Where did the Calgary Flames rank among the league’s teams in 2022-23?
Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
1 month ago
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The Calgary Flames are looking at the 2023-24 regular season with the desire to right some of the wrongs that happened in 2022-23. There was lots of disappointment, under-performance from big-name players that are being paid lots of money, turmoil behind closed doors, and so much more. All of this culminated in the team missing the playoffs and eventually firing their head coach and part of their coaching staff, former general manager Brad Treliving parting ways with the club, and some of said big-name players making it clear that they might want to play elsewhere.
But through all of that, where exactly did the Flames rank among the other NHL teams? Was it really as bad as all of this off-season hoopla is making it seem?
Let’s start diving into the numbers. The Flames were actually a very effective team last season on both ends of the ice. They finished with 2.77 expected goals for (xGF) in the offensive zone, which is +6% per HockeyViz’s model, and they finished with 2.33 expected goals against (xGA) in the defensive zone, which is -10% per HockeyViz. Essentially, Calgary in 2022-23 was getting lots of shots from the middle of the ice and the slot as a team while preventing them from those areas with even greater efficiency.
The Flames also finished 14th in goals for percentage (GF%) at 51.92 percent and 4th, yes, 4th overall at 5v5 in expected goals for percentage (xGF%). In goals for per 60 minutes, the team ranked eighth overall with 2.8 at 5v5, and they also ranked eighth overall in expected goals against per 60 minutes.
Finally, below is the team’s regularized adjusted plus-minus chart from last season per Evolving-Hockey:
The stat that provides us with evidence as to where the problems were is team goals above replacement (GAR) and team expected goals above replacement (xGAR). Flames skaters ranked toward the middle of the pack in even strength offense GAR and even strength defense GAR. They ranked 21st in power play GAR and 5th in shorthanded GAR, so their special teams weren’t very strong in one end but were in the other, which is even represented in the RAPM graphic above.
The Flames skaters ranked 17th in total GAR, which is only one spot lower than where the team ended up as a whole. The goaltenders, however, are where the problems lie. They earned a measly 2.1 GAR, which is 25th among all NHL teams.
In xGAR, it’s most of the same for the Flames. They rank 13th overall in total skater xGAR, but they rank 25th again in goalie xGAR.
Obviously, it’s important to remember that all of these numbers are just pieces to a very large puzzle, but considering the kind of complaints that were drawn up last season (in terms of the play that was happening off the ice and not the things happening off the ice between the players and the head coach), it does paint almost an identical picture to what we were able to see.
So, what conclusions can we draw from all of these numbers for the upcoming 2023-24 season? First, the goaltending needs to be much better next season. There could be plenty of solutions to that issue, with the first one being that Jacob Markstrom gets back on his horse and starts playing like the goalie who was a Vezina Trophy finalist with the team. Another could be bringing Dustin Wolf into the fold and seeing how he performs on a trial basis. The next would be that the team may have been in some disarray and inconsistent, but they did have a foundation to make the postseason. Whether or not they would have made it far is a question to address for another time, but the skater’s performances as a whole (even with the under-performance from individual players) were good enough to be a playoff team by most metrics. If said under-performing players can live up to the task next season and the new additions can contribute positively, there’s a good chance we could see the Flames back in the thick of it.
The 2022-23 season was a very tough year for the Flames organization as a whole, and there is still plenty that needs to be decided over the off-season. However, I wouldn’t give up hope just yet that this team can find its way back into the post-season given what the numbers suggest they can do.
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