Some teams just seem to have the Calgary Flames’ number (and the other way around, too)

Photo credit:Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
25 days ago
On Tuesday night, the Calgary Flames were not very good against the Anaheim Ducks. MacKenzie Weegar and Mikael Backlund both declared the effort not good enough in their post-game chats with the media. Head coach Ryan Huska went further, saying the team was “awful.”
The process and result of the game led to a few questions about why the Flames seem to struggle against teams below them in the standings. We dug into the numbers, and the results aren’t quite that simple.
Responding to a question from TSN’s Salim Valji, here’s what Huska had to say about his group’s performances against the league’s lesser lights:
“I know that’s kinda the question that gets asked a fair bit. Chicago’s a team that we’ve had trouble with. Columbus is a team that we’ve had trouble with. Coming into tonight, the last couple years against, you know, Anaheim, San Jose, teams that have been below us, the record hasn’t been all that bad. So I think when you have nights like this when we are awful and we don’t play well, that stuff always gets magnified a little bit.”
We were curious, so we dug into the NHL’s standings from the past three seasons (2021-22, 2022-23 and 2023-24). What we found was pretty simple: when you compare the Flames’ record, goals for and goals against when they play the top 8 teams in the standings to the bottom 8 teams… they perform a lot better against the bottom 8 teams, as you would expect.
In every metric, the Flames are a better, more successful team against the “worst” teams than the “best” teams. Yeah, they’ve only won half of their games against the bottom 8 teams this year (compared to 40% of their games against the top 8), but that’s arguably as much a product of the macro processes going on with the team – trading four significant players in-season and the beginning of a retooling process – than the team “playing down” to their opponents.
And we’re not saying the team doesn’t “play down” to their opponents. But a good argument can be made that every team does that. Heck, we have an in-game phenomenon known as “score effects” that captures teams letting their foot off the gas pedal once they get a big lead during a game.
But when you look at the past three seasons, there are just some teams that seem to have the Flames’ number. Seven teams have a points percentage against the Flames that’s more than .150 above where they are against the league as a whole: Chicago, Montreal, Columbus, Detroit, Washington, St. Louis and Toronto all have a points percentage against the Flames that’s greater than .150 points more than their usual record.
But that swings the other way, too. The Flames have the number of a few teams, as well. Eight teams have a points percentage against the Flames that’s more than .150 below where they are against the league as a whole: Arizona, Seattle, the NY Islanders, Winnipeg, Los Angeles, Tampa Bay, Dallas and Florida.
There are definitely some teams that the Flames get more emotionally energized to play than against others. But rather than their performances being purely dictated by “good” or “bad” opponents, it may be about stylistic factors or other aspects of each team’s repertoire that lead the Flames to look particularly strong (or awful) against them.
Why do you think the Flames perform so well against some teams and so poor against others? Let us know in the comments!
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