The good, bad and ugly of Flames game scores for 2017-18

The Calgary Flames had a fairly disappointing 2017-18 season, with their hopes and dreams of playoff contention being crushed under the boot-heels of their own inconsistency and underachievement. Looking at individual performance via game score is a convenient way to weigh player performances against each other, and to compare them to previous seasons. (And to see which Flames were less than stellar this past year.)

We’ve compiled this season’s average game scores for the Flames roster and can now compare them to average scores at the half-way mark of this season as well as player performances in 2016-17.

What’s game score?

Game score was originally devised by Dom Luszczyszyn, currently of The Athletic, in an attempt to capture player performance in one comparable number. Here’s how he summed it up for Hockey Graphs:

It’s not a perfect stat – it’s meant to be a rough measure after-all – but I do think it works well for its intended purpose and is effective at what it does. It’s meant to answer “who had the best game” by adding proper perspective to a combination of a player’s total contributions and into an easily understood all-in-one stat.

For skaters, game score uses goals, primary assists, secondary assists, shots on goal, blocked shots, penalty differential, faceoffs, 5-on-5 corsi differential and 5-on-5 goal differential. For goaltenders, it uses saves and goals against. I’ve made one minor modification, reflecting goaltender assists and penalty differential, to reflect Mike Smith’s contributions in those areas.

Long story short, it’s an attempt to quantify individual player contributions to wins.

Great (0.95 and up)

Player ’17-’18 Half
F Johnny Gaudreau 1.087 1.153 0.857
F Matthew Tkachuk 0.959 0.901 0.786

These guys are often touted as the Flames’ two “untouchables.” They’re both young and both ended up finishing this season with hefty improvements over last season’s average scores. It’s no surprise that the Flames looked fairly lost down the stretch when one, or both, of these guys were absent.

Good (0.45 to 0.95)

Player ’17-’18 Half
F Sean Monahan 0.932 0.958 0.662
G Mike Smith 0.921 1.057 n/a
D Dougie Hamilton 0.886 0.812 0.810
D Mark Giordano 0.859 0.879 0.691
F Mikael Backlund 0.695 0.681 0.777
F Micheal Ferland 0.615 0.729 0.312
F Michael Frolik 0.590 0.665 0.688
F Chris Stewart 0.458 n/a n/a
D TJ Brodie 0.457 0.399 0.400

Ignore Chris Stewart (due to his tiny sample size) and this is basically the core group (and secondary core) of the team. Frolik’s score dipped a bit down the stretch – he never really seemed 100% after his jaw injury – and Ferland’s trended down as well, arguably a product of playing with Monahan’ injury-ravaged body. (It’s really impressive that Monahan’s score is as high as it is given his physical condition.)

If you want to play “one of these guys just doesn’t belong,” Brodie’s even-strength underlying numbers were pretty rough and he’s propped up quite a bit by his power play time and production. Even with considerable playing time, he barely eked into this grouping.

Fine (0.15 to 0.45)

Player ’17-’18 Half
G David Rittich 0.448 0.800 n/a
F Nick Shore 0.437 n/a n/a
F Mark Jankowski 0.419 0.490 n/a
F Jaromir Jagr 0.407 0.407 n/a
F Sam Bennett 0.401 0.415 0.280
F Kris Versteeg 0.351 0.353 0.488
F Garnet Hathaway 0.328 0.544 0.139
F Troy Brouwer 0.314 0.202 0.166
G Jon Gillies 0.305 -1.350 n/a
D Travis Hamonic 0.301 0.239 n/a
F Matt Stajan 0.257 0.123 0.242
D Rasmus Andersson 0.235 0.500 n/a
D Brett Kulak 0.234 0.249 n/a
D Michael Stone 0.234 0.216 0.297
F Curtis Lazar 0.234 0.126 0.445
F Ryan Lomberg 0.151 n/a n/a

If you want to point a finger for why the Flames finished where they did, it’s that they weren’t able to get more out of the mushy middle of their roster – these guys. There didn’t seem to be much of a push in the second half from these guys to get into the “Good” group, and you can see that several players actually back-slid a bit during that period. The third line group stalled out a bit, while some of the fourth line group made minor improvements.

We can give David Rittich a bit of a pass, as he played a lot more in the second half and arguably settled down into what’s probably more of his realistic “level,” and Nick Shore’s arrival had some encouraging early results which probably bode well for his bottom six gig next season. But other than this duo, and perhaps Jankowski, this is where the team needs to upgrade in the off-season.

Bad (-0.15 to 0.15)

Player ’17-’18 Half
F Morgan Klimchuk 0.100 n/a n/a
D Matt Bartkowski 0.093 -0.023  -0.053
F Tanner Glass 0.074 -0.078 n/a
F Marek Hrivik 0.063 n/a n/a
F Andrew Mangiapane 0.037 0.028 n/a
F Freddie Hamilton -0.034 -0.034 0.109

Almost everyone here (a) barely played any games or (b) only played a lot during the very end of the season where the coaching staff was trying random stuff out and the team was kind of a mess. That said: for those of you arguing for the departures of Bartkowski and Glass, here’s some additional ammunition.

Awful (below -0.15)

Player ’17-’18 Half
G Eddie Lack -0.950 -0.950 n/a

Lack was horrible and cost the Flames wins early in the season.

Sum it up

The good news is that Smith is words above the two goaltenders the Flames used in 2016-17 – Brian Elliott averaged 0.576 and Chad Johnson 0.658. And some of the Flames’ core players took some steps forward this season, particularly Gaudreau, Tkachuk, Monahan, Ferland and Giordano. The big problem is that aside from Jankowski, and maybe Shore, nobody in that middle group really established themselves as contributors with upward mobility. Heck, Bennett’s big move this season was to establish himself as a fairly inoffensive third liner when the hope was that he’d become more of a Ferland-level scorer.

As you’re going to hear a lot over the next few weeks, the Flames really need to find offensive help for their top guns from the bottom six. The only player that seems like he might be able to do that from the existing group is Jankowski, and that’s a problem.

  • Who is Alberta’s team?

    The good:

    The bad:
    Everyone else on the roster

    The awful:
    Gaudreau asking for his trade request this summer to be closer to his father

  • Who is Alberta’s team?

    Remember that time Lucic punched the flames goalie in the head 3 times and Gio and stone both went after someone else instead!!!! lmao Then Glass had to step up and use his face as a punching bag for Lucic. The great WW was probably cheering on that one.

  • cjc

    I’d be interested to see how the numbers pan out when corrected for ice time, that seems to influence a number of the metrics. I’d say the stat does a good job of identifying who the best players are, but we don’t need another stat to tell us that. It doesn’t really help distinguish in the “fine” group, and that’s where the team is hard pressed to make changes.

  • Flint

    I wonder how Robyn Regehr would have done with game score? It seems like the type of Statistical bias that would absolutely do him zero favors. Goals? Nope. Assists? Nada. All the rest? Bupkis. Was he a solid defenseman who could hit? Yup. But that’s not in game score.

    You look at someone like Brent Kulak who I thought was pretty good for a first year NHL’r and even if he plays well (he frequently had high corsi numbers) he’s going to get buried.

    Game score seems heavily biased to the offensive side of the game and vastly ignores the defensive.

    • SmellOfVictory

      The dude who developed game score does regularly acknowledge that it underrates defensive contributions and overrates high volume shooters. Regehr probably would’ve looked pretty unimpressive by game score, for sure. But at the same time, while he was excellent defensively, his offensive contributions were extremely minor, so he certainly wasn’t the ideal dman.

  • MDG1600

    Bennett, Hamonic and Brouwer being in the fine/questionable category is accurate and a big part of the problem this year. For me Bennett was a huge disappointment. It would help if he didn’t shot 1 foot wide of the net on most of his scoring chances.

    • The Doctor

      It’s odd given that his last year in junior, his point per game number was fantastic. And he’s shown flashes since. But you wonder what’s going on there. I still maintain, though, that he’s young and Backlund took many seasons to hit his stride and many of us were thinking that Backlund was a draft bust before he hit that stride.

  • FL?MES

    Klimchuk, Hrivik and Mangiapane weren’t exactly gifted any favours and didn’t get much playing time to make an accurate assessment. Poor Klimchuk, for example, didn’t get many minutes and was matched against Chara on a couple shifts. That’s a pretty tough way to get introduced to the NHL for any player.

    If (when) the coaching staff is replaced I’m not too worried. It was a bizarre a frustrating season. Things can only get better with the good core of players we have in place.

    • iggyrocks

      That is the way GG rolls. You would swear the Flames were a union business. Someone gets hurt and you call up a player from the minors, oh no you don’t get to play on top 2 lines. Lets move Brouwer up there because he has been in the NHL longer. Then wonder why guys like Klimchuk or Mangiapane didn’t do much with their call up. 10 minutes on 4th line, might as well left them in the minors.

  • JoelOttosJock

    Another nerd way to score players. Any scoring system that has Brodie in the good and guys like Hathaway, Versteeg, Brouwer, Stone and Lomberg in the fine category, did not watch this team this year. These fancy stats should be about the 4th or 5th way to judge players.

  • T&A4Flames

    Interesting that Kulak slid from mid season and Stone climbed but r fed up the same. Why? Also, this confirms what I thought about Lazar; he got better in the 2nd half. More playing time I think is good for him. I’m ok with him in a 4th line role.

  • Derzie

    I really like game scores as a rough indicator, but where did those ranges come from? Based on my eye test, I see these ranges:

    1.0+ = Elite
    0.80-0.99 = Top
    0.50-0.79 = Middle
    0.30-0.49 = Bottom
    0.20-0.29 = Borderline NHLer
    Below 0.20 = Non-NHLer

  • deantheraven

    I clicked the link for some edification. For all it’s flaws, it’s enough of a clear indicator (of a rough estimate) for me. Game Score is pure, clean empirical data, albeit weighted completely toward offensive output. Corsi is, for me, too much “in the eye of the beholder”.
    If you want to spend lines on stats, Game Score beats Corsi imho. Balance it with the Eye Test for the missing context. Watch the games for the context, then read the stats line. The stats have less value without the context, imho, and are more historical than predictive.

  • freethe flames

    Watching the playoffs clearly tells me how far the Flames need to go. We are probably at least 4 forwards short of being able to compete with these top teams. 2 of which probably need to be skilled offensive guys and 2 forwards who can skate and play with an edge. Looking at our prospects can anyone tell me with confidence that our most ready forwards can fill these roles? The players that BT targets and signs via FA or trades will tell us a lot about the identity he wants to create.

  • freethe flames

    This is a good as any place to begin my evaluation of this team. I decided to start with the leadership core; the guys who regularly wear letters. So lets start with the captain; I give him a pass. He leads by example and his stats this year are pretty close to last years 13 goals, 25 assists for 38 points; last year 12 goals 27 assists for 39 points. No dropoff and considering both he and DHamilton did not play on the first PP for much of the year his counting stats could have been better. His +/- this year was 0; last year +22 a significant decline. Over all he gets a passing grade.

  • freethe flames

    Alternate Captain: Monahan. Despite playing injured for much of the season his counting numbers were up 31 goals 33 assists 64 points; last year 27 goals and 31 assists for 58 points. His +/- +3 this year and even 0 last year. I know he gets crapped on by many for not being engaged enough and seemingly disappearing from time to time but when you consider his injuries this year I give him a pass. I would like to see more on ice leadership from him.

  • freethe flames

    Alternative Captain 2: Troy the Burden Brouwer(I haven’t called him that for months). His counting numbers this year 6 goals(was it really that many) 16 assists for 22 points; last year 13 goals 12 assists for 25 points. +/- this year -7 last year -11. For a guy who was brought in to provide offense, grit and leadership; he fails on all three counts. How they continue to allow him wear a letter is beyond me. How they continued to use him on the PP is beyond me. He is at best a 4th line winger but is being paid like a top 6 forward. A clear and utter failing grade.

  • Kevin R

    Watching these playoff games so far I shudder at the thought of how manhandled our team would get. Hard to believe all the Burke connotations of his influence & his truculent tendencies but the Flames are not built for the playoffs. No where close. The Oiler clown poster about his precious Lucic is right about one thing, we do not have a player we would like that would be a deterrent for what that mental goon did. We get a guy like Reaves, you think he would pull that crap when he would have to face a younger beast like that his next shift. Like it or not, it is part of the game & the NHL & it’s horribly inconsistent officials will never get that out of the game. There’s big guys & then there’s big guys that play big & can play in this league. This will be one of Trelivings tasks to do this summer & I could care less about the guys corsi. Wilson or Reaves should be on the shopping list.

    • freethe flames

      Reaves is a UFA and would look good on a 4th line. Wilson would require a trade; would Brodie get it done? I said somewhere today that we need 4 forwards; two that could play top 6(offensive lines(and two that could play on the two defensive lines. I look at this team and think we need to be able to slot guys better. Johnny, Monny, Tkachuk and I believe Janko will get there are 4 guys who can make up two thirds of two scoring lines. Ferland has the ability to be there but it would be great to add a true RW or two to play there. I believe that Backs if slotted as a shutdown guy can still do the job but I think that part of his game struggles when he is also expected to be the second offensive center as well. I’m not sure what happened to Frolik this year at times he looked great and at other times lost. Bennett IMO opinion is not a top 6 scoring forward and may never be but I do believe he can be a defensive presence with an attitude and the same goes for Lazar. I liked what I say from both Foo and Mangiapane but am not convinced that either are ready for the NHL.

    • freethe flames

      We did pick up Chris Stewart for nothing and the scary thing is he has all the tools to be what we need; the problem is that he does not have the tool box- he has never been able to put it all together.