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FlamesNation Mailbag: Brodie, Hamonic, Stone, and other bits

On paper, the Flames have one of the best defences in the entire NHL.

Of course, that’s what the paper says. It’s a list of names that, given past experience, conjure up good memories. They said something similar after that one year Dennis Wideman scored 50 points, Kris Russell blocked every shot, and Dougie Hamilton was new in town. On paper, amazing. In reality, nope.

We’re experiencing deja vu, albeit on a less dramatic scale. The team is at least winning games this time around, but the defence is still a sore spot that really shouldn’t be. Especially after the infamous trip to the Little Caesers Arena, it’s been quite clear that something needs to be done about the defence and their performances.

Well, he’s going to. The Flames have a back-to-back to play on this trip, not to mention b2bs on future road trips. I’m willing to give him a leash for his early struggles, and especially because you do not want to wear out Mike Smith.

I think we emphasized this in yesterday’s Slack chat, but a lot of the issues that both Eddie Lack and Smith face are because of the team in front of them. The Detroit game was absolutely horrific, but even if Smith’s in net, the score might 7-2 instead. Lack is the backup for a reason: he just isn’t as good as Smith. However, he’s probably better than what we’ve seen so far, and we shouldn’t immediately shelve him because of a really bad game of hockey.

The unfortunate answer? Again, slightly overrated. The names are big, the results not so much.

Really, it comes down to the two new faces on the right side. Travis Hamonic and Michael Stone were both in the bottom three last year for CF% last season. That’s not good. The bet was that they were both coming off injury-plagued years and would probably be better just because they weren’t as injured. That part was never clearly explained.

Instead of two rejuvenated beings, the Flames appear to be stuck with two guys who still don’t look great. It’s still early in the season, but they now rank as the 145th and 128th worst defencemen in that category (100 5v5 minutes, 208 total defencemen qualify). For reference, Matt Bartkowski is the 173rd worst. T.J. Brodie is 122nd, Brett Kulak 67th, Mark Giordano seventh, and Hamilton fourth. The gap is huge and noticeable.

You can warrant hope for Hamonic who, at his best, is a useful second pairing guy. In that earlier linked article, it appears that last year was a major outlier in the history of Hamonic, given that he was around or above average for CF% in years previous. Although certainly not a guarantee, his recent injury and the fact that he’s in a new locale might play into these numbers and he can certainly improve later.

The problem with Stone is that, at his best, he is a mediocre guy. Last year, Stone was dead last in CF%. The year previous, 153rd of 197. 2014-15, 128th of 201, 2013-14, 110th of 200. He’s never been much more than that. Stone’s results this year suggest that he has bounced back – the problem being that his normal production is that of a below average defender.

There’s quite a few ways to go about this.

I think the second pairing has been not great this year, and Brodie has something to do with it, but I really think the recent two games (which have been absolute disasters) is influencing a lot of the negativity towards them. We’ve never really seen Brodie being this bad in large stretches before.

The answer is likely Hamonic.  Brodie, in about 100 5v5 Hamonic-free minutes, has been slightly better, moving the needle by about 2 CF% in slightly less sheltered minutes. That’s not much, but it’s something.

But I would hesitate to call that a fix. You’re moving the needle in minor ways to address the issue, and the replacement might not be much better because…

We’ve already been over Stone’s poor results, which were achieved on the third pairing in limited minutes. That’s not promising for bumping him up to the second pair. In fact, we’ve been over this before. Last season, on the second pairing with Brodie, the two combined for a 46.49 CF% in just around 280 minutes of 5v5 time. Brodie was better away from Stone, and Stone was helpless without Brodie.

This season is less dramatic, but similar results. Stone and Brodie together combine for a 48.63 CF% in just around 84 minutes of 5v5 time. That’s barely a hair better than Brodie-Hamonic, but in only a third of the sample size.

In general, how do we fix the defence? Probably by either hoping that Hamonic is at least still slightly better than what he is now, or by trading and making an upgrade. It sucks, but the defence was oversold and could certainly use improvement.

I have to think so, yes.

The Flames have Rasmus Andersson and Adam Fox barrelling through the competition in their respective leagues. If you can move a player for more assets and make a substantial upgrade in the spot for about a third of the price without spending any additional assets, go for it. I think the Flames paid too high a price for Hamonic to consider moving him already (besides: he’s a big name under the spotlight, so that drives value down), but Stone seems doable. If you can get a handful of picks for him, or the opportunity to dump another salary, it’s a win.

It’s a bit early to say so, however. We have plenty of hockey ahead of us. Hamonic/Stone could improve while Fox/Andersson could regress. But it’s certainly an option to consider.

Yes and no.

Certainly, usage can be improved. I’m not sure why Dougie isn’t on the first unit powerplay, especially given that he takes more shots than any other defenceman (right-handed, to boot). The second unit PP (Backlund-Tkachuk-Jagr-Hamilton-Gio) could make a case to be the first, but after that Sean Monahan hat trick, I don’t really mind them as the second.

But there are still structural issues. When I looked at the per 60 stats for frequent penalty killers, the majority of them have disgusting numbers. All of them average over 60 shots against per 60, with the exceptions being Curtis Lazar (seven minutes) and Bartkowski (five minutes). For reference, the most average PK team in the category of SA/60 is the Buffalo Sabres, who only allow 56.38 SA/60.

The departed Mike FAIL does better work with this than I do over at Killing Time, where you can read some of his posts about the issues with this PK, but the gist of it is that it is a sloppy mess.

The coaching staff can do much better with how the PK sets up and disrupts the powerplay formations. In my opinion as a non-PK expert, I think that there’s just not enough pressure or attempts to actually stop the opposing PP from getting shots off. If all fails, they slowly retreat towards the net and further allow the PP to get closer to scoring. They play with the “bend but never break” concept, in short.

I’m not a fashion blogger, but I’ll try.

In case you missed it, the Flames decided to have a bit of fun (admirable after an 8-2 whipping) and dress up in 1950s – more prohibition era, but they can have this – attire, as they were taking the train from Philly to Washington. For reference:

Here’s how it breaks down:

HOT:

  • Kris Versteeg, one of the most underrated hockey personalities, came out looking dapper in a suit clearly inspired by his time in Chicago and Al Capone. The red shoes and the stogie complete the outfit. I made it my Twitter profile picture because it was so nice. He is the winner.
  • Mike Smith also showed up looking fresh, opting for less mobster and more gentleman. The era-appropriate glasses, cane, and pipe make the outfit complete.
  • Matthew Tkachuk blended the best of both worlds, opting for the stogie and the cane. I really hope he was wearing that in the press box.
  • I liked Matt Stajan’s simple yet retro getup. A point of critique would be that he dresses more like “Industrial Revolution era London newspaper boy” than “1950s” but again, I’ll let them have this.
  • Troy Brouwer, appropriately, went as a bank robber. I doubt they let you take tommy guns into public (at least in Pennsylvania), but you know he wanted to hold one. The pocket watch is a perfect touch.

NOT:

  • As Mark Giordano put it in this video, TJ Brodie’s suit is made out of the same material as your grandma’s couch.
  • I don’t know where Jaromir Jagr is. He presumably outgrew all of his vintage clothing.

Everyone else was shades of the same thing.

  • Derzie

    Coach’s job is to get the best out of his players. The D vastly underperforming is exhibit A. Gio & Brodie were in the Norris talk under a different coach. Same applies to our forward ranks. The players are not being utilized correctly. I don’t know x’s & o’s to know exactly how or why, but the results speak for themselves. Until the coaches are replaced, we’ll be having similar chats.

    • supra steve

      “I don’t know x’s & o’s to know exactly how or why”

      Well I’m right with you on that aspect of your post.

      However, knowing that, how are we at all qualified to declare this (or any) coach unfit (or fit) for the job? Last season started slow, came around after that, goalie crapped the bed in playoffs. This season started better, in the playoff picture at this point, yet many equally unqualified fans are calling for the head of the coach.

      Thank goodness our GM isn’t as fickle as a large percentage of the fan base. I know this will be unpopular, because, well, fans are fickle.

      • BendingCorners

        Well said. I should probably give GG more rope before tugging again. There is enough talent on the team though to justify expectations of a better record; if they appear to be putting in the effort then at some point you either call it bad luck or bad coaching.

      • BringtheFire 2.0

        @Steve

        Nah, I’ve been thinking about a discussion we had lately and I’ve tried to change my posts to more realistic and positive matter as a result.

        As for Gully, our team is coming together nicely and our stars are our stars and the goaltending is solid. I mean, we’re higher in the standings than a lot of “better” teams.

        I think I might venture that Cameron be…not here at some point, but other than that, I’m trying to think like you and I have to say I’m content with my team right now.

        Like the article said, if we fix special teams-like we did last year-we’re gonna be cold money.

        Like, cash. On. The. Wood.

  • Alberta Ice

    I would like to see a lot more effort of getting the puck out of the our zone on penalty kills. Hopefully the D will get a lot better at this. Plus really have liked Kulak’s play of late. Hope Andersson can get more NHL time this year too. On offense, one of these games, Jano, Sam, and Jags are going to break out. And any chance of getting Mangiapane some time at the NHL level? Probably an injury will open that door.

  • Flint

    I don’t get to see a lot of Flames games on the tube because I don’t live in an easy timezone for that. But in the game against Philly Hamonic was miles ahead of Brodie in his play. Not sure how that holds up for the season. They sound like they’ve both been inconsistent, but Brodie was plain awful.

  • cjc

    Given the amount of heat that Gulutzan gets for the team’s so so start to the season, I feel like Brad Treliving should come under a bit more scrutiny. There were three very risky off-season moves for this club – Smith, Hamonic and the Stone re-signing. So far only one of these is living up to the billing (Smith), and even for him the recent returns have been underwhelming.

    The price for Hamonic was too high (a first and two seconds for a guy with a career high of 33 pts. and who’s underlying numbers were almost dead last in the league). So far he has a goal and assist, an 82 game pace of 10 points! Say what you will about injuries, but you shouldn’t bet those kind of resources on a comeback. Then to go and sign Stone?

    • Scary Gary

      Technically the flames get a fourth back in tha Hamonic deal as well; I’m not advocating the deal but the flames paid a high price for cost certainty ($3.85MM to 2020).

      As for Stone, $3.5MM is what you pay for a 27 year old defensemen who can play as a 4/5.

      NHL defensemen in their prime are expensive; let’s have this conversation again at the 40 game mark (sample size and such).

      • Trevy

        I totally agree and while we’re at it, why not mention that Brodie hasn’t exactly been a model of consistency either. To me, Treliving did his job to acquire assets that resulted in the Flames having one of the best d corps in the NHL. The fact that 2 or 3 are struggling leads me to believe it comes down to the coaches and perhaps their defensive scheme/structure, which clearly isn’t working

    • HAL MacInnis

      Treliving did what he could. It’s not like players are lining up for him to sign every year. You get what you can and he’s done a fantastic job this year. Would it have been better if he pulled a Chiarelli and played Minesweeper on his computer all day instead?

      Gulutzan has very capable players at his disposal now. I’m fine with Hamonic, Stone, Smith and Jagr. The ball is in Glen’s court now.

      As a coach, you have to instill players with confidence in your abilities. It’s tough, but this isn’t Timbits hockey anymore and admitting mistakes and trying new tactics, as a team moving forward, is a part of the adult world. I feel that Glen is too stubborn and unwilling to admit mistakes and make necessary changes. The best thing that happened to us so far this year was when Jagr was out, Jankowski came up, Sam moved to wing and Jagr came back, which has been the boost we needed recently. The end result could have been called good coaching, but the way it happened had nothing to do with coaching. It’s like the stars aligned to save Glen’s job.

      I honestly like Glen. He seems like a solid guy to have around… which is why it’s so frustrating to see his decisions (or lack of) play out in most games.

  • Skylardog

    The article appears to me to be using stats unfairly when referring to defensemen. Is it to achieve an opinion in who is and is not performing?

    Stone was not good from a Corsi perspective over past seasons. That is to be expected, he was on a horrible hockey team. Any use of league wide stats on DMen needs to have an asterisk for where he played. We also have to remember that almost have of Stone’s minutes come when playing with Bart. He has been a 50% DMan when with Kulak.

    Brodie has for the most part been a tire fire no matter who he has been with. His best pairing has been limited minutes with Hamilton at 50%. He appears to be better with Stone.

    Hamonic is only positive with Gio, in only 9+ minutes of play. This has to be a concern for a DMan that cost us those picks.

    The truth on all this however, is that the DMen are significantly underperforming, with the exception of Gio and Hamilton. It may be time to split that pairing up to get some balance and stability.

    Hamilton-Kulak (100% Corsi in just under 5 minutes0
    Gio-Hamonic (52.38 in just under 10 minutes)
    Brodie-Stone (48.63 in 86 minutes)

    And as a head scratcher

    Gio-Hamilton (58.84
    Kulak-Ras (54.84)
    ?-?

    To be honest, there are lots of pairings that work without Brodie available.

    It may be time to move him. Toronto needs DMen, and as mentioned, Toronto has a Cap nightmare coming because of Edmonton signing McD and Drysaddle.

    • Scary Gary

      Trading Brodie won’t improve our D (also modified NTC). I’d say you’re “unfairly” only looking at Corsi; Brodie is actually on pace for 60 points right now, I’m not saying he’ll get there but 50 is a reasonable expectation with the PP time he gets. Last year that point total would put him in 10th in the NHL for D, and I haven’t even gotten to his solid contact yet; you don’t trade that.

    • Kevin R

      Im with you & wouldn’t be opposed to getting a huge return for Brodie. But we need a big nasty guy back there that could play. Brodie for Trouba??? I would absolutely consider that, not that I think Trouba is any better than Brodie but he can play a nasty game. Anaheim are desperate for a forward & love Bennett, Manson for Bennett??? Then Flip Brodie for a nice package??? I know that that kind of thinking is out there & more for fantasy hockey pools but dang.
      Realistically, I think we need to reduce Brodie’s ice time a bit & up until that Philly game, our PP has sucked. Get Brodie off that #1 PP & get Hamilton out there, for the life of me, why hasn’t that happened yet!!! Get Brodie & Hamonic down to 20 minutes until they look like like they have it figured out because right now it doesn’t to my eye test & this time the stats confirm my eye test.

  • Off the wall

    Perspective is an interesting thing. We seldom use it when we are unhappy about results.

    Our defence hasn’t lived up to the billing. Our secondary scoring is still not there.

    We acquired some fresh new faces and our expectations were high. Mine were too.

    What did we expect? Instant noodles, because judging from our faithful it appears we have lost some perspective. Add hot water and viola, instant results.
    It takes time for a team to gel, get used to new teammates and adapt. Or perhaps we just ignored that.

    Yes, Hamonic has not been the best, his metrics are not great and we can say, “ I told you so”

    I’m happy we have Hamonic. Give it some time, 1/4 season does not make a season. Let’s a least give it the halfway mark before condemnation.

    Personally, I believe it’s Gulutzan that’s the issue. Player usage is still a concern. Our PK is bad, however he’s done absolutely zero to change this. I don’t have confidence in him, plain and simple. However, I just bide my time until Treliving makes the change. Corsi up , great… team play, down… hmmm

    I’m going to leave perspective in my bank account, until I need to cash it in.

    • JMK

      I get that the Flames aren’t looking the best right now, however isn’t that pretty promising? They are 11-8-0 (0.578 Pts %) despite not playing to their perceived potential. And their PDO is down to average now so that eliminates the ‘luck’ factor.

      And I know you are one of the more positive posters here, that’s more aimed at the general posters here.

  • BringtheFire 2.0

    “The answer is likely Hamonic.”

    I don’t know. I know it’s not professional to write it in an article, so I’ll say it here: Brodie just got married. He’s completely in love and dealing with all that; “new life” crap.

    It’s very possible he could be distracted.

    • MontanaMan

      I’m sick of making excuses for Brodie. It’s not Stone, it’s not Hamonic and it’s certainly not his new wife. It’s Brodie. Watch the game and the mistakes he is making have nothing to do with his defence partner or the forwards on his line. He is making bad decisions, whiffing on passes, turning the puck over and just about everything else negative that can happen. My opinion is that he has the yips and has lost his confidence. He’s a guy who dreads having the puck on his stick and is fearful of the mistake he’s going to make. He needs to be skating, making the easy pass and slowly get his confidence back.

      • BringtheFire 2.0

        That post is the definition of; “Overreaction”.

        Also, your opinion that he has the ” yips…” what are those and how are they affecting his play?

          • BringtheFire 2.0

            No, I’m saying being a newlywed provides a set of distractions.

            My apologies I’m not as scientific as the guy who proposed the; “yips” as the source of Brodie’s troubles.

    • HOCKEY83

      He had her as a girlfriend in love before he got married in love. I’m pretty sure he’s used to being in love. The only personal issue that should ever affect a millionairs play is that of a death or severe illness in the family otherwise…do the job you’re getting paid millions to do.

      • BringtheFire 2.0

        “The only personal issue that should ever affect a millionairs play is that of a death or severe illness in the family otherwise…”

        Wow. So, money changes human beings? Guess that means Kanye West should be put to death for canceling his last tour?

        Anyways, I need you to read the part of your comment I quoted so you can truly understand how ignorant and wrong and selfish it is.

        Wow. Hey if I tell you how much I make can you tell me what I’m allowed to feel based on salary?

  • JoelOttosJock

    Doesn’t seem like ehomever answered the Brodie question has bren watching Flames hockey long. To blame Brodie being bad on Hamonic is ridiculous. Brodie has been bad for aehile, a few seasons. His season spent with Giordano may have been successful offensively but Brodie was still bad. He is consistently a liability in his own zone, struggles with a first pass and is lost when the other team has uck posession in the Flames zone.

  • BendingCorners

    I’m not ready to throw the D under the bus just yet. I think their passive zone defence is a coaching choice. Hamonic looks like he wants to be more aggressive and then stops himself. Change the system (and maybe the coach) and things will improve. Beyond that, Hamonic is more an offensive second pair guy, not a defensive second pair guy. Brodie needs a strong defensive partner, which is why he looked so good with Gio. I’m not ocnvinced Dougie is quite up to that level yet, but he is trending there, and at some point it might be worth trying Brodie with Dougie and Gio with Hamonic.

    • HAL MacInnis

      I agree completely, as well.

      If good players are forced to play a certain system and the results aren’t there, does that make them bad players all of a sudden? I’ve always believed that a good coach works with what he has. I don’t get the feeling that Gulutzan cares enough about the unique strengths and weaknesses that players bring to this team.

      • supra steve

        ” I don’t get the feeling that Gulutzan cares enough about the unique strengths and weaknesses that players bring to this team.”

        I don’t think any coach rises to this level without figuring that out.

        • HAL MacInnis

          What I meant was, Gulutzan is too interested in his systems and not evolving strategies around his player’s existing skill sets. We get Brodie playing on the opposite side he’s used to and he’s never been the same since. Many here knew Sam wasn’t center material, but luckily Jagr’s absence forced the inevitable and look what’s happening now. Stone has a great slap shot, we need to set him up more for the howitzer. That should be a thing. Brouwer is still finding his way into critical game situations, but thank God it’s less now. Jankowski should have made the team at the start after his great preseason (a fortunate Jagr injury forced Glen’s hand again). And now we need to see Hamilton paired with somebody not named Giordano because Hamonic needs a hand and we need to see if Hamilton can be a defensive leader.

          *cries everybody a river*

          Whew! That was therapeutic. I’m better now.

  • VOLTRON

    I don’t know why everyone is on Brodie’s back, he has been good for us all his career, just gets stuck with bad partners. I still think Brodie and Hamonic will be good just needs time. Yes Brodie has been off the last few games but that will happen to any player. I don’t like Hamilton playing lazy d all the time, great offence (if you wanna say that) but defensively he is awful. Gio works hard for both of them so if I hear Hamilton tap his stick one more time, especially when he is in a bad position to shoot then misses that shot…ill kill myself.