The Calgary Flames had a lot of problems last year, but none bigger than their goaltending. Not one of the four puckstoppers who graced the club’s crease last year finished with an average SV%. As a team, the Flames finished with one of the worst save rates in the entire league at even strength at .908. That’s 12 points back of merely average.
Brad Treliving clearly entered the offseason on a mission not to allow that to happen again. His moves to acquire both Brian Elliott and Chad Jonhson promise to vastly improve the netminding situation for the team next season. But how much of an improvement is it likely to be?
A big one.
We’ll confine ourselves to just 5on5 for now because predicting special teams can be a bit of a fool’s errand. Last year, the Flames surrendered 1,898 shots at even strength, so we’ll use that number as the benchmark. Due to the club’s aggregate .908 SV%, they surrendered 168 GA at 5on5 (good for second worst in the league).
To forecast the impact of adding Elliott and Johnson, I looked at each guy’s cumulative ES SV% over the last three seasons. Elliott’s is a near elite .9296 and Johnson a very solid .9226. Next, I parcelled out the 1,898 shots to each according to his probable role: 75% to Elliott and 25% to Johnson. Here’s the results:
So assuming each guy performs around his recent career average, the Flames could expect a 33 goal improvement over the same amount of shots as last year. That’s an enormous swing and theoretically worth 5+ wins or about 13 standings points. Last year, that would have moved the Flames from a -29 goal differential club to +4 and improved their 77 standings points to 90 (good enough to make the playoffs).
Of course, the Flames can further improve that number simply by surrendering fewer shots against. Allowing just 1,800 shots against rather than 1,898 would theoretically save another six goals against, for instance.
Obviously we can’t say for certain that both Johnson and Elliott will play to their career norms next year. Also, we don’t really know what the shot mix will be – maybe Johnson will play more games than what I’ve forecast here. Keep in mind this more an intellectual exercise than rock solid prognostication since we can’t predict a lot of variables involved.
Still, it’s obvious the Flames should have vastly better goaltending this year. If nothing completely out of the ordinary happens, a 30+ goal improvement isn’t out of the question.