Kings 5, Flames 0 post-game embers: Last night on rock bottom

Rock-Bottom

There is a time in every hockey fan’s life when their favourite finds a way to sink from immeasurable despair on ice to an other-worldly level of disappointing. Off their remarkably decent showing against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night, the Flames reverted back to shades of 2013-14 with what might be regarded as the lowest point of this early season.

And to contrast that display (if we can call it that) on ice, the Los Angeles Kings played a virtually flawless game that resulted in exposing every major defect that exists in this Flames team.

Yes, this is rock bottom and hopefully the only direction now is up. Though it’s incredibly important to keep in mind that it’s likely not going to be easy.

Matthew, Mikael, and Michael – The Stability

We talk a lot about this line, almost an unhealthy amount, really. That said, there is reason behind it. For starters, they often play in the most dire of circumstances on the team, usually with little to no offensive zone starts, and still find results. Inevitably their success of suppressing anything and everything would end: last night it was that exact situation. That said, they were still remarkable relative to their teammates.

For context, coming into last night the Matthew Tkachuk – Mikael Backlund – Michael Frolik line was sporting the following statistical outputs (all data via Corsica.Hockey):

TOI CF% FF% SF% GF% PDO SCF% FO% OZS%
42.22 59.72 58.18 64.86 100 116.67 75 36 8

This is impressive and it did continue last night albeit not as well. And that’s okay, because when your on-ice SV% is 100% and your line is shooting 16.67% it’s not going to last. Another underlying impressive feat prior to the loss last night? The line surrendered two scoring chances against.

Two goals against in a game is typically not the ideal situation for any line or for any team, but still, they all managed to play at their same pace: driving play, trying to suppress the opposition the best they could, and being the top line on the ice again.

The trio (the 3M line…?) combined for 10 iCF at 5v5 (individual Corsi-for) events, six of which were shots on net. That’s 30% of the Flames’ shots. Each of them were also above 50% in CF% and FF% for the night, too. The only line to do so.

Brett Kulak: You’re A Good Peach

The need for finding the right mix on the blueline – both composition of the blueline for each game and the pairings – is still a dire problem with this team. Glen Gulutzan’s incessant decision of one step forward, two steps back is a reoccurring theme this season that is more nauseating than new episodes of the Simpsons.

Still, within that cycle of inadmissible decision making there are moments that are worthwhile. Brett Kulak’s play last night was quite nice, even if he did finish the night on the negative differential of shot metrics and scoring chances.

The biggest surprise? Kulak finally got some power play time (2:20 total) and looked comfortable and capable. We know the special teams situation isn’t something remarkable, but the fact that he was used is a huge step forward, even for Gulutzan. There may be grounded optimism on that particular idea, but let’s hope it happens.

Kulak finished the night with 21:33 of ice time (a career high), 45.95% CF (5v5), and 48.39% FF (5v5). 

Enough is Enough. Stop Using Grossmann

There isn’t enough care in any fan’s body – bones, flesh, guts, crud, and whatever else is in us – to actually believe for a second that playing Nicklas Grossmann is a lucid idea. There is no way to shelter him enough to maximize any measurable benefits in his game. It’s even more infeasible when you’re on the road against a team like the Kings.

And yet, we’ve hit this point, where again and again the veteran defenseman was exposed which resulted in negative impacts. It may come off callous that he is constantly called out. It may be insidious that this could read as the loss solely being put on his shoulders, but it’s not. Grossmann’s play last night (13:48 total) definitively provided zero benefit to the team.

Even if you can make the case – rightfully too – that Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, Dougie Hamilton, Dennis Wideman, etc., etc. have all struggled: there is no sound or logical rationale involved with playing Grossmann. Even if the reasoning comes from Treliving who signed him; it needs to stop.

The desired outcome of the hockey game is to win. You can’t win if the bulk of the team under-performs night in and night out. You also can’t win if the team on ice is not a roster that has a fair enough chance of competing. No one cares that Grossmann is a nice guy in the room. They care about results. There is zero accountability for these decisions that we’ve seen. Zero.

Edit: Thank you @Fl@med for catching the missing stat line: 50% CF (5v5), 44.44% FF (5v5), and 23.08% SF (5v5) in 13:25 played.

Figuring Out Johnny Gaudreau

The pregame lines looked like a step in the right direction. The opportunity of seeing Sam Bennett play along side Johnny Gaudreau and Troy Brouwer looked promising. With Sean Monahan’s debilitating play as of late this was a prime opportunity to see if Bennett’s aggressive play could get Gaudreau going. It did not happen.

Instead a noticeable Gaudreau zone entry attempt was picked in the neutral zone that regrettably contributed to more media-driven narratives that Gaudreau is feeling the pressure of his contract. Obviously we’ve hit a fever pitch where the results – as bad as they are – have resulted in inarticulate takes to understand the team’s current situation.

Is it possible that Gaudreau has some sort of pressure on him? Yes, he’s human. Is it accurate reporting and fair to constantly point to that as the cause of his slow start? No, it’s just bad journalism and analysis. The eye test doesn’t scream Gulutzan and the coaching staff have changed the way he plays at even strength. 

If anything, you can make the case that the opposition is finding legitimate ways of containing him. He’s having difficulty generating anything from his controlled entries, teams are adjusting their neutral and defensive zone strategies to stifle him, and he’s struggling to circumvent situations that he did previously. He hasn’t forgotten how to play hockey by any stretch, but maybe there is a need to adjust his game.

It shows statistically when you look at his start last season (13GP) and this season’s start (excluding last night as Corsica didn’t have it added yet):

  • CF% at 5v5 – 43.45, last season: 50.79%
  • FF% at 5v5 – 41.74%, last season: 48.13%
  • SF% at 5v5 – 42.14%, last season: 47.52%

Below are Gaudreau’s individual contributions at 5v5 (via Corsica) and his zone entry results via Ryan Pike:

gaudreaucompare

entries

In terms of flat CF%/FF% it’s extremely noticeable and you see it when you watch him play. His individual contributions outside of point totals at 5v5 are not really different at all. Gaudreau’s individual shot contributions and zone entry statistics don’t show any major variance either.

The point totals should come because if there is one thing Gaudreau knows, it’s how to score. This slump – like the bulk of the roster’s slump – is concerning, but he played lights out in the World Cup and he’s played lights out before, so let’s see what happens over the next few games before we admit the sky is falling.

You can live and die on the backs of a Gaudreau, of a Dougie Hamilton, and of a Bennett. They play high-tempo, high-event hockey with results that often benefit the team more than potential ill-effects (turnovers, bad goals against like we saw with Hamilton last night, etc.). Obviously maximizing their results the best you can is key, but more often than not they’re the ones driving the offense. 

However, when the offense dries up mistakes are far more noticeable, and everyone’s resounding need to promote their confirmation bias-laden poetics about how Gaudreau doesn’t warrant his contract or the reported asks surfaces. Players go through slumps and by no means is it the best thing for the team currently, but it’s not like he’s the only one who recently got paid and hasn’t performed up to standards.

  • First Name Unidentified

    Talk about crushing all the credibility of your own body of work through a couple years by hiring a dud as your head coach. Not only that, you go on ahead and hire the worst possible guy to run your power play. I said the exact same words when Gully was hired and again when Cammer was hired. Treliving should be fired just based on the coaching hires. Hey, we’re still paying good ol Artley, can we please send him a limo pick up?

    Talk about fixing things which are not broken. Johnson won the net, Jokipakka was pretty good. Our hero changes defenders for back to back games!! Hey have you heard of that? I had heard of goalies changing for a back to back. Our hero plays Gross man, not only that, he pairs him with your future D quarter back so that the kid’s confidence is flushed in a hurry. All of a sudden the best players on this team forgot how to play? Johnny was still scoring ton of goals as recently as the World Cup. I say we healthy scratch all the coaches except Marty and let him run the bench for a few games. I’m confident boys will start winning again.

    Garbage coaching
    Garbage coaches

    This dude should go back to teaching calculus. Clearly not a carryover of one to the other. Our talented kids can’t afford to waste years of their careers playing for this tool! Again, he is not an NHL head coach.

    • Stan

      Do you even watch the games? If you did, you’d know coaching is not the real issue here. It’s pretty hard to win games in this league when your best players are your worst and Gaudreau/Monahan have been completely invisible.

      I mean, your seriously advocating that they bring Hartley back. All I have to say to that is: take a hike.

      • Kevin R

        Yeah the head hunting is hard to read lately. We are out of the gate & sucking badly. Wasted year, still some crap contracts that are preventing some massive youth injections to shake things up. We grin & bear it. Monahan& Gaudreau were some young up & coming talent, cocky & getting paid like rock stars. Once thy get past cashing these awesome paycheques they will suddenly figure out it is even better to get paid & WIN! By the time they loosen up, start playing their game, start to listen to their new coach, we’ll be in the bottom 3rd of the league & the magic number counting against us way too early. Next year I expect no fking excuses. No stupid Grossman signings, no interrupted training camps, no contract distractions, no flat crap play out of the gate. We see this garbage again in Oct & November, I will expect big changes & hit the quick reset button. Right now, as painful as this is, we all hoped for better but really, is anyone surprised?

      • Derzie

        Syd was washed up at the beginning of last year and people with your line of thinking thought it was all on him. he was done. They changed the coach and won the cup and Syd won the Conn Smythe. Don’t let the play of players fool you into thinking it’s on the players. JG was lights out under Hartley and at the World Cup. Now he and Brodie & Monny (all the stars) are doing poorly and it’s on them? Are they too old now? Forgot how to play hockey? Get real.

        • Kevin R

          The one argument I have against that is wouldn’t it take more than 9 games to develop a dislike & tune out of a coach? If Hartley is the only coach they’ll perform for then they may have to go tonEurope to play hockey. I think these players need to learn to trust & execute what their new coach is asking of them. Old habits are hard to break.

        • shaner

          is there any way we could do a crowd funding site for Derzie to become next coach or even player coach (like Reg Dunlop). You have way to much insight and detailed analysis to be stuck on a teams fan site. I don’t blame Tre for not hiring you because he didn’t know you existed, but if we could generate some funds and do a targeted advertising campaign detailing all your expertise, then Tre will be able to right a wrong and get you in the spot you need to be.

      • First Name Unidentified

        What I am saying is the players wouldn’t play any worse if there was no coach behind the bench. Then what’s the point of having this tool mid-coach your team? We will be going the Oilers way if we can’t figure out the coaching soon.

        Oh yes, I do watch the games, on PVR, so I can rewind and replay critical plays and then form an opinion. Thanks for asking. And if you keep smoking what you’re smoking, you will be taking a hike, not me!

        Frigging kids these days. Are you Gulutzan?

        • shaner

          You got to be better bud, your giving the coaches to much blame when things are bad. When our top players aren’t producing, its pretty tough to blame coaches, Gultzy doesn’t wear skates during the game, yes he affects match ups (to a lesser extent on the road)….but you could put scotty bowman on the previous 10 years of the oilers or this years flames and you may only get 2 more wins over a season…..

  • FL@med

    Not saying that i’m a fan of Grossman, but when you were nagging on him in this post why didn’t you give his stats? Oh, for those who are interested he had a 50% corsi and 42 % OZS, good for 6th on the team. Albeit his game score wasn’t too good, it was still higher than Gio’s, and Brodies…… Once again, not a fan of Grossman, but theirs no point for constantly nagging about him, and when you do it, then at least add his stats for the night, instead of hiding them….

  • Jakethesnail

    I don’t think goaltending is the problem in Calgary.

    Let’s pretend that Elliot is a top puck stopper as was Giguere and a lesser extent Ramo. It’s the defense that actually sucks in Calgary. Maybe the highest paid d in the league.

    Calgary is where good goalies go to die. A top rated defense should make an average goalie look good. That’s not the case in Calgary .

  • flamesburn89

    Gaudreau looks like he’s forcing it, always trying to do everything himself.

    Monahan has been invisible though. I think he’s been the Flames’ biggest disappointment so far this season.

  • Theo4HoF

    Well, its starting look like maybe the flames should of given Monahan and Gaudreau a bridge deal instead of a long term. Our so called best offensive players are our worst right now.

  • snotss

    get used to the flames up and down start to the year…this team is showing it’s not very good when your top players play like crap…your d plays like a bunch of rookies..there is not depth here and it’s becoming clear the coach is in way over his head.. the gm and burke have egg all over their faces..this is the team they gave to gg….. every thing seems to point to a long frustrating year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!go stamps

  • A bad season could mean King, Treliving and Burke all resign or are fired this spring. If so let’s also dissolve the office of President of Hockey Operations (Burke’s office) too and streamline management, coaching and scouting. We need a leaner front office with a GM who reports direct to the team President. Let the GM have one assistant GM to help manage the head coach and head scout. If Gulutzan quits or is fired then replace him with someone who has had NHL coaching success this decade.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Gulutzan still has my support and my only current complaint is that he keeps going back to Grossman. Grossman makes me wish for Anton Babchuk, who was a terrible hockey player (thanks uncle Jay). I don’t blame him for trying new D pairings, if they worked, they would have provided a better level of depth among the top 6.

    The “Gulutzan broke Gaudreau and Monahan” narrative is dumb. He has continually provided both players with lots of minutes, sheltered zone starts, PP time and the high ground. He’s done what he can, and all his players have to execute. This is not Hartley putting Backlund between MacGratton and Westgard and expecting him to produce (like the @sshole he is).

    • Derzie

      It’s the systems. It rewards pluggers and strong 2 way players, not offensive stars. Mismatch of systems and players. i suspect the wins we get are when the players cheat the system and play some fun hockey (and on the rare occasion when the d-pairings are correct).

  • Derzie

    Dear Hockey Gods: Please let us be entertained tonight by a decently played game with fair reffing and sane coaching. A win is too much to ask but another tire fire game would be cruel. Thanks.

    p.s. The Oil continuing to win is a cruel punishment for everyone outside of Shelbyville. Please make it stop. Thanks.