With 21 games played, the Flames are now just over a quarter of the way through the season. They have a 8-12-1 record to show for it, with five of those victories coming in overtime, and the one loser point thanks to failing to win in the one shootout they’ve played thus far.
They’re also sixth in the Pacific division, but only four points out of a playoff spot, still with a ton of divisional games to go. They’ve scored 50 goals – 20th in the NHL – but have given up 75 – dead last, by a fair margin (the next worst team is the Columbus Blue Jackets, and they’ve only surrendered 66 goals).
So this hasn’t been the best start to a season. In fact, it’s been one of the worst in franchise history. This is a team that can’t keep the puck out of their net, and can’t win in regulation. This is still a rebuilding team.
- The Flames, with 2.38 goals per game, are 21st in the NHL; with 3.52 goals against, they’re last.
- With 29.0 shots per game, they’re 21st in the NHL; with 29.9 shots against, they’re 16th. So goaltending has definitely cost this team its fair share of games, even if the offence hasn’t quite been doing its job, either. Goaltending has definitely been the greater cause for blame, though.
- With a 14.3% success rate, the Flames have the fifth worst powerplay in the NHL; at 74.6%, they have the fourth worst penalty kill. Special teams have been pretty atrocious.
- The Flames have a 5v5 CF of 48.3% through the first 21 games this season, the eighth worst team in the NHL. Considering how last season they were a 44.4% possession team and third worst in the league, this has been a genuine improvement thus far.
- Their PDO which, in theory, should regress towards 100.0, is currently sitting a 96.5: in a sense, they’re the second unluckiest team in the NHL, with only the Carolina Hurricanes showing a worse fate. The Flames may still be a rebuilding team, but they aren’t actually as bad as initial returns have presented.
- With 20 points in 21 games, Johnny Gaudreau is the Flames’ scoring leader. He has five goals and 15 assists. The next highest scorer is Sean Monahan, with 15 points.
- Monahan and David Jones are tied with seven goals apiece.
- Dennis Wideman, with eight points (all assists), is the highest scorer from the backend.
- T.J. Brodie dominates ice time for defencemen, playing an average of 25:19 a game. Mark Giordano follows him up at 24:01. They have inverted scoring stats, too: two goals and four assists for Brodie; four goals and two assists for Giordano.
- Monahan is the most used forward, playing 20:06 a game. Gaudreau comes in second with a 19:48 average.
- Mason Raymond is the Flames’ best possession player, with 55.56% 5v5 CF over 11 games.
- Mikael Backlund is the Flames’ best possession player to have appeared in all 21 contests, registereding 52.39% 5v5 CF over that time. Michael Frolik is right behind him at 51.97%.
- Brodie is the best defence possession player, with 51.53% 5v5 CF.
- Nine players in total register as positive possession players: Raymond, Kulak, Bouma, Backlund, Frolik, Brodie, Bennett, Engelland, and Jooris.
- Ladislav Smid is the Flames’ worst corsi player at 42.86%. Kris Russell is the worst out of all regulars, at 44.57%.
- Jiri Hudler has received the most sheltering, with a relative offensive zone start of 21.07. Gaudreau (16.34) and Monahan (15.98) are up there as well.
- Matt Stajan is the least sheltered player; his relative offensive zone starts rest at -24.31. Jones (-17.02), Bollig (-14.40), Grant (-10.80), and Brodie (-10.76) rest there as well.
- After getting to start 10 games in a row, Karri Ramo has dragged his save percentage up to .901: tied for 50th in the NHL. He’s the top Flames goalie at the moment.
- Jonas Hiller, who is injured, and Joni Ortio, who is… essentially being held hostage? Let’s go with that, haven’t gotten to play much, and as a result, are still stuck with .861 and .868 SV%s. They’re two of the worst percentage goalies in the league to start 2015-16.
- As noted above, Hudler, Monahan, and Gaudreau are extremely sheltered. The fact that Monahan and Hudler are posting negative relative corsi numbers is concerning, then, regardless of the points they’ve been putting up.
- Gaudreau, on the other hand, has been doing a better job of justifying his zone starts: not only is he scoring a lot, but he’s moving the puck forward more often, too. It’d be great if he was doing that even more than he is now, but considering how it doesn’t appear his linemates have been helping out, he’s doing really, really well.
- On the flip side of things, we have Jones, Stajan, and Colborne. A more recent line, they aren’t as tightly huddled as the top line is; that said, they’ve all still been relatively buried, which explains their negative relative corsi.
- Stajan, in particular, is the most unsung hero on this team.
- Brodie and Giordano are absolutely crushing it, especially Brodie. They’re playing top competition and getting the worst zone starts of any defencemen. They’re also playing huge minutes and coming away with glowing relative numbers.
- Making sense of the six-player jumble in the middle: they’ve all been playing in relatively similar circumstances, although Frolik, for example, has been noticeably better than Wideman, with positive relative possession in more difficult circumstances.
- Backlund and Frolik in particular are positive relative possession players. Bennett and Hamilton are as well, but not quite to the same extent. Wideman and Russell have been negatives, Russell in particular.
- This is with Wideman being the most sheltered of the group when it comes to zone starts. In descending order, Hamilton, Bennett, Backlund, and Russell have all received positive relative offensive zone starts as well. Frolik is the only one to be in the negatives.
- Frolik is the most impressive of the group, while Russell and Wideman are posting concerning results.
- The fourth liners and bottom pairing guys have, for the most part, been doing relatively well for the Flames. None of them get particularly big minutes, but most are positive relative corsi players. Grant and Ferland aren’t, but they’re playing in more difficult circumstances than Raymond, who is (and while Grant and Ferland are negatives, they aren’t that bad: -1.16 and -0.71, respectively). All have negative relative offensive zone starts.
- Jooris has been doing well for a depth player. Engelland has been doing notably well for a sixth defenceman.
- Bollig is more buried than the rest of the bottom players, and he’s just barely – 0.08 – a relative positive corsi player. He still shouldn’t be playing much, and he isn’t, but when he’s on the ice, things could always be worse. His penchant for stupid penalties is the greatest threat he poses, as even though the chances he gets are low percentage ones, at least he’s shooting the puck on the opposition’s net, rather than having shots go against his own.
- Smid has been awful when he’s appeared. He’s playing limited minutes in some of the easiest circumstances on this team, and he’s gotten crushed. Whether that’s rust due to not playing regularly for almost a year or just a reflection of his actual abilities, he really shouldn’t be out there.
- Bouma, Kulak, and Granlund have all barely played, either due to injury or being sent down. Still, they’re a trio that did decently well enough when they were present.
- Kulak in particular was playing really well in sheltered roles, which is a good first step as he continues to develop. Now he knows he can play at the NHL level, and the statistics back him up so far. It’s a good start for his pro career.
- The Flames still aren’t a particularly good team, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them perform better as the season continues, especially if the goaltending has stabilized.
- There are very real concerns in regards to Monahan, Hudler, Russell, and Wideman; Monahan is the most concerning, considering how he’s the most likely to stay with the Flames long-term. That said, he’s also the youngest of the group, so there’s plenty of time.
- Frolik has been pretty much exactly as advertised. He, Backlund, and Bennett have formed a modest second line that can control play.
- Hamilton’s struggles have been obvious, but it’ll be interesting to see how he compares at the halfway mark, particularly now that he appears to be finding his game again.
- The Flames have decent depth options.
- Matt Stajan is underrated.
- Johnny Gaudreau is being put in position to succeed, and he’s running away with it.
- T.J. Brodie is the Flames’ MVP.