Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman published his latest weekly edition of 31 Thoughts on Wednesday. Within those 31 thoughts, two pertained to the Calgary Flames – and the potential future plans for interim head coach Geoff Ward.
4. Geoff Ward could retire undefeated, now 6-0 running the bench. While Calgary gave its interim boss a salary raise for the remainder of the season, they have yet to commit to him for the rest of the year. First, after a tumultuous month, the organization just wanted to breathe and see how the players responded. Second, the Flames did not want to be unfair to him by saying, “Hey, it’s yours” in case circumstances changed at a later date. I believe the metaphor being used is, “They’re dating, but not engaged.” Results speak, however, and, right now, Ward’s are excellent. He’s come a long way since assisting Don McKee at the University of Waterloo in 1989.
Let’s dig into this a bit, friends:
First of all, sample size warnings – the Flames surviving fairly one-sided games in Colorado and Arizona this past week really skew the shot rates towards the negative.
That said, the real story here so far is high danger scoring chances: the Flames are much better at generating them and a little bit better at suppressing them. While they’re not exactly setting the world on fire with their shot attempt and overall scoring attempt suppression, they’re maintaining better control of the high rent district. That’s a big reason why they’ve gone 6-0. (Plus improved puck luck.)
5. I’m not sure anyone knew what to expect when Peters was told in Buffalo that he could not be with the team. But everyone noticed an immediate difference, a more relaxed vibe. Winning creates the most happiness. Second is your players getting their cookies. Sean Monahan, who looked lost, has points in all six of those games, and goals in each of the past four. Johnny Gaudreau, looking so much more engaged, has four points. Dillon Dube, Milan Lucic, Zac Rinaldo and Derek Ryan had 16 points before Ward’s ascension and 19 since. A little belief goes a long way.
For clarity’s sake, we’re including the first game in Buffalo (before Peters had officially left) because Ward was running the show. So what can we learn about the team’s performance at an individual level?
There’s the obvious differences in production, but more interesting (to me) is player usage. Forwards getting an increase in their per-game ice time are Jankowski, Lucic, Mangiapane, Rinaldo and Ryan. We’re seeing comparatively less of Backlund, Frolik, Gaudreau and Monahan.
Yes, the depth players are scoring more. But they’re also playing more, too.
The wacky offensive totals don’t emerge quite as much for the blueline group, but the deployment changes do. There’s more of Hamonic and Hanifin, and less of Giordano, Stone and Kylington.