Revisiting the Calgary Flames analytics leaderboard: All-Star break edition

Photo credit:Brett Holmes-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
5 months ago
I did an article like this one a month ago after the Calgary Flames were about one-third of the way through the season, and now that the All-Star break is here, and Calgary has been through plenty of ups and a fair amount of downs, I thought it would be prudent to provide an update on which players are towards the top of the leaderboards in a few key analytics.
The Flames have played 49 games with a record of 22-22-7, which places them sixth in the Pacific Division and five points out of the Western Conference second wild card. But which players have been the most reliable so far this season? What do the analytics show? We’ll be looking at the top five of the same four categories of analytics I looked at in the previous article, just to keep some consistency (and included are the changes in rankings from our previous check-in). All stats are from Evolving Hockey.

5v5 Corsi For percentage (CF%)

  1. Martin Pospisil (54.82%) unchanged
  2. Mikael Backlund (54.09%) up 2
  3. Blake Coleman (53.66%) unchanged
  4. Jonathan Huberdeau (51.46%) up 1
  5. MacKenzie Weegar (51.31%) not ranked

5v5 Expected goals for percentage (xGF%)

  1. Martin Pospisil (55.65%) unchanged
  2. Mikael Backlund (53.92%) unchanged
  3. Blake Coleman (53.03%) up 1
  4. Connor Zary (51.32%) down 1
  5. Andrew Mangiapane (51.27%) not ranked

Goals Above Replacement (GAR)

  1. Nazem Kadri (10) up 1
  2. Connor Zary (9.6) down 1
  3. Noah Hanifin (7.6) up 1
  4. Blake Coleman (6.5) down 1
  5. Andrew Mangiapane (5.1) not ranked

Expected Goals Above Replacement (xGAR)

  1. MacKenzie Weegar (10.2) up 1
  2. Yegor Sharangovich (9) up 3
  3. Connor Zary (8.9) down 2
  4. Blake Coleman (8.6) down 1
  5. Noah Hanifin (7.4) down 1
Unfortunately, there isn’t a ton of movement in a few of these categories, but there are still some interesting conclusions to draw from them.
First, it’s good to see both Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar on a leaderboard together. Corsi for percentage can be a bit misleading overall as a statistic, but at 5v5, if the Flames are above 50% in terms of shot attempts when they’re on the ice, that’s a good thing relative to what was going on last season and even at the beginning of this season. Huberdeau has certainly seen an improvement in his numbers over the month of January, with 10 points in 12 games, tying his best total from November, where he scored 10 points in 14 games.
Second, it’s truly impressive just how good (and consistently good) the Andrew Mangiapane-Mikael Backlund-Blake Coleman line has been this season together. Every leaderboard listed here and others that you can find contains at least one of their names, and in the xGF% top five, they take up three of the spots! It’s been clear as day that they are the line that head coach Ryan Huska can rely on to do pretty much anything. If he needs a line to forecheck hard and play stout defence, they can. If he needs them to score a goal or at least create momentum, they can do that too. They’ve been an unsurprisingly strong line for the Flames this season, and they’ve been a huge reason why they’ve been able to stay in games against teams like the Edmonton Oilers, as they consistently draw the hardest or second-hardest matchups.
There’s also the presence of Noah Hanifin in the GAR and xGAR leaderboards, which, even though many don’t want him to be re-signed due to the length and amount of money that has been reported, is a good thing. We know the kind of defenceman Hanifin is. He’s not outstanding in any one particular area, but he’s solid all-around, and he has proven that this season he’s worth (at the very least) considering keeping around for the long-term as this team continues to undergo changes to the roster and work their way back to the top of the standings.
A little honourable mention should go to MacKenzie Weegar for leading the charge on the back-end as well. Hanifin has been solid, but Weegar has really stepped up his game in the new system, especially offensively. His poise in the offensive zone and overall awareness of when to pinch, when to stay back, where his teammates are, and more has helped the Flames create plenty of goals and win plenty of games.
The biggest jump we see on these leaderboards (and one that we’ve seen tangibly on the ice as well) is Yegor Sharangovich moving up three spots in the xGAR area. He has already hit the 20-goal mark on the season (his career-high is 24 goals in 2021-22), and he’s sitting with a total of 35 points in 49 games played, which is third on the Flames. The kind of threat he poses to the opposition every time he has the puck on his stick is much different than what it was when he was playing in the bottom six of the Flames roster. He looks much more confident now, and the sneaky-good release that he possesses in his arsenal has made its appearance much more, leading to not only more wins, but another line that Huska can use and trust on the offensive side of the game.
The All-Star break will be a good time for everyone to take a step back and evaluate how they want the rest of the 2023-24 regular season to go and how they think it will go. The players at the top of these leaderboards have done their part to ensure the Flames have stayed within earshot of the wild-card spots, but there are bigger questions to answer as well.

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