Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Flames emphasize faceoffs with their additions

It’s no secret that the Calgary Flames were lean on right-handed centers last season. Until they acquired Nick Shore at the trade deadline, they simply didn’t have any. While the Flames probably weren’t crippled by having only southpaw centers on a macro level, their 2017-18 season was essentially “death by a thousand cuts” and having to rely on Troy Brouwer as their primary right-handed option in strategic situations probably cost them draws here and there (and some games, too).

The signings of Derek Ryan and Austin Czarnik, along with the acquisition of Elias Lindholm, are probably an indication that general manager Brad Treliving is paying attention to both the forest and the trees in the context of his team’s disappointing season.

The Flames had four guys take the bulk of their faceoffs last season:

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
  • Mikael Backlund: 1,410 – 50.0% winning percentage
  • Sean Monahan: 1,407 – 50.4% winning percentage
  • Mark Jankowski: 810 – 48.8% winning percentage
  • Matt Stajan: 482 – 51.4% winning percentage

Two things jump out: the best guy at winning draws was their fourth line center, and all of these fellas are left-handed. The three most-used right-handed options (Brouwer, Shore and Curtis Lazar) combined for 454 draws, fewer than Stajan.

The big challenge for a group of lefties is that about half of draws in games take place on the right side of the ice. The general trend for centers is they’re better at winning draws on the side of the ice that they shoot, their so-called “strong side” – e.g., left-handed guys are better at winning left-side draws, right-handed guys on the right side.

Because of their lack of left-handed options, the Flames were probably hamstrung in some key situations. Tyler Dellow at The Athletic did an examination of how teams took draws on the strong and weak sides, and found that the Flames were one of the league’s weakest teams in that regard… and the Carolina Hurricanes were the second-best NHL club at using forwards for draws on their strong sides. From Dellow:

League average is around 60 per cent of 5-on-5 faceoffs being taken by players on their strong side although, as you can see, the median is a few points lower. There are a few teams that are really aggressive in having players take faceoffs on their strong sides that drive the average up.

It’s probably not surprising to see Treliving emphasize adding right-handed faceoff options when his brand new coach is such a believer in utilizing that strategic advantage. If you look at the players that have been acquired, two of the three were guys that took a lot of draws and had a lot of success for the Hurricanes: Ryan took 940 draws (and won 56.5% of them), Lindholm 793 draws (and won 54.5%).

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

While Peters is a notorious line tinkerer, the new bodies in town will provide him with plenty of right-handed faceoff options that aren’t Brouwer and potentially make the Flames a more versatile club – and one that’s tougher to beat simply by outmatching their one right-handed guy.


Founded in 1950, Sports Excellence Corporation represents over 150 family-owned independent hockey retailers across Canada and the United States. Our highly knowledgeable hockey specialists are available to assist all your equipment needs. Find your closest Sports Excellence retailer here: Find a location near you!

    • Flint

      Think about how much a Patty Maroon contract would come in at… and you’d want to play him on the 4th line? More likely:
      Johnny – Mony – Chucky (based on Peters saying Tkachuk will be there)
      Maroon – Janko/Ryan – Lindholm
      Bennett – Backs – Frolik
      Hathaway? – Ryan/Janko – Lazar/Brouwer?

      • freethe flames

        It might be time for people to rethink “line” definitions. If Maroon signs BP has the potential to put together a very solid line up and still have room for a kid to make the line up. Again my belief is you want to be able to play 4 lines that have clear expectations; a high end scoring line(A) 70+ goals, a 2nd scoring line(B) 60+goals, 2 way checking line(C) 45+ goals, checking line(D) 30+goals(if Maroon signs based upon the depth potential this line could be a 40+ line). The key of course can either Maroon,Tkachuk, or Bennett play their off wing.
        A: Johnny/Monny/(1 of Maroon/Lindholm) could easily be 75+
        B: Tkachuk/Janko/(1 of Maroon/Lindholm) could easily be 60+
        C: Mangiapane/Backs/Frolik 45+ is a possibility
        D: Bennett/Ryan/(1 of Lazar/Czarnuk/Hathaway/Brouwer) 40+

  • Mickey O

    Notorious line tinkerer might be a good thing. You could set GG’s line-up card a month in advance:

    Johnny – Mony
    Bennett – Janko
    Stajan in the middle

    Look for any excuse to bump Brouwer up the lineup, Ferland down, and keep Hathaway on 3RW no matter what. Never think of scratching Brouwer. On defence, never entertain changing up your top 4. Vets over youngsters. Smith, always Smith. Age is just a number anyway.

    Then throw a stick into the stands, and wonder why things went wrong.

  • Styxx

    Trade Brodie for Hayes

    Hathaway, Brouwer

    Stone, Prout

      • Styxx

        Forward scoring is still a huge issue…no way the Flames go anywhere scoring less than 250 goals this year. Tinkering with 3rd & 4th lines is settling for another lost bubble year.

        With Tavares in TO perhaps Nylander (for Brodie) or Kapanen (for Stone) might have some value. Adding Hayes (24G last year) provides some grit and makes space on the top 3 lines and we know Hayes has familiarity with Johnny.

        Am open to better suggestions?

        • Rockmorton65

          Sign Maroon to third line numbers and…


          With Czarnik, Lazar and Brouwer as “spares”


          With Stone, Valimaki and Prout as “spares”

          Top 15 goaltending and a top 10 PP, I think you’re in the discussion for home ice advantage in the playoffs.

    • The Beej

      I would say target a RW from TOR now that they have added Tavares. They will need to do something and they have a ton of RHS:

      Instead of a Brodie what does Stone or Kylington get you? Or both.? Could dangle Bennett as well. they will need some cheap cap hits.

  • RKD

    I think with Lindholm and Ryan they will be better at face-offs but it is something they need to work. They lose to many draws at important junctions in the game.

  • Off the wall

    With the recent additions ( all of which I’m happy about) I’ve gotta say, it looks much better than last season.

    It’s hard to gauge where players end up, whether Tkachuk plays on the top line or Lindholm plays there first.

    Rebar, has a plan and I wonder if Jankowski gets bumped down with Ryan coming in?

    This is the first time I have no clue where all the players fit.
    There’s a lot of bodies, perhaps even one more coming in…

    Once all the dust settles, we can all play “Rebars Roster”, however I wouldn’t be too quick to write anything in stone.

  • Pizzaman

    One thing about Ryan although he is older he doesn’t have the miles on him that he would have in NHL if we are comparing downsides after 30. U of Alberta after WHL and then Austria – easier schedules etc. With RHS and faceoffs he fills a void.

  • Kzak

    I’m going to reiterate what I firmly believe, and that is we cannot become a winning team (and by winning I mean a deep playoff run) unless the Backlund line becomes our third line. Ideally, we would have Monahan, Lindholm, Backlund and Ryan as our four centres. The wrench is where does that leave Janko? Unless he can show some serious offensive improvement this year, his future may not be in Calgary.

    • Getpucksdeep

      Lindholm will start at RW and just take face offs on his strong side. Doan just said it recently; it takes 300 games to learn what you have. Bennett is just hitting that wall and I do hope he is here for one more. I think Jankowski is just as likely to take that next step. He skates well and he’s supposedly hitting 215lbs now! I’m optimistic that Jankowski will play well this year but who knows.

      • Mickey O

        Honestly think Bennett is going to have a very good year. All the pressure he puts on himself, and then GG and BT saying they expect big things before the season started. Then being completely snake-bitten in the first 15 games.

        He’s a better winger, and Janko was always going to be a centre to me. Bennett has had Brouwer, then Hathaway to play with. With all the changes this year he’ll just be another cog in the machine and the pressure on him will lessen.

        I think Bennett will really appreciate Peters’ style. If young Sam cuts down on the dumb penalties, he’ll become one of Peters’ favs and get decent special teams time.

        Janko is friggen huge these days. He got a lot more comfortable as the year went on, and showed he has some jam to his game. I think he’ll be a force in a couple of years, and be the 2C.

        • rusty_shakleforde

          Mickey, I agree. We’re judging Janko on his rookie year. Yes he’s older than some rookies, but we should probably be more hopeful of him. I expect big things from him. He has great hands, can score, and has real good upside. Hopefully he learns how to use his size!

        • Trevy

          I agree and furthermore, if Bennett doesn’t work out to be the player he was projected to be, he’s still a skilled forward with grit and would be on a reasonable contract. If he ends up being a bottom six player, so be it. Especially if his trade value yields you magic beans, best just keep him

  • The Beej


    Have read a lot of articles here over the years where you guys have written that face offs dont matter and dont have a real impact overall.

    Are you guys/gals changing your minds on that a little? re-thinking that at all?

    • Off the wall

      Anyone who has played hockey understands the importance of face offs.
      Peter’s will have this team practicing face-offs until it becomes part of our core strategy.

      Watching the Flames losing draws in the offensive zone was (part) of the reason why our PP was 29th. Pretty frustrating to lose a draw only to watch it sail 180 feet back to our zone, only to start the bump- back all over again.

      Defensively, we lost a ton of draws, only to be hemmed in and running around like chickens with our heads missing. Bad analogy, but the point remains.

      Gain control, via face-offs.
      And like our new member above suggests, ‘get pucks deep.’

      Welcome aboard, ‘Get pucks deep’. Enjoying your input here!

  • The Rocket

    Hard to believe that we dont have either of these two signings in our minor system. I thought we were going to add a little toughness to our team as it looks im not sure that we dont get pushed around a lot this season. Might not need goons but we need someone that can push back and I dont see that anywhere on our team. Just saying

  • Garry T

    Anyone that thinks Jankowski is not going to be a star on this team one day does not know sh….t about hockey. Four goals in one game in his first full season and you do not like him? C’mon! He went to University and then made our team within a year. He is a keeper and from a productivity perspective, he is wasted on a 4th. line.

  • Lazarus

    Faceoffs. The first puck battle. Peter’s wants to be more competitive. It starts there.
    We don’t need pancakes. No to Maroon..jesus who thinks that is smart?!?
    This team is better than last season already and for those who cry over Ferland…he will never again come close to his totals of last year. Tree did well selling high on him.
    Put Backs down to 3rd line. He is and always has been a 3rd line center

  • Chucky

    I am really confused
    Jankowski 72 games 17 goals
    Lindholm 81 games 16 goals
    Ryan 80 games 15 goals
    and somehow Jankowski has to step up because Hathaway , Brouwer Bennett etc. can’t find the net, not to mention they played a win in OT strategy.

  • Blando

    I like these free agent signings. BT is building a faster, more competitive line up which will allow Peters to be able to roll more even lines. The Vegas model somewhat, more strength in each. So far so good. Hanafin will be great.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        The Flames have no such guys. Watching the playoffs, Wilson would have decimated the Flame as who among the redmen could have obviated him? Reaves couldn’t.

        • Blando

          I am more referring to match ups being more difficult for other teams. Its not about being bigger its about more relentless aggressive play, makes it harder on the defence taking away time and space.