Friday, November 20, 2009

Flames Chances - Games 11 to 20

For those who are unfamiliar with the scoring chance metric, a player is given a chance any time someone on the ice has a chance to score. He is given a "chance for" if someone on his team has a chance to score and a "chance against" if the opposing team has a chance to score, just like +/-. The graph is broken down into three game states, EV situations, PP situations (excluding 5v3) and SH situations (excluding 5v3). At EV I've also included a "scoring chance percentage" which is the number of "chances for" divided by the the total number of chances for both teams when a given player is on the ice. The players are all represented by their jersey numbers and initials. Today, we're going to be looking at the Calgary Flames. Special thanks go out especially to Kent Wilson who has been counting the chances are every Flames game this year as well as Dennis King for starting the scoring chances trend last season and Vic Ferrari for creating an application that makes the game-to-game tallying much easier. Below I'll present the raw data for games 10-20 and then 1-20 (for those interested, I also did an analysis of games 1-10 earlier in the season):

(Missing Game 14 at St Louis)

The Flames have fallen back to the rest of the Northwest division over these last ten games. I haven't yet tallied up Minnesota's chances but if their first ten games were any indication the results won't be good. Through games 11-20 of their respective schedules the Avalanche had a chance percentage of 46.0% while the Oilers were at 42.5%. The Flames are currently in the lead at 46.2%. The Northwest is not a very good division this year and may, in fact be the worst division in the NHL. Where we once has the SouthLEAST I think we may now have the NorthMESSED. I'm so clever. Anyway, because of this situation Calgary has a very good chance at taking the third playoff seed with a club that's played pretty poorly over the first quarter of the season whether their performance improves over the rest of they year or not.

These last ten games have looked a lot like the first ten games for Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen. Both players continue to struggle and Jokinen continues to struggle more than Iginla. The trend for Iginla is worrying at this point though at least he has some outs. He's been taking a lot of defensive zone assignments, taking on some of the tougher competition and he's still been scoring at even strength. He hasn't been the dominant player the Flames are paying him to be, but he's still helping the team to win games. Olli Jokinen... well... not so much. He's only put up 7 points at even strength which leaves him in a tie for 140th in the league despite playing over 14 even strength minutes per game (second most among Flames forwards). Matt Fenwick mentioned that apparently Jokinen thinks he's been unlucky so far this year. Now, it may be true that he's hit some posts so far this year but his PDO number of 102.8 suggests that any regression may not help him out too much (though a lot of this is goaltending). His starting locations have also started to drift up closer to a 50/50 split between offensive and defensive zone starts without the results showing much improvement. Olli Jokinen is, to put it kindly in case his mother is reading, a complete and utter failure.

Another Flames stalwart having some difficulties over the last few games has been Robyn Regehr. In his recap of the 19th game against the Avalanche, Kent mentioned that Phaneuf and Regehr were given the tough match-ups for the first time in a while and "got their heads beat in." Now, this was certainly true of that game but that pair had also been hammered in a couple of games before that (game 15 v. New York and 17 at Buffalo) which would seem to imply that even against easier competition the pair was struggling. So is this the case? Accoring to Behind the Net (which I've relied upon a bunch throughout this piece for statistical information) Regehr and Phaneuf are in a dead heat with Cory Sarich (who's doing even worse than them... anything below 40% suggests to me that you're in way over your head) for 2nd, 3rd and 4th toughest competition among Flames defenders, well back of Jay Bouwmeester. Regehr, Bouwmeester and Phaneuf have also been Sutter's go-to options for defensive zone face-offs, and have a substantially more challenging d-zone to o-zone faceoff ratio than the other defenders. Taken together, this suggests to me that they've been logging pretty challenging minutes over the course of the season but haven't seen much success. This is fine if they're being paid two or three million bucks per season but when they're combining for over ten million per, well they need to be better.

Next up, the season results to this point:

After the first ten games I mentioned both Craig Conroy and Curtis Glencross as guys that were just dominating in this particular statistic. Although they've come back a bit since then, they're both more than 5% clear of the next closest forward (and the only comparable defender, Staffan Kronwall, really isn't playing much at all) in terms of scoring chance percentage, which, after a quarter of the season, is pretty darn impressive.

As I said at the outset, the Flames have some problems. They've spent a lot of money on a few players and a lot of those guys aren't performing up to expectations. Players like Iginla, Phaneuf and Regehr may in fact get better. Jokinen and Sarich probably need to be moved if the cost isn't prohibitive. At the very least Sutter needs to realize their struggles and move them into easier roles (he seems to be doing this with Jokinen but Olli, so far, isn't responding).

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