How have Calgary’s special teams been under Brad Treliving?

Photo credit:Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports
Ryan Pike
2 years ago
The current era of Calgary Flames hockey began in 2014, when Brad Treliving was hired as general manager. Since then, the club has had a bunch of different coaches – both head and assistant – running the show.
With even strength play very even throughout the league, special teams can make a huge difference. How have the Flames’ power play and penalty kill performed under Treliving’s watch?
We’re looking at two things for special teams units: process and performance. Process is how well the units performed in terms of generating (or suppressing) scoring chances or expected goals. Performance itself is measured by conversion rate and shooting/save percentage. In theory, being great at underlying metrics leads to good conversions – if you generate a ton of good chances or prevent them, that should make life easier – but it’s not quite a guarantee of success.
Ideally, teams would like their special teams to be in the top third of the league’s rankings. They’re usually somewhat satisfied if they can avoid the units being in the bottom third. Assistant coaches don’t make the decisions for special teams on their own, but usually there’s one assistant who runs the show in tandem with the head coach.

The power play

  • Coach: Martin Gelinas [Bob Hartley head coach]
  • Most Used Unit: Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Jiri Hudler, Mark Giordano & Dennis Wideman
  • Expected Goals: 6.73 xGF/60 [16th]
  • High-Danger Chances: 21.61 HDCF/60 [13th]
  • Shooting Percentage: 12.77% [13th]
  • Power Play Conversions: 18.8% [12th]
This year’s unit was about average league-wide, with a slightly above-average shooting percentage nudging them towards the top half of the league.
  • Coach: Gelinas [Hartley]
  • Most Used Unit: Gaudreau, Monahan, Hudler, Giordano & Dougie Hamilton
  • Expected Goals: 6.15 xGF/60 [22nd]
  • High-Danger Chances: 19.56 HDCF/60 [14th]
  • Shooting Percentage: 12.17% [22nd]
  • Power Play Conversions: 17.0% [22nd]
The 2015-16 PP was decent at producing high-danger chances, but not great at everything else. Combined with a below-average shooting percentage, they were firmly a bottom-third PP.
  • Coach: Dave Cameron [Glen Gulutzan]
  • Most Used Unit: Gaudreau, Monahan, Troy Brouwer, Kris Versteeg & Giordano
  • Expected Goals: 6.81 xGF/60 [13th]
  • High-Danger Chances: 22.58 HDCF/60 [11th]
  • Shooting Percentage: 13.61% [10th]
  • Power Play Conversions: 20.2% [10th]
In the first season with the new coaching staff, Cameron’s PP performed well with a pair of right shot veterans in Brouwer and Versteeg on the top unit. Yes, this was the much-ballyhooed Brouwer Play. They were above average in underlying metrics and boosted into the top 10 by shooting percentage.
  • Coach: Cameron [Gulutzan]
  • Most Used Unit: Gaudreau, Monahan, Matthew Tkachuk, Giordano & Hamilton
  • Expected Goals: 8.11 xGF/60 [4th]
  • High-Danger Chances: 27.44 HDCF/60 [2nd]
  • Shooting Percentage: 10.12% [29th]
  • Power Play Conversions: 16.0% [28th]
From an underlying perspective, this was the most successful PP the Flames had in years. They generated a ton of chances, and usually good ones. Unfortunately, this team was aggressively unlucky and simply found ways to not score while a man up. A 10% shooting percentage, on a power play, is crazy-low.
  • Coach: Geoff Ward [Bill Peters]
  • Most Used Unit: Gaudreau, Monahan, Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm & Giordano
  • Expected Goals: 6.85 xGF/60 [10th]
  • High-Danger Chances: 23.57 HDCF/60 [5th]
  • Shooting Percentage: 13.52% [18th]
  • Power Play Conversions: 19.3% [18th]
Another new coaching staff this year! The underlyings remained strong, as the only personnel change in the top unit was swapping out Dougie Hamilton for Elias Lindholm. Unfortunately, their shooting improved from “horrendous” to “below average” and the PP’s overall conversion rate was still below the mid-point of the league.
  • Coach: Ward [Peters]; Ray Edwards [Ward]
  • Most Used Unit: Gaudreau, Monahan, Tkachuk, Lindholm & Giordano
  • Expected Goals: 6.68 xGF/60 [15th]
  • High-Danger Chances: 20.60 HDCF/60 [16th]
  • Shooting Percentage: 14.09% [12th]
  • Power Play Conversions: 21.2% [12th]
There was some continuity here, as Geoff Ward became interim coach and worked with Ray Edwards on the PP. The percentages improved a bit, making up for a bit of an erosion in the team’s underlying performance. The overall PP was slightly above average.
  • Coach: Edwards [Ward; Darryl Sutter]
  • Most Used Unit: Gaudreau, Monahan, Tkachuk, Lindholm & Giordano (or Rasmus Andersson)
  • Expected Goals: 6.34 xGF/60 [16th]
  • High-Danger Chances: 18.87 HDCF/60 [17th]
  • Shooting Percentage: 12.45% [20th]
  • Power Play Conversions: 18.3% [21st]
Edwards stuck around all season despite the coaching change. The team’s underlyings crept below average on the PP and the group’s shooting percentage dropped, putting the PP back into the bottom-third once more.

The penalty kill

  • Coach: Jacques Cloutier [Hartley]
  • Most Used Unit: Matt Stajan, Lance Bouma, Giordano & TJ Brodie
  • Expected Goals: 6.37 xGA/60 [7th]
  • High-Danger Chances: 20.33 HDCA/60 [15th]
  • Save Percentage: 85.25% [26th] (Karri Ramo & Jonas Hiller)
  • Penalty Kill Success: 80.7% [20th]
Cloutier built his reputation as a coach as a solid penalty kill coach and this season’s PK story is one of rough goaltending undoing a lot of decent work.
  • Coach: Cloutier [Hartley]
  • Most Used Unit: Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik, Giordano & Brodie
  • Expected Goals: 7.51 xGA/60 [29th]
  • High-Danger Chances: 26.27 HDCA/60 [30th]
  • Save Percentage: 82.62% [30th] (Ramo, Hiller & Joni Ortio)
  • Penalty Kill Success: 75.5% [30th]
The 2014-15 group had really solid underlying numbers and goalies that couldn’t hold the fort. The 2015-16 group was all-together not that good… and also received awful goaltending.
  • Coach: Paul Jerrard [Gulutzan]
  • Most Used Unit: Backlund, Frolik, Giordano & Deryk Engelland
  • Expected Goals: 6.11 xGA/60 [8th]
  • High-Danger Chances: 19.19 HDCA/60 [11th]
  • Save Percentage: 87.31% [15th] (Chad Johnson & Brian Elliott)
  • Penalty Kill Success: 81.6% [12th]
A new coaching staff saw Paul Jerrard take over the PK and really have a strong turn-around. Goaltending was league-average on the PK and the group’s underylings improved to being just on the cusp of the top-third of the league.
  • Coach: Jerrard [Gulutzan]
  • Most Used Unit: Backlund, Frolik, Giordano & Travis Hamonic
  • Expected Goals: 7.34 xGA/60 [21st]
  • High-Danger Chances: 23.84 HDCA/60 [23rd]
  • Save Percentage: 88.14% [9th] (Mike Smith & David Rittich)
  • Penalty Kill Success: 81.8% [7th]
This season’s PK saw their underlying numbers erode, but Smith and Rittich over-performed and pulled the group into the top-third in terms of conversions.
  • Coach: Ryan Huska [Bill Peters]
  • Most Used Unit: Mark Jankowski, Lindholm, Giordano & Hamonic
  • Expected Goals: 6.27 xGA/60 [15th]
  • High-Danger Chances: 22.34 HDCA/60 [25th]
  • Save Percentage: 83.61% [30th] (Smith & Rittich)
  • Penalty Kill Success: 79.7% [21st]
Ryan Huska’s first season was a mixed bag of mostly bad, with mediocre-to-poor underlyings paired with poor goaltending.
  • Coach: Huska [Peters; Ward]
  • Most Used Unit: Jankowski, Lindholm, Giordano & Hamonic
  • Expected Goals: 6.73 xGA/60 [21st]
  • High-Danger Chances: 20.22 HDCA/60 [16th]
  • Save Percentage: 88.08% [6th] (Cam Talbot & Rittich)
  • Penalty Kill Success: 82.1% [8th]
Huska’s second season saw some mixed results in their underlyings – high-danger chances reduced but expected goals against rising – but strong goaltending that patched over some rough spots.
  • Coach: Huska [Ward; Sutter]
  • Most Used Unit: Joakim Nordstrom, Lindholm, Giordano & Chris Tanev
  • Expected Goals: 5.90 xGA/60 [9th]
  • High-Danger Chances: 18.08 HDCA/60 [14th]
  • Save Percentage: 84.04% [26th] (Jacob Markstrom & Rittich)
  • Penalty Kill Success: 80.2% [15th]
From an underlying perspective, the most recent season saw the stingiest PK on an underlying basis, with the best expected goals and high-danger performances since Treliving’s arrival. The goaltending undid a lot of that, though, and the overall performance was right at league average.
What are your hopes for the Flames’ special teams in 2021-22? Are there particular players you want to see on the top units that weren’t there in 2021-22? (Any players aside from Andrew Mangiapane, who was on the second unit for both the PP and PK in 2020-21?) Sound off in the comments!

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