Don’t worry about Brian Elliott

The first impressions of Brian Elliott in a Calgary Flames uniform haven’t been overly positive. With an 0-3 record and very unflattering totals thus far, some are wondering whether the Flames made the right call targeting Elliott as a solution to their goaltending issues. If you’re in that camp, I’m here to ease your fears a little, because I think Elliott is going to be just fine.

I’m not going to sit here and suggest Elliott has been great through his first three games with Calgary. In fact, he’s been pedestrian at best in three starts; while he hasn’t allowed a ton of “bad goals”, he hasn’t been there to bail the Flames out when they need him either. High quality scoring opportunities are going in on Elliott more than they usually do and that’s a big reason why I think he’ll be back to normal sooner rather than later. The good news for Flames fans is Elliott’s normal is pretty darn good.

A proven track record

Elliott has proven over the last half decade he is one of the NHL’s better goaltenders. While it happened later in his career than it does for many others, Elliott developed into one of the league’s top tier goalies over his last five seasons with the St. Louis Blues. That’s why sending a second round pick to the Blues at the Draft to acquire Elliott made so much sense.

That’s why it’s hard for me to believe Elliott has just fallen off a cliff to start his career in Calgary. You’ll notice below the large disparity in his numbers when you compare his VERY small sample size with the Flames and his five years in St. Louis.

Screen Shot 2016-10-22 at 6.35.59 PM

I get that Elliott hasn’t been very good so far this season, but come on, he hasn’t forgotten how to play the game nor has a change of scenery affected him to such a degree. While numbers never tell the entire story, the ones Elliott posted with the Blues are telling enough.

That’s why I’m comfortable saying Elliott is a good goalie who’s had a bad three games. Far more often than not, we see things normalize up (or down) to the mean and I’m expecting the same to happen in Elliott’s case. If/when that happens, the discussion about a contract extension for Elliott will really start to heat up.

Dispelling a myth

If you’re not an Elliott supporter, I have a pretty good idea what you were screaming at your screen during the first section of this piece. You were probably saying “he played on a very good St. Louis team so his numbers are inflated,” right? Well, respectfully, I think that’s a bit of a myth.

I always believed save percentage was one of the most telling stats in hockey. A simple ratio of shots stopped compared to shots faced was about as telling as it got. Then came the whole debate about shot quality and so the stat became even more specialized to really reflect the value of an individual goaltender. This is where Elliott really excels.

Let’s take last year as an example. Elliott lead the league with a 0.930 save percentage and was second behind only James Reimer with a 0.938 save percentage at even strength. But for the naysayers who point to the team Elliott played for as a chief reason for his impressive numbers, I have something for you.

Let’s take a look at Elliott’s work in high danger situations from last season. This is the real equalizer, because every team, no matter how good they are, gives up 10 bell chances where they need their goaltender to bail them out. Elliott was as good as it gets in these spots last year.

Screen Shot 2016-10-22 at 7.20.31 PM

As you can see, Elliott was lights out in the toughest of situations last season. The most telling part of this for me is his save percentage in all situations, because that includes the powerplay where the likelihood of high quality chances goes up exponentially.

It’s also important to note the Blues were not among the elite in suppressing high danger chances last season, either. St. Louis ranked 14th in high quality scoring chances against and Elliott faced 196 chances of this variety in 2015-16; that puts him right around the average in terms of high quality chances faced per game.

Conclusion

Much like most of the negativity surrounding Calgary’s start to this season, my message is the same when it comes to Elliott: it’s early, let’s let it play out a little more. Elliott came into the season with high expectations, so disappointment in his first three games is totally valid. That said, the data above should give you a little more hope this is an aberration as opposed to the norm.

Elliott played for a very good team in St. Louis the last five years, no question. That shouldn’t take away from how we view his work individually, though. Elliott was a solid pickup by the Flames and I’m very much confident that’ll become evident as this season plays out.

  • TurkeyLips

    Good article. Goaltending is the least of the Flames concerns.

    It’s the skaters on this team. They have to stop treating the first month of the NHL season like a mid-summer training camp.

    The poor season starts of late point to terrible preparation and hockey conditioning in the off-season.

  • Achilles

    A great, encouraging article. Our beloved Moose is improving ever so slightly every outing.

    Plus, when the play by his teammates in front of him are as broken as what he is presently watching, not surprising that his stats are bad.

  • clib542

    I don’t read articles, so maybe Pat mentioned it.. But flames need to reduce the number of high danger shots, as you can see, even the best goalie allows 14 goals every 100 in that area and flames are giving up way too many

  • Just a Fan

    I am not sure about Elliott but I believe you are discounting the effect of a new city, new team, new coach as well as the pressure of higher expectations in a contract year. Time will address the adjustment to a new team but not the added pressure. That just gets worse with every passing day

          • Arminius

            Should probably punt him every time he comes back with a new name. But FN doesn’t mind Train goading them steadily. Anyways I’ve been happier since I’ve stopped coming here and dealing with the greasy Coil trolls. Lol.

            Later y’all

          • KACaribou

            They’ve threatened to punt me numerous times, and have actually done it twice.

            I went to the owner and asked him why alternate opinions are so offensive to FN bloggers? He agreed, and re-instated me. If someone is spreading hatred or using offensive language okay, but that wasn’t what I was doing at all.

            I don’t want Train or Ghost banned at all. I hate reading the exact same opinion over and over by a bunch of clones who can’t come up with thoughts outside the box.

            Whether cooky or not, alternate thoughts are what spark other thoughts which can eventually turn into brilliant thoughts or new theories.

            Like it or not, women generally DO look after the kids. They gave birth to them for crying out loud. I didn’t read it as some offense to women in general.

            You can also MORE THAN ASSUME it is almost all men who read FN. I have read plenty of things here that are verging on “Locker Room Talk.”

            Nothing stifles progress in our society more than always having to pussy foot around being politically correct. Imagine something so innocent being made into such a big deal.

          • Ari Yanover

            I’m happy you weren’t offended by Ghost’s comment. I, a woman, was. You don’t get to tell me what is and isn’t offensive to me. And the insinuation that we should let everything a woman could possibly find demeaning slide because we’re in a male-dominated space is frankly so horrifying and so dangerous I don’t know what to say to you, and I certainly don’t have the time right now.

            But consider this a warning. Respecting people different than you – including women! – isn’t a matter of being “politically correct”. It’s a matter of being a decent person. And I don’t need crap like this *on the blog I run*. Quite frankly, women get enough sht in the sporting world to begin with; none of us need this.

            What stifles progress is when you exclude groups of people exactly through nonsense like this.

            It wasn’t a big deal until you decided to spew whatever the hell this was. It was a series of three comments: Ghost’s, mine, and Ghost’s apology. You escalated it. Congratulations.

            Ghost, thank you for your apology. I didn’t think you intended to offend, but your use of language – primarily saying “the woman” – was what got to me. All I ask is you be more mindful of your language in the future.

          • KACaribou

            To most women, it isn’t offensive to be a good mother and look after their children. I am sorry if you are insulted by that. Congratulations that you have become a blogger, but most women’s greatest joy and achievement is raising wonderful children to become incredible adults.

            Oh, in fact that is most men’s greatest achievement as well.

          • OnDaWagon

            Ari Yanover

            Seems you want to prove you are the sheriff.

            KACaribou is actually one of your better posters. He may have stepped close to the edge with his comment, but did apologize to you.

            As for you wanting to let us all know, you are the big boss, you’ve done your duty. I would think Wayne doesn’t care who blogs, as long as it works.

            If you banned everyone who said something, that was disliked by some reader/poster, or you, how many posters do you think you’d have on your blog?

            Maybe you should accept the persons apology, and, drop it.

          • ClayBort

            This is a hockey blog. Get off the free speech high horse and recognize those types of comments have no place in a hockey discussion (or any discussion for that matter but you do you). Also, just because folks are allowed to say what they want, it doesn’t mean we have to listen, or maintain a platform (a hockey blog no less) for them to speak.

          • No, we made a decision to remove someone from the community who continued to lack the empathy and general understanding of why the particular comments in this discussion were problematic.

            It’s 2016. Having some measurable form of empathy goes a long way.

          • Jakethesnail

            I have 1 son and 5 daughters and we are very close and have a good relationship.
            They are taught the difference between wrong and right and my son is very respectful towards women.
            I guess I never thought about how that comment could affect someone. Ari ,any idea what is the % of women on this site?

          • Ari Yanover

            No clue. I wouldn’t imagine it’s high, but I don’t know anyone’s genders here really unless explicitly stated. I know I never joined in on the comments section before I started writing here though because it seemed exclusively male and I wasn’t sure if I was comfortable with that (and to be fair, my default online browsing state is that of a lurker, anyway).

            But I believe you on what you’re saying and I thank you for it. Literally everyone messes up. It happens. What matters is how we react and learn from it, so I seriously thank you for your posts since I called out that first one.

            Arminius – drop it; Ghost’s only fault was that first comment which has since been apologized for.

          • Jakethesnail

            It wasn’t meant to offend you or anyone else. I think that a guy who is bringing the family in 4 ml a year could have time to concentrate on his game. My apologies.

          • Arminius

            You’re a classless hillbilly rube. Say what you want to incite and than come brownnosing back with a smarmy apology you don’t mean as in a day or two you’re back at it

            “The woman”? Really.. how many generations of inbreeding has produced you?

          • FlamesFanOtherCity

            Congrats to Chia on all the wonderful things he has done to improve the Oilers. What was it again? Signed Lucic? Drafted McDavid? Traded for Larsson?

            Russell’s contract won’t hurt you much this year, but if he is your best d-man right now, then you have issues. First, he is a 4/5 guy, not top pairing. Second, if he does well, then you have to sign him and give him a raise. Third, he is one blocked shot away from another injury. He plays hard and has more bruises than a rodeo clown.

            Larsson has looked ok, but I haven’t seen any great strides in being a top guy. The defense is still the greatest issues, beyond the lack of depth.

            Enjoy the wins while you can. They are hard to come by against top teams and even moreso once teams gets up to speed.

          • Jakethesnail

            Russell first of all has been very solid. Larson has been much better than advertised, and he has been much better than ok! He has been a horse on the backend. He traded two high picks for a backup goaltender who has proven to be a true #1.
            Signed Sekera who has looked very good this year.
            He traded for Kassian , who has 4 points in 6 games ,Maroon and Gryba. Had the balls to trade Hall (who is not being missed at all right now,and showed he wasn’t ready to lead this team) and got rid of a distraction in Yak, who I liked. Once a guy asks for a trade how can you let him stay in the dressing room.
            Has turned this team into a big physical team with skill that has started off 5-1 this season and finds themselves alone atop the NHL standings , and he has done it in just over a year.

          • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

            political correctness, by definition is “correctness that has been politicized”

            In Talbot’s case IT IS he who must worry about hockey, so therefore it is quite likely that “the woman” WILL be looking after the kid.

            Right or wrong isn’t for you to decide. Or Ghost. Or me.

  • CalgaryCandle

    Johnson was solid last night–it’s all the high danger chances against–breakways, odd man rushes, inability to get the puck out of the zone.

    It wouldn’t matter if Glenn Hall or Carey Price were in net. We’d still give up five goals a game.

    I think a lot of our problems are on the back end. As good as Gio and Brodie are offensively or skating the puck out, it’s hard for them to contain bigger forwards such as on Anaheim or even St. Louis.

    Seilof was the only one in the system who was physical, stay at home. Offensive D have been prized and stockpiled (Kylington, Rasmussen.

    I’m beginning to question Tre. There have been some great trades (Hamilton, Russell) but a LOT of mistakes (Bollig, Grossman, Gully (Cavern) Cameron).

    Under Gully I don’t see the early woes being resolved. What we’ve seen is what we get. This could be a long rebuild.

    • Justthateasy

      There was very little hitting. Especially defending along the boards. We have no feared bone crushing defenceman.
      Johnny tried to throw a couple hits but what a waste of time that is. Like I said; he is a limited superstar (and overpaid) and is one slash away from injury.

      • Hubcap1

        First, I like a physical team and love watching very physical games. However, there is always ample room for skilled players that lack that intimidating edge, so long as they themselves aren’t intimidated by the opposition (just to note high skill level intimidates as much or more than brute force).

        Gaudreau is no different than any other player in that “a slash” or whatever other injury could sideline anyone; remember Lindros, big, physical, yet couldn’t stay healthy (concussions).

        Make no mistake this team needs a lot of work, but it’s going to take time given every teams limited ability to make changes. The coaching staff and the players will have to figure it out one way or another.

  • KACaribou

    Although high danger areas CAN produce greater scoring opportunities, the theory is often debunked when considering shots in this zone aren’t always quality shots.

    There’s often traffic in this area, so a shot can be fanned or blocked by a d-man. Often they aren’t clean scoring chances.

    I like to think of it as more important for a team not to give up QUALITY scoring opportunities (from all sorts of areas) like a breakaway or 2 on 1, or a perfect pass to a guy in a scoring position. Shea Weber winding up just outside the HD area but with a clean shot coming it at 110 MPH can be a lot greater in quality than some weak shot inside that zone.

    The Flames have always recently given up more “quality” scoring opportunities than the opposition going back to the final year of Mikka Kiprusoff. I can’t help but feel that frustration led to his early retirement.

    Although HD zone chances are one way to judge save quality, it isn’t the only way.

    Elliot and Johnson most certainly have seen more shots in the HD zone this year; but the amount of quality scoring chances are off the charts compared to BC (before Calgary).

    Calgary has terrible defensive defencemen as a whole, and forwards who are not smart with the puck. That leaves to a high amount of giveaways (just count Johnny Hockey’s last night alone, or Dougie Hamilton’s virtually any game).

    This isn’t new. Just ask Ortio and Ramo, who “some” people here including Steinberg trashed mercilessly last season.

    So no it isn’t an Elliot problem. I agree.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I agree with Pat’s general arguments here and I do expect Elliot to bounce back. SV% doesn’t tend to dramatically drop off from a consistent performer, in a single season. The trouble is that this team needs an elite stopper now. The Flames need to believe in someone to start rallying around. No skater has done anything beyond a single game. A goalie everyone could count on to bail them out would be really great right now.

  • KenBone18

    While Pat is probably correct in that a revision to the mean is likely, shouldn’t we worry about the team that constantly gift wraps grade A chances for the opposition?

  • Theo4HoF

    Hasek in his prime couldn’t save this team. Elliot is gonna have to be an all world goalie every night for this team to even have a chance. I think this team is even worst than last years.

  • flamesburn89

    You never do know though. Jonas Hiller had a proven track record as an average #1 goalie heading into last season, and he completely fell off a cliff.

    I too think Elliot will eventually figure things out, but I thought the same of Hiller last year. And look where he is now.

  • Juan Valdez

    All of the talk about goaltending has deflected from the real issue at hand: puck management.

    The team that turns over the puck the least usually wins the game. It’s that simple. Just ask Ken Hitchcock and the St. Louis Blues.

    GG knows it, but he’s not getting through to certain players. If BT thought changing goaltenders was going to solve anything then he’s clearly not the right GM for this team.

  • Crakupov

    There were a few positives in the third period of the St.Louis game upon which the team can draw on. That being said there are some really bad deals on the flames.

    Gio for 6.75 million until he hits 40
    – Its only downhill from here for him at 33

    Monohan for 6.375 million for another 8 years.
    – Big overpay for a second line centre.

    Micheal Frolik 4.3 million for another 5 years.
    – Another big overpay for a third line winger with similar stats to veersteeg

    Troy Brower 4.5 million for another 4 years
    – He’s playing ok but at 31 this looks like another aging veteran this club will be carrying in the future

    Dennis Wideman 5.25 million for another 2 years
    – at 33 I think he is past his prime

    It’s tough to compete on the ice when the off the ice signings hamstring the club so badly in the salary cap world.

  • beloch

    I think a large amount of the frustration people are feeling stems from a sense of deja vu. Last year the Flames had a slow start thanks to unexpectedly bad goal tending. Hopefully Elliott will recover soon and this season will stop reminding us of last season.

  • RKD

    No one is disputing what Elliott has done or what he can do. At the end of the day he could still very well end up with a good save %. Here in Calgary, we are quick to judge him on the fact he hasn’t won a game and has been beaten a lot. We are trying to find faults on trivial things. Then we say oh his positioning looks awkward or that he has a lingering injury. If he was injured he wouldn’t be given the green light to even dress as a back up. If he gave up 3 goals and the Flames won no one is saying anything about Elliott. On this team he’s going to measure by wins and losses, not so much GAA and save%.

    • Captain Ron

      I’m more in your camp on this issue. Please come back and tell us what the result of that conversation is.

      The other day I was chastised for posting something in reference to the power play that was misinterpreted from my point of view. No disrespect intended at the time but there I was being raked over the coals. I asked both my wife who is 13 years younger than me, and my Mother who is 83 years old (still in great shape) and was actively involved in a prominent Women’s Hockey program in this Province till 3 years ago for their opinions on what I said. Neither of them thought what I had said was any big deal at all. So their interpretation was different than the moderator’s was.

      I suspect that all of us who comment on this blog vary greatly in age but it is male dominated to a large degree. Some of us are dinosaurs who grew up during a time when political correctness wasn’t even a recognized phrase in our vocabulary. We all have different filters in our speech.

      For example what I find offensive is how blog writers sometimes feel free to refer to some players or their play as garbage, junk etc and have no problem describing another human being that way. I don’t even think it’s right to refer to animals or other living things in that manner. But if I want to read these blogs it’s there whether I like it or not. Some people are OK with it.

      I think a greater level of tolerance and good sense of humor would go a long way here.

  • FL@med

    Moose to Nashville for Juuse Saros. Saros and Gillies, future pairing for the Flames… We also get a 2nd from Nashville. Or we can send him to LA, take Budaj and a prospect so they have enough cap space, and also take a 4th.

  • Nolan

    What alot of Flames fans dont realize, look at Elliott’s numbers, NOT with St Lou. Pretty mediocre. I think that playing in that defense first system really helped him and showed his numbers to be better. I believe he was an upgrade to the pilons the team had last year but didnt think he’d be this bad.