The Flames’ march down the NHL standings continues. The latest loss to the Coyotes ties Calgary for last in the West with Winnipeg and Edmonton (though Calgary somehow has three games in hand on the Oil).
Frankly the results have been worse than the team’s efforts, which is the best of both worlds for Flames fans right now. The club playing competently but losing is, pragmatically speaking, the ideal way for the team to finish off 2015-16. Losses in and of themselves are never worthy of “celebration”, but if the Flames can get a shot at a top three draft pick without playing like the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres for the last 20 games, let’s call it a dim silver lining.
Not many mailbag questions this week, so we’ll focus on some tangents.
— Lowell Krystalowich (@LowellK21) March 11, 2016
This was a tongue in cheek question, but I’ll use it as a springboard to look at the Flames’ results with and without Wideman (and Russell) this year.
Since Kris Russell has been out of the line up (Feb. 13-March 13), the Flames have been a 50% possession team. That’s mediocre but well above the 47% average they’ve managed in aggregate this year. The findings are similar without Wideman: 49.4% without, 47.4% with.
Keep in mind these are highly unintuitive results given the Flames’ make-up without these two players: the club has resorted to calling up multiple fringe players throughout the lineup, and especially on the backend. The natural result should be a precipitous drop in the team’s possession rates, but we see the exact opposite.
A 3% shift in possession doesn’t sound like a lot, but over a full 82 games it’s massive. For example, over the 14 games without Russell, the Flames’ 50.5% CF equals a +13 shot attempt differential at even strength. Over 82 games, that equates to a +76 differential. In contrast, a 47.5% averages out to about -4.6 shot attempts per game this year or -376 shots over a full season. That’s a 452 shot attempt swing at 5on5 play.
So why are the Flames losing if their possession improved so much recently? Unfortunately, 50% is merely middling and still not good enough to overcome the team’s lousy special teams; especially since the Flames saw their penalty differential go deeply negative after the Wideman incident for some reason (*cough*).
— Derby Herb (@HerbDerby) March 11, 2016
This isn’t really a hockey or Flames question, but it’s an interesting one nevertheless. Of course, there is a number of factors that likely explain Rogers’ dip in viewership this season. Not the least of which is the fact that all of the Canadian teams – Calgary included – suck. Watching meaningless hockey for the last two and a half months of the season tends to shave away the ratings points.
In addition, modern sports broadcasting is still wedded to the traditional cable model, which increasingly cuts against the grain of audience viewership habits. This is completely speculative on my part, but as consumers continue to drift towards on-demand, a la carte content platforms (and away from bloated cable packages with blackout restrictions), companies like Rogers may find their viewership undermined as a matter of course.
There may be some concern that the Flames and NHL hockey are simply falling in popularity, but our experience at the Nation seems to dispel that notion – FlamesNation has seen a year over year growth of about 25% even as Rogers has their seen game ratings shrink.
Should we be worried as Flames fans? Not really. The problem of monetizing game broadcasts is Rogers’ alone at this point. Calgary owners have bad oil prices and a falling cap to worry about right now.