Calgary Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan was pissed after the team’s 2-1 loss to Carolina on Thursday night. And it’d be one thing if he were all emotional and ranting and raving. But as anybody who’s ever gotten a really thorough scolding from a disappointed parent can tell you, the worst scoldings are calm, collected and brutally tactical.
Well, Gulutzan was calm and brutal following the game while assessing what was going wrong with the team this season.
“It feels like to me it’s the same guys taking penalties, the same types of penalties, and those guys are gonna dress but unfortunately they’re going to lose some of their prime real estate ice time because we’ll just clean it up with the guys that can control themselves.”
Let’s talk a dive down into who’s taking penalties.
Penalties by player
Focusing just on penalties that result in power plays – ignoring fights and coincidental minors – here are the individuals that have put the Flames on the penalty kill the most often, and the types the penalties they’ve taken:
- Sam Bennett: 6 (tripping, 2x hooking, 3x slashing)
- Matthew Tkachuk: 6 (holding, holding the stick, 2x roughing, 2x goalie interference)
- Mikael Backlund: 4 (cross-checking, hooking, 2x high-sticking)
- Dougie Hamilton: 3 (hooking, 2x slashing)
- Michael Stone: 3 (holding, 2x hooking)
- Mark Giordano: 2 (interference, tripping)
- Troy Brouwer: 1 (hooking)
- Matt Stajan: 1 (holding)
- Sean Monahan: 1 (hooking)
- Mike Smith: 1 (interference)
- Jaromir Jagr: 1 (hooking)
- Freddie Hamilton: 1 (cross-checking)
- Johnny Gaudreau: 1 (hand on puck)
- T.J. Brodie: 1 (slashing)
- Matt Bartkowski: 1 (holding)
- Travis Hamonic: 1 (tripping)
Players that took penalties resulting in goals against on the ensuing power play were Bennett, Jagr and Tkachuk twice.
Gulutzan spoke again after practice on Friday, explaining his “bank account” theory in terms of players drawing more penalties than they take (and thereby earning a bit of lee-way from their coach):
Players that have drawn more penalties than they've taken, have a bank account.
— Kristen Odland (@Kristen_Odland) October 20, 2017
The players with a positive “bank balance” (penalty differential) are Gaudreau, Frolik, Tkachuk, Glass and Brouwer. Consequently, Frolik, Gaudreau, Monahan, Glass and Brouwer have all also drawn penalties that resulted in power play goals.
Penalties by type and zone
Tell me if this sounds familiar: the opponents skate the puck into the Flames zone and take a shot, but don’t score. The Flames collect the puck and try to pass it out of the zone, but it’s intercepted and they start running around in their own end in a frantic effort to collect the puck, clear the zone and get fresh skaters on. In all their frantic play, they take a penalty from chasing – hooking, tripping, slashing or holding, what I would term “crimes of laziness.”
It’s happened a lot this season. After just seven games, the Flames have given the opposition 34 power play opportunities – 21 of those infractions were committed in their own zone, an average of three per game.
Many of the other penalties were what I would call “crimes of passion,” where players are engaged but go a bit overboard. Those are things like interference, cross-checking, roughing or goalie interference. They’re the penalties where you go, “Well, at least they’re doing something.” The Flames have taken a decent amount of these, primarily in the offensive zone.
If you look at the types of penalties taken by the players who are spending the most time in the box, Tkachuk’s seem to be primarily crimes of passion while Bennett’s seem to be a lot more skewed towards him chasing the game. Considering Tkachuk has drawn a heck of a lot more penalties than Bennett has, it may speak to one being more engaged in the guts of the game than Bennett has been.
Regardless, a simple solution for the Flames taking so many penalties is tidying up their zone exits. Cleaner zone exits mean less time running around in their own end and fewer penalties taken while trying to catch up to their opponents in the defensive zone. At this point, the individual-level penalty information is just a lot of noise.