I’m covering for Ari this morning as she was eaten alive by baby puppies.
Lost somewhere between Washington, D.C. and Chicago is whatever allowed the Flames to beat the Capitals the other night. This game wasn’t really close to begin with, as Chicago in typical fashion controlled it from almost every possible vantage point.
Though the team did manage to show flickers of life, it was unlikely from the get-go that the Flames really had a chance in this one.
David Jones, nice to see you can score
David Jones for pretty much his entire tenure as a Calgary Flame has been maligned by inconsistencies. In his third season with Calgary, he’s been an okay complimentary player used in literally every situation you can think of. He’s been a top-line winger, a middle-six winger, and glued to the fourth line.
This start to the season, despite his below-average possession numbers (45.36% CF at even strength), he’s found the net. Something the Flames have struggled to do, which is a positive, especially for trade value. Fortunately again last night, Jones did score which gave some hope, until it was extinguished.
It’s only November, but it’s important to remember he’s a UFA at the end of the season and someone a team might pursue because of long-term injuries or at the trade deadline. If he can keep it up (he’s also shooting 16.2% in all situations), he’s someone the Flames could move for literally anything. The only downside is his cap hit at $4 million, though the Flames could retain salary if need be.
Who said the “possession problem” was fixed?
Yeah, they played the reigning Stanley Cup champions last night. Yeah the Blackhawks are still pretty good despite their current record. Even with all that in mind, given their starts and performance on this road trip it’s hard to believe this team has fixed the shot attempt issue.
Things have improved as the team is at 49.5% in scoring chances for (16th), 22nd in FF% with 48.2%, and 16th in high danger scoring chances for with 50.2%. These numbers paint a tale to some degree that they’re better somewhat, but not completely.
Last night, like the start in Tampa (33.33% CF at even strength in the first period) was just a disaster from all fronts. Positives existed like Sam Bennett somehow being 75% CF despite having zero offensive zone starts in the first period. Yet a number of continuous things add to symphony of headaches:
- An unrelentingly confusing strategy of breaking out of their own end
- Neutral zone struggles
- (Stretch) passes to nowhere
- No real semblance of a defensive zone system
Let’s talk Michael Frolik
Circling back on an early thought, things are improving, slowly, and because of one guy in particular: Michael Frolik. He’s been easily the Flames’ most consistent forward at driving play. Last night was no exception with five shot attempts at even strength and two scoring chances.
This season Frolik has been one of the top forwards in terms of shot attempt generation at even strength, scoring chance generation, and point production. He’s also found extensive usage on the penalty kill as well in the absence of Lance Bouma. As far as individual numbers goes, none of this surprised me when I looked at it earlier:
- Frolik’s 47 individual scoring chances are first in the forward group and the entire team
- His high-danger scoring chances are tied for second with Johnny Gaudreau at 14
- 59 iFF events and 84 iCF events are good for first in both categories for individual shot attempts
In terms of percentages on basic underlying stats, he’s pulling his weight and then some. All numbers are even strength. Forward rank is of forwards who’ve played a minimum of 50 minutes at even strength:
|Rank||3rd||3rd||1st||5th||5th||9th most difficult|
In terms of relative performance to his peers, Frolik is a positive contributor in every way and makes the team better when on the ice. Looking at his rated metrics per 60 minutes played, again you start to see a portrait of a guy worth every dollar:
His rank on metrics against per 60 paint a very clear tail of heavy usage on a low-event team. We know the team as a whole is slowly improving, we also know as mentioned previously in the possession discussion which does match up with a lot shown above.
So we know Frolik is driving play and to some degree suppressing the opposition.
Last season with Winnipeg, Frolik was among the best at in terms of CA60, FA60, and middle of the pack on SCA60 metrics. So there should be some optimism that as the season continues, those numbers can improve. Given his play this season it’s no surprise how many Jets fans miss him and wish he was still in Winnipeg.
Dougie Hamilton is getting there, chill out
For as much flack as he’s gotten this season, he’s honest to god improving. Something that caught my attention the other night during Edmonton’s game was in regards to Mark Fayne. He’s seen his fair share of vitriol thrown at him during his tenure in Edmonton, more so this season than before. Elliotte Friedman had mentioned this topic in the second intermission on Saturday’s Hockey Night in Canada about his struggles and issues adapting.
There are a number of parallels you can make here, first and foremost the issue of adapting to systems and coaching changes. There is some obvious truth in the matter that Dougie is having issues adapting to whatever Hartley calls his defensive system. It’s also been touched on by Hamilton previously in Friedman’s 30 Thoughts, too.
It was explicitly discussed during the intermission that Fayne was struggling with the structure itself in which he plays in is an incredible variation to New Jersey. Because results haven’t exactly lived up to his contract and salary, folks are turning on him even when his company isn’t exactly stellar either.
Dougie’s comments in Friedman’s piece tells a very similar story, something that can hopefully be avoided.
As he learns to adjust here, specifically with his impact in regards to defense itself, he’s found his way into driving play. The woes of shot attempt generation exist but last night Hamilton led the way with seven shot attempts at even strength, the most of all Flames players. With all the disdain surrounding him, while others seemingly don’t see their ice time diminished for the returns brought on ice it’s still important to remember he’s 22.
Not to be surprised or anything, Hamilton got zero special teams time minus the two seconds he was on at the end of a power play. The protectionism that Hartley is seemingly attempting is honestly not helping things. The utilization of Kris Russell over Hamilton, something touched on previously, is increasingly dumbfounding. Especially so when given the lack of power play offense.
Again, circling back on previous discussion on this issue: it’s Mikael Backlund-esque. It makes zero sense from a financial standpoint to play a $5.75 million dollar defenseman fewer than 20 minutes a night. From a usage and skill perspective, again it also makes zero sense that Russell is utilized over him.
At some point, hopefully more individuals begin to question Hartley’s methodology and incredulous behavior of learning to adapt. Just because you won a trophy last season doesn’t absolve you of growth like the players you coach.
Derek Grant, hey you’re alright
Initially when the Flames signed him this summer I really didn’t care. I mean all signs pointed to him spending most, if not the entire season with Stockton. With injuries, inconsistencies, and just about everything else going wrong it wasn’t out of sorts to try something new. Hell, I didn’t even know if he was a real person, forgot he existed, and now he’s sort of found a spot on the fourth line.
Last night he wasn’t too bad among puck battles along the boards, helping force turnovers and get play moving the other direction. In a lot of ways you may see similarities of Josh Jooris in his game, but with less offensive upside. He’s honestly more useful than Bollig, and if Jooris could stay in the lineup, they along with Colborne or Ferland could be an okay fourth line.
Hopefully the Flames don’t lose him to waivers but he’s waiver-eligible again on Tuesday, assuming he dresses.