Mid-year Update on the Flames

We’ve arrived at the Flames’ update at last. Our previous
two, the Canucks and Oilers, reviewed the progress of the roster players,
possession metrics, sv%’s and various other metrics used to track a team.

For those interested, here’s the pre-season look at the Flames.

The Flames had a tough start to the season and I suppose I
could save you reading through this article by just summarizing the first few
months by saying they looked lost early and were sunk by atrocious goaltending
but appear now to be rounding into something resembling an NHL team.

However, let’s see if we can’t do a little better than that.

The Flames’ record after 41 games was 19-20-2 for 40 pts and
they sat 6th in the Pacific and 13th in the Western
Conference.

The Flames’ power play and penalty kill at the halfway mark both
sat 30th in the league, at 14.4% and 74%, respectively. Of all the
things we’ll look at today, this surprised me more than anything else. The
roster, for all its weaknesses and mis-deployments, boasts players like
Gaudreau, Hudler, Hamilton, Frolik, Stajan, Backlund and Giordano whose
strengths typically manifest on special teams.

I expect this area to improve in the second half of the
season as the current standings are a reflection less of where the Flames are
today so much as where they had been earlier in the season.

Below is the table of the player performances thus far with
their paces in several categories.

Cgy Mid Year Player Table - Excel

(Data courtesy of NHL.com and affiliated sites)

I suggest Flames fans
just forget the year and refer to this season as the Season of Gaudreau,
because outside of a slight down turn from Monahan and Giordano gradually
rounding back into form, this team has more or less been driven, at least
offensively, by the young forward.

I’m overstating obviously, but Gaudreau has likely done as
much as Ramo over the course of the season to help keep the Flames afloat while
the rest of the roster found its feet.

I decided to look a little deeper into his season and found
that Hartley is continuing to give Gaudreau and Monahan a strong push in the
offensive zone, though less so than Hudler and Granlund, and of those four and
Sam Bennett, Gaudreau and Monahan have faced the weakest competition, which is
almost certainly by design.

Cgy GD Mid Year - Excel

Cgy SvPer Mid Year - Excel

(Data courtesy of NHL.com and affiliated sites)

The sv% started abysmally and has improved moving closer to
the league average over the course of the season thus far. Despite carrying
three goalies for a good stretch of the first half, Hartley seemed to commit
early and often to Ramo. That Ortio was on the roster but not playing for so
long suggests a difference of opinion between Treliving and Hartley. Nothing
wrong with that, but if it causes Treliving to waive a useful player like Paul
Byron while his coach mothballs a young goalie in the pressbox, while still not
settling on a clear starter, then it needs to be addressed.

The trendline for the Flames in sv% and goal differential
has been noticeably improving. A major part of that was due to their extended
winning streak in early December. They have also played in 16 one-goal games
thus far, winning 12 of them. This continues a trend we’ve seen extend over two
and a half seasons now.

With regards to the sv% trendline, the black line represents
league average, 0.916 at the time of this writing, and so individual games
shouldn’t be weighted too strongly, rather if the Flames can get their
trendline above the average more often than not then good things should happen.

Cgy ScAdjFF Mid Year - Excel

(Data courtesy of War on Ice)

The possession numbers are perhaps the most encouraging of
all the data gathered thus far. Or at least they likely are for those fans who
look to sustainable winning trends as much as outright team performance.

The Flames, solidly subpar in that department now for
several seasons, have begun to turn things around this season. Individual game
numbers tend to be erratic, so I recommend looking at the trendline as it gives
one the best measure of how a team is managing the puck possession aspect.

Ideally one aims for 50% or greater coupled with a low goal
differential, so by those two measures the Flames are certainly trending well.
Whether there remains enough time in the season for it to pay off though…?

Cgy Ramo SvPer Mid Year - Excel

Cgy Hiller SvPer Mid Year - Excel

(Date courtesy of NHL.com and affiliated sites)

The two goalie graphs are quite telling in contrasting the
two seasons we have seen from Flames’ goalies. While neither started
particularly well, Ramo appears to have steadily improved while Hiller is
trending precipitously downwards, albeit within a much smaller sample size. We
should be wary of drawing too-strong conclusions on goalie performances based
on save percentages, doubly so on small sample sizes which I would argue is
anything under a full season or perhaps even two.

That being said, if Ramo continues this way then the Flames
would seem likely to try to extend him this year and shopping Hiller will
become only a matter of time, organizational injuries notwithstanding.

Of the three teams we’ve reviewed, the Flames have the
strongest lines trending upwards.

Based on current projections they have a reasonable chance
to at least challenge for a playoff position this year. More on that later.

2016-01-11 11_13_10-NHL Man-Games Lost January 9, 2016 - Man Games Lost

(Courtesy of mangameslost.com)

We must consider that outside of the early season injury to
Brodie and a more recent injury to Frolik, the team has largely been blessed
with a relatively healthy roster.

Above is a graph taken from Man Games Lost around the 41
games-played mark.

The higher the team the greater their share of points in the
standings, the further to the right the greater the number of man games lost to
injury, the larger the bubble the more significant the impact of those injuries
to the team based on possession metrics. Red bubbles are those outside a
playoff position, blue are those inside, yellow denotes division leaders.

That the division leaders all have among the fewest impact
injury losses should be self-evident. Thus far no team has had a larger injury
impact than Edmonton, followed closely by Buffalo, Detroit, Philadelphia and
Vancouver. The fact that only one of those teams finds itself in a playoff
position also serves to remind us of the oft-overlooked impact that injuries
and depth can have on a season.

Calgary has largely escaped the season to-date unscathed,
with about the same level of injury impact loss as Carolina, Colorado, Arizona,
Ottawa, Minnesota and Nashville. Four of those teams have playoff positions,
three do not.

The Flames currently find themselves in a race with
Vancouver, Edmonton, Arizona and San Jose for a Pacific Division playoff spot
and among those they have the second fewest man games lost to injury with the
second lowest injury impact rating.

This will be something to keep in mind as the second half of
the season progresses luck has been on their side thus far.

CYdWhfKUEAAlavq.png large

(Courtesy of MicahBlakeMcCurdy@Ineffectivemath)

Initially I had estimated the Flames would end up with 90+
points and perhaps just miss out on a playoff spot. Micah Blake McCurdy over at
Ineffective Math has a running projection algorithm that has the Flames
estimated to finish with between 85 and 87 points. His system works off of
current performance while I had based mine off of simple projections of player
production leading to GF/GA and then using that to ballpark a place based on
the previous season’s standings.

We’ll revisit all three teams at the end of the season to
see how the estimates worked, who played above or below expectations and what
areas were the most or least successful.

Brian Burke has said that he doesn’t believe that last year
was a peak moment for the Flames, nor does he believe that their rebuild is
finished. It will be intriguing to see once the season has concluded, once we
can look back and examine this year in detail, whether the Flames took a step
forward, maintained, or slipped back. For the time being every one of the items
measured above is trending up with the exception of Jonas Hiller’s save
percentage.

One last point. Recall all that discussion last year about
the Flames regressing towards a more sustainable shooting or save percentage?
Well their PDO as of Jan 14th was 99.2, or just below the standard
mean, with a team shooting percentage of 8.3% and a team save percentage of
90.9%. In other words, if we take out the specifics of the wins and losses (6-0
win here, 4-2 loss there), what you are seeing from this team is pretty close
to what you should expect.

Story of the Season So Far?

Heeeeerrrrreeee’s Johnny! (see above)

It isn’t all just about Gaudreau, but if you want to single out one storyline from the season, I think averaging just over 1.0ppg in his sophomore season is as good a place to start as any.

The team had holes all over and looked some nights like they couldn’t tie their skate laces properly and he kept producing.

Now the team seems to have it’s head screwed on straight and are moving forward and there’s Gaudreau, way on up the path just waiting for the rest of his team to catch the hell up.

Why the song?

I’d picked Elvis for the Flames back in the initial season
overview.

The first part of the year did not go as well as many had
planned. In fact, it was probably pretty awful for both fans and players.

But gradually, as the games went on, things began to improve
and then with a prolonged winning streak in December the Flames seemed to come
around until the point now where they are a relevant team in their division,
weakened though it is.

By many measures the Flames are not having a good season, and yet I get the impression that there is nothing but good feeling surrounding the team right now as they have been playing well since early December and fans are confident in the management group and the young core developing before their eyes.

The playoffs are still a long way off but the general feeling around the team seems to be positive (arena press conferences notwithstanding).

I left my home in Norfolk Virginia
California on my mind
I straddled that Greyhound
And rode into Raleigh and on across Caroline

We had motor trouble that turn into a struggle
Halfway across Alabama
And that hound broke down and left us all stranded
In downtown Birmingham

Sure as you’re born brought me a silk suit
Put luggage in my hand
And I woke up high over Alberquerque
On a jet to the promised land

The Flames haven’t won the Stanley Cup, and they may not even make it to the post-season dance this year, but I get the feeling that regardless, fans are singing with the top down as this ride rumbles on down the highway.


  • KACaribou

    Holy crap how many mid-year updates/reviews do you have to have on FN? Or is that another way of saying: I can’t think of anything relevant to write about?

      • KACaribou

        What’s wrong with you? I thank you for your excellent advise, telling me not to read it.

        But I will toss it back at you that if you don’t like my comments, please don’t read them. Take your own advice if you will.

    • RexLibris

      I took the approach at the beginning of the year that the Flames, Canucks and Oilers would likely all be in pursuit of a playoff position on the assumption that the Coyotes would be well out of it and one of the three California teams might also struggle.

      The concept was based on evaluating a team based on those they are running against.

      So, three articles at the beginning of the year, three updates at the half-way point.

      Hate to disappoint you, but there’s going to be three at the end of the season, too.

  • KACaribou

    blergghhhhhh…too much reading, too many numbers for me at this point of the day after such a shite performance last night..

    Makes a morning rum and turns on NFL. I’ll read it later Rexy

  • KACaribou

    blergghhh too many words and too many numbers for me at this point of the day. Hungover and annoyed after such a shite performance and losing to the Coilers.

    Makes a morning rum and settles in for NFL. I’ll read it later Rexy

  • KACaribou

    blergghh..up at the crack of noon. This is entirely too many letters and too many numbers for such a day Rex. Still hungover and annoyed at losing to the Coilers. Always a p!sspoor morning, talk about feeling low.. I will read it later Rexy

    Makes a morning rum and settles in for NFL

    • RexLibris

      Could also read thus:

      “The Flames haven’t won the Stanley Cup this season, and they may not even make it to the post-season dance this year, but I get the feeling that regardless, fans are singing with the top down as this ride rumbles on down the highway.”

      I suppose I wasn’t specific enough.

  • class1div1

    Everybody told me you can’t go far.
    On thirty-seven dollars and a jap guitar.
    But I’m rollin into Texas with the hammer down.
    And a smoking little combo from the Guitar Town.

    It’s always about attitude and staying positive.

    • RexLibris

      True.

      1 point separates the Flames and Oilers this morning, yet in Edmonton there is nothing but grey skies and distant thunder while in Calgary it seems the sun never sets.

      It is all about perspective, and to be completely honest, a lot of that perspective is established by the media.

      The Flames have won the hearts of many in the media and fans have many reasons right now to trust that the organization will build around a core of talented young players.

      After so many years, very few are giving the Oilers the benefit of doubt any longer.

      • class1div1

        When you’re in the Entertainment business you should have a pulse on what the fans want and expect.

        Katz and KLowe give the impression that they really don’t care what the fans want.

      • flames2015

        That thunder that you hear is the approach of McDavid.
        He’s played you once in his career and made you look like fools.

        I’d be very careful making assumptions like that.

        The kid Is a stud and is your provincial rival… Those words will come back to haunt you.

        • class1div1

          Your warnings of what future holds belong in a children’s novel. Like you have some kind of gift to see into the inner-dynamics of NHL clubs. Buddy, spare us your super power nonsense. Every pro sports team has an element of ego. Do I think Wideman’s ego is having a hard time being passed by all these guys on the depth chart? Yeah, sure do. Do I think it’s gonna result in the haunting doom and gloom your inner Nostramus predicts? Hahahahaha. No thanks Hugo. Great suits though.

          PS. We know McDavid is good. Did your magic 8ball tell you that as well?

        • smith

          He has played the flames twice. The first was when the flames were busy playing really badly. Yes he did well. The second game, later while the flames were playing a bit better, he had zero points and was a -2.

          Maybe want to check facts a little better. Head to head against Bennet, Mcdavid is actually underwater in the NHL and the OHL. He certainly may not continue to be.

      • cberg

        I don’t disagree about the fans of either team, but I think the perspective is not the MSM, but rather the reasonable expectations of eager fans that a team gifted with 4 #1 overall draft picks, a generational player and reasonably argued the richest bunch of of draft talent in NHL history ought to be able to do better than barely pulling out of dead last in the NHL.

  • class1div1

    hey Rex, it’s hard give a Flames mid year review much credit when it doesn’t once mention Brodie (other than some copy paste excel chart). Sure Johnny’s been a story but you not at all acknowledging TJ tells me you don’t actually watch Flames games. As such, please spare us from your words and your lame song lyrics. Thanks for coming out though.

  • class1div1

    I’m waiting for the Calgary fan base to realize that the team is fundamentally flawed. You have cancerous factions in the team.

    It’s going to get very messy in the years to come.

  • Tomas Oppolzer

    Well Tony, as a general rule I cheer for players as opposed to teams.
    I just don’t like the unnecessary comment was unnecessary
    Loved Iginla while in the red
    Loved Mess in Up north.

    Boston
    Detroit
    Jesus, even LA had/has more players pulling for the same goal as Calgary.
    There’s a flaw in that room.
    The Sharks have it
    So do the Blues
    You can say what you want but I’ve seen this before.

      • class1div1

        Well, I think the Dr. Phil reference was a little harsh…
        Was that something to do with bad childhood memories discovering about your parentage?

        All I’m saying is there’s going to be problems in that room..
        It’s gonna be fractured and disfunctional till its purged.

  • Derzie

    Here’s my mid-year review: Brodie drives the bus. Nice core in Johnny, Monny, Sam, Frolik, Gio & Dougie. Everything else needs some sort of upgrade to get to be consistently competitive.