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.)
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)
|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)
|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)
|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)
|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)
|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.