Back on Valentine’s Day, Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving made a call to the Montreal Canadiens and acquired winger Tyler Toffoli. The price wasn’t insignificant – the Flames now have no first-rounder in this year’s draft – but the addition filled a lot of gaps for the team.
Toffoli’s addition has amped up the first power play unit, but it’s left some holes in the secondary man advantage squad that ideally can be dealt with before the 2022 trade deadline on Monday.
The Flames added Toffoli on Valentine’s Day and he played three games before being integrated into their special teams units – they had a back-to-back set on Feb. 15 & 16, and didn’t have practice time until prior to their Feb. 19 game with Seattle that featured no power plays.
Toffoli joined the first PP unit on Feb. 21, bumping Sean Monahan to PP2 (and bumping Mikael Backlund from the PP units entirely). Here’s how the units stack up as of this writing:
- PP1 operates under a 1-3-1 formation with Matthew Tkachuk, Toffoli, Elias Lindholm, Johnny Gaudreau and Rasmus Andersson.
- PP2 operates under a more traditional 2-2-1 set-up with Milan Lucic, Monahan, Andrew Mangiapane, Noah Hanifin and one of Oliver Kylington and Nikita Zadorov.
The PP1 formation has three right shot defenders on it: Lindholm at net-front, Toffoli on the left flank and Andersson at the top of the zone. Gaudreau is functionally the quarterback from the left blank and he can distribute the puck across different seams to three different right shots for one-timers. It’s a really potent set-up and the PP has eight goals since Toffoli was slotted in. That’s great!
In terms of process versus results, adding Toffoli has improved the first PP unit noticeably compared to the prior incarnation. Their expected goals have gone up from 9.56 per 60 minutes to 12.25, their scoring chances per 60 have gone up from 68.78 to 97.23, and their high-danger chances per 60 have gone up from 28.66 to 31.60. Loading up the first PP unit with three right shots has accomplished what you would’ve hoped it would: more one-timer options for Gaudreau has resulted in more goals.
The second PP unit isn’t nearly as potent:
- Their expected goals per 60 are just 4.13 (with Zadorov) or 4.95 (with Kylington).
- Their scoring chances per 60 are 46.75 (with Zadorov) or 62.07 (with Kylington)
- Their high-danger chances per 60 are 8.87 (with Kylington) or 15.58 (with Zadorov)
Here’s a quick rundown of every Flames player who’s suited up for 10 PP minutes or more during this season (sorted by xGF/60):
As you can see, the best players are stacked into the top unit, as they should be doing. Their next-best five guys are basically on the second unit right now, and they’re just not doing great.
The issue is this: stacking three righties on the first unit takes them away from the second unit, which is all left shots right now. Those awesome one-timer options that Gaudreau has to distribute to on the first unit simply do not exist for the second unit, which in turn has to play a different style of distribution because the one-timers aren’t an option. As a result, they’re easier to defend and just generally not nearly as effective.
If Treliving’s looking to add a forward to the mix prior to the trade deadline, adding a right shot option to add a one-timer to the second unit would do a lot in making the second unit more potent and taking a bit of the production pressure off the top guys on the top unit.
Spread the scoring around a bit on special teams, add another right shot forward at the deadline.
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