The Calgary Flames, halfway through the 2017-18 season

Forty-one games are in the books; another 41 games to go. The Flames have reached the halfway point of the 2017-18 season, and they are on pace for 92 points, which is off from the 98-point pace they were at 20 games ago.

They undeniably fell off for a bit there, but now on a three-game winning streak, the tide could be turning. Hopefully they’ll be stronger in the second half, because they’ll need to be in order to make the playoffs.

The race in the West isn’t any clearer. Arizona is almost certainly out of it. Vancouver and Edmonton are looking like they’re out of it. Every other team is in play. For as much as the Flames are at the back of the pack points-wise, they’re also two points back of taking a wild card spot (same number of games played), and three points back of third in the Pacific (two more games played).


  • Are tied for 16th league-wide in points percentage (.561), fourth in their division.
  • Are 21st league-wide in goals for (113), tied for 18th in goals per game (2.76).
  • Are tied for 13th league-wide in goals against (116), tied for 14th in goals against per game (2.83).
  • Are tied for the 20th best powerplay league-wide (17.6%).
  • Have the 25th best penalty kill league-wide (78.8%).
  • Have the fourth best 5v5 CF% in the NHL (52.87%).
  • Have the second highest 5v5 CF/60 in the league (65.05).
  • Have the 15th best 5v5 CA/60 in the league (57.98).
  • Have the eighth highest 5v5 SF/60 in the league (33.41).
  • Have the 12th best 5v5 SA/60 in the league (30.98).
  • Are fourth in the NHL in 5v5 SCF/60 (30.95).
  • Are tied for ninth in the NHL in 5v5 SCA/60 (27.25).
  • Are 23rd in the NHL in shooting percentage, at 8.35% (25th in 5v5 shooting percentage, at 6.99%).
  • Are 17th in the NHL in save percentage, at 90.99% (eighth in 5v5 save percentage, at 92.86%).
  • Have a .993 PDO in all situations (.999 at 5v5 play).

Their points percentage has dropped, but their goals for and against per game have both improved. Their powerplay has plummeted, but their penalty kill has gotten better. Their corsi, shots, and scoring chances have improved across the board on both the offensive and defensive sides. Their modest increase in shooting percentage hasn’t been enough to offset their anticipated drop in save percentage, however, so while everything looks great with the underlying numbers, they still aren’t scoring more than other teams, and consequently wins haven’t been coming.

If there is any justice to this – and that is absolutely not something one can bank on – then the Flames are due to go on a run, and one strong enough that will see them solidify themselves as a playoff team. The points left on the table will hurt those efforts, but there’s still half a season to be played and, ultimately, the Flames have played a strong first half, even if they need to start seeing much, much more in the way of actual results now.

One of the biggest changes that has happened over the past 20 games is David Rittich appears to be a full-time NHLer now, at least in a backup role. He pushed Eddie Lack out of the organization, allowing Tyler Parsons to go up a level, all while providing stable numbers in each of his games played, and a .924 save percentage over five games (four starts, one in relief which dropped his numbers. Take that game out, and his lowest save percentage is .923).

Mike Smith is still one of the league’s busiest goalies, with 35 games started (a four-way tie across the NHL for the most by any goalie). He has seen the third most shots again (1,088 – Frederik Andersen and Henrik Lundqvist are above him), and has the fourth most saves (1,001, throw Andrei Vasilevskiy’s name into the mix). His .920 save percentage is the second best of his career, and ranks 10th league-wide amongst goalies with at least 20 games played. His even strength save percentage is .926, tied for eighth league-wide, and where he has seen his biggest drop. Smith is still one of the NHL’s better goalies this season, but he’s not quite in the upper echelon anymore.

Johnny Gaudreau, at this point, may have taken the lead for team MVP, though I wouldn’t count Mark Giordano out the way things have been going lately. Gaudreau, however, has 46 points in 41 games: the 10th highest scorer in the NHL. He fell off for a bit there, but if recent play has been any indication, he might also be back now, and could jump back up those scoring ranks – though there’s a bit more ground to make up on.

Courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, here’s how each individual Flame has fared so far this season. All stats are at 5v5, and the table is ordered by ice time:

T.J. Brodie 721:49 49.35 51.72 49.55
Dougie Hamilton 702:15 57.86 61.62 53.80
Mark Giordano 700:04 57.81 60.77 53.71
Travis Hamonic 602:58 49.83 48.06 50.65
Johnny Gaudreau 571:46 54.05 55.56 58.00
Michael Stone 547:31 49.34 53.85 47.19
Mikael Backlund 540:37 55.65 55.17 43.72
Sean Monahan 532:46 54.92 55.56 59.15
Matthew Tkachuk 517:25 57.40 54.07 45.53
Micheal Ferland 508:16 52.41 55.56 55.83
Michael Frolik 493:09 57.50 57.14 43.60
Sam Bennett 464:55 50.10 56.52 56.93
Troy Brouwer 387:33 47.64 46.03 40.87
Mark Jankowski 385:09 51.44 59.59 58.97
Brett Kulak 374:31 52.36 54.01 49.79
Matt Stajan 278:16 50.56 53.95 38.18
Jaromir Jagr 244:07 52.27 61.05 62.68
Curtis Lazar 238:34 48.67 50.65 53.28
Kris Versteeg 205:31 46.32 47.46 46.67
Garnet Hathaway 193:40 55.93 59.04 53.39
Matt Bartkowski 142:19 44.21 31.37 46.58
Tanner Glass 55:48 40.98 40.00 33.33
Freddie Hamilton 55:36 41.51 28.57 36.84
Andrew Mangiapane 22:27 59.57 80.00 68.42
Rasmus Andersson 13:55 54.84 60.00 71.43

The Flames have had to contend with more injuries through this past quarter of the season, most notably Michael Frolik, Kris Versteeg, and Jaromir Jagr. That’s seen some AHL promotions take prominence. Mark Jankowski has gotten increased usage, while Garnet Hathaway went from one game played to looking like a full-timer. The only players who dropped down the ice time rankings while still in good health have been Brett Kulak and Curtis Lazar, though not by much.

For the most part, the Flames’ individual corsi-fors have gone up over the second quarter of the season. That was the case for all seven defencemen, while the entire third line – Sam Bennett, Jankowski, and Hathaway – all shot up from sub-50% ratings to find themselves all in the black. Troy Brouwer is the only regular, healthy forward who is still under 50%. The 3M line all fell a bit across the board, but they still have the top corsis amongst the forwards.

Narrow the scope to high-danger events only, and there hasn’t been universal improvement. Those whose numbers have declined haven’t declined by much, though. But where the biggest differences lie are in T.J. Brodie, Travis Hamonic, and the third line, with Brodie, Hamonic, and Jankowski jumping up by roughly six points each, while Bennett shot up a whopping 9.5 points. The Flames have been undergoing expected fluctuations, but there has been a strong, marked improvement in two of their biggest problem areas. Who’s worried about the second defence pairing and third line now?

There hasn’t been much change in regards to players’ zone starts, so roles remain the same. What has changed is sheltered lines – the first and third – are still getting offensive zone starts, but not quite as much. Meanwhile, defensive lines – 3M and the fourth – have been getting more offensive zone starts. Things have been balancing out some. The defence is largely unchanged.

As for the powerplay, again ordered by TOI, players with minimal time excluded:

Player TOI iCF/60 iSCF/60 Points
Gaudreau 140:22 29.49 11.97 15
Monahan 139:40 22.34 20.19 10
Brodie 123:58 12.58 8.71 8
Giordano 107:31 25.11 10.6 6
Tkachuk 94:28 17.78 15.88 9
Backlund 92:40 12.3 6.47 7
Hamilton 89:22 32.22 10.07 4
Ferland 87:04 29.63 20.67 5
Versteeg 70:04 34.24 12.84 4
Brouwer 45:52 13.08 9.16 2
Bennett 45:31 10.54 5.27 1
Jagr 34:04 10.56 10.56 1
Jankowski 26:40 20.25 6.75 0
Frolik 21:22 2.81 2.81 0

It took a silly amount of time to get Brodie off of the top unit, and truthfully, it looks like if the Flames want to maximize their assets, Dougie Hamilton should be there as opposed to Giordano. Matthew Tkachuk absolutely should be on the top unit, though, while one could make a case to have Micheal Ferland back on top and Mikael Backlund on the second unit – but I suppose spreading things out helps.

How much is Versteeg missed? A lot.

And penalty kill:

Player TOI FA/60
Giordano 125:52 83.42
Stone 101:28 78.04
Backlund 96:52 81.76
Hamonic 96:01 82.49
Frolik 86:24 90.28
Brodie 82:40 74.02
Brouwer 75:27 81.91
Stajan 48:33 82.80
Bennett 37:51 76.09
Jankowski 25:37 51.53
Hamilton 21:39 77.60
Monahan 20:19 79.67
Hathaway 13:52 43.27
Lazar 9:19 58.91

The further down you go, the lower the numbers get – small sample size beware – but Jankowski stands out as someone really, really interesting here. Brodie could maybe stand to have a bigger role killing penalties, as well.

  • Atomic Clown

    Versteeg has two thing the flames are severely lacking: a right handed shot, and creativity. Whick question, who do you send down once Frolik and Versteeg recover? We all know Brouwer, Stajan and Lazar are a no, so it’s Mangiapane, Hathaway, Hrivik.

  • wot96

    I think this (thanks for the work, Ari) highlights the poor special teams play. A top third powerplay and penalty kill and this team would be in third in the Pacific or better.

  • MarkyOgg

    Janko and Hath have great numbers on the PK, but some of that might be due to facing secondary PP units. Whereas Backs/Fro and Stajan/Brouwer normally face top PP lines?

    • Hat

      Keep in mind that Janko and Hathaway are sheltered at 5v5 – fed high ozone starts and 3rd line QoC. 2nd line pk is 2nd line QoC while down a man and hemmed in your own zone. “Only second PP unit” is like saying oh whatever it is ONLY the 3M line these rookies are doing well against; No big deal.

  • Willi P

    Mangiapane has earned more ice time. Move him up with Janko. Move Bennett up with Backlund and put Byng on the right side, that would be an awesome line. Give Hrivik a game to see what you have there.

    Possession numbers improve but win % drops. Based on last night, I hope GG is adjusting his system.

  • aye

    Interesting stat, the Flames lead the league on SAT% while leading in the game at 53.23%. only 3 teams have a positive corsi when leading, and the Flames are way ahead in this category, so it looks like it’s not true that they try to sit on leads.
    With better puck luck, I think they should be just fine.

  • Thunder1

    Twenty two dates on the road, 19 at the ‘Dome left on the docket. If the ? can maintain their existing winning percentages the rest of the way, we squeak in with 94-97 points.

    IMO, I don’t see this team getting worse in the second half, but better. Pour on the minutes for Johnny, Monny, Ferly, Chucky, Jankowski, Benny, Gio, Dougie and whomever we get for Backlund and get ready to ride Smitty for a real good run at it this spring.
    Maybe it’s recency bias, but in my ? the boy’s have started to heat up. If we are anywhere close to how good we were in the second half last season the Red Mile is gonna’ hop again in 2018!
    You can call for my head if it doesn’t happen WW.

    • BendingCorners

      … and whomever we get for Backlund …
      I don’t understand. Why would any GM trade a quality C to Calgary in exchange for Backlund (another quality C but with no team control)?
      Backlund is here till June; either BT will sign him then or he will trade his negotiating rights for a late-round pick.
      Apart from that bit of illogic, your post was great.

      • Thunder1

        Don’t think so… I’m with WW on this one. There is no part of 5 years or 30 million I’m willing to bet on Mikael. He has zero movement protection and trading him by the deadline is the only way the Flames can recoup anything from their investment and I don’t feel they are willing to extend him that long or pay him that much.

        • BendingCorners

          Trading Backlund at the TDL kills this year’s playoff run. Never say never I suppose, but I don’t see it happening. The return would be draft picks and prospects, not another quality C. BT has been trying to build a roster that can win this year; trading Backlund mid-season would be a massive swing in the other direction.

          • Thunder1

            Keeping Backlund plugs up Janko’s rightful ascension. Like it or not, Weisbrod stumbled onto to something pretty special during that blizzard 5 years ago!

          • BendingCorners

            This year matters too though. Janko is progressing just fine, no need to remove Backlund. We need the Cup more than we do a draft pick. At least, that was BT’s reasoning last summer; I don’t believe he’s changed his mind.

          • supra steve

            We would all like to have a first rounder in 2018, but we don’t “need a first-rounder”. The teams that you would get a first rounder from will be drafting in the mid 20s to 31st overall. What kind of players do you USUALLY get in that range?….Shinkaruk, Poirier, Lazar, Klimchuk, Tim Erixon, Greg Nemisz. Occasionally there’s a Michael Backlund. It’s a lottery ticket, would be nice to have one, but the Flames don’t NEED a lottery ticket. It’s not a good enough reason to move Backs.

            Janko may become the team’s #2C, he’s not there yet.

        • Carl the tooth

          What you if we lose a Top centre to injury ? We need all these centres. BT was able to trade away some draft picks because of our prospect depth , it would be nice to somehow draft Brady Tkachuk but not at the expense of a Selke caliber centre. Unless we get a Top Draft pick for him in the Top 10 and a good prospect .

    • Derzie

      Things are heating up because the coach is doing (in January) what the fans suggested in October. Same team, coach cluing in a little. If it continues, we win. If he reverts, we lose. Most notably if he plays slow veterans over the call-ups.

  • Greg

    It’s pretty impressive that Bennett has clawed his way back into black on Corsi, and that he’s done that with Jankowski, who is also in the black as a rookie. You don’t see that very often… looking like the Flames will have legit forward depth for a long time to come now.

  • Greg

    Also, for all the complaints about GG and player usage, those TOI stats look like he knows what he’s doing. The big 3 are 100 minutes ahead of Hamonic, and the top 7 forwards have a sizeable gap before Brouwer also. If you count TOI/game, Jankowski moves way ahead of Brouwer too (as do Versteeg and Hathaway too).

  • buts

    Off subject…..So that exit plan for Jagr is basically saying “I can’t play for this coaching staff”. How a pp like what we have seen thru a year and a half can keep a coach employed is beyond me. It almost cost us the game and a great effort last night. It sucked the momentum out of the flames and gave it to the ducks. The game would have been over with a goal on that 4 minute pp.

  • deantheraven

    Great work, thanks for this. Still shaking my head to see Brodie top the TOI, with all his struggles this season. I know most stats types don’t give plus/minus much weight, but he’s been on the ice for a ton, and individually responsible for some doozies. Gripe all you want about Brouwer even being here, but he’s not taking ice time away from anyone, at least until Frolik returns.GG has been playing ‘dance with the one who brought you’, but I think it’s starting to change. Something smells like change, anyway.

  • Eggs Bennett

    Imagine if the Flames have been icing the current lineup from day 1 this season. We wouldn’t need to be seeing all those “improvements” across the board and we’d be sitting comfortably in a top 3 divisional spot right now.

    • BendingCorners

      Really. You think if we had played Mangiapane and Jankowski instead of Frolik and Versteeg from the beginning of the year that we’d be much further ahead? Personally I’m looking forward to getting both of them back and sitting two of the weaker players (Lazar, Brouwer, Stajan).

  • Chucky

    All the analysis is great and the numbers look fascinating but they do not take into consideration what the team told Gulutzan. In the second period for the LA game they said “coach stuff your system” he blew a gasket in practice on Friday and first shift Saturday Giordano said “we mean it”.
    They are clear sailing through to the playoffs as long as they stand together in mutiny. All the statistics in the world cannot evaluate the success or failure of a team designed for one job and required to do another. Fortunately the Flames have the player leadership to ignore the coach and play their game.
    The only way the Flames don’t make the playoffs is if Gulutzan finds a way to impose his will and we are bored to death in 25th place,

  • Vernon30

    I think if Jagr was signed in July, the outcome may have been different. He would have had a full camp, and would have prepared a bit better in the off season. Too bad it didn’t work. For the PP, why abandon what they do well 5V5? Just play the same, no need for a complete change, with Johnny predictably dangling to the line, and then the 4 others following.

    • Oil consuming Flames

      I totally agree with playing the PP the same way they play 5v5. The PP mindset kills them, they need to have the same intensity, desperation and effort on the PP.

      With a win against the Wild on Tuesday, the Flames will take over 3rd in the Pacific. they also have TB and FLA while ANA and SJ are on their week long breaks. The Flames need to get 6-8 pts out of their next 4 games before taking their 5 day break to secure 3rd in the Pacific.

  • Off the wall

    The skills competition results :

    1. Fastest skater 13.67 seconds – Matt Bartkowski???

    2. Hardest shot- M Stone- 105.1mph – umm PP please
    Gio was 104.7

    3. Accuracy- Backlund – 4 for 4??
    Monahan 5 tries- 4 targets

    Versteeg was hilarious. He was doing a ton on chirping on his own mike, at one point he asked one of Smiths kids to “ do the Gulutzan “ and throw his stick.
    Makes me miss Versteeg..

  • Cheeky

    As said previously, why does it take half a year before this coaching staff comes up with a line up somewhat resembling what most of us post before the year starts (and surprisingly we start winning). Yes none of us are NHL coaches but it’s no coinsidence that since Brouwer and Bennett have parted ways and Janko and Hath have been recalled (and Bart permanent fixture in pressbox), Rittich as back up, etc. – we have been a better team. Only stat that means anything is win / loss. All the others that help to improve on this category (such as even having an average PP) will lead us to playoffs (fingers crossed)…

    • WillyWonka

      “…somewhat resembling what most of us post before the year starts”
      you forget that if they went with what “most of us” posted earlier on, then there would be no Bennett and No Backlund… as these would have been traded… plus who knows how many other knee-jerk moves that were proposed by fans

      • Cheeky

        I only remember 1 guy talking about getting rid of Backs and the Bennett talk only started after he wasn’t doing much at beginning of year that also coincided with him playing along side Brouwer…