Who doesn’t love to see charts like that? Ones that show a very clear uptick, an increase in whatever it is that they’re measuring.
And what’s particularly great about this chart, via War on Ice, is that uptick is the Calgary Flames’ corsi for percentage over a 20 game moving average. Before that grey block is the 2014-15 season, which stayed pretty consistent, mired in poor possession – and after is the 2015-16 season to date, in which the Flames have been steadily climbing up.
They may not have the record to match last year, but they’re definitely performing better.
This time last season, the Flames had a 17-10-2 record, good for 36 points and third in the Pacific Division. They had a +12 goal differential, although they were just getting started on their eight-game losing streak.
This time this season, the Flames have a 12-14-2 record, good for 26 points and seventh in the Pacific Division. They have a -26 goal differential, although they’re currently rolling with a four-game winning streak.
What a tale of two seasons, isn’t it? The percentages haven’t been consistent at all.
|Season||Shooting Percentage||Save Percentage||Corsi For as a Percentage|
|2014-15||10.52, 2nd in NHL||.911, T-15th in NHL||44.5, 28th in NHL|
|2015-16||8.76, 18th in NHL||.883, 29th in NHL||48.6, 20th in NHL|
The percentages that provide immediate gratification have gone down. While last season, the Flames were at the top of the league in terms of shooting percentage and league average in save percentage, this season, the Flames are in the bottom half of the league when it comes to shooting, and they’re right at the bottom when it comes to saving.
There’s one area where they’ve actually improved, though, and it’s an indication of something more likely to translate to long term success: their corsi. This time a year ago, the Flames’ CF was 45.3%. They’re up more than three per cent from that to start this season.
It’s not a linear improvement, though, as these things rarely are. Again via War on Ice, through just this season, with a 10 game moving average:
Even the Flames’ lowest point this season is still roughly on point with their highest point last season. They’re playing with the puck more.
The Flames have had 14 positive possession games this season (CFs of above 50.00%), 13 negative possession games (CFs of below 50.00%), and one game at a perfect 50.00% (that incredible 5-4 win over the Edmonton Oilers, in which the final corsi event was Michael Frolik’s game-winning goal).
Seven of those 14 positive games have come within their last 10. So either they’re on a streak of playing better right now (and their four-game win streak would attest to that), they’re genuinely improving as the season goes on, or both.
I’m willing to bet it’s both. We know the Flames have, thus far, been better at home than on the road, but they’ve played just six home games in their last 10 games, and four on the road. Only one of them – the Flames’ visit to Anaheim, in which they had a 33.06% CF – has been what you could truly classify a disaster, and I’m not even sure if that’s because it was a disaster or just an extension of the Anaheim curse. (Okay, it was bad, but seriously, Anaheim is probably a gateway to Hell or something.)
This doesn’t take into account games in which score effects would have taken place, but only two games in the last 10 have had score differentials of greater than two (and, of course, the Flames lost both of them by three goals each). The rest have been pretty close affairs.
Just before this season started, I wondered what success for the Flames would really mean. The general consensus was that, as long as they showed real progression, this would be a good season (though, of course, playoffs would be nice as well).
A third of the way through the season, they’re progressing. This is a season for the long haul, but it’s going well. Loosely defining the Flames’ core for the future as T.J. Brodie, Dougie Hamilton, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Sam Bennett just coming in at the end, there’s been improvement across the board, for the most part.
|Player||2014-15 CF%||2015-16 CF%|
* With the Bruins, a better possession team.
** Over 12 games, so the growth isn’t nearly as impressive… but hey, it’s still there.
This is a good season for development so far. If it keeps up, then it’ll have been a good year, regardless of where the Flames ultimately fall in the standings.
Sort out the goaltending (help us Jon Gillies, you’re our only hope?) and within a couple of seasons, the Flames could really grow into something.