So they made it.
A terrible first quarter led to a lot of questions and second-guessing. The new coach didn’t seem to know what he was doing. The revamped goaltending was as leaky as the old batch. And all of the young stars with new, big money deals had seemingly forgotten how to score.
The club has come a long way in just a few months. Brad Treliving still doesn’t have a new contract, but I imagine making the postseason with a week or so left in the year should help.
All that’s left now is jockeying for position to determine who the Flames’ first round opponent will be. Oh, and maybe ironing out a few tweaks like the special teams.
In the mailbag this week, we look at Calgary’s PP, the importance of stars vs depth, Michael Stone’s performance so far and, of course, a note on CalgaryNext.
— Darcy Hume (@realdarcyhume) March 31, 2017
I’d argue that even strength play tends to dominate in the playoffs given how often the refs “put the whistles away”. However, it’s always better to have good rather than bad special teams.
In terms of underlying numbers, Calgary’s PP has settled into the middle of the pack this year. If we look at total attempted shots, shots on net, expected goals and scoring chances per 60 minutes, the Flames are usually between 15th and 20th in the league. That’s at least an improvement over the ghastly first six weeks or so.
On the ice, the primary issue seems to be the first unit of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Kris Versteeg, and T.J. Brodie (plus one of Troy Brouwer or Micheal Ferland). Although this group is good enough to score off the rush from time-to-time, the set-up and zone play seems predictable and stale. They have recently experimented with Gaudreau back to his off-wing near the point to shake things up. It will be interesting to see if that continues and what the effect is. (And of course this unit scored twice last night, so who maybe this is all moot – ed.)
The other change I’d like to see at some point is Dougie Hamilton as the lone D-man on the first unit over Brodie. I’m a big Brodie fan, but Hamilton is a far more dangerous offensive player. Right now, the opposition doesn’t have to respect a shot from the point to any great degree, leaving them free to fan out and cover the wings or box out the guys in the slot or in front of the net.
Move Hamilton up and reunite Brodie with Giordano on the second unit. In that configuration, I’d have Brodie acting as more of a “roamer” or fourth forward a la Scott Niedermayer from back in the day, potentially confusing defensive schemes and leaving Giordano as the shot threat from the point.
— Spencer (@sathome14) March 31, 2017
No, I don’t think so. As mentioned in the last mailbag, there’s a big middle class in the West this year, of which Calgary is a part. I wouldn’t consider them serious underdogs or favourites in any of the matchups listed here.
— Ron (@ronipedia) March 31, 2017
Although we were sensibly promised more consistent goaltending this season, it didn’t really work out that way. The good news is after several months of below average puck stopping, the recent uptick by Brian Elliott has pulled the Flames to 21st in the league at even strength (.921).
That doesn’t sound great, but remember Calgary had the worst netminding in the league last year at .912. So even with Chad Johnson and Elliott putting up below average save rates relative to their careers, the Flames have seen a nine-point improvement in the crease.
The truly good news here is they are trending strongly upwards. Over the last two months, Calgary has enjoyed .930 goaltending at even strength, which is more in line with Brian Elliott’s level of performance than his start in Calgary.
If that level of play continues into the playoffs, it gives the Flames a much higher chance of success.
— cdec17 (@cdec17) March 31, 2017
Here’s hoping if the Ducks turn out to be the Flames’ first round matchup. The Flames are a much better team this time around and the Ducks aren’t quite as good, so this would be as good a time as any to break the curse.
— Lowetide (@Lowetide) March 31, 2017
I’d maybe consider keeping Stone around as a depth option, but I’d be very wary about a long-term deal.
The impressive early returns for the Brodie/Stone pairing have come crashing down to earth over the last few weeks. Together, they are now a below average possession (47.7% corsi) and expected goals (48.95%) pairing that are being floated by a PDO of 106.
We’ll see where things settle at the end of the year and through the playoffs, but unless things improve none of that screams “long term” deal to me. In the NHL, under a salary cap, you can bleed yourself dry very quickly committing too much to too long for guys who are fairly replaceable.
— ryan🤓 (@RyanDHobart) March 31, 2017
The only way depth really comes into play is if the other factors cancel each other out (ie; are evenly matched).
— Derby Herb (@HerbDerby) March 31, 2017
— Jaicin aka Jason ► (@Jaicin) April 1, 2017
Let’s be fair to all involved here.
It’s Ken King’s job to get a new arena deal done for the CSEC ownership group. His main purpose in the organization is to get the best possible deal for the guys signing his cheques. Right now he is reading from a well-worn playbook for professional sports franchises in North America – all of the tactics you see being deployed here have worked, to one degree or another, to extract public subsidies from other municipalities in the NFL, MLB, and NHL.
As for the FAN960, they are the Flames rights holders and also stand to benefit from a new arena deal. There would be absolutely no benefit to Rob Kerr or anyone else on the station to try to grill King on the arena issue. All the incentives in this situation run counter to them acting like hard hitting, investigative journalists.
The guys in question are doing their jobs, such as they are. It is our jobs as citizens to be skeptical in the face of the demands being made in regards to public subsidies for a new arena. It is our city council’s job not to knuckle under to vague threats, fuzzy benefits, or bad economic reasoning.
@Kent_Wilson why are you so against a new facility? Are you a sports fan?
— Derek Brock (@cowtown99) April 2, 2017
This is the wrong frame to approach this issue. I’m a Flames fan. I do want a new facility. But not at any cost.
The question that should be asked, but rarely comes up, is: if the Flames are so desperate for a new arena, why doesn’t the ownership plan to pay for it themselves through private financing? As far as I can tell, King has only dismissed this inquiry as “non-feasible”. Translation: they only “need” a new arena insofar as they can stick the public with the bad end of the costs and risks.
Private profit and public risks is a terrible way to run a city (or any government, for that matter). It represents a transfer of wealth from joe public to billionaires and is the very definition of a moral hazard.
As Flames fans, we support the club by going to games, watching on TV, buying their merchandise, and elevating their status in the community. We do not “owe” them public subsidies for their operations.
An arena is a team’s primary revenue generating asset (outside of the players). Paying for and operating stadiums should be the natural cost of doing business for any pro sports team. Can you imagine if every profit-seeking entity in Calgary approached the city and said, “Hey, you need to pay for a majority of our building costs. We’ll operate the building and take all the profits, but we’re not going to pay property tax on it or anything. Also, we’ll need another building in 20 or 30 years”?
As a municipality, the way we support businesses is to create as favourable an environment as possible: through quality infrastructure, a solid tax base, sustainable civic growth, etc. A reminder: the best way to do this is not to build stadiums for sports teams:
Stacks of independent research over many decades have shown that building a stadium or luring a new franchise does little for a city’s economy. They typically don’t generate significant new tax dollars, jobs or growth. In most cases, the money would be more wisely spent on badly needed public infrastructure, such as roads, transit or schools.
As an entity, the city’s “duty” towards the Flames is to create, as much as possible, general conditions in which the team can potentially succeed. It is not to specifically subsidize their operations at the expense of their citizens.
If the Flames want to approach the city and public as an investor – i.e.; if they want to start talking about ROI, loan structures, a share of revenues or equity – that’s a different conversation than the one we’ve had so far.