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The Calgary Flames analytics leaderboard a third of the way through 2023-24

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Photo credit:Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
1 month ago
The Calgary Flames’ record through 34 games is 14-15-5. They sit fourth in the Pacific Division (by a fair margin) and are three points outside a wild-card playoff spot in the Western Conference. In their last 10 games, they have a record of 4-4-2 and have looked like a hockey team that could find their way into a playoff spot if they can fix some issues, albeit ones that they haven’t been able to fix since the season started.
The start to the season wasn’t ideal at all, as Calgary found themselves at the bottom of the standings, only ahead of other struggling teams like the San Jose Sharks, Edmonton Oilers, and Nashville Predators. And now, things are better in some areas while there are other areas that really need some improvement. Nonetheless, we’re getting close to halfway through the season, so I figured it would be interesting to check out who is leading in a few of the analytics categories at this point in the season. (Stats via Evolving-Hockey; with a minimum games-played threshold of 20 games.)

5v5 Corsi For percentage (CF%)

  1. Martin Pospisil (55.47%)
  2. Nikita Zadorov (traded at 55.44%)
  3. Blake Coleman (54.46%)
  4. Mikael Backlund (54.35%)
  5. Jonathan Huberdeau (52.04%)

5v5 Expected goals for percentage (xGF%)

  1. Martin Pospisil (55.65%)
  2. Mikael Backlund (53.92%)
  3. Connor Zary (53.47%)
  4. Blake Coleman (53.24%
  5. Nikita Zadorov (traded at 52.61%)

Goals Above Replacement (GAR)

  1. Connor Zary (6.9)
  2. Nazem Kadri (5)
  3. Blake Coleman (2.9)
  4. Noah Hanifin (2.6)
  5. Mikael Backlund (2.4)

Expected Goals Above Replacement (xGAR)

  1. Connor Zary (6.8)
  2. MacKenzie Weegar (6.1)
  3. Blake Coleman (5.8)
  4. Noah Hanifin (4.1)
  5. Yegor Sharangovich (3.6)
There are plenty of different topics to talk about from these different numbers. First of all, Nikita Zadorov, while he was an expendable asset, was a solid piece of that defense core. Offensively he was still a giant black hole, and that caused some of his other numbers to shine a negative light on his overall numbers, but defensively he was still very solid.
Secondly, just as we all expected, the young players are performing very, very well. Martin Pospisil leading in both CF% and xGF% while Connor Zary leads in GAR, and xGAR is perfectly representative of what’s been happening on the ice. The kinds of plays that they are pulling off at the ripe ages of 24 and 22 years old, respectively, are very impressive and helping to drive the offense of a team that needed it before they arrived on the scene.
For example, this assist from Zary:
And this sweet backhand goal from Pospisil:
There’s an interesting third piece of those different analytics top fives are the other names that appear on the list. First, Blake Coleman has been utterly fantastic. Outside of his appearances in the more in-depth numbers, he’s tied for the Flames lead in scoring with 24 points in 34 games comprised of 12 goals and 12 assists. Not only is he tied for the team lead in points, but he’s also second in the NHL, only behind Simon Holmstrom of the New York Islanders in shorthanded goals with four.
Coleman’s penalty-killing partner and Flames captain Mikael Backlund also has his name on the list, which doesn’t come as a surprise to many. He’s one of the most consistent players that the Flames have, just as he has been his entire career, and without him, it’s no secret that Calgary would be in serious trouble both on and off the ice.
Finally, there are two names in two of the individual categories that catch the eye, that being Jonathan Huberdeau in the CF% category and Yegor Sharangovich in the xGAR category. Sharangovich has been a huge asset of late, sitting in fourth on the team in scoring and finding his stride in the goal-scoring category in particular, with a streak of five points in the last five games and six goals in the last eight. He took a bit of time to adjust to Ryan Huska’s system, but he has finally started to settle in.
As for Huberdeau, his appearance on one of these leaderboards is shocking, given his performance so far this season and how underwhelming it has been. The fact that he has been on the ice for over 50% of shot attempts at 5v5 but has had such a poor individual performance this season doesn’t bode well for the likelihood of him returning to any sort of form that many among the Flames faithful would deem as “acceptable.” It has been another rocky season for a player being paid an absurd amount of money to lead the charge. While Nazem Kadri has saddled up and taken the reins in the scoring department, we haven’t seen the same improvement from the player being paid more, which is a huge problem that has been talked about ad nauseum.
There is still plenty of season left for the Flames to make up some ground in the wild-card race, but there are some issues that need to be fixed, specifically the power play. However, if the players towards the top of these leaderboards can continue their performances (or, in the case of Huberdeau, find some way to make himself even just SLIGHTLY better), then anything could happen.

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