Deep Sixed by Bottom Six?

October 27th, 2017 | Posted in Commentary | By: D'Arcy McGrath

In Pentiction when the annual Bob McKenzie GM interviews took flight from a Calgary standpoint, Brad Treliving was asked what keeps him up at night heading into the season?

He didn’t blink before answering quickly … “where are the goals are going to come from?”

He sure called that one!

The Flames are off to a start.

Notice I didn’t say good start, nor did I say bad start, just a start. They have yet to really establish what they will be this season in any way, shape or form.

Good at some things, above average at others, and struggling in a few facets resulting in a very nondescript “meh” to start the season.

With a PDO of 99 (all situations) they have a healthy balance of both good luck; Mike Smith’s torrid start, and bad luck; a team shooting percentage that suggests they as a group are channeling their inner Ladislav Smid. Of course they are likely hoping the first stays in tact while the latter is a small sample size that will sort itself out over time.

The focus lately has been the lack of scoring from the bottom half of their forward group as we’ve seen mention of it from Glen Gulutzan, the local media in both print and radio, and Travis Yost from TSN chiming in to show the bottom roster production across 5 struggling Canadian teams.

Is that really the story though?

Perhaps we are letting the upper half of the forward group off a little easy.

The point per game production coming from Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, Mikael Backlund, Matthew Tkachuk and Michael Frolik comes in at 0.78, and the rest of the forwards are clipping along at a panic stricken 0.17 points per game. Kris Versteeg has four scoring points, the other 10 forwards that have suited up for at least one game have a total of eight.

So at least on the surface it sure looks like the bottom six is the problem, but is it?

The Flames top three scoring forwards won’t come as a surprise, as the usual suspects; Monahan and Gaudreau head up the group with Matthew Tkachuk showing no signs of the sophomore jinx in spot number three. Together they have 28 points in 30 total games, a .93 points per game.

Across the league that puts the trio in 12th spot in total points, and 17th spot in terms of points per game; that’s right Calgary’s top three forwards are below average when you compare them to the rest of the league and the trio isn’t even the first line, it’s 2/3 of the top line and the young stud on the 2nd line.

The Flames have been known to have a great young top line, but when you put Tkachuk back on the 3M line (2nd line) and replace him with Jaromir Jagr (the best case scenario!) the top trio grinds down to a very pedestrian 0.80 PPG, good for 28th league wide and ahead of only Carolina, Detroit and Montreal.

The 3M line as a trio is better, as they’ve averaged 0.63 PPG, which puts them 14th in the league against each team’s 2nd set of scoring forwards, but that’s the very definition of average.

The Flames are hurting top to bottom.

So yes outside of Kris Versteeg there really isn’t a single player out of the top six that has done anything this year. Micheal Ferland has two points, as does Troy Brouwer, but Sam Bennett, Matt Stajan, Tanner Glass, Mark Jankowski and Freddie Hamilton all have one or less.

So are the Flames in trouble? How do they fix this mess, or at least rectify it to a degree so that when Mike Smith returns to mortal status they won’t get blown out on a nightly basis?

The top of the roster will be fine in my mind. Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan are off to solid starts, as too are Matthew Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund.

The team as a whole will start to fill the net more regularly as a 7.7% team shooting percentage (all situations), good for 28th in the league and ahead of only Montreal, Edmonton and Arizona, isn’t all that likely through 82 games.

The Flames have averaged a shooting percentage of 9.63% (once again all situations) over the past four seasons, which puts them in 4th place in the NHL in that category. If you applied that percentage to this year’s shot totals you’d have an additional six goals through ten games and likely be at least 6-4 instead of 5-5 and potentially 7-3.

It will come or at least the scoring will return to normal levels, who’s to say what will happen to team defense and the stellar play of Mike Smith.

The bigger philosophical debate will remain however, and that is how to construct the bottom half of the roster. With every passing day the Twitter world seems to grow more enraged with a fourth line that features the likes of Matt Stajan, Tanner Glass, Troy Brouwer and Freddie Hamilton. With Andrew Mangiapane off to a good start the push is on to go young at the bottom half of the roster and add some offensive punch.

CP Story: Third Line Woes

September 27th, 2017 | Posted in Commentary | By: D'Arcy McGrath

Every National Hockey League team has an off season to do list, a chicken scratch highlighting additions the team needs to make to take that next step.

Some teams are in need of a complete tear down.

Some clubs are an element or two away and are combing the bushes for that key addition to put them over the top.

One team is a brand new entry to the circuit, and will hit the ice with a roster full of new faces.

All clubs come up against a very real and immovable object in either a budget or the salary cap that forces them to make their decisions wisely.

– Full Article –

Calgary Can’t Afford a New Arena

September 20th, 2017 | Posted in Commentary | By: D'Arcy McGrath

Ominous title right?

Don’t worry Calgarians, you’re not alone. They can’t afford one in Edmonton, and when you look across the National Hockey League and place a brand new arena in every market given their current cash flow very few can honestly say it’s a sane move to make.

At least if the Forbes numbers on NHL operating income are to be believed.
– Full Article –

Cracking the Window to Contending

June 26th, 2017 | Posted in Commentary | By: D'Arcy McGrath

Trading futures is a risky business.

As a practice it has historically cut off the evolution of a hockey club by siphoning out the key tools to keep the replenishment pipeline flowing. Picks in 2018 and 2019 will be the young players stepping into the National Hockey League in 2021, 2022 or 2023.

Moving three picks for Dougie Hamilton, a pick for Brian Elliott, a pick for Curtis Lazar, and one or two picks for Michael Stone had the cupboard of futures or recent futures depleted before the Flames walked into Chicago and moved three more top picks for the services of defenseman Travis Hamonic.

Was it a good move? How risky was it? Is this the way to manage a hockey team in the modern era?
– Full Article –

NHL Entry Draft: Updating the Consensus

June 20th, 2017 | Posted in Commentary | By: D'Arcy McGrath

In early June I published a quick look at the first round through the eyes of many NHL experts, looking to isolate what players would be available when the Flames picked at 16th overall.

With the draft now three days away it’s a good time to update recent changes to rankings and have one last look at the rankings prior to Friday.

If anything the consensus is even weaker than it was in the first week of June. Updates from Craig Button, Bob McKenzie and others have sent some players down the list, others up the list, muddying the waters even more.
– Full Article –

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