Once again I’ve run projections on the Flames’ coming
Similar to previous years I have used a number of different
statistical categories to cobble together a picture of where the Flames might
end up and how the season may go for each player.
Here’s the process:
I begin by using past NHL seasons (or NHLEs as applicable)
to determine an estimate on the points-per-game for each player on the listed
roster. I then extend that to the most likely call-up candidates within the
organization who will fill the approximate number of man games required both at
forward and defense.
Next I estimate, again based on an average adjusted to
circumstance over previous seasons, the number of games each player on the
listed roster is likely to play in that season, topping it up to within a
reasonable margin with the call-up candidates mentioned above.
That gives me a rough estimate of the total number of points
the team is likely to score.
I analyze each skater’s strengths and weaknesses and try to
describe their likely and/or ideal deployment.
I then estimate, using similar methods, the games played and
save percentage for the goalies. I estimate, based on previous seasons and
adjusting approximately based on the relative strength of the defense corps,
the number of shots that each goalie will face in a game (I have noticed that
backup goalies will often face roughly one fewer shot per game than the starter
as teams may play more cautiously in front of a backup). Calculating those
shots against the estimated save percentage, I can then deduce a
goals against per game.
I then rank the estimated number of goals scored based on
where that total would land in the standings from the previous season. I do the
same with the goals against per game.
Using the goals against and save percentage, I see what
teams had that same number and record their winning percentage.
I apply that winning percentage to the number of games each
goalie is estimated to play, and calculate the points that would result.
Taking that information, the rank of goals scored and goals
against and finally making small adjustments for depth as it relates to the
potential for injury, I arrive at an estimate of where I believe the team is
most likely to finish the season. I emphasize most likely, because these are
meant to be estimates and approximations only and there are myriad unforeseen
circumstances that can affect a team’s performance.
I typically take a wide assortment of statistical categories
into account when researching each team, including shooting percentage, points
per game, games played, TOI, IPP, PDO and more recently DFF% relative to
competition (thanks to Woodguy and GMoney for their work in establishing this
metric and their help in explaining to me), and expected goals for and against.
We’ll begin with the majority of the data I’ve collected,
courtesy of Behind the Net, Corsica.hockey, BecauseOilers, Oilers Nerd Alert, EliteProspects and NHL.com. We proceed alphabetically by the player’s last name.
For goalies I use save percentage and shots per game as the
This year I’ll go player by player, alphabetically,
beginning with the forwards, defense and then the goaltenders. Afterwards I’ll
review the team and the range in which I believe they could finish.
To start, though, I’m going to post the tables I’ve created
that will show all the data collected so you can see for yourself why I have
arrived at these conclusions.
We’ll proceed alphabetically by the player’s last name, beginning with the forwards.
Mikael Backlund – Ideal as a second or third
line center, shows up well across the board in IPP, sh%, DFF against all levels
of competition. I’ve estimated he plays 73 games finishing with around 38 points,
down nine from last year.
Sam Bennett – Probably one to one and a half years removed
from being a first line caliber player, but for now he is ideally
suited in a second or even third line scoring role against the
opposing teams’ middle ranged players. Estimated 75 games and 41 points, up
five from last season.
Brandon Bollig – Most of the numbers show a player whose
team does best when he isn’t on the ice. Bollig is someone who needs to prove
himself valuable on the forecheck and the penalty kill, otherwise he’ll end up
eating a lot of popcorn from the press box seats. I’m projecting 66 games
played, seven points, up three points believe it or not.
Lance Bouma – Versatile forward best used in an exclusive
checking role but still capable of outscoring the other teams’ dregs. Not good
enough to saw off the middle tier offensively, though. Estimating 67 games with
17 points, up 10 from last year off a healthier season.
Troy Brouwer – Free agent winger who has a history of being
deployed against the best the opposition has to offer… and giving up scoring
chances. He must perform well in his two-way game and play effectively in his
physical style if he is to have a positive impact for his team. Effective
offensive weapons, nonetheless. I’m projecting 82 games, recording 37 points,
down two from last season.
Alex Chiasson – Best used in a depth scoring role. Can’t go
toe-to-toe with the elite, and can get bogged down playing against (and
probably with) the dregs, but excels in a support role in a similar, if perhaps
slightly less effective way as Lee Stempniak. Estimated 77 games at 25 points,
up 11 from last season. Apparently I’m bullish on him, which means he’s
Micheal Ferland – Developed nicely last year, posting some
impressive DFF numbers against the elite and middle competition, played the same
level of competition as Backlund but gave up more shot attempts against. I’m
expecting a step back this season as part of natural development, but have
estimated he runs at the same pace offensively over 71 games with 18 points.
Michael Frolik – He is what we knew him to be. Good across
the board, an excellent winger to pair with Backlund for shutdown and
puck possession duties, but equally effective away from Backlund. Estimated to
play 76 games and score 35 points this year, up three based on a few more games
Johnny Gaudreau – Gaudreau looks good by most measures,
though he is now entering his third professional season and while the
offense is there, we’ll need to watch for some improvement in terms of his
possession numbers relative to an escalating quality of competition. While this
may appear to be nitpicking criticism from a detractor, it is quite the
opposite: I believe he can be better still, but to do so he needs to improve on
his shot metrics against the elite. Some of this may well change under a
different coach, one who values possession play more than Bob Hartley, but some
of it must also come from the player himself. I’ve estimated only a marginal
improvement on his ppg pace from last season and thus the same production as
last year, 80 games played with 78 points.
Sean Monahan – Despite taking another step forward last
year, Monahan has yet to prove he is a top-flight first line center
and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I’m of the opinion that he is
a good first line center, but an exceptional second line
center, and ideally the Flames need to find a way to add the depth necessary to
put him there, just as they need to find a way to put Backlund in a third
line role. That Monahan doesn’t get caved in against the elite, but struggles
against the middle tier suggests that his ability to control the play through
puck possession is still developing. I’m expecting a very strong year from
Monahan, along with his established high shooting percentage, and projecting 79
games with only one point less than last year at 62 points.
Hunter Shinkaruk – Playing predominantly against the bottom
tier during his short run last year, Shinkaruk did extraordinarily well in
generating offensive chances. I’m anticipating that he plays a few games in
spot duty as a call up, either by way of injury or after the trade deadline.
This is a conservative estimate and based on his needing one more year in the
AHL to develop. However, at his current pace he appears to be developing as a second
line scoring threat. I’ve projected he plays 20 games and nets six points, up three from last season.
Matt Stajan – Bob Hartley’s old whipping boy, Stajan was
often used in extreme zone starts with little offensive assistance. At the same
time, his play appears to have dropped off significantly and he has two years remaining at a cap hit of $3.125M. If the Flames can’t find a buyer this trade
deadline (when anything is possible) then I’d expect him to be bought out next
summer. That being said, I’m expecting he gets 66 games in and nets 17 points again.
Linden Vey – A useful depth pickup for the wing, an
improvement on Setoguchi, essentially. Vey can play the middle tier competition
fairly well. Assuming he plays about half a season, I’m estimating he finishes
just one point back of last year with 14 over 45 games played.
Forward Call Ups and Tryouts
Matthew Tkachuk – He’ll return to junior, almost certainly,
so I’m giving him the nine-game limit here for argument’s sake. By the same
token, he’ll likely be given every opportunity to succeed by playing with
skilled teammates, so this estimate is probably too conservative, but as a rookie
I’m projecting two points during his nine-game tryout.
Mark Jankowski – Out of sight but never out of mind, perhaps
the best things to happen to Jankowski were the 2013, 2014 and 2016 drafts.
Beginning his professional career, Jankowski will likely see some spot duty
(I’m guessing 14 games) and his maturation in the NCAA means he’ll be more
capable of acclimatizing to the NHL than some other rookies. That being said,
he projects like a depth winger or perhaps two-way shutdown center with some
offense, if the position is available. On the conservative side, I’ve estimated
14 games played and three points.
Morgan Klimchuk – Ten games, minimal chance to contribute
offensively because of spot duty, two points.
Emile Poirier – Twelve games, not likely all in one go, coaches
may be looking for development outside of offense. Three points.
Andrew Mangiapane – Should probably send Johnny Gaudreau
gift baskets every month for the next year or two as thanks for helping pave
his way into Calgary as a small player. Five games, but I think he’ll be protected
and given every chance to show what he can do as a highly-skilled player. Two points.
Hunter Smith – Spot duty expected when the Flames’ games
fall on bear-baiting nights at the rink. Six games, no points. I don’t think the
Flames will dress him with goals on their mind.
Daniel Pribyl – Some offensive pedigree and further along
than a new draft pick, Pribyl is 23 and has played several seasons overseas,
with measured success. Depending on how quickly he acclimates to the AHL, he
could be the first call up. Estimating 12 games, four points, but expect the more
he plays up to a limit of perhaps 35 games, the more productive he might
Garnet Hathaway – Showed well last year in a depth role.
Forechecked well, skated quickly. Likely a depth replacement player, but
certainly a plug-and-play type. Ten games, two points.
Austin Carroll – Coin toss between he and Hathaway. Carroll
is younger with only one AHL season under his belt. He, Hathaway, Smith and
Kanzig make up the Flames’ goon squad for call-up options. Two games, no points.
T.J. Brodie – The numbers love him across the board. If I had
free pick of one player off Calgary’s roster it would be him. That said, I’m
expecting a small drop back in production from last year, so over 79 games
played I’ve projected him to score 39 points, down six from last season.
Deryk Engelland – The sun cannot set too soon on Engelland’s
time with Calgary. Perhaps one of the biggest limiting factors on the potential
of the Flames is a handful of players like Engelland (Bollig, Stajan, Smid and
last year’s goaltending also being culpable in this regard). Does not defend
particularly well against any level of competition, used in defensive zone
starts far too often yet has no other strong skill to recommend him for
anything else save physical play which too often comes at the cost of allowing
scoring chances against. Estimating 10 points over 67 games.
Mark Giordano – Played nearly a full season last year and
his production blossomed as a result. Defensive numbers are outstanding, though
we will observe now if age begins to become a factor. I’m estimating an
incomplete season of 62 games, but a continued ppg pace resulting in a drop of 25 points total to 31. I fully expect this estimate to be incorrect.
Dougie Hamilton – Incomplete defenseman, but young and with
a lot of offensive skill to contribute. He will need to take a big step forward
over the next season and a half to eventually grow to replace Giordano. His
offensive production appears to be nearly on par, only against much easier
competition. This will have to change, otherwise the Flames will have a superior
Dennis Wideman in Hamilton rather than the first pairing defender they
thought they were getting. Played most effectively against the bottom tier
competition but capable against the middle tier. Slight regression of seven points
to 36 points on a 73 game season.
Jyrki Jokkipakka – Capable second pairing shutdown
defender, but only just. Does not contribute anything by way of offense, but if
he can improve his defensive game, and he is still young enough, then he could
pair well with a puck-moving defender like Hamilton to create an effective second
pair. Difficulty is that neither player is independently there yet, though they
both may arrive this season or early next. Estimating same production as last
year, 12 points through 60 games.
Ladislav Smid – An old war horse who is still, despite it
all, a young man. Smid’s only area of expertise is in defending against the
bottom tier of competition, which, it must be said, he does quite well within a
limited sample size. He brings virtually no offense to the table, though, and
is not particularly adept at moving the puck well enough to provide an anchor
on a third pairing but rather needs a very good partner (in the
Flames’ case, this likely means Wideman, although the idea of those two
together does not inspire confidence). Estimating 27 games as he tries to
recover his career, one point.
Dennis Wideman – Despite Hartley’s best attempts to shelter
him, Wideman’s defensive numbers are very poor. His game may have reached a
point where he is a power play specialist and little else, which is unfortunate
when playing on a team with Giordano, Brodie and Hamilton. I’d wager he moves
at the trade deadline, therefore I’m estimating he plays 55 games and but still
posts 21 points.
Defence Call Ups and Tryouts
Tyler Wotherspoon – His career appears to have stalled and
at this stage he seems little more than a placeholder for Oliver Kylington or
Rasmus Andersson. I’m projecting he still gets eight games and comes away with one point.
Brett Kulak – I think there may be a little more tread on
his tires than Wotherspoon within the Flames organization, but only just. Were
Kylington, Hickey, or Andersson closer to NHL ready I’m not sure he would have
been signed. That being said, I’m estimating he plays 10 games with no points.
Keegan Kanzig – This will be his first full pro season in
either the AHL or ECHL. Suspect he will get a few games to see what he can do,
and upon whom he can inflict it. Two games, no points. I don’t have a metric to
project penalty minutes or fights.
Oliver Kylington – Played part of his first pro season in
the AHL last year with some success. He will need to show improvement and I
believe his skill set contributes to that happening. As a result I have him
playing four games this season, though no points.
Brian Elliott – Fifty games as starter, 0.923 sv% and a 2.31 goals against average.
Chad Johnson – Thirty-two games as starter, 0.911 sv% and a 2.58 goals against average.
There are two significant unknowns here: injuries and Glen
Using Corsica’s database I pulled the aggregated numbers
from the Dallas Stars for the one and a half seasons that Gulutzan coached.
The possession numbers of his teams are not, in and of
themselves, terrific. However, when contrasted with the Flames under Bob
Hartley they are markedly better – below 50% but often only just. Consider,
during Hartley’s tenure, the Flames recorded a Corsi For rate of 46.41%, while
the Stars under Gulutzan’s brief tenure managed 49.48%. Gulutzan’s PDO during
that time was 100.32, meaning he was more or less getting a fair result from
So I would suspect we can conclude that, given the same
roster at Hartley’s disposal, Gulutzan should see some improved results. I
strongly doubt this team can climb its way into a playoff position, but that
also depends heavily on the play of the other teams in the division.
All told I’ve got the Flames’ players scoring approximately
564 points, and 215 of those being goals. This comes out to about 2.62 goals
for per game.
I came to the goals-scored number by analyzing half of the
NHL teams’ points scored by the roster relative to the number of goals, and
came away with an approximate share of 38% – meaning 38% of all player points
are likely to be goals.
The Flames scoring 215 goals for would put them 15th in the
league last season, a spot held by the Anaheim Ducks in 2015-16.
On the other side, I’m projecting the goaltending to allow
2.4 goals against per game.
The Flames’ expected goals for differential last season was
poor across the board. Only Smid and Backlund were on record as being able to
create a greater share of goals for their team than they surrendered, and
Brodie broke even. Smid’s numbers come from a relatively small sample size and
he played nearly half his entire ice time against the bottom tier of
competition, so we can safely discount his results.
Suffice to say, the Flames should have more to offer than
what they gave last season. Gulutzan may be able to help in that regard. The
goaltending appears to be set up to save the Flames on most nights, provided the
forwards can provide a league-average rate of scoring.
Based on the numbers I’ve accumulated, I’ve estimated the
Flames will score 215 goals for, an average of 2.62 goals per game, and allow
on average 2.4 goals against per game, or roughly 197 on the season.
Obviously that is a very narrow margin and this suggests that goals will be difficult to come by but that defense and goaltending will prove the backbone of the team. To be perfectly honest, I’m not entirely confident in that result as we don’t have a lot to go in when it comes to Gulutzan’s schemes and expected style of play. However, the numbers lead us in this direction, so absent anything to the contrary, I think we need to at least set this as a starting point.
Working off of teams who had identical or near-identical
numbers last season and their winning percentages in games, I’ve estimated the
Flames will finish with 92 points. This puts them right on the playoff bubble,
as last season the Bruins and Red Wings both finished with 93 points – the
latter made the post-season while the former did not.
Obviously this does not entirely account for injuries, but
the Flames do have some reasonable redundancy built into their roster at
center, goal and defense so that, outside of cataclysmic injury events, they
should be able to hit within two points of that mark.