Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire / USA Today Sports

Depth is what’s keeping the Flames’ scoring going

The Calgary Flames have scored 2.70 goals per game, which is good for 16th in the NHL – this, despite the fact that their leading scorer has just 49 points this season. They’re one of six teams this year that, 70 games in (give or take a game or two for some teams), does not yet have a 50-point scorer, joining Colorado, New Jersey, Vancouver, Carolina, and Florida: teams that are, as they stand, very much not going to the postseason.

And yet without anyone with particularly big numbers, the Flames are roughly middle of the pack in the NHL in scoring. They have 12 players who have scored 10 goals: everyone in the latest incarnation of their top nine, plus Alex Chiasson, plus their top pairing defencemen.

It’s not as though the Flames are the only team to have depth in scoring – the Columbus Blue Jackets, for example, have 11 10-goal scorers, and they’re tied for third in the NHL in goals per game, so they’re doing something right – but it’s that their depth has kept them afloat throughout the year.

Compare them to, say, the top-heavy San Jose Sharks. The Sharks have four players who have double digits in goals: Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns, Logan Couture, and Patrick Marleau have combined for 102 goals. The Boston Bruins have the NHL’s leading goal scorer in Brad Marchand; their eight double digit scorers have combined for 151 goals. The Flames’ group, meanwhile, has combined for 163. They only have two 20+ goal scorers, but it’s due to everyone else chipping in as well that they’ve been able to stay in contention. (The Sharks, by the way, are 14th in goals per game, while the Bruins are 12th; for all their top end talent, they’re not all that far ahead of the Flames in goals per game.)

Here’s a points breakdown of the Flames’ lineup:

49 46 21
44 48 41
27 23 21
7 22 19
1 1
30 45
29 13
1 14

That isn’t what the lines have looked like all year – Micheal Ferland and Michael Stone’s numbers stick out like sore thumbs, considering various lineup shuffles and players coming in at the trade deadline – but it’s a pretty even breakdown. What’s the difference between the top two lines? If you send out a shutdown unit to keep Sean Monahan’s line from scoring, who keeps Mikael Backlund’s line in check (or vice versa)? The fourth line is one point away from having two 20+ point scorers. Remember when fourth lines consisted of a hapless Backlund playing in between two goons?

Now, here’s a thought: what does the lines’ scoring look like when the Flames’ top players have a full season under their new coach? No adjustment period, hopefully no injuries. Does Johnny Gaudreau hit 80 points? Does Monahan go back to being a 60+ guy? What happens if Bennett breaks out (and what happens to his linemates’ numbers along with his own)?

This is an “everything goes right” scenario, which probably isn’t going to happen, but if you add those top scoring numbers we know some of these guys are capable of with this level of depth, well – you get a top-scoring team. That’s where the Jackets are this season; they have the same number of 20+ point scorers as the Flames (13), but their top guys have been scoring a little more than the Flames’.

As things stand this year, everything has not gone right for the Flames. Gaudreau got hurt, Monahan forgot how to play for a bit, Mark Giordano isn’t putting up the numbers previously expected of him, Bennett has floundered, Troy Brouwer is doing whatever it is a Troy Brouwer does. And even with all of that, this team is still middle of the pack in scoring – and four of their 40+ point scorers are under 25 years old while the other two are two of the most reliable two-way forwards you can think of, so there isn’t too much reason to think there will be much of a drop off amongst those guys.

A smart offseason – another top four defenceman, another top nine winger (or two, unless you’re praying Ferland or a prospect is ready to bust out full time sooner rather than later) – and some young players rebounding, and this could be a formidable team up and down the lineup when it comes to offence in the near future.

  • Lucky 13

    Ari have you gone bipolar on us?

    You’re last article stated we lacked depth in our lineup.
    Now you’re saying we have depth.

    Anyway, we couldn’t have possibly won 10 games in a row without some depth in our lineup. We went from -15 in goal differential to +5 in goal differential over that span. That’s not PDO or luck. It was “earned not given ” cuz I like using that metaphor.

    We have a weak link or two on our squad, but overall I can’t help but appreciate what this team has done… even if the sky has fallen with one loss in the last 11

    • The Doctor

      Personally I think I depth is quite decent this year, and I’m really excited about the potential to fill it out next year, both on the blueline and up front. I think in both cases, just 1 or 2 additions could put us over the top.

  • jupiter

    A smart offseason ,Re-sign Versteeg.Ferland stays on 2nd line,let Janko,Mangiapane, Lazar,Hathaway know they are fighting for a 3rd 4th line position,let Andersson Kylington Falkovsky know there are defense positions open.
    Than follow through and give all these prospects a fair shot.
    No more free agent signings for big tough leadership kind of guys.
    Fast skilled and smart is what we want.

    • everton fc

      Our first and a prospect/”et al” should be in play to get a player like Landeskog. Our farm team is thin. Offencively, you can almost sense Jankowski’s ready to get minutes in the NHL. Hathaway is NHL-ready. the rest are not – Klimchuk may be the closest. On defence, Andersson and Wotherspoon seem closest. And we have Rittich/Gillies as possible bargaining chips. Until we fill the cupboard on the farm with some better assets…

      Guys like Duclair and McCarron should also be on our radar screen, though I wouldn’t give up too much for either one.

  • Lucky 13

    The St Louis Blues have won their last 7 games. They have slowly crept up on us. Only 3 points behind as of today with same amount of games played.

    This has the making of an exciting 12 game jockeying for position in the playoffs!

    • everton fc

      And The Blues have a much easier schedule than we do. Good point.

      I think L.A. is too far behind. If we slip in at the #8 spot, we get the Blackhawks. If #7, as of this moment, it’d be the Wild. I am comfortable w/both options – I think we match up well against both, and I can’t stress enough how wise it would be for GG to go w/Kulak and Engelland vs. Bartkowski and Engelland, once the playoffs begin, no matter the opponent.

      • Kevin R

        I think you are wrong, if we come in 8th, which I think is the greatest probability, we would play the Sharks not the Wild. Wild would play Nashville or whoever is 3rd in their division. Division Leaders play the wildcards.

        • Robhouli

          Playoff format is as per below.
          1.The division leader in each conference with the most points plays the wild card team with the fewest points.
          2.The division leader with the second highest amount of points plays the wild card team with the most points

          3 & 4 – the second and third seeds in each division face one another in the first round.
          Whichever Division winner who has the most points will play the lowest seeded wildcard team.

  • Southboy

    I really like our depth right now, the thing that worries me is if JG and SM do not take the step forward we all hope they will, we will be the flames of the 90’s and early 2000’s, with depth galore, but always 9th place finishes.

    • The Doctor

      I agree with the people who say that JG and SM were having some adjustment pains earlier this season with GG coming in as coach. They’ve been much better in the second half, and they finally found a linemate. Barring injury, next year looks very bright IMO.

  • dontcryWOLF88

    Stone is back in today..thats some good news!

    Not that this should have happened, but things really started getting off track for the flames when Stone fell out.

    The question I keep asking with the flames though, when will the third line show up? Even when the flames were walking over teams that line was losing possession battles. They need to figure out how to get the puck, keep it, and get some bloody shots. The goals will come if you do that. Have a slumber party over at Brouwers new house there and watch some tapes of Backlunds line how about?

    • VoRaCS

      Whatever line Brouwer plays on is the defacto 4th line. Sadly, that includes the powerplay. Addressing that issue is one way for the Flames to get significantly better.

  • Greg

    It’s funny that you can take one look at that chart and immediately name every player by the point totals. Top 3 D standout? Check. Top 5 forwards? Check? Wideman in press box? Cheyek.

  • Flamethrower

    So disappointed we have not seen Lazar on the ice yet. So disappointed that we keep seeing Brower and hands of stone Bouma! I understand how the owners feel paying the coin but should not the team at this point comes first moving to the playoffs.