Can the Flames keep up their offensive production?

Updated: September 9, 2016 at 11:00 am by Ari Yanover

In the 2015-16 season, the Flames scored 231 goals. They were 11th in the league in terms of offence. Scoring goals was not the problem for them – preventing goals was, seeing as how their 260 allowed was the most in the NHL.

The Flames have taken steps to prevent more goals this season; specifically, they completely overhauled their entire crease. On paper, they look good. We’ll see how that comes to when put into practice.

But will their offence hold up? Let’s take a look at that.

75% of the offence

Last season, roughly three-quarters of the Flames’ goals came from nine players: the only nine players on the team to reach the double digits in goals. They were:

  • Johnny Gaudreau, 30
  • Sean Monahan, 27
  • Mark Giordano, 21
  • Mikael Backlund, 21
  • Joe Colborne, 19
  • Sam Bennett, 18
  • Michael Frolik, 15
  • Dougie Hamilton, 12
  • Jiri Hudler, 10

The lost goals

Only two players from this group are gone: Colborne and Hudler, and 29 goals with them.

Twenty-nine goals between these two probably isn’t far off from what we could have maybe expected had they stayed on the roster. Colborne shot at an unprecedented, for him, 19.0%; his career average – now including that figure – is 14.7%. He also took 100 shots over 2015-16: a career high. If he’d shot at his career average, that’s four fewer goals.

As for Hudler, he shot at a low (for him) 12.5% to end his time in Calgary; his career average is 15.1%. If he’d shot at his career average, he would have netted an additional two goals. (His shot rates were roughly on par with where they’ve been throughout his career.) And that’s just what he scored with the Flames last season – if you throw in his Florida numbers, he’s probably closer to another four goals on top of that.

So based on some of the simplest math possible, the Flames lost approximately 27-31 goals to free agency, most of them likely from Hudler (especially as we have no idea if Glen Gulutzan would want to use Colborne to the same extent Bob Hartley did).

The goals that stayed

That leaves seven of the Flames’ top goal scorers from last year still present on the team.

Player 2015-16 SH% 2015-16 Goals Career SH% Goals based on career SH%
Gaudreau 13.8 30 14.3 31
Monahan 13.7 27 15.2 30
Giordano 9.9 21 7.6 16
Backlund 13.5 21 9.0 14
Bennett 13.2 18 13.1 18
Frolik 9.7 15 7.9 12
Hamilton 6.3 12 5.9 11

From this, we could expect the group’s goal production to drop by about 12. That’s now 41 goals lost from the original three-quarters.

There are, however, some obvious flaws with looking at things this way. Bennett and Gaudreau have only played a season or two each, so we really don’t have enough to go on regarding their career shooting percentages. Monahan isn’t that up there, either; though he’s shown talent as a high percentage shooter through his first couple of seasons, this past one was a noticeable drop (although his number of shots did go up).

But this doesn’t really account for further growth. Gaudreau is a candidate for that – he’s a special player, and we don’t yet know his ceiling. Bennett and Hamilton, meanwhile, will be playing under a new coach; their previous one didn’t utilize them to their full talents, so it’s not too difficult to see them combining to eclipse the 30 goal mark this go-around.

If Frolik has a healthier season, he’ll likely create more offence; he had as many shots on net as Backlund did, despite playing 18 fewer games. (An 82 game season at these numbers would predict him to score about 16 goals.)

Giordano, meanwhile, eclipsed the 200-shot mark for the first time in his career. Another healthy season should see him put up similar opportunities.

Overall, I’d say these forecasted numbers are probable for Monahan, Backlund, and maybe Gaudreau, while Giordano probably has it in him to match his 2015-16. But with Bennett, Frolik, and Hamilton, there’s good reason to expect more from them.

The new goals

Troy Brouwer was signed in part to create offence. He shot at 12.7% last year: the second worst percentage of his career, even as he put up some of his best raw shooting totals. If he shot at his career average of 14.1% instead, his 18 goals would have jumped up to 20.

So that’s 20 more goals brought in from the outside. It’s not quite enough to counter what was lost to free agency, but it’s significant.

And just like with some of the goals that stayed, we have a harder time predicting some of the new ones, because we aren’t quite sure where they’ll come from just yet. Matthew Tkachuk? Hunter Shinkaruk? Daniel Pribyl? We’ll see, but somewhere in there, there’s hopefully enough to account for the rest of the goals lost (and if things go really well, they’ll exceed them).

Does the offence get better?

Eleventh in the league in goals for is pretty good, considering where this team is. Only 11 teams in the league were able to hit the 230 mark, after all, and if the Flames had scored another 10 goals, they would have been tied for fourth in the NHL.

So while it would definitely be nice to see the offence improve, it isn’t necessary – remaining static while seeing fewer goals go into their own net should do the trick for the Flames this season.

As of right now, I’d project them to actually score a little less this upcoming season. But as things tend to come to in rebuilds, it’s going to be up to the kids. We’ll see if this group has it in them this year to match the previous year’s efforts.

I think they do.