The Calgary Flames began training camp in mid-September with 10 defencemen on one-way NHL contracts. There was a lot of use of the word “depth” to describe the Flames’ situation. At the time, general manager Brad Treliving quipped “How well you play determines how much depth you have.”
After injuries, absences, waiver claims and 18 games, one player has emerged as particularly useful depth for the Flames: Dennis Gilbert.
The Flames “usual” top six this season – with Oliver Kylington away from the club tending to a personal matter – has featured Rasmus Andersson, Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev, MacKenzie Weegar, Michael Stone and Nikita Zadorov. Injuries to Tanev and Stone saw the Flames use Gilbert, Connor Mackey and Nick DeSimone at various points.
The results have varied quite a bit. Let’s dive into how Gilbert, Mackey and DeSimone have been used and how they’ve done. (All stats cited here are from Natural Stat Trick.)
Advertisement
Ad

Usage

Gilbert has played five games. He’s played 54:43 of five-on-five overall (10:56 per game), primarily with Tanev. 66.67% of his face-offs have been in the offensive zone.
Mackey has played five games. He’s played 50:13 of five-on-five overall (10:02 per game), mostly with Stone (and a mixture of everybody else). 54.84% of his face-offs have been in the offensive zone.
DeSimone has played four games. He’s played 41:28 of five-on-five overall (10:22 per game), mostly with Gilbert. 82.615 of his face-offs have been in the offensive zone.
The Flames have attempted to shelter all three guys as much as they can in terms of quality of competition, trying to get them out against bottom six opposition. All three guys mostly play with the Flames’ fourth line.

Performance

In terms of generating offence, Mackey’s been on the ice for 2.74 expected goals for (per 60), Gilbert has been on for 2.48, and DeSimone on for 2.04.
Advertisement
Ad
In terms of suppressing the other team’s offence, Gilbert has been on the ice for 1.74 expected goals against (per 60), DeSimone has been on for 2.05, and Mackey on for 4.76.
In terms of expected goals percentages – a proxy for meaningful puck possession – Gilbert’s is 58.8%, DeSimone is 49.8% and Mackey is 36.5%.
Yes, Gilbert has had the benefit of playing with Tanev, but the puck has been going in the right direction with him on the ice. He’s also fought three times, which doesn’t really impact the game much but at least shows that he’s trying to do something to bring energy and/or emotion to the team in limited minutes.

Impact

Finally, we go to Hockey Stat Cards and look at average game scores – a proxy for each player’s average impact on the game. A positive number is good, a negative number is bad, and a zero is no impact.
Advertisement
Ad
Gilbert’s average is 0.33, DeSimone’s is -0.32, and Mackey’s is -1.31. In terms of game impacts, Gilbert has easily been the standout of the three.

Looking ahead

Stone has joined the Flames on their road trip and Sportsnet’s Eric Francis suggested that Stone could be in the lineup on Wednesday against Pittsburgh. DeSimone was returned to the AHL’s Wranglers back on Nov. 15, leaving Gilbert and Mackey on the roster. Odds are, the Flames will be sending a blueliner down to the AHL once Stone is activated from the injury reserve.
If performance is the main determinant of who’ll be headed to the farm, even factoring waivers into the calculations, Gilbert has made a great case for sticking around.