Flames 3, Hurricanes 1 post-game embers: Hurricane Ferly

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Matinee games often derail your weekend. Sometimes they’re boring and sometimes both teams are so flat that it takes 40 minutes for anything fun to happen. 

Fortunately today the Calgary Flames didn’t disappoint – for the most part – and it featured a prominent showing from a Flame that is quickly validating more and more that he should be protected in the expansion draft.

Things might be looking up here, folks, and it’s just in time for the final push.

Hurricane Ferly

Hurricane Ferly touched down today in Raleigh, North Carolina and it left a trail of destruction as Micheal Ferland continued his strong play as of late. Funny, when you put a guy like Ferland with capable linemates who give him room and an opportunity to show off his skill-set you get results like this. Why we had to wait this long into the season to finally get more of the Johnny Gaudreau – Sean Monahan – Ferland line is beyond reason at this point.

Today we saw the many faces of what Ferland is, a versatile winger who can be effective away from the puck and deadly with the puck. The pass from Gaudreau after a Michael Stone shot block might be one of the most beautiful Calgary Flames sequences all season. It’s impossible to fathom most NHL players being able to make that pass let alone having a guy with that speed and the ability to finish in Ferland.

The Gaudreau goal starts with Ferland recovering after a failed zone exit, forcing a turnover, and feeding the diminutive Flames winger down the ice to start the play. For most of the season this line has lacked these types of elements; things like this obviously go a long way but they enable Gaudreau and Monahan to play to their strengths.

If this line sticks – and it should – then it gives the Flames a 1-2 punch with highly regarded 3M Line continuing to match top competition, play in the tougher starts, and drive play. But more importantly beyond all of those things it will continue to enable to of the cornerstones of this franchise to do what they do best: create offense.

Ferland finished the game with a team-leading six iCF (shots, missed shots, shots that were blocked), four shots, a goal, and 51.28% CF at 5v5. What does all that mean? Play him more because he deserves it.

Backlund for Selke: Get on board

Another game, another game where Mikael Backlund and his colleagues on the 3M Line rarely see an offensive zone start. One of Glen Gulutzan’s honestly masterful decisions this year was to keep this line together as much as he could. It’s worked brilliantly as they’ve steadied this team through dire straights throughout the season. Glen was feeling nice so he gave them one out of 15 starts they had together.

The cornerstone of that like is Mikael Backlund and he deserves Selke buzz for what he brings – and has historically brought – to this team.

Prior to today’s game, Backlund’s zone start ratios are among some of the most difficult on the team. 40.45% of his starts at 5v5 come in the defensive zone. With that comes his impact, relative to his peers:

  • 8.66 Rel. CF60 (relative to his peers, 8.66 more Corsi For events happen while on the ice/60)
  • -2.34 Rel. CA60 (relative to his peers, 2.34 less Corsi Against events happen while on the ice/60)
  • -18.29 Rel. ZSR (relative to his peers, he takes much more difficult starts)

It’s not even his 5v5 impact or his historically known impact to improve his linemates, but his impacts on special teams, too. Of all forwards who’ve played at least 120 minutes of 4v5 this season, Backlund’s CA60 is 81.29 (fifth best in the NHL). Along with that comes his ability to create offense with partner Michael Frolik while shorthanded (17.78 CF60, seventh).

All of these are even more impressive when you adjust for score, zone, and venue, too.

He also manages to do this while seeing a disproportionate ratio of actual zone starts versus on-the-fly shifts on the penalty kill. Historically we know that often impacts shot and goal metrics against while shorthanded, but he’s maintained a gold standard with over 145 minutes (tops for forwards on the team) of 4v5 TOI.

You can go down the list of virtually every metric at 5v5 and at 4v5 to see why he should be in the discussion. At the end of the day, he’s been a solid piece of the core for many years, and he deserves recognition this year for his impacts on this team.

What does Troy Brouwer actually do here?

It feels like Troy Brouwer has no real use or place in the lineup. The good news is he at least broke even (50%) at 5v5 in terms of CF%. The bad news is he didn’t generate a shot on goal or really do anything out there in a forward leading 18:25 of ice time. Ice time that could have been used for other forwards to maybe produce more offense.

For example: the line who scored three goals today.

The emergence of Ferland as of late quickly dethroned him of his place atop the Flames’ first line. Prior to that, he competed regularly with miscast forward Alex Chiasson for that role. Now, he’s seemingly banished to the Flames’ third and fourth lines. All the more egregious is the contract, the lack of production, the negative impact on his teammates, and so forth.

It’s becoming the perfect storm of showcasing how investing this type of money into a forward who has struggled to produce at 5v5 and dine out on the power play in the past is a bad idea. Keep in mind, prior to today’s game, Brouwer was shooting above his career average, too (15.4% currently, 14.2% career). The notion that Brouwer can miraculously turn it on in the playoffs is dumbfounded in folklore, smoke & mirrors, and recency bias.

So what the hell do you do? Expose him. It’s the best and most logical thing you can do.

If you’re not shooting the puck, putting up points, making a difference on the penalty kill, or finding a way to suppress the opposition at even strength then what tangible benefit do you provide over anyone else on this roster? This isn’t a debate of what he brings off the ice or in the room because frankly they’re non-factors in discussing tangible results. 

It’s impossible to reward him with ice time if he often spends time failing to keep up with the pace of events. Even in a system which can slow down play – or in today’s case of holding a lead – this isn’t a fit financially or skill-set wise with how this team is rounding out.

Honestly, you hope this isn’t as good as it gets, but it probably is.

Johnny Is Back, As Predicted

Let’s close on something near and dear to my heart: a tiny winger who is flashy, loves Nutella, and is getting back to form.

Honestly, was there any worry that Gaudreau wouldn’t return to form? Probably, albeit a bit miscast given what we know about him. His behind-the-back-no-look pass to Ferland was a vintage Johnny Hockey move that fans haven’t seen a lot of this season. Fortunately for fans, he along with his linemates are getting hot at the right time and if that new top line sticks together then the Flames have a fighting chance at the post-season.

Today he had four iCF events (three shots) at 5v5 to go along with his two goals and assist. The only lingering issue was seeing him shelled in the third period as Carolina pressed to create really anything as Gaudreau finished with a 44.19% CF at 5v5. 

Finding a balance between protecting a lead and still finding opportunities in the offensive zone is something that NHL coaches have trouble embracing, but it’s something that should be explored. With a player like Gaudreau, finding every opportunity to exploit a trailing team’s risk taking might be a fantastic avenue to create additional offense.

  • Despo

    Thank god Bennett blocked Brouwers shot on the goal line. Can’t imagine how hard it would be for this board to write about back to back games with a Brouwer goal.

    So or so, very solid road trip now keep things going at the Dome.

  • Despo

    Thank god Bennett blocked Brouwer on the goal line. Can’t imagine how hard it would be for this boad to write about back to back games where Brouwer scored…

    So or so, very solid road trip. Now keep things going on home ice.

  • freethe flames

    Two games ago there were people on this site(some of them complaining about Brouwer today) that were bragging about the resurgence of Brouwer and Versteeg and I said at that time call me when he puts a number of games together in a row. He played reasonably well in Vancouver then took a couple of games of to recover, then played well against Florida; you can’t expect too much from him.

    With his no trade clause being what it is we have to live with him unless he wants to be traded. Best way to deal with it is upgrade around him and have him sit in the press box with Wideman($10m in the press box) yikes.

    Package Versteeg, Poirier and the 2nd and get McCarron and a 5th out of Montreal. BT needs to find a way to upgrade the RW position and center position(depth) in the next couple of days w/o over paying for a rental.

  • Derzie

    After several months, the Wideman & Chiasson problems have been addressed. We now have a new whipping target: Brouwer. I for one was onboard with an overpay if he did the job he was hired to do (solid 2nd or 3rd line contributions). He has been pretty darn poor. That said, this problem is different. The Wideman & Chiasson problems were high impact: can’t win with them playing where they were. With Brouwer, it’s more about the wasted money than losing games because he’s in the lineup. We’ll always have a whipping boy (Bouma is likely next) but when the wins come, it’s easier to take.

  • Greatsave

    The four-game stint of Ferland on Gaudreau’s line is enough for me to change my tune about the Gaudreau PP unit. Put Ferland net-side a la Simmonds, Monahan in the slot, and Gaudreau on his off-wing. I’m willing to live without a one-timer in the slot if it means Ferland gets PP time with his 5v5 linemates.

  • Greatsave

    To revisit a theory from Darren Haynes quoted in these parts late last year, that teams need around 16 games to learn their new coach’s systems. We remember quite vividly the 5-10-1 start to the Flames’ season. Since then? (Which also coincided with Gaudreau getting injured in Game 17.) 28-16-3.