FlamesNation Mailbag: the Boxing Day edition

Photo credit:Mike Gould
Ryan Pike
1 year ago
It’s the holiday season, friends! Boxing Day, more precisely, a time where everyone looks for bargains and also tries to whittle down the amount of tasty leftovers overrunning their fridges.
While that process continues, we delve into the mailbag for a special holiday edition of our weekly column!
For Radim Zohorna being demoted before Matthew Phillips, the idea is probably something along the lines of Zohorna has spent a good deal of time in the NHL (with the Pittsburgh Penguins) and so there’s less benefit for him soaking in the atmosphere by remaining with the big club. Matthew Phillips is younger and so him getting more NHL time, even if he doesn’t play, is in theory still beneficial because he can see how things are done in the NHL.
In terms of Milan Lucic in the top six (or even top nine), I imagine what the coaching staff and team management want to do is exhaust all established internal options before throwing in the towel and spending resources on trading for an external option. (You might notice this is sort of what happened last season before the Flames traded for Tyler Toffoli.) I don’t think it’s unfair to suggest that it might be a tall order to ask Lucic or Adam Ruzicka to be the answers, given where they are in their respective careers. (The same thing likely holds for using Phillips in that role.) But if I’m Brad Treliving, I want to be sure before I make any trades.
I’m not sure if it’s a “don’t have faith” thing regarding Darryl Sutter and Matthew Phillips, or if it’s just that Sutter prefers veteran players because they’re more predictable and are perceived to have less downside risk (or if it’s just that Phillips didn’t have the type of blow-away training camp that Oliver Kylington had a season ago that made it impossible to ignore his play).
Regardless of the Phillips of it all, Connor Zary is essentially in his first pro season given the injuries he had that derailed his 2021-22 campaign. My guess is the Flames are going to try to give Zary some stability so he can reach a level of excellence in the AHL, and give him a chance to move up when there’s a chance he can stick in the NHL. He’s primarily being used as a centre, though, so it might not be until a full-time roster spot opens up.
It would be better if he was a more dynamic offensive player, but the guy is elite at two-way hockey, and has shown the ability to play with high-end offensive players. Look at how the first line (with Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk) worked in 2021-22: so, so many offensive plays began with Lindholm doing something smart in the defensive zone or neutral zone.
If I have the choice between giving power play reps to Michael Stone’s Shot or to MacKenzie Weegar, I’m probably leaning towards giving them to Weegar. Weegar’s occasionally made puck management gaffes, but he’s still young, arguably still developing, and he’s the type of player I would prefer to give puck-handling reps with on the power play so he can develop a little bit more offensive swagger. In short: yeah, that sounds like a good idea that the Flames should try out.
Via our pals at Natural Stat Trick, here’s where the Flames rank in terms of various puck possession percentage metrics:
  • 3rd at Corsi For – pucks at the net regardless of if they’re blocked, miss or hit the net
  • 3rd at Shots For – pucks that hit the net
  • 7th at Expected Goals For – based on shot location and quality, the proportion of shots for and against that should reasonable result in goals, per NST’s algorithm
  • 12th in Scoring Chances For – pucks at the net from the “home plate” area between the net and the face-off dots
  • 16th in High-Danger Chances For – specific shot types (rebounds, rush chances) and shots from the immediate slot area
  • 14th in Goals For – pucks that go into the net
The Flames are an elite team in terms of shot volume. They frequently have the puck and frequently barrage the opposing goaltender with shots. The challenge for them, and I’m not sure it’s a systems issue, is translating “has the puck a lot” to “does dangerous things with the puck a lot.” They’re an elite possession tea, they’re an average (or slightly above average) team in terms of generating offence.
In theory, more time and more chemistry generated between the Flames’ new faces will translate into more offence generated. Again, in theory. We’ll see what happens.

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