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.
Should Lack start again on the road trip or just keep riding Mike Smith and pray for the best?
— Stan McCutcheon (@Stan_Mccutcheon) November 19, 2017
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.
It can’t be all on the second pair. What happened to our vaunted “top 5”?!
— Ian Duval (@duvie27) November 19, 2017
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.
Any insight into Brodie’s struggles?
— Kyle Lewis (@vanlewis14) November 18, 2017
Hamonic and Brodie struggling… who is dragging who down there? And how do the pairings change to fix it? Brodie Kulak?
— Ryan Gee (@redricardo) November 18, 2017
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…
I've been real impressed with the play of Michael Stone lately, is he playing his way into the top 4? Also Brodie has been very bad in the past 3-4 games… hows he being exploited?
— Adrian DeCorby (@decorbs) November 18, 2017
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.
Does Calgary trade a D in the off season and where does Hamonic end up landing?
— Tyler Leduke (@TylerLeduke) November 19, 2017
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.
Take a blender, take the Flames special teams and mix. Right?
— Tyler Leduke (@TylerLeduke) November 19, 2017
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.
— Ryland Brennan (@TheLonelyRyland) November 19, 2017
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:
Looking good, boys! 1950’s train ride, coming up! pic.twitter.com/aINaHQZ41b
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) November 18, 2017
Here’s how it breaks down:
- 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.
- 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.