5 things: Quantifying hard work

1. What are we talking about?

People do not like when I refer to the Flames as a “bad team.” They tell me to look at the standings, because in sports, all people really care about is results. If a team could get away with being outshot every single night all season long — and by a margin that, say, as wide as what the Flames face on any given night — and still win all 82, then that would have been a good team. The process of how those wins are arrived-at matters not.

We know that this isn’t how things work, of course, and we know that outshooting your opponent more often than not is a pretty good way of likewise ensuring that you win more often than not. The numbers back all of this up, and even those who for some unfathomable reason remain skeptical of the efficacy of evaluating hockey teams using things as simple as their corsi percentage over the course of 20, 40, 60, even 82 games would have to agree that the best teams have the puck more than the worst ones. It’s a sliding scale, sure, and things don’t always match up 1-for-1, but it’s obvious that a good corsi share is key to a good record in far more cases than those for which the bad leads to a good record. We can all agree on this.

But the Flames are a team with a bad corsi share — a very bad one, in fact — and yet they continue to win most nights out. Often, they do it in improbable fashion. Much like other teams before them, who have forged playoff but not possession credibility over the bulk of the season, the Flames attribute this success not to fortunate bounces, but to hard work.

Hard work, we’re told, is not something you can quantify. But the thing is that if hard work shows up in the wins column, it necessarily has to show up in the goals column. And if it shows up in the goals column, it will show up somewhere in the “advanced” stats, whether it’s through corsi or PDO or Hextally. These “clutch” goals that have proven so crucial to the Flames’ success do not appear out of nowhere. If it’s as simple as working hard, there’s going to be a process behind it that generates the crucial scoring chances they’re converting and prevents them at the other end.

At this point I’m really and actually trying to understand the thought process for people who think this is a thing the Flames can do in perpetuity.

2. Possession

Okay, the Flames are a bad possession team. How bad? They’ve been third-worst in the league basically all year, ahead of only Buffalo (the worst possession team since people started tracking these stats by a mile) and Colorado (one of the other really really bad ones). Calgary is not historically bad, but it’s probably going to be in the bottom 10 for the salary cap era at the end of the season. So, yeah, bad.

(Please note that none of the following stats include last night’s game — and the four goals on seven shots over the last 40 minutes — and all of it is from War on Ice.)

But what’s interesting is that if you look at things on a period-by-period basis, the Flames get progressively better at holding onto the puck throughout the game. In the first period, they are a 44.6 percent possession team, which is third-worst in the league and about what you’d expect. In the second, that number actually drops somewhat to 43.5 percent, and is second-bottom in the NHL. In the third, it’s up to 45.1 percent, which is a little better but still pretty miserable. (Elite NHL teams usually post a CF% of about 55 percent, maybe a little higher, so in a best-case scenario, every team the Flames play all season long holds the puck like the Los Angeles Kings, on average.)

But this might not be what “hard work” means to people. The fact is the Flames typically end up trailing pretty early on in games. You don’t necessarily have to work hard when you’re trying to hold onto a win, but you have to do so when you’re trailing late. The Flames, not surprisingly, trail late rather a lot. But perhaps not as much as you’d expect. (Though the numbers have been getting worse as the season goes on, which is really something to think about.)

In terms of the number of minutes at 5-on-5 the Flames are actually behind in the third period, their 399.7 is “only” the sixth-largest total in the league, and actually a pretty large ways back of the cluster of worse-off teams like Arizona, Toronto, Columbus, and of course Buffalo and Edmonton. From a trailing position, they draw more penalties (plus-5) and start more shifts in the offensive zone (plus-30). Over the course of a season, this is a negligible amount; one extra zone start every two or so games, and one extra penalty every 12 or 13. It’s not nothing but it’s close.

And when they’re trailing in the third period, they do actually outpossess their opponents, with a CF% of 51.9 percent. That is, however, still third from the bottom in the entire National Hockey League. I’m very dubious indeed, then, that the hard work we’re looking for is in these numbers.

But perhaps all of that stuff about corsi not being related to hard work is correct, so we need to look elsewhere.

3. Goals

In terms of the number of goals scored during the entire game, the Flames are tied for eighth in the league at 2.8 per. That’s the same as Nashville, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Anaheim, Vancouver, Ottawa, and San Jose. The point in listing all those teams is to show that they’re very firmly grouped in the upper middle of the league.

But we once again have to look at the breakdown. The Flames’ goals-for total in the first period is just 36, tied for 28th in the league. In the second period, it explodes to 58, which bumps the club up to 20th. In the third, it’s 84, and that’s second-best behind the offensive juggernaut Tampa Bay Lightning. In overtime, they have another nine, which is tops in the NHL.

So we’re looking at 93 goals in the third period or overtime, versus 94 in the first two periods. Which is significant because, at most, you’re looking at 25 minutes in the former versus 40 in the latter.

What about the goals they’re allowing? Well, the 59 they’ve conceded in the first period is the seventh-largest total in the league. The 60 in the second period is only 19th-biggest. In the third, it drops to just 48, which is the smallest in the NHL. In overtime, they’ve allowed just three goals, tied for 14th-most.

Let’s break that down by differential in the first-plus-second and third-plus-OT: They’re minus-25 in the opening 40 minutes, and plus-42 in the final 20-to-25.

At 5-on-5, which is when it’s easiest to judge team performance (but we’ll still cover special teams in a bit), the Flames are minus-17 in the first two periods and plus-11 in the third.

This incredible ability to “flip a switch” and outscore their opponents so dramatically is starting to show us something about the hard work, I suspect. If the people who are “on the fence” about analytics, or just outright reject them, are to be believed, that’s something they can replicate all season long despite obvious talent and possession deficiencies.

4. Shooting and saving

As you might imagine, when there’s a pretty stark improvement in the team’s ability to score goals at any point in the season — sustainable or not, that’s reflected in their percentages. No surprise here, but the Flames’ PDO (shooting percentage plus save percentage) is a third-in-the-league 103.6 in the third period. When they trail, it’s basically unchanged at 103.5, but that number is actually first in the league.

And here’s the difference as far as that goes: Teams that trail tend to shoot more often, but that generally leads to a lower shooting percentage because they are typically taking lower-quality shots. For the Flames, their trailing-in-the-third shooting percentage is 10.3 percentage, down a little from the 10.9 percent in all score situations. Which suggests that even the Flames aren’t immune to this portion of hockey math.

Calgary continues to generate some of the fewest shot attempts in the league in these trailing situations (27th in corsi for per 60) and continue to allow a bunch as well (29th in corsi against per 60).

So it stands to reason that they’re generating more scoring chances at this time, right? Well, yes and no. On the one hand, the number of attempts they make that actually wind up on net are at some of the lowest levels in the league (47 percent is second-worst, actually) but it’s because they’re still getting a large percentage of their shot attempts blocked. The number of unblocked shot attempts that get on net is actually 71.6 percent, and that’s much more middle of the pack.

The Flames are actually pretty decent at generating shots on goal in these situations, but they still get outshot (174 for, 176 against) when they trail.

A lot of this has ignored how they’ve done in their own zone, though. At least in terms of keeping the puck out of their own net. Their 5-on-5 save percentage when they’re trailing in the third is seventh in the league (.932) which compares favorably with their far more middling overall ESsv% of .922 (18th).

Here, there’s a lot more of what a coach would call “attention to detail.” While the Flames have blocked 1,074 shot attempts the Flames have at 5-on-5 this season, only 85 have been when they’re down a man (6.7 percent of the season’s total). That’s the second-largest total in the league. They block nearly 1 in 4 shot attempts they face at this time, but that’s actually down from 1 in 3 in all score situations.

Unfortunately War on Ice doesn’t have the ability to show save percentages by period, but we can look at the Flames’ netminders overall versus when the team is trailing. What’s pertinent here is the quality of chances they’re giving up, and how well the goaltenders are stopping them. So when it comes to shots that have a high probability of going in, Jonas Hiller and Kari Ramo stop .843 and .837, respectively. These numbers aren’t bad, but they’re not good either. That’s on a combined 350 high-quality shots all season long. But when the Flames are trailing, they’ve faced 150 such shots, and in these situations their save percentages explode to .880 and .873, respectively. 

Teams actually tend to take higher-quality shots when they’re ahead, because while they’re being conservative, they’re not going to pass up a free lunch. The Flames give out lots of free lunches and, for some reason or another, Ramo and Hiller are much better at keeping the Flames in relatively small arrears than in the black.

5. Special teams

Special teams, of course, were not included in the above data, except in the overall goal totals. As you can see, a pretty significant portion of the Flames’ scoring this season has come on the power play. In fact, 35 goals on the power play makes up a little less than 1 in every 5 they score.

But what’s interesting is that the Flames shoot only a little bit better on the power play (11.8 percent) than they do at 5-on-5, and this is something that just doesn’t happen very often. Typically, you shoot substantially better, by a few points, than you do at 5-on-5. They don’t generate a particularly large number of shots (12th in the league, so not a bad number either) but a lot of them sure do go in. They also don’t draw a ton of penalties relative to anyone else in the league.

The Flames aren’t a great penalty killing team, either. Their save percentage is among the worst in the league. But what they do well is not-take penalties in the first place (they’ve been shorthanded the lowest number of times in the league) and suppress shot attempts pretty well when that happens, as their corsi against per 60 when they’re shorthanded is fifth in the NHL. These two things don’t usually follow for a team that gets badly outpossessed every single night, but it’s certainly happened for the Flames this year and last year. 

And here’s what’s really, really, really interesting, and isn’t usually included in “special teams” consideration: The Flames are having an incredible season when they pull the goalie. The Flames have scored nine extra-attacker goals this season on just 50 shots. The shot generation is middling, but the success rate is third-best in the league. And the other thing is, they don’t give up a ton of empty net goals. They’ve conceded nine of them, but that’s a pretty small number for a team that’s spent 48.5 minutes with their own crease unoccupied.

So the question is this: Is any of this repeatable? History suggests that this much shooting success doesn’t happen over long periods, including if you’re Alex Ovechkin. As a team, the Flames have shot like Alex Ovechkin, and you can’t have that continued success, whether it’s at 5-on-5 or in special teams situations.

In their own end, they’re still giving up a ton of shots but they’re saving a decent enough amount. I’d think that can keep happening for Hiller because of his long track record, and maybe Ramo.

If there’s one thing that can keep this going — and I doubt that it can, but they have to hope — it’s that they’re very stingy in giving up power plays. For a club with a lot of guys who aren’t very good, one skill they do seem to have is the ability to avoid the penalty box. I’m not sure if that qualifies as “hard work,” but so far it’s the only thing I’ve found that they do well and reliably.

  • playastation

    You know we’ve been asking Ryan to write more analysis than just ‘Bad Shots, team sucks’. This is pretty much it. Actual analysis. I say good job to Lambert even though I don’t agree.

    I mean if you’re gonna be completely honest. The ducks outplayed the flames badly yesterday. And 9/10 times the ducks win that game. We had 4 goals on 6 shots.

    Even still, I think Ryan’s problem is his standoffish tone with his audience.

    or maybe he hates us?!

  • Shooter 5567

    More great work from Lambert. Keep it up. Lambert didn’t kick your dog he’s laying out some solid reasons for this supremely unlikely Flames run to the playoffs.

    Am I glad the Flames are winning? Sure. But remember last year when every hockey muckety muck in Toronto swore up and down they had this shot quality thing figured out. Well they didn’t.

  • Toofun

    The Flames got behind 2 goals last night in the first few minutes of the game. The first one was due to a very uncharacteristic turnover to the Duck’s best player inside the blueline. It was shocking because the game had just started but also because the Flames never do that! The second goal was due to a powerplay coming from an undisciplined penalty. Frustrating because the Flames seldom do that. 2-0 bang. NOTHING to do with corsi or how much better the Ducks are. Two mistakes that the Flames don’t normally do.

    You know the rest of the story. According to Lambert it goes something like, the Flames get out shot and out played but they luckily score on their few miserable opportunities and somehow win a game they had no right to win.

    Or maybe it was something like, the Flames stopped making unforced errors, increased the pressure on the Ducks so that they started taking penalties and dishing out turnovers and Calgary took advantage of their opportunities…

  • icedawg_42

    Any one else feel like Lambert is the architect from the matrix revolutions, and the flames are seemingly Neo? We’re are destroying his matrix of mathematical precision and its driving him crazy “ergo the anomaly”.

  • icedawg_42

    They are a bad possession team, you can tell that just by watching them. No one can argue these numbers, but it really seems like you get angry when they win, that you take no joy from the excitement of cheering for a team who is winning games. To me that’s what being a fan is about. Enjoying the ride..the ups and downs. Sure there’s a sense of foreboding because it’s clearly not sustainable given a large enough sample size, but it is what it is…and short of telling them to tank (which is absolutely stupid IMO), why not have some fun with it?

      • Shooter 5567

        I disagree. You actually have to watch the sports teams you are covering to be a “Sports Writer”.

        Too many times he has incorrect or misleading information on the games and the players themselves. An example: just a month or so ago, he commented how the Flames wasted Monahan by playing him on the wing last year.

  • Reidja

    I haven’t looked into it much, but I was curious as to the shots-against/corsi-against for the league, since shots on goal are the direct creator of goals, not corsi. I realize corsi is a better indication of possession (ITS NOT POSSESSION, it’s starting to bug me people call it possession. Corsi doesn’t show how much a team had the puck necessarily, just how often they tried to get it to the other team’s net) than shots and generally teams that have the puck more create more chances.

    Amazingly but not so surprisingly (and I checked a few days ago) the Flames were the best team. That means they had the least amount of shots against per corsi event against. In fact, the Flames were the only team below 50% and were a whole 2% (!!!!!!!) ahead of the next team. What this means could be several things, but the main thing is the Flames know how to keep other teams from shooting on goal, but allow them to try and make chances but take them away.

    All that considered, and the fact the Flame’s corsi greatly increases when considering all situations (5v5 isn’t a great indicator of the Flames as a whole since they’re on the PK so little compared to the PP), I’m not so concerned about the Flames low corsi. After seeing the previous Flames team never mount a come back and always fold rather than fight back, I think this Flames team is building on the right things.

  • Burnward

    Who cares what makes Calgary a bad team.

    What makes them a great team?

    – Strong work ethic, discipline, sacrifice, tenacity, speed, skill.

    But we all know those don’t win Hockey games. Only lucky bounces.

    • because… they’re not an objectifiably “good” team. Teams that make the playoffs year in and year out have high CF% that’s why they’re there. That’s why we see them there every year. But ofcourse, every year there’s also the odd outlier someone who doesn’t quite fit that mould. But we have a name for it they’re called “outliers.” this occurs in all realms of statistics. People who smoke are suppose to have shorter lifespans than average norms. But ofc you get one tough bastard who tends to defy those odds and smoke for 90 years. It happens.

      The Flames are an outlier, they’re a bunch of tough bastards who won’t go away this year. There’s a very good chance we’re going to make the playoffs as team with bad posession. It does happen. And we shoud cheer them on and support them like we always do. GO Flames GO.

      Just be prepared that if the team doesn’t make changes in the offseason. If the team brings in UFAs who have bad possession numbers… there’s a very good chance this team won’t be in the race for the playoffs next year.

      And that is really the point adv. numbers guys are making.

  • Burnward

    You are a good writer Mr. lambert as apparent by the amount of people who read and respond to your blog. I read it too and I thank you. Just for fun can we read 5 things you like about the flames for one entry? No mention of advanced stats? Would love to read a different side of your style which I am sure exists!

  • Ramskull

    Another good article Ryan. You’ve really knocked them out of the park over the last 3 or 4 weeks. Thought provoking without being antagonizing.

    Just a few thoughts:

    As you said we can all agree that there is a correlation between possession and good teams. I just wonder how you explain the fact that the 4 top teams in the league (as of today) are all middle of the pack corsi teams.The leagues best isn’t a playoff team and one of the leagues worst is. If the Flames make the playoff then the past three years have seen bad corsi teams as playoff teams. At what point are we allowed to question the usefulness of corsi as strong predictor of success over an 82 game sample size? Can you really just say these are small variances in the 1-1 sliding scale? Paul Maurice said it best “eventually your only as good as your record”

    At what point does unsustainable become sustainable? How many games? It’s been 67 games now. We have a large amount of data showing that high and low PDO’s can be sustained for long periods of time. (ie. Bruins and Islanders)

    If Tyler Myers continues to be a good possession hockey player with the Jets does that mean he went from being “bad” at hockey to being “good” at hockey in a span of 2 weeks? Or does it show that corsi is highly affected by your surrounding environment? And if so doesn’t that bring into question its value as an evaluation tool?

    Don’t get me wrong I like these stats but as Stan Bowmen said “what do you do with them”. If you have a bad possession player do you try to identify the actions that are leading to bad possession and change them? Or do you try to get a good possession player from another team and hope he sustains those numbers with your team?

    Keep working hard to put together strong articles bud!

      • Ramskull

        I get that Ryan. It’s undeniable that good teams have good possession. I’m one of the converted. If the flames make the playoffs I’d be pleasantly surprised if they won a round just like I’ve been pleasantly surprised all season.

        But do you really need Fenwick to understand that Boston, Detroit, Pittsburgh, LA and Chicago had teams good enough to win the cup? I’m pretty sure they all entered the playoffs as “favorites” or close to it without people understanding fenwick. Is it useful? Yeah sure it is. But what does that graph have to say that we didn’t already know? 3 of 8 teams with a Fenwick greater than .551 didn’t make it out of the first round. Of course 3 of them made it to the finals and 2 won the cup so I get the correlation. If you have a team with a Fenwick greater than .551 you have a 25% chance of winning the cup and a 37.5% chance of losing in the first round(small sample I know). Is that really that useful as a predictor of success?

  • Hockey writers were writing off the Flames before the season started..they were picked to finish worse than last year because:

    – where are the goals going to come from? They lost their top goal scorer – Mike Cammelleri in free agency

    – the hard work ethic is not sustainable, there will be a fall off because the hard work won’t generate as many wins as last season.

    Although Lambert is backtracking on “the Flames are a bad team and will regress to Leafs and Rockies levels he has a fellow fancy stat thumper echoing his earlier sentiments:

    Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy:

    “So Calgary continues its inexplicable playoff push, against the odds and against logic. But we’ve seen this movie before.

    Teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2013 and the Colorado Avalanche last season had unsustainable shooting and better than expected goaltending, and then fell off a cliff in the following season. It’s a short-term high followed by a painful detox, with the anti-analytics gloaters left find their next outlier to use as troll-bait for the smarts.”

    They just don’t get it! Flames use a system that defies fancy stats!

  • prendrefeu

    Question:

    Is there a stat that measures a rate of possession-to-goal? Not possession-to-scoring-chances, but actual goals with the puck actually crossing the line.

    Let me explain: last night while watching the game it was clear that Anaheim controlled the puck more often (which ups their CORGI rate), yet only netted 3 goals in their total time. Let’s say that for every x minute of offensive possession (t.o.o.p) they netted Y goals on the season.

    On the other hand, when Calgary did have the puck they tended to make it effective once they entered the other team’s zone. In their relatively low time of possession, they netted 6 goals. X t.o.o.p / Y goals.

    Excluded from the counts: any time of possession that did not result in moving to the opposition’s zone. Examples:

    • Player is holding puck behind their own net waiting for a line shift or whatever, does not count. Yes, they are holding the puck and therefore at the time preventing the other team from possessing/scoring, but this time should not count.
    • Player moves the puck out of their zone in a defensive move, time does not count
    • Player delay-dumps the puck for a line change, also does not count.

    T.O.O.P. is the time when the team has the puck in an intentional forward motion to move into the other team’s zone.

    Then we have goals. Was the team’s time with the puck moving into the other team’s zone used effectively? Did they just shoot from the perimeter? Or maybe they just tossed it around the zone like a hot-potato but did not take any high-value shots?

    So say there’s a team (example only, this doesn’t exist I don’t think… yet) that has horrible CORSI and PDO, yet they dominate the league (this is not the Flames). Why? Because they have incredibly strong defense that allows for few goals and forces teams to take low-percentage shots from the perimeter. Then they go on quick breakaways or zone entries, usually quick shifts and not spending too much time in the offensive zone, but they score at a very, very high clip. And win. And they dominate this way throughout, playoffs included, and win the Cup. They never “regress” because there was nothing to regress to: their playing style did not follow the bias of the existing advanced stats. Not saying in any way the Flames are doing this, but I am trying to see if there is a stat that would account for this type of effective playing style.

    Maybe this type of advanced stat already exists?
    I expect a lot of trashes for this, don’t really care.

    Of course, as noted on last night’s broadcast, a lot of this data is subject to the biases of the person recording the data – they choose to count certain things and choose not to count others (ie, blocks, hits, and sometimes shot counts are subject to debate sometimes about what counts and what doesn’t).

  • Toofun

    If this was the first Lambert article of the year on this topic I’d agree that it was well written and well thought out. Unfortunately it’s “Wash, Rinse and Repeat” every week.

    I prefer bookofloob’s power ranking articles The 20 greatest things from last week, make me laugh. Now those articles are well written and well thought out.

  • Nummin

    Can something as simple as offensive zone time be paired with corsi to better reflect ‘possession’?

    I feel like the flames are prone to passing the puck to much in the offensive zone at times. Charting zone time versus corsi would be a pretty telling possession figure I feel.

    I agree with anyone saying the Flames aren’t as good as their place in the standing but I’m gonna enjoy every win the same.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    Flames are creating a new successful style of play that goes above statistics; like Darwinian evolution is above science, Obama above the constitution and the oilers above winning. All are unfathomable yet seem to keep truckin along.

  • DoubleDIon

    Corsi has a major flaw as a stat. Shot blocks mean the puck never got to the net. For a puck to go in the net it has to hit the net. Ie. What happened to Winnipeg 2 days ago.

    The Flames also have a big penalty differential. That factors in as well.

    Their shot locations tend to be far more centered in the middle of the ice than other clubs if you look at game by game shot charts. That factors in as well.

    Corsi is a useful stat, but I still think analytics are in their infancy. Weighed shots and factoring for blocks would make a massive difference in overall numbers. Additionally, 5-5 corsi is not nearly as relevant to wins and losses as overall corsi including special teams is.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    “… it’s obvious that a good corsi share is key to a good record in far more cases than those for which the bad leads to a good record. We can all agree on this.”

    The first sentence is true. The second is absolutely not. I have discovered that many people prefer to think as little as possible, as often as possible, and so things that should be obvious to many are often not.

    Other than that, great article.

  • Shooter 5567

    All i get from this is a bunch of numbers and a sense that Lambert is starting to backtrack on his earlier posts.

    First they were a bad team. Now they are just a bad CORSI team. But really just a bad CORSI team in the first period.

    How soon until he’s claiming he new all along they were a good team?

    I don’t need all those numbers to tell me this a pretty exciting team to watch. Yeah , they may have caught lightning in a bottle this year, but Hartley will have a new bottle for them next year.

    • no theyre still a very bad team. one of the worst in the league, actually.

      but theyre good at not taking penalties, and average in net, and getting very very lucky shooting. all of which adds up to barely holding a playoff spot. hope that clarifies my stance.

      • DoubleDIon

        They’re also very good at blocking shots and staying in shooting lanes. Corsi tracks attempts, not shots. An important distinction.

        I agree with you I guess on the shooting because empirical evidence suggests that it’s not sustainable. We do have a few players (Monahan, Gaudreau and Hudler) who are very good at getting the goaltender to move laterally which is how you score on modern goaltenders as well. It’s hard to prove though.

        Does anyone have what our shooting percentage would be without those three included? There are always guys who shoot a high percentage sustainably. Ie. Glencross and Tanguay. I’m wondering if Hudler, Gaudreau and Monahan are cut from the same cloth.

      • In that line of thinking being a very “good” team like LA gets you in exactly the same place in te atandings, save for behind a very “bad” team like Calgary. I would much rather watch an exciting bad team like Calgary than a boring good team like LA. Statistics can be used to prove anything you want them to if you know how to use them to prove your point. You, Ryan, aren’t using them too well because Calgary just keeps winning!!!! In my books a good team is one that wins. Go flames!!!!

        • Shooter 5567

          Ryan, by your standards what does that leave as a description for every other team below Calgary in the standings?

          Are San Jose, Los Angeles, Winnipeg and Boston slightly worse than bad?

          Minnesota, Vancouver and Washington are within three points are they just a little bit better than bad?

          All these teams are barely holding on to a playoff spot or on the outside looking in

          Chicago is only five points ahead. Are they just about good?

          16 teams have worse records as of this morning. At worst they are an average team. Someone who lives by numbers might even say they are slightly better than average-at winning.

        • 12 of the top 16 corsi teams in the league currently occupy playoff positions. four in the bottom 14 do as well. there are outliers every year. you know this is true, and if it were the oilers doing what the flames are doing you’d be howling in the goddamn streets about advanced stats.

          grow up.

          • RedMan

            From a stats point if view basically anything above 55% or below 45% has high power.

            Another stats thing to keep un mind is “Correlation is not causation”. So high corsi doesn’t lead to wins, but teams with high corsi tend to win. Stats are a way to describe what is happening. They can give a clue to trends which can then be focused upon with video, coaching, etc.

            *all information vaguely remembered from first year stats class.

          • Derzie

            This is a very valid point. Because it’s the Flames in question, Hartley must’ve found a new way to play hockey that no other team in the history of the sport has ever devised. “All of the opposition’s shots are from the outside; the team blocks all of the opposition’s best shots” and other such nonsense.

            There were no bigger proponents of advanced stats than the fans on this site when the Leafs were winning and then crashed and burned. It’s hypocritical, to say the least.

            Every team and situation is unique, of course, but the “hard work” explanation has become very irritating. As though the other 29 teams in the league just can’t match the Flames in work ethic, those lazy bums. It’s become as trite as the only explanation for their success being attributed to “luck.”

            Although the entire debate is atarting to wear thin, this article breaks things down in a far more detailed manner; thanks Ryan.

          • JMK

            Advanced stats only account for a few years of data, so saying that hockey has been played the same way for it’s entire history is inaccurate based on the stats. Now if you claim from an eye based perspective then fair enough but I find it very hard to believe that a sport has been played the exact same way without changes in tactics over the history of the game.

          • DoubleDIon

            If corsi wasn’t a flawed stat like +/- I’d agree with you.

            Like +/- it has validity but needs to be contextualized. The Flames are a top team in terms of blocks. Corsi at 5-5 is also cherry picking a stat if it’s for a team and not an individual player. Corsi that includes special teams and accounts for blocks would be a much better indicator.

            My guess is we’d see the Flames right around 20th in the league if those factors were included. Which I think is a fair barometer of the team excluding PDO.

            I’m sorry, but it’s ridiculous to state that the Flames are worse than the Oilers or Coyotes because Corsi says so. It shows that there are factors at play that corsi doesn’t account for.

            That doesn’t invalidate corsi or any other advanced stat, but it does mean we need to find better ways of interpreting data. Just like the infancy of advanced stats in baseball there is still work to do.

          • Yeah but the oilers are not. That proves my point. Is it not possible a good team can be good at other statistics other than these new fancy ones everyone is jumping on… Oh wait maybe winning games is a pretty good statistic! Thanks for the advice but I’d rather enjoy the game like a kid than like a grumpy old man:)

  • Canrock 78

    Good article I’m glad your lookin for answers. Here is how I think their season should be summarized. Doto the flames over all skill level they are a poor possession team. But their work ethic and attention to detail is among the best in the legue.

    What has frustrated me is when it is said they are a bad team. No qualifier to say what they are good at.

  • mattyc

    Well written Ryan, rational without being condescending.

    Worth noting since the Anaheim 2nd period is becoming the poster child for ‘unsustainability’; Shot Attempts for all situations (i.e not 5v5) had the game effectively even ( I think maybe +2 Anaheim) until the Flames scored to make it 5-2, which is when Anaheim turned on the gas and score effects kicked in. Having said that, Scoring Chances were even for the game too.

  • smith

    I think more to the point is can it be sustained until they improve? Will they improve with the growth of Bennet, Monahan, Gaudreau, Porier etc… Next year will they be better? (especially if Engelland, Bollig, Colborne and Smid mysteriously vanished).

    • Well, if the team continues to improve you’d logically see their possession numbers improve as well, right? And if that’s the case, the goals rate becomes more sustainable even as the very-much-unsustainable shooting percentage, which is bound to come down sharply.

      Put another way, if the Flames could somehow trade all their bad players you mentioned in one-for-one swaps that netted them a team of all-stars (Crosby, Bergeron, Malkin, Weber, etc. etc.), the winning would be more sustainable because they’d have the puck 57 percent of the time instead of 43 percent.

      • JMK

        I would love to see some play analysis to examine the potential for anomalies. I don’t know enough about hockey yet to tell you that the Flames have superior systems but I’d be interested to see yourself or someone else look into it. And maybe this has already been done in the past at the fore set of advanced stats, I’m not sure but I think it would be interesting all the same.

        For example are the flames more cautious and selective with their shot attempts? Do they cycle the puck more often in the offensive zone? Do they invite teams on the them in the defensive zone and crowd the area in front of the net to get more blocked shots? An examination of actual possession instead of possession based on shots.

        People have been talking about regression all season and pointing to the numbers and using the excuse of luck when the regression hasn’t come (or has been delayed whatever way you want to look at it), but 67 games in and this “luck” has continued, and longer if you include the end of last season. The numbers aren’t working right now, and you are getting frustrated with people ignoring your number analysis just as much as they are frustrated with you for constantly bombarding them with it, why not try a different approach.

        You’ve made numerous predictions of the demise of this flames team; “The good news is that, like Wild fans a few years ago, Flames fans can comfort themselves by saying this is the reason the team dropped off a cliff in final quarter of the season, and not regression” sure it’s a small sample size but they are still winning without Giordano right now. “So many guys shot 10-plus percent for so many games that it necessarily has to come back to bite you, and we’re getting to the point at which regression tends to hit teams: about 60-70 games in, things start going the way they “should” when teams PDO their way to early success.” And again this hasn’t happened yet either, and these are just recent predictions. At what point will you start looking at why corsi may not apply to the flames in predicting failure/success? I’m not saying it doesn’t maybe you are exactly right and the regression is just around the corner, but at least examine other possibilities??

        I personally like advanced stats, being an engineer I love the emphasis on numbers. But it’s this “luck” thing that I have a problem with. I don’t believe in anyone or any team being “lucky” I don’t believe it exists, to me it’s the same as superstitions or believing in fate. Now I know most of the time it’s used after an event to describe a range of events that have appeared to favor someone or some team, but for how long can you use this an excuse? It’s 67 games now, going back as far as the Vancouver brawl its 14 months, when the does the definition of “luck” change to accepted practice. The flames have succeeded this season with numerous injuries (to main possession players too) yet keep winning.

        Thank you for at least looking at different numbers in this article, but how about a different approach, whether it’s you or Kent or Pike, whoever, it would be refreshing. And yes I know this site was based on advanced stats originally, but maybe play analysis rather than number analysis will prove you exactly right!

        • prendrefeu

          Spot on. Thank you.

          I also like advanced stats but find it frustrating that instead of investigating an outlier, the preachers just stop developing their approach and yell “luck”. I and others have written about this before. It happens in the hard sciences as well (biology, physics, chemistry).

          and this has been referenced several times here as well:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_swan_theory