chris Johnston: Flames’ young core ‘better positioned’ than Oilers for future success

Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY Sports

From dampened tracksuits to potentially disastrous predatory offer sheets that failed to account for a pretty important CBA article, Sportsnet reporter Chris Johnston has broken all kinds of colourful, interesting, and controversial stories in his career. 

This month Johnston has got a new sort of challenge though: tour the country and host four live hockey-talk shows in four different cities in four nights. It’s called Puck Talks Live and it’s coming to Calgary! The event will take place at your favourite watering hole (the Pint, duh) on Wednesday, Sept. 16 and you can buy tickets here! Kent Wilson will be there and so will Pat Steinberg! 

Anyway we caught up with Chris to talk about why Calgary’s young core is so promising and also the Puck Talks Live event.

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FlamesNation: Hey Chris, if you had to choose between Edmonton’s young core of players or Calgary’s, which would you pick and why?

Chris Johnston: If I could choose today I’d take Calgary’s. I think that we’ve seen more out of those players in terms of the team producing.

Edmonton has sort of the allure – the No. 1 picks and the name guys, but I really think at this point Calgary is closer to being a team that is going to be a force to be reckoned with… That group of young players, to me, is as enticing as any in the league.

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There are still a lot of questions in my mind about the guys in Edmonton and the players they’ve had there and what kind of impact it’s had on them, y’know, suffering through so many disappointing seasons and whether that’s something that will leave some marks on them, and their careers, and their psyches. I think Calgary is better positioned right now with their young players, but it could be hard reading that a year from now depending on what McDavid does in his rookie season.

FN: Chris, what do you like about the Puck Talks format?

CJ: The best thing about it is that you never really know what’s going to happen. You don’t know what the questions will be, and obviously we involve the audience a lot and that’s made for some funny moments in the ones I’ve been part of so far.

To me what it does is that, pretty much everyone who is a serious hockey fan or who is involved in the industry in some way (whether it’s media or players or whatever) – we all have to deal with Twitter. Twitter has a lot of benefits but some of it is a little bit cynical, even hateful, whereas I find by actually getting together and having these events, you strip away some of that.

You have opportunities for actual discussion from people who come from different backgrounds – whether you get the pro-analytics crowd, or some more traditional reporters, or some former players as part of the panels. To me it allows for more free discussion about hockey. It’s a really authentic experience. It has kind of taken on a life of its own with the ones we’ve done in Toronto and now we’re taking it across the country.


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FN: How did you get roped into accompanying Puck Talks on its first cross-Canada tour?

CJ: I guess I’m the first loser or something!

I’m not sure what happened there, actually. I did the second Puck Talks show that they did, and then I did the third and the fourth. It seemed to work well, and I got to meet the owner Kevin Kennedy. I guess he liked what I brought to the format, and he asked if I’d do it and I said yes. That was before I realized it was going on on four nights in four cities, kind of like a touring rock band.

Now that we’re getting close to it I’m getting pretty excited…

FN: What are you most looking forward to about the trip?

CJ: Being yelled at by different people in different cities!

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What’s perfect about it to me is that it falls on the first week that training camp opens in each city. I think that for a lot of us we’re just getting beyond the summer cobwebs, but the excitement is going to be back in each of those markets. To be in Edmonton the day that the Oilers break camp with Connor McDavid, I think that there will be an energy in that show in particular. But everywhere we’re going, people will be naturally excited about what’s going on with their hockey team and it’s an opportunity to exchange ideas that evening, and drink some beers together, and celebrate our sport.


FN: What’s your favourite puck talks moment so far?

CJ: My favourite moment is probably Ken Campbell losing his mind in the last show. Ken might have had a few adult beverages before taking the stage, I’m not sure. He actually made some good points, but he made them quite passionately, including one point after which he dropped the mic as if he were some rapper who had made his point sufficiently or something.

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That to me is what the whole thing is about. It’s about people who are excited about this thing and there’s room for some healthy debate about various topics, and you really don’t know, even when you put panels together, what side of people’s personality is going to come out when you put them on stage.

That was something that makes me chuckle months later, and at the time it was downright hilarious.

Chris and Puck Talks roll into Calgary on Wednesday, Sept. 16. Get your tickets here!


  • Rebuilding the Rebuild

    Good way to stir the pot. But in all honesty, I’m an Oilers fan. I want to see the BOA and both teams have success and maybe one day meet up in the playoffs. How fun would that series be! Best of luck this year guys.

    • Reidja

      I would say after Anaheim the division is wide open. This could happen sooner than later. Finishing 2nd and 3rd in the division would guarantee a first round matchup.

  • Reidja

    With over 80% of even goals scored from medium to high chance shots. a strong box protection d and High scoring chance save % goalie are critical.

    Last year: CA- Corsi against; SCA – scoring chance against; HSC – High scoring chance against

    Team – CA/60 – SCA/60 – HSCA/60

    Cgy – 62.4 – 29.5 – 11.7

    EDM – 56.7 – 29.1 – 12.6

    LCS – low chance shot; MCS – Medium chance shot; HCS – high chance shot.

    League average for goalies: LCS save% .9750; MCS .9250; HCS .8330. The 7.5% and 16.7% success rates of the slot and Box shots are critical.

    Getting d that protect that is important. But getting the best goalies in the game against the Slot and box shots is just as critical.

    Sadly Edmonton and Calgary were 2 of the 6 worst High scoring chance against teams in the game.

    The oilers had one of the worst HCS and MCS save% goalies in the game.

    Scrivens LCS faced 11.7/60 .9536 SV% .54 EVG/60; MCS 8.7/60 .9110 SV% .77 EVGA/60; HCS 8.1/60 .8101 SV% 1.54 EVGA/60; Scrivens faced 28.5 shots/60 but his poor box and slot save% resulted in a 2.85 EVGA/60.

    When you look for the Best HCS goalies in the game it becomes more obvious.

    Goalies with .8600+ HCS SV% last 2 years. Talbot

    Goalies with .8500+ HCS SV% last 2 years. None

    Goalies with .8400+ HCS SV% last 2 years. Price; Crawford; Lundquist

    Goalies with .8330+ (league avg) HCS SV% last 2 years. Halak: Holtby; Hiller; Bernier; Reimer

    Hiller helps make up for one of the 6 worst Slot and box protection teams in the game.

    Hiller LCS SV% .9669; MCS SV% .9371; HCS SV% .8531 these numbers result in a 2.18 EVGA/60 rate. Compared to Scrivens 2.85 it is no contest.

    We brought the best goalie in the game on slot and Box shot. Talbot LCS SV% .9668; MCS SV% .9403; HCS SV% .8617. His numbers lead to a 2.08 EVGA/60 rate.

    with the addition of #1 HSCA 2nd comp d in the game Sekera 12.05 and a top 60 2nd/3rd comp HSCA d in gryba. the GA portion of oilers games should get alot more interesting!

    I hear of people talking about not resigning Hudler and Hiller.

    Are they crazy!

    • Reidja

      You know what they say about last seasons stats…

      I think the question on both Hiller and Hudler is not the lack of desire to have them on the team but the lack of desire to pay them what they may receive as offers on the open market.

      Good job on Sekera, I guess, although your stats indicate he’s great in a 3/4 role… And I think the oilers have designs of playing him in deeper waters. And Gryba top 60 2nd/3rd comp. Wow, that’s reaching for a silver lining… If there is a defense that will test Talbot’s admittedly great numbers, this is it.

  • Burnward

    Pretty bold statement there. I guess oilers fans and flames fan will find out which young core is better within the next few years. I know what core I think will dominate.

  • Bob Cobb

    Don’t really care, I do like how he gives himself an out to retract his statement by way of commenting how it all depends on how McDavid does this year.

    Just another idiotic statement from an opinionated jackass that thinks he knows hockey.

  • Bob Cobb

    PC on the day Sekera was signed stated he would be 2nd pair anchor.

    Gryba really surprised me.

    What becomes obvious is the slot/box systems are dependent on coahes who veiw that is the base of Winning. 2 conf finals coaches.

    Sutter: CGY 04; LAK 12;13;14

    Tortarella: TMP 04; NYR 12

    Laviolette: CAR 06; PHI 10

    Carlyle: ANA 06;07

    Ruff: 06;07

    Babbcock: 07; 08; 09

    Tippett: DAL 08; PHX 12

    Therrien; PIT 08; MTL 14

    Bylsma PIT 09; 13

    Quenville CHI 09; 10; 12; 13; 14

    McClelland 10; 11

    Vigneault VCR 11; NYR 14; 15

    Julien BOS 11; 13

    Boudreau TMP 11; ANA 15

    Clearly some did not have the full horses to win. But most generate D that are consistently in top Of HSCA/60.