We’re in the final stretch of the year. The trade deadline has come and gone, and all that’s left is to play the final 20-ish games of the season, wait for the draft lottery, and then crawl into a hole and bide our times until the actual draft is upon us and we can officially turn the page on year three of the rebuild.
In the meantime, let’s do a quick review of just how the Flames have fared through the first three-quarters of this season – and maybe, what the future could have in store.
The Calgary Flames…
- Are the third worst team in overall league standings. Edmonton has one fewer point in two additional games played; Toronto has four fewer points in one fewer game played. Winnipeg has the same number of points, but in one fewer game played.
- Have a goal differential of -27: sixth worst in the league. Worst are Toronto and Edmonton, at -36 each.
- Have scored 170 goals, tied for 14th in the NHL.
- Have had 197 goals scored against them, third worst in the NHL.
- (So they may be okay at scoring – although there’s obvious room for improvement – but need help defensively? Or at least with, you know, goaltending.)
- Are shooting at 9.20%, 11th in the NHL.
- Take 29.0 shots per game, 21st in the NHL.
- Have a team save percentage of .894%, the worst in the NHL.
- Give up 29.3 shots against per game, 11th in the NHL.
- (Oh, goaltending.)
- Have a power play of 15.9%, second worst in the NHL. Toronto has the worst power play at 14.1%.
- Have a penalty kill of 72.8%, the worst in the NHL.
- Have a 5v5 CF of 47.7%, tied with Buffalo and the Rangers for seventh worst in the NHL.
Compared to last season, the Flames have improved their possession rate. They give up fewer shots on net per game, and have been taking more: a sign that they should be getting better if not in the standings, then on the ice.
They’ve given up more goals because their goaltending has tanked, and they aren’t scoring as many goals because their shooting percentage isn’t as high as it was the year before, hence the contention for good lottery odds instead of a playoff spot.
Their power play has gone from league average to trash (a reduction in shooting percentage may be part of the cause of this), and their penalty kill has gone from bottom-third to just plain bottom (again, goaltending). The Flames have the personnel to make their special teams work – they have a lot of offensive defencemen and, well, Johnny Gaudreau; on the kill, two of their offensive defencemen are great defensively, plus there’s Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik – but their actual performance is a failure.
There are still some things to like about this season, though, and a smart off-season could see the Flames not only looking better when it comes to underlying numbers, but in the standings themselves, too. (The goaltending can’t possibly be this bad again, can it?)
The higher you are in these charts, the more difficult the competition you face. The further to the left you are, the more defensive zone starts you take (i.e. difficult circumstances). The bluer your bubble, the better your relative corsi is to the rest of the team; the redder, the worse. The bigger your bubble, the more ice time you get per game.
Via War on Ice:
Rookies and call ups have skewed the chart a little. For example: Garnet Hathaway is very sheltered to start his NHL career, as he should be. Brett Kulak was pretty sheltered competition-wise as well; there’s a lot of empty space around him. (On a positive note, though, they both at least have high CF%s through their limited time playing: 54.90% and 54.78%, respectively.)
To correct for this, here’s what the Flames’ usage looks like, with a minimum of 100 minutes played:
We lost a couple more bodies who weren’t as big outliers:
- Tyler Wotherspoon was keeping pace alongside Jakub Nakladal quite well. Almost the same circumstances for them, and not much difference between the two at all; Wotherspoon a little more ice time, Nakladal slightly better corsi numbers with slightly better zone starts.
- Jyrki Jokipakka was sheltered in his first game, but he put up a 54.55% CF, so it clearly worked for him – while facing more difficult competition than Nakladal and Wotherspoon have. (It’s only been one game though, so it doesn’t mean much right now.)
- I feel like if Derek Grant had gotten the chance to be recalled after he started tearing up the AHL, he wouldn’t be grouped so close to Brandon Bollig – but of course, that’s just a gut feeling. There’s no way to tell for sure.
And some are now departed:
- Jiri Hudler remained sheltered with offensive zone starts right up until the end. His 48.60% CF didn’t reflect well on that.
- On the opposite end of the spectrum, David Jones was buried in defensive zone starts, but wasn’t particularly inspirational with them. At least he had a built-in excuse.
- The Flames aren’t really missing Mason Raymond, who got the benefit of easier playing circumstances and was still a negative corsi player.
- This really, really goes for Markus Granlund: among the most sheltered Flames out there, and his 44.46% CF was sixth worst on the Flames.
- Poor Ladislav Smid, but look between his pink circle and Nakaldal’s deep blue. True, Nakladal is getting more offensive zone starts – but he’s also doing a hell of a lot more with them, his CF 56.07% compared to Smid’s 46.81%. Being a veteran hardly makes one a better option.
- Speaking of defencemen the Flames don’t miss: Dennis Wideman. Like, in general. He’s grouped with Raymond, except he gets more ice time and more pucks go against him.
- And Kris Russell is a red blemish in a sea of relative positive possession (with poor Dougie Hamilton struggling to stay afloat – an effect Russell had on him).
And finally, for the still-present, and frequently used:
- Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan see teams’ top players, but they also get the high ground to start on. For Gaudreau, this makes sense: his primary job is to score. It does call into question Monahan’s two-way abilities over the course of this season, though; especially when in nearly identical circumstances, Gaudreau’s CF is 49.55%, while Monahan’s is 48.23%.
- T.J. Brodie and Mark Giordano are doing really well for themselves, taking on the biggest minutes and toughest players. There’s no real discrepancy between them, either: their bubbles are nearly identical.
- Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik are also doing extremely well with one another, with nearly identical stats in nearly identical circumstances. Those four Flames are the only regulars to be over 50.00% 5v5 CF so far this season, and it looks clear they should be partnered together for a while yet.
- Joe Colborne is trusted with somewhat difficult circumstances, and he isn’t totally buried: his 48.28% CF is about middle of the road on this team. Things could always be worse, but he might actually thrive if given easier playing situations (something that might not be possible this season due to limited depth).
- Micheal Ferland is about on par with Colborne, but does a better job in very slightly easier circumstances. Looking at how the Flames are used, I’d be really interested to see how he fares alongside the other Mikes over a period of time.
- Sam Bennett has been reasonably sheltered, and has done a good job of keeping his head above water – as a rookie. There’s a lot to look forward to here, and he’ll probably start seeing tougher minutes as his career continues – especially with him playing as a centre. He’ll probably be able to keep up, too.
- Dougie Hamilton really, really needs a new partner. Hopefully the Flames will be able to identify one for him in the long-term, whether he comes from within or somewhere else.
- It’s been 84 years since Matt Stajan has seen the light of the offensive zone. This probably helps explain why he only has 11 points through 61 games this season.
- Lance Bouma is not faring much better than Stajan. However, he’s been playing in easier circumstances, and has the worst corsi on the team: 42.70%. (Stajan is at 43.71%.) I’d be willing to give him a mulligan because he spent half the year injured, but this really isn’t that different from his 2014-15 performance, except he doesn’t get his numbers boosted by Backlund anymore.
- Deryk Engelland isn’t that great, his own corsi number – 44.26% – is only marginally better than Stajan’s, despite the significantly easier circumstances in which he plays. With the Flames apparently having diamonds in the rough embedded through their organization – Nakladal, Wotherspoon, Kulak, and maybe even the addition of Kevin counts here – it’ll be time to transition him out soon.
- Josh Jooris had a lot more offensive zone starts last year than this year. Even though he’s now no longer sheltered, he’s still a vestige of hope in the bottom six landscape. His CF is actually 47.96% – which is really close to Monahan’s. They’re on opposite sides of this chart. Just something to think about.
- Brandon Bollig is not doing as bad a job as he could be, but it’s not like he’s being particularly helpful, either. Like with Engelland, it should be time to say goodbye soon.