A look at the youth movement: Lots of points

One of the standout elements to the Calgary Flames’ season has been the element of the youth movement. More so in this season than the last two seasons of the rebuild has it been more evident that the future lies in the pursuit of young talent.

And here’s the best part: Calgary’s youth, between 18 to 22 years old, was among the league’s best in point totals. Who could have predicted that? Probably a lot of people who looked closely enough at the talent on this roster this past season.

Last Season: Real Good

In what was regarded as an impressive season by media and by fans, the combined play of Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau with the support of former Flame Jiri Hudler became one of the league’s best lines. Their individual point totals, both at even strength and on the power play, were a huge portion of the point totals for 18-22 year-old players on the team in 2014-15.

2014155v5

At 5v5, the Flames’ youth combined for 88 points (37 goals, 51 assists) with Gaudreau and Monahan making up 72.73% (64/88) of those totals. On the power play it was no different: 37 points total with Gaudreau and Monahan contributing 91.89% of those (34/37)

The biggest reason for these skewed contributions was the limited use of capable talent last season. Former Flame Markus Granlund’s AHL level production was impressive but he failed to be a factor at the NHL level. Former Flame Sven Baertschi never stuck around and inevitably was dealt. Beyond that no one else was a real contributor in this age range.

This Season: A Big Improvement

With more veterans on the way out before and during the season, the Flames between 18-22 contributed even more this season. Factor in growth, the acquisition of Dougie Hamilton, and a full-time Sam Bennett and you’ve got a recipe for increased results.

A total of 139 points (62 goals, 77 assists) from the youth movement helped drive Calgary’s offence at 5v5. That’s 58% better than last season’s effort, so if anything, fans who are upset with the season’s outcome: here’s something positive for you.

5v51822

This team as a whole took a very measurable step forward in this area of the roster. And next season more than ever it’s likely the Flames will rely heavily on many of these names to push onwards and upwards to being a threatening team. Again, the overarching theme revolves around wingers as shown with the data above.

On the PP, it’s no different: the Flames’ youth were among the best in the league. A combined 64 points put them first among all NHL teams’ 18-22 year-old players this season:

201516pp

The obvious perplexities tend to revolve around two players: Dougie Hamilton and Sam Bennett. Both players struggled to get regular power play time early on for many inane and confusing reasons. Regardless, Hamilton finally became a fixture and the points soon followed, even if the power play, from a systemic perspective, was absolutely flawed and atrocious.

Where does this season rank among the league?

Good question, astute and attentive reader. I’ve compiled the data, including to split players who were traded and their totals with each team they played with. 5v5 data is located here while PP data is located here. Disclaimer: Anyone who turned 23 during the season was not subject to the range of 18-22 to keep it as clear as possible.

The top five for each category is as follows:

Team  5v5 Pts Team PP Pts
Columbus 155 Calgary 64
Florida 144 Buffalo 53
Calgary 139 Carolina 51
Winnipeg 131 Florida 48
Edmonton 127 Edmonton 44

What This Means Moving Forward

This should be self-explanatory: things are legitimately trending upward. A sophomore season for Bennett should hopefully build upon this year’s individual accomplishments as he pursues a long-term role as a Flames top-six centre. The limited support on the wings should theoretically be rectified at the draft and there is positive optimism that Hunter Shinkaruk can become a potential top-six winger, too. 

Beyond that, it’s extremely limited in high-ceiling support on the wings moving forward outside of hoping Andrew Mangiapane can make the leap in a similar fashion to Gaudreau.

It was admirable for fans to believe that this season Micheal Ferland would potentially fill that void but at this point it seems extremely unlikely given his stone hands and limited production thus far. Simply trading for this type of talent is a nearly impossible task at times, so drafting and developing it is the ideal route.

Regardless, we saw career highs in points from three cornerstone players: Gaudreau, Monahan, and Hamilton. If the Flames can add another winger producing at an acceptable rate for next season then this team will be even more potent moving forward. 

All of which is so incredibly important as this team will continue to rely on the youth movement more and more.

  • KACaribou

    From an analytics perspective, Vancouver’s dorks likely saw Granlund 1.73 p/60 and Baertschi 1.76 p/60 as great trades because last season they had p/60 as high as Johnny and Monny.

    I think we’re about to find out that analytics like this aren’t the be all and end all predicting success among hockey talent.

  • Craik

    Hartley is bringing these kids along nicely. Teaching them how to play the game right before just handing them power play time.

    Hamilton and Bennett struggled to get power play time early because they were struggling early. Hartley did a great job handling Hamilton this year to build him up from a (really) struggling kid to a big minute guy and a key part of the power play.

    I don’t know if Hartley is the long term solution here but as Mike Fail has pointed out in this article, he is doing a wonderful job with the kids.

      • hulkingloooooob

        Hey guys! Who knew, there are 3 of us now. I really don’t see Hartley as a bad coach, and when all the haters started getting what they were asking for later in the season, they didn’t say a thing. In other words their bias has become painfully obvious. I get it, if you don’t like him, you don’t like him, but I think the guy deserves a little credit, he has done a ton of good in Calgary. I for one don’t see an obvious upgrade out there and as the saying goes, better the devil you know then the devil you don’t know.

    • Greatsave

      Did we read the same article? The kids are scoring *in spite of* Hartley, not because of his “wonderful job”.

      Case in point:

      “The obvious perplexities tend to revolve around two players: Dougie Hamilton and Sam Bennett. Both players struggled to get regular power play time early on for many inane and confusing reasons. Regardless, Hamilton finally became a fixture and the points soon followed, even if the power play, from a systemic perspective, was absolutely flawed and atrocious.”

      Not sure how one construes that as Hartley’s “wonderful job”.

      @KACaribou Before you trash my post as “Hartley-hating”, let me point out that I’m merely saying Craik is inventing his point of “Mike praising Hartley’s wonderful job” out of thin air.

      • Craik

        Same article!

        I know Mike Fail is a Hartley hater (heck, he hates lots of things about the Flames), but other than his admitting (in your quoted paragraph) about being confused by how Hartley does it, the bottom line of the overall article is that these young players are developing well.

        All of the points and stats in the article point to good player development. Whatever you might think, this does not happen by itself and especially does not happen “in spite” of coaching.

      • KACaribou

        I couldn’t care less what Fail’s opinion is. I form my own opinions. I am not a mindless FN clone. The writer may have misinterpreted what Fail was saying, but his opinion is still valid on its own. You can safely assume anyone writing here will have something derogatory to say about Hartley; obviously knowing more than a professional hockey coach.

      • jakethesnail

        “Both players struggled to get regular power play time early on for many inane and confusing reasons”

        I guess the fact that Hamilton and Bennett struggled early was one of the inane and confusing reasons that they didn’t earn power play time. That is an inane to call that inane

        • Craik

          thanks jake … that is exactly what I tried to say in my original post when I said “Hamilton and Bennett struggled to get power play time early because they were struggling early”

      • Craik

        I see you’ve edited your post already.

        OK, I did not word that properly. I did not mean to imply Mike literally said Hartley is doing a wonderful job.

        I meant to say all of the stats and info was supporting the fact that Hartley is doing a wonderful job whether it was intended by Mike or not.

      • hulkingloooooob

        i’m sorry, are you saying the dougie we had at the start of the season deserved PP time. he was having a rather hard time for a good 30 – 40 games. he got PP time once he earned it by adjusting to the new team and could be trusted, etc….and then he excelled. the coach knows a heck of a lot more about how people should be deployed then a bunch of couch potatoes. (myself included)

    • ClayBort

      This was not his message at all.

      Imagine how many points they would have with a competent powerplay, and a breakout.

      These stats are in spite of Hartley, not thanks to.

      • cberg

        Their breakout was varied and actually not that bad, and their PP was ~Top 5 in the league in the 2nd half. BH was an integral part of the team. Results are reflective of both him and the team, not just one or the other.

        • piscera.infada

          The powerplay was poor in the first place as a result of personnel decisions made by Hartley–there’s a pretty parallel up-tick in success on the powerplay and Hamilton’s usage on the powerplay (necessitated by an injury and then suspension to Wideman). All in all, I can see the argument about the powerplay in the end though, but the penalty kill is also on him, and that remained atrocious throughout the season.

          But, in no way, no how, can the breakout (and neutral zone play) be considered anything short of a disaster. It’s been that way for all of Hartley’s tenure–including the Iginla/Cervenka season, and last season. This is a team that consistently has a difficult time getting the puck of their zone, and goals against are consistently generated as a result.

          • cberg

            I agree with you that Hamilton played more PP as the season went on, but not clear that was the reason for the uptick in PP success. First off, DH wasn’t that good early on, and only improved gradually over the year. Secondly, what really seemed to improve the PP was much better execution re: crisp passing, quick passing and utilizing 3-4 different set plays versus being kind of predictable and sluggish earlier. It seemed pretty reasonable that was a response to a severe focus on it by the coaches and the players responded.

            PK had its good stretches but was very inconsistent overall. Hearing BH’s post-season comments re wanting an aggressive, shot-blocking PK, I’d guess Bouma’s many injuries, Brodie’s injury and trading Russell didn’t help with the PK.

            Finally the breakout, a disaster? Have to disagree with you there. Moving the puck up quickly with strong D support was actually very effective in generating offence for the team overall, and our D in particular which I believe is something like the 3rd highest scoring D in the league.

            Of course, if it failed and there was a turn-over you don’t have your D back to defend, so sure, we sometimes got burned, but I’m pretty sure it was a positive overall. Perhaps it’ll be something to look at for next year?

            If you’ve got some specifics about our neutral zone play I’d love to hear it….

        • Greatsave

          PP in first 37 games: 12.2%, dead last.

          PP in last 45 games: 20.6%, 7th in league.

          Take a wild guess at when Dougie starting getting more PP time than Wideman.

          • Burnward

            To be fair, Dougie was pretty weak the first 25 games.

            10+ games of solid play to unseat a veteran who was fifth? in D-scoring the year previous isn’t all that slow.

  • EhPierre

    So let me get this right. Are you saying the Flames with our 4th rounder, 6th overall pick and 4th overall pick have a better group of players between the ages of 18-22 than the Oilers and their group of first overalls?

    I really hope the Oilers somehow end up drafting outside top 5, the Oilers don’t deserve anything good.

    • I mean, the biggest thing with Edmonton specifically was injuries affecting RNH and McDavid in this 18-22 range. Draisaitl started off hot, hit a lull for a bit, and finished pretty capably.

      I would presume, at the very the least that if McDavid and RNH were healthy that the point totals would be different.

      • EhPierre

        That is a fair point. If McDavid weren’t injured for as long as he was he would have singlehandedly caused an increase in the 18-22 point range

        Regarding Draisaitl, I just find it funny that Bennet has 3 less goals than Leon in 30 or so less games. I mean Leon has way more assists than Sam but then again Sam was playing with inadequate wingers throughout this season.

        Imho it’s just a matter of time before Bennet is the better player than Leon, which would be hilarious because it doesn’t seem to matter if Oilers get the first overall pick or not, Flames just happen to always draft the better play

        • RedMan

          Conner McFragile:

          Games won with him OUT:
          14 wins in 37 games = 37.8%

          Games won with him IN:
          17 wins in 45 games = 37.7%

          So clearly, the team is no better with him than without him. Actually, they won .1% more without him!

          I know what Oiler fans will say… “injuries” blah blah boo-hoo,
          Like, the Oilers are the only team that ever had injuries, ignoring the fact that the Flames played for a long stretch without it’s top 3 centers last year and also lost their #1 Norris calibre Norris defenseman… forget that there are teams in the playoffs now that have missed significant superstars.

          Funny how Oiler fans point to the absence of one 18 year old first year rookie as a reason they struggled, while still having more first-over-all’s than any other ten teams combined.

          And now Oiler fans are filling every discussion up with whining about Conner should win the Calder, ignoring the fact that it has always meant disqualification for an award when a significant portion of the season is lost due to injury. Yes, poor Oilers, not fair! Conner should be treated special because he is from a very special team.

          You can’t blame Oiler fans for their angst though – you can only point to how good you were in the 80’s, and how good your going to be next year, before you discourage even yourself!

          • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

            In almost every topic on the Flamesnation you compare and bring up Edmonton all the time,even when no Oiler fan has made any comments? Weird!
            On another topic , McDavid is by far the best rookie this year, and its not close. There are other rookies that are deserving of the Calder but one that should not be is Panarin . Panarin played 2 years of pro while McDavid had not even played one game of junior.
            Another comparison, is that Hall has played 6 years in the NHL and Panarin is just two weeks younger. Kind of puts it in perspective.
            The KHL is a pro league yet Panarin is eligible??

          • cberg

            Hey genius, it’s called Rookie of the Year, not Best Rookie. CM missed ~half the year, shouldn’t even get serious consideration. And as far as Panarin goes, they have rules and cut-offs and he fully qualifies.

      • The GREAT Walter White

        Hey Mike: when are you going to write an article about how the Oilers were actually WORSE with McDavid in the line up than without him.

        The Oilers only won 17 of the 45 games he played….. Surely there is a good story there! Have some courage…

        Ps: sign me up for your Backlund cult (after he has been traded).

        Also: what’s with all the Hartley hate? He looks like coach of the year compared to Huska…

        WW

      • jakethesnail

        Wow, blaming the oiler garbage fire on an 18 year old rookie missing some games for another poor season (again!). It just shows you that the core is rotten and needs change. What about Taylor Hall taking some accountability?….If he had played with the same desire in the second half of the year as he did at the beginning of the season, the oilers would have had 18-22 more points even with McD out!

        If the Oilers had drafted Seguin instead of Hall – oh my, the oilers would be an explosive club.

        • Wow if I had a salty Oilers Narrative Bingo card drafted up I would have got bingo multiple times off this single comment.

          All I said was their individual outputs would have likely been higher if McJesus and RNH were healthy.

          Stay hydrated, bud.

    • Kevin R

      Sadly the only way the Oilers draft outside the top 5 is if they trade the pick. Probably something they should do.

      I am not a Hartley advocate nor am I a Hartley hater; I see things based on the following performance observations:

      1/The team is so bad, big changes have to be made. Scotty Bowman couldn’t get these guys out of the basement.

      2/We did the best that could be expected, some tweaks & improvements in a few areas & we just might have something here.

      3/Holy smokes, we gave this guy the keys to the Caddy & he drove it into the ditch.

      Based on the previous year, I would say #2 would be the best observation describing the Flames. This last year, expectations would make you pick #3 but the expectations were not realistic. I think deep down most of us felt that with the few changes /additions of Frolik & Hamilton, this team should have made the playoffs, at least a 90-94 point season should have been there & we would have been playoffs. Reflecting now, I think somewhere between 1 & 2 & blend with somewhere between 2 & 3 is about the best I can describe Hartley’s performance. If Hartley had 3-4 more years on his contract, I would be concerned. Because he has 1 more year, I am intrigued to letting Hartley run next year. Like players, Hartley will also be coaching for a new deal & I think we may see player usage & decision making look a lot different than what we saw this year. Last summer we added a top 3 defender & possession monster forward. This year Treliving needs to focus on a Goalie & a top 6 scoring forward. Hopefully the coaching decision won’t need to be addressed until next spring/summer.

    • In a perfect world Wideman isn’t on this team for opening night in October. Other defensemen on this team (preferably a guy named Nakladal who needs to be re-signed) can fill his spot.

      Wideman’s hopeful void is a perfect chance for Kulak, Wotherspoon, Jokipakka, the aforementioned Nakladal, Kylington, Andersson, and god knows who else to step up and get an opportunity.

      • mattyc

        At this point, I think Wideman has negative value. He’s still a serviceable bottom pairing D man, but those guys are so cheap and plentiful. Long-term (beyond this season), the flames should be in a good position with D cap allocation: Pay the guys that are irreplaceable, and then try your luck with 3-4 Nakladals/Schlemkos and/or prospects and find the guys that stick. Ditto with your 4th line.

      • RedMan

        I love how Freedman ties Wideman to the Oilers… that would be so awesome! I wouldn’t even care if he did OK there… would be too awesome after all their fans’ chirping to have both Wideman and Kassiann

  • ClayBort

    You know what the best part of a 30 team league is? Unlike some here seem to believe, it allows anyone who puts the work in to EFFECTIVELY evaluate coaches without being a professional coach themselves. (btw KACaribou, arguing someone who isn’t a coach can’t evaluate a coach is silly. Nobody is professing to be a systems expert, or saying they can do a better job than Hartley. These sort of straw men arguments you latch onto are of little value with a sole purpose of you trying to value yourself above others who have actually put the effort in)

    Back to the topic at hand, Hartley has 29 peers to objectively be evaluated against. What you find is he’s closer to the bottom than the top, and just not very good as far as NHL coaches go.

    • cberg

      Clay, What criteria are you using to prove BH is closer to the bottom than the top? …and just not very good…? Do you think that the team a coach is given has an impact? Do you think that injuries have an impact? Do you think that team results have an impact, i.e. BH was really good last year but terrible this year? I’d really like to know how you are judging him? Also what inside information do you have re: systems, GM goals and directives, hidden injuries? Player attitudes? Dressing room issues?

      I’m really trying to get a better feel for BH, so please enlighten me/us, this could be a revelation.

      • ClayBort

        Special teams are the most obvious barometer. Scotty Bowman used to say there is no excuse that the PK% + the PP% shouldn’t be greater than 100. That is league average. Then when you delve deeper you realize, like other situations, he’s not identifying and using his best penalty killers. He would use some of the team’s worst suppressors on the PK and sometimes not even dress the best suppressors (ahem Jooris). The top 3 D on this team is as good as any in the league, and there is some high end talent up front and some great utility players like Frolik and Backlund. There is zero reason for special teams to be a tire fire. Frolik is a 40pt guy that barely saw the ice on the PP.

        Usage is the one that you here mentioned a lot. Have a look back at Dougie’s usage in Boston last year, and the success he had with Julien. It wasn’t until injuries forced Hartley to use Dougie the same way Julien did we really get to see why he was so coveted. Had the Flames stayed healthy that could have been a waste of a major talent.

        Then there are systematic issues that have been challenged in places other than FN. I remember Razor, the color guy of the Stars, a very respected hockey man, calling the Flames a systematic disaster. It’s also been interesting that Treliving has been the opposite of complimentary of the style Hartley has the Flames play.

        [Edit] A lot were off the Hartley train last year too. He was lauded by talking heads that he “gets the most out of his team”. The team was finishing at a ridiculously unsustainable rate. This season wasn’t a surprise to a lot of people. When Bob was hired, he inherited a team in the middle of the road possession wise. Not good enough to contend, not bad enough to challenge for a high pick. He was tasked with getting them back into the playoffs. The team swiftly imploded under Hartley, and was forced into a scorched earth rebuild. His tenure record with the team is disastrous. Sub .500 pts percentage, which is really difficult to do in the loser point era, and even more mind baffling when you omit last season (.460 range). That’s laughing stock bad, even with a rebuilding team.

        • cberg

          Special Teams: I’ve discussed Hamilton, the PK and the PP elsewhere. Not good but vast PP improvement, and other reasons. Jooris good at PK, OK, but that’s not the whole game….

          Systems: Still haven’t heard much in specifics here, except someone else’s off-hand comments. As for BT, I’m pretty sure he and BH are pretty much on the same page.

          History: So was last year great coaching? Pretty sure BH didn’t force the Flames into a scorched earth rebuild, but that was Feaster’s plan for a while…. and yes, losing Iginla, Bouwmeester and others and going scorched earth rebuild will impact any team. This year 10 of 30 teams finished with a 50% points % or lower. Obviously NOT as difficult as you seem to believe.

      • ClayBort

        I didn’t say the standings are the best way to evaluate a coach. There are lots of ways to compare coaches against one another. I reference Hartley’s points percentage in other comments because he has been here 4 years, and it is impressive his pt% can be that bad even with 1 season pre-rebuild and 1 massively overachieving season. It’s actually sort of impressive he’s hung on this long.

        • RedMan

          “…I reference Hartley’s points percentage in other comments because he has been here 4 years, and it is impressive his pt% can be that bad even with 1 season pre-rebuild”

          So, your counting the year the team bottomed out and dumped Iginla, Tanguay, and Bouwmeester, plus the three subsequent years of rebuild…

          Whatever. Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

          Definitely fans have many questions about Hartley’s player utilization,use of vets over prospects(during rebuild), and the ungodly stretch pass.

          What people aren’t pumping is the attitude the players bring as a result of Hartley’s coaching, the development of Joe Coulborne, and the highest scoring defense in the league, and the development of Monahan and Gaudreau. It seems players genuinely like playing in Calgary – and Hartley has to get at least some of the credit for this.

          I am not a huge Hartley supporter, I just think that there are astute hockey minds in charge of making these evaluations and determinations, and I have some level of trust in them at this point. this ownership wants to win, and has put no road blocks in the way.