Which Flames can we expect more out of?

Updated: November 18, 2016 at 10:00 am by Ari Yanover

The Flames’ season so far has been a disappointing one, not just because of their poor start, but because there are a number of players who haven’t delivered.

Sure, there have been the bright spots and pleasant surprises. But for the most part, there have been a bunch of guys we expect more out of – and rightfully so, based on recent history – that simply haven’t shown up yet.

That doesn’t mean they won’t, though. And there’s plenty of reason to expect those struggling to turn things around sooner or later. Whether it’s soon enough to make a difference to this season is as of yet undetermined – but these are still players who should be worth keeping around for a while yet.

PDO and xPDO

PDO is basically a luck proxy. It’s the combination of a player’s on-ice shooting and save percentages. Sometimes players just hit a wall and it seems as though, no matter how much offence they try to generate, it just never goes in the net; on the other end of the ice, sometimes no matter how well they play, pucks go in past their goalie when they’re out there.

These numbers can be especially skewed at the start of a season, when the sample size is much smaller. So… like now, pretty much.

xPDO is a little different, in that it adds up a player’s expected Fenwick shooting percentage and expected Fenwick save percentage (and here’s why those stats are important). In theory, a player’s PDO should hit roughly 100; xPDO is more finely tuned to specific players. Most of their numbers are close to 100, but not quite.

Some players are performing about where we can expect them to. Here, however, are the underperformers – and the biggest hopes for the Flames to start turning things around. 

All numbers taken from Corsica.

Dougie Hamilton

PDO xPDO Difference
91.78 99.21 -7.43

Dougie Hamilton has two goals and six points. He’s tied for the lead in defensive scoring with Mark Giordano, but he leads the Flames in having, by far, the worst luck to start this season.

A lot of that comes from his on-ice save percentage, which sits at just 87.20%. Compare that to, say, Deryk Engelland’s on-ice save percentage of 93.97%, and you can see where a great deal of the discrepancy comes from – if you flipped those two save percentages, nobody would have a problem with Hamilton, and more people would be calling for Engelland’s head. (Engelland, for the record, is outperforming expectations by a difference of +5.43 – he’s one of the most likely Flames to have his performance fall.)

That’s not to say Hamilton is blameless; there are times where he has lost his man or hasn’t backchecked hard enough. However, it’s not completely on him when he, say, gets tangled up with Sam Bennett, or when Nicklas Grossmann can’t skate at an NHL level. There are a lot of factors that go into this – and they all point towards Hamilton’s on-ice performance improving. We’ve started seeing this over the past couple of games.

I would expect things to only get better when he starts receiving more ice time on a consistent basis, too.

Sean Monahan

PDO xPDO Difference
94.46 98.33 -3.87

While not as dramatic a set of numbers as Hamilton, Sean Monahan has had a very disappointing start to the season. A 22-year-old who was starting to look like a perennial 30 goal, 60+ point guy is currently on pace for just 18 goals and 27 points.

You don’t even have to take into account the recent seven-year, $6.375 AAV deal he signed in the offseason to be extremely disappointed by that. Those are the numbers you would expect out of a rookie Monahan – one who played on a worse team and received significantly less ice time.

But he should turn it around. His shooting percentage this season is 11.1%, below his career standard of 14.9%. His on-ice shooting percentage is 5.17%, below his career standard of 8.73%. We’ve had three seasons now to see Monahan is an above average shooter; as things currently stand, the start to this season is an outlier.

Monahan also suffers from the same deficiency Hamilton does – an on-ice save percentage of 89.29%. Some of that’s on him; a lot of it isn’t.

Micheal Ferland

PDO xPDO Difference
96.57 99.65 -3.08

We’ve all noticed how good of a season Micheal Ferland appears to be having. He’s tied for third in team scoring despite not getting much ice time, and speaking of, he should really be getting more ice time. But he’s had bad luck, too – just about as bad as some of the top players on the Flames.

Ferland hasn’t been hit as hard by on-ice save percentage as the other guys on this list – he’s at 91.25% – and even though his personal shooting percentage is currently at a career high (12.0%, well above his snakebitten previous season when he was only at 3.3%), his on-ice shooting percentage is lower than it has been in the past.

Ferland has been one of the few bright spots this season, but he could be even better.

T.J. Brodie

PDO xPDO Difference
95.42 98.15 -2.73

Again, not quite as dramatic as some of his teammates, but T.J. Brodie has had a rough go to his start of the season, too. We’re already starting to see him turn it around, though.

Brodie isn’t as offensive a defenceman as some of his teammates, but he’s better than three assists in 18 games. It’s early yet, but he’s currently having his second-best shooting season, as a matter of fact, with roughly 1.4 shots per game – the only time he’s been better was when he was at 1.6 in 2014-15, a season in which he scored a career-high 11 goals.

Brodie has yet to score a goal this season. That probably isn’t going to last.

His on-ice save percentage has been weak, as well; like Hamilton and Monahan, it’s below 90%. It’s 89.17%, specifically. A lot of the Flames’ top players have been the victims of bad luck in that sense.

Johnny Gaudreau

PDO xPDO Difference
95.2 97.69 -2.49

This one hurts, in particular because Johnny Gaudreau was just starting to turn things around when his finger was broken due to combined incompetence from the officials and lack of respect from his opponents.

Like three of the names above him, Gaudreau was hit hard by a poor on-ice save percentage: again, below 90%, this one at 88.89%. (Lance Bouma is the other player on the Flames to have a sub-90 on-ice save percentage; he’s actually been the second hardest hit by luck after Hamilton, with a difference of -6.22.)

Gaudreau is someone who has the potential to be at the top of the NHL scoreboards for years and years to come. He was just about a point per game player in his sophomore season; he was tied for rookie scoring the year before. We probably haven’t seen his ceiling yet.

His 11 points in 17 games was disappointing for him. However, often times he was ahead of both his linemates, which typically consisted of an out-of-place Alex Chiasson and a Monahan who was hit even harder than he was (and, to be fair, looked quite lost at certain times). 

Gaudreau was trying to do too much on his own. As his team started coming together and he started figuring things out again, he was looking like his old self. Hopefully, he’ll pick that progress right back up when he returns to the lineup.

Some others

These five players are in the bottom six for PDO – xPDO differences on the Flames. As mentioned above, Bouma is actually the second hardest hit, after Hamilton; he isn’t on the level of four of these five players though, and there’s more potential in Ferland, so I didn’t include him. But there’s reason to expect better performance from him, as well, when he returns.

There are a couple of minor names who could be having better seasons, too. Freddie Hamilton and Jyrki Jokipakka presently have differences of -2.13 each; F.Ham is a tweener between leagues, though, while Jokipakka should maybe draw into the lineup a little more.

Giordano can be among this group, too. His difference is -1.72; not as drastic as some of his teammates, but with plenty of room from improvement. His offensive totals have been disappointing; he’s also shooting at just 2.4%. That’ll probably go up.

One of the more surprising guys who could still get better? Michael Frolik. His difference is -1.34. He’s this team’s leading scorer, and has pretty much done nothing wrong all season. Despite that, he could still be better, and that’s a nice thing to think about.

Who could get worse?

While a lot of Flames have been unlucky to start this season, quite a few of them have been the opposite. They are:

  • Kris Versteeg, +6.03
  • Deryk Engelland, +5.43
  • Brett Kulak, +2.81
  • Matthew Tkachuk, +2.38
  • Dennis Wideman, +2.36

Of these guys, Engelland and Wideman are the ones to be the most wary of, if only because we’re familiar with them as players by this point and know to expect less-than-ideal results from them. Versteeg might be less troubling because he’s played fewer games than the rest of the regulars; his on-ice shooting percentage, at 13.56%, is much higher than the rest of the team’s, though.

As for Kulak and Tkachuk: remember, they’re rookies. They’re having a good run of things now. They will probably hit slumps. It’ll probably balance them out. And part of being a rookie is learning how to deal with things when they don’t go your way, anyway; right now, though, things are. Just some guys to keep an eye on.

Everyone else on the Flames – Sam Bennett, Matt Stajan, Troy Brouwer, Alex Chiasson, and Mikael Backlund – are doing about as well as can be expected from them (their differences are all less than 1, positive or negative). Bennett’s probably the biggest concern in that regard, but hopefully rebooting him by putting him in a position to not be as heavily targeted helps fix things for the sophomore.