Examining the Flames depth chart via game scores

The Calgary Flames have made some changes over the past few weeks. Some players have joined via free agency, while others have moved onto other gigs.

To get a sense of how the organization’s NHL-ready depth has been impacted, here’s a look (using Game Score) of how things have been altered at each position.

About game score

In short, game score is an attempt to measure single-game performance through aggregation of a bunch of statistical information. Dom Luszczyszyn over at Hockey Graphs (and now The Athletic) created the metric in an attempt to formulate an effective measure, both for skaters and goalies. (He aimed to make a “good” game score equally achievable for skaters and goalies, so coefficients were scaled with that in mind.) It’s effectively a measure of player productivity, which can be averaged per game, or per season, or over several seasons.

For this exercise, we’re looking at what an average game is for each player over the past three seasons. (We calculated the average game for each of the past three seasons, then averaged that to provide a three season average.)

Goalies

Jacob Markstrom
3yr Avg: 0.843
(0.730, 0.808, 0.990)
David Rittich
3yr Avg: 0.587
(0.455, 0.670, 0.635)
Louis Domingue
3yr Avg: 0.512
(0.863, 0.671, -0.003)

Fundamentally, Markstrom (0.843) replaces Cam Talbot (0.607) and Domingue (0.512) replaces Jon Gillies (12 NHL games, not quite enough for inclusion). It’s hard to argue that the Flames didn’t get better in net. They have a better 1-2-3 punch than they did a year ago, though Domingue is coming off a rough season.

Defensemen

Mark Giordano
3yr Avg: 0.851
(0.835, 0.981, 0.736)
Rasmus Andersson
3yr Avg: 0.345
(0.230, 0.367, 0.437)
Noah Hanifin
3yr Avg: 0.523
(0.639, 0.526, 0.403)
Chris Tanev
3yr Avg: 0.204
(0.240, 0.149, 0.224)
Juuso Valimaki
Injured last season
Last NHL season (18-19): 0.213
Nikita Nesterov
In KHL last 3 seasons
Last NHL season (16-17): 0.464
Oliver Kylington
2yr Avg: 0.162
(0.198, 0.126)
Alex Petrovic
In AHL last season
2yr Avg (17-19): 0.156
Connor Mackey
No NHL experience
Alexander Yelesin
4 NHL games

The Flames are now without established regulars TJ Brodie (0.504), Travis Hamonic (0.407) and Michael Stone (0.238), basically replaced by Tanev, Nesterov and Petrovic. Erik Gustafsson (0.641) and Derek Forbort (0.181) are also gone, but they weren’t huge pieces of the Flames regular rotation and were short-term playoff rentals. But the Flames lost some good players.

If you want to be skeptical: Giordano is 37, Tanev isn’t an offensive powerhouse, Andersson is untested as a top pairing guy, Valimaki hasn’t played NHL hockey in a year and a half, and Nesterov hasn’t been in the NHL in three seasons. And the depth defenders are promising, but relatively untested.

If you want to be optimistic: Andersson’s gotten better every season, Valimaki is crushing the Finnish league, and Nesterov has been strong in the KHL.

Forwards

Johnny Gaudreau
3yr Avg: 1.067
(1.125, 1.271, 0.805)
Sean Monahan
3yr Avg: 0.905
(0.983, 1.093, 0.637)
Elias Lindholm
3yr Avg: 0.802
(0.620, 1.027, 0.759)
Andrew Mangiapane
3yr Avg: 0.356
(0.029, 0.456, 0.585)
Mikael Backlund
3yr Avg: 0.708
(0.689, 0.804, 0.630)
Matthew Tkachuk
3yr Avg: 0.986
(0.961, 1.083, 0.916)
Milan Lucic
3yr Avg: 0.316
(0.413, 0.232, 0.303)
Sam Bennett
3yr Avg: 0.336
(0.381, 0.386, 0.243)
Dillon Dube
2yr Avg: 0.250
(0.201, 0.300)
Josh Leivo
3yr Avg: 0.461
(0.288, 0.479, 0.615)
Derek Ryan
3yr Avg: 0.534
(0.621, 0.548, 0.436)
Dominik Simon
3yr Avg: 0.469
(0.437, 0.566, 0.404)
Zac Rinaldo
3yr Avg: 0.085
(0.052, 0.071, 0.130)
Glenn Gawdin
No NHL experience
Joakim Nordstrom
3yr Avg: 0.180
(0.190, 0.284, 0.066)
Adam Ruzicka
No NHL experience
Matthew Phillips
No NHL experience
Buddy Robinson
12 NHL games

The Flames are bringing back their entire top nine, plus Ryan. They’ve swapped out Mark Jankowski (0.316) for Leivo (0.461), Tobias Rieder (0.211) for Simon (0.469), Austin Czarnik (0.425, with small sample sizes in two of the three seasons) for Nordstrom (0.180), and they also lost Alan Quine (0.119, with small sample) and Ryan Lomberg (11 NHL games).

The Flames have some untested depth players in Ruzicka, Gawdin and Phillips, but the signings they’ve made have probably created a situation where Rinaldo and Robinson won’t be in the everyday lineup by default. This snapshot arguably underrates Dube and Mangiapane, who have been progressing quite a bit over the past couple seasons.

Sum it up

Based on averaged game scores over the past three seasons, the Flames are definitively better in goal and deeper at forward than they were when they started. They have a bunch of question marks on their blueline, though. If a few of their gambles on the back end turn out to be smart moves, they could be a better team overall.

Monday Mailbag What Madison Bowey would mean for the Canucks, Warzone, and what can Olli Juolevi do next season

Another week, another mailbag. Let’s see what all you wonderful people asked this week!

Stephan Roget is working on a list of potential third pairing defence targets that could fit nicely on the Canucks. As it stands, the Canucks’ third pairing will be hard-pressed to be better than they were last year, and Chris Faber recently broke down what it could look like as things stand.

One name who some believe could help move the needle in the right direction is Madison Bowey, a right-handed defenceman who spent the last two seasons with the Detroit Red Wings.

I am not one of these people. In talking to a few people who have seen more of Bowey than I have, the book on him seems to be that he could be a nice depth addition, but won’t be any better than Jordie Benn in a third-pairing role. If the Canucks are looking to improve, Bowey isn’t the answer, but if they’re looking to strengthen their depth and take a flyer on a guy who could benefit from a change of scenery, sure, why not?

His underlying profile isn’t pretty, but again, he could benefit from a change of scenery. I would not mind this as a depth signing at all, but that being said, the contract would have to make sense to the point that it’s a no-risk signing for the Canucks.

After signing Jake Virtanen, the Canucks activated a window in which they could have bought out the contract of Brandon Sutter.

They chose not to, and now the only way to move him and his contract is via a trade. Sutter has one year remaining at $4.375 million, so if the Canucks were to trade Sutter and retain half the salary, the acquiring team would be adding just $2.188 million onto their cap. To me, that’s a movable contract.

Sutter can still kill penalties effectively and can hold his own defensively at 5 on 5. His offence may have dried up almost completely, but paying just a little over two million for a veteran player who can hold down a defensive fourth line doesn’t seem like a terrible idea.

It’s movable, sure, but I don’t think the Canucks will be getting anything better than a sixth-round pick in return. And at that point, is it even worth moving the player? Jim Benning sounds pretty happy keeping Sutter. This, from The Province’s Ben Kuzma:

The general manager believes the financial relief of Brandon Sutter clearing unconditional waivers and being bought out of the year remaining on a contract that carries a US$4.375 million salary cap commitment —a two-thirds contract formula spreading the buyout over two years and resulting in a $2.333 million saving next season — are trumped by his versatile value as a centre and winger and locker-room presence.

“We have to be careful that we take everything into consideration before we start buying people out,” stressed Benning. “With Sutter, we talked about different scenarios for leaders in our group. And there are things that people see on the ice in some of their thinking, but to lose him would be a big void in our room.”

This is a tough one, and obviously every situation is different. For the Canucks specifically, signing Brock Boeser to a bridge deal seems like a good idea, as he’s not quite a “superstar” but is still a very talented player.

In the case of Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, however, the Canucks should be trying to lock them up for as long as possible and for as low as possible.

When we examine Pettersson’s abilities and what he’s been able to do over a two year sample size (not to mention an exceptional performance in the playoffs) it becomes clear that he’s only going to get better from here.

As the Canucks begin to improve, so too will Pettersson, and the Canucks should try to keep him for as long as possible. That being said, signing a deal that keeps him RFA eligible at its expiry could also be a smart move, but then again, who knows how good he’ll be by that time?

Bridge contracts have their pros and cons, but for the Canucks, there are likely more cons than pros when it comes to locking up their two superstars next offseason.

If you’ve read my work for a while now, you likely know that I’m a believer in Olli Juolevi’s ability to lock down a spot on the third pair out of training camp.

He was exceptional at the second training camp of the 2019-20 season, and looked comfortable in the limited minutes he played during his NHL debut.

If he can come in and have another strong camp, I have no doubt in my mind he can be an effective third pairing defenceman next season. He kills penalties, blocks shots at a high rate, moves the puck well, and has a strong defensive IQ. It will be up to Juolevi to earn the spot, but I currently have him pencilled into the opening night lineup, given how high the Canucks’ management group is on him.

I actually have a scenario in my mind where we see Juolevi in the top four, but more on that later this week…

And now for some non hockey-related questions.

For those who aren’t familiar, Call of Duty Warzone is a battle royale type game where the last team standing wins. You drop onto a massive map alongside 100+ other players, and try to be the last team alive at the end of it all.

I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I’m pretty okay at this game, as is Chris Faber, who I play with quite often. The subject of Wyatt’s tweet stems from a game I played with him in which I purchased a UAV (radar device that shows enemy position for about 30 seconds) instead of buying Wyatt back into the game for the same price. It was an honest mistake, but one I know I will never live down.

This also doesn’t look good on me, but Wyatt, JD, Faber and I were playing together, and I suggested buying an armour box (which gives the whole team full armour) without realizing JD was in need of being bought back. I didn’t end up purchasing the armour box, and JD was bought back into the game, everybody just relax.

That’s all for this week! Thanks to everybody who sent in questions, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @QuadreIli to ask a question in a future mailbag!

Have a great week folks!

One Game at a Time

“Bonino, Bonino, Bonino, Bonino . . .” It’s rare, indeed, for a young broadcaster to have a signature call like Nick Bonino’s goal from the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs on his resume so early in his career behind the microphone, but for Harnarayan Singh, it was a moment that was decades in the making.

Long before that memorable call, years before Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi came along in 2008, Singh was belting out play-by-play into a dummy microphone as a Sikh kid growing up in Brooks, Alberta. Back then, Singh announced his passion for the game to anybody within earshot, even if not everybody wanted or was ready to hear it.

Having just wrapped up a stint inside Edmonton’s bubble for the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, Singh has chronicled every step along the way since he fell in love with the game thanks, in large part, to Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers, in the book, “One Game At a Time,” released last September. Today, when we talk about inclusion and diversity in the game of hockey, Singh is the poster boy for what’s possible.

Singh spent some time with Bryn Griffiths and I this morning on our Outsiders podcast talking about his rather unlikely and inspiring journey from those early days growing up in small town Alberta — and the obstacles he encountered along the way — that landed him where he is today. You can find the entire interview here.

WHAT HE SAID

Some excerpts of our conversation:

“To be able to tell the story of when my parents came to Canada, the struggle and the trials and tribulations they had to go through. My own childhood, growing up in a small town and being able to tell the story that hockey was literally the ice-breaker for me with my classmates and I. Being so different with how I looked, the food we ate, the language we spoke, the music we listened to. Hockey was that connection for me and my classmates. To be able to share that story, talk about some of the struggles with bullying, just trying to be comfortable in my own skin and how much hockey helped me.”

“When we began the process for this book two to three years ago, the topics that are touched on in here about diversity and inclusion, about racism, about having representation in sports broadcasting, the book became a lot more timely given everything going on in the world right now.”

“I would say my entire experience growing up in southern Alberta would have been completely and drastically different had it not been for hockey . . . growing up in the 80’s when Gretzky was winning all his Cups, it was such an incredible time to grow up . . . here I was saying ‘I want to be a hockey commentator.’ There were so many people in my life early on through my schooling and they would laugh. It would almost be sarcastic, and I’d get the response, ‘Well, OK, what do you really want to be?’ The reason they were reacting that way was, and I was told pretty bluntly, that ‘Nobody looks like you on TV. This is just a dream. It’s not possible for it to come to fruition.’”

Well, after getting a segment on the local radio station in Brooks, enrolment in broadcasting school, time working as a reporter at CBC and an internship with TSN, not to mention encouragement along the way from the likes of Kelly Hrudey and Ron MacLean, Singh’s goal to carve out a career in broadcasting wasn’t just a dream. Then came Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi, which just wrapped up its 13th season, including that unforgettable Bonino call in 2016.

HERE WE ARE

“It’s been such an incredible run to see the impact of the show, how much it’s growing the game, who much it’s bringing families together,” said Singh, who worked alongside Chris Cuthbert and Louie DeBrusk in the Edmonton bubble during the playoffs. “It’s such a beautiful story. I’m so proud to have been involved.”

Growing the game. Bringing families together. Hockey in this country – as diverse a nation as there is on the planet — has been doing that for generations. It’s a common thread that binds us together in rinks from coast to coast, a thread that often brings out the best in us. Hockey is, at the bottom line, a wonderful game and a part of our very fabric.

Why would we, why should we, deny anybody the right to love this game — as Harnarayan Singh did as a child growing up and still does — and have it love them back?

WORK TO DO

Griffiths and I had no sooner ended our interview with Singh this morning when I came across a story, courtesy of a retweet by Mike Russo of The Athletic in Minnesota, that’s a reminder we’ve still got a long way to go to do away with racism in hockey.

Essentially, the story is this: Mitchell Miller, a defenceman who was the first player selected (111th overall) by the Arizona Coyotes in the 2020 Entry Draft earlier this month, and another teenager were convicted of assault in the bullying of a developmentally disabled classmate in juvenile court four years ago.

“The Arizona Coyotes last month boasted about having their chief executive selected to an elite National Hockey League committee that pledged to stop racism, but the team then spent its first draft pick on an 18-year-old who has admitted to bullying an African American classmate with developmental disabilities.

“Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, the Black student, told The Arizona Republic that he was stunned and saddened when he learned the Coyotes earlier this month had selected Mitchell Miller, whom he grew up with in Sylvania, Ohio.

“Four years ago, Miller admitted in an Ohio juvenile court to bullying Meyer-Crothers, who was tricked into licking a candy push pop that Miller and another boy had wiped in a bathroom urinal. Meyer-Crothers had to be tested for hepatitis, HIV and STDs, but the tests came back negative, according to a police report.”  For context, the entire story is here.

Previously by Robin Brownlee

Leafs sending SDA to the KHL

The Leafs continue to loan out their AHL/AHL-bound players to any European team that can accommodate them. Semyon Der-Arguchintsev (SDA) is being sent to Torpedo of the KHL.

First off, Torpedo is a bad ass team name, and their jerseys are equally fire. They might end up selling a lot of merchandise to impulsive Leafs fans. Secondly, Der-Arguchintsev getting a chance to play at a high level after spending past four seasons in the OHL is a great opportunity for him.

SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A TP PIM
2016-17  Peterborough Petes OHL 63 8 21 29 2
2017-18  Peterborough Petes OHL 68 12 39 51 18
2018-19  Peterborough Petes OHL 62 6 40 46 20
 Newfoundland Growlers ECHL 3 1 1 2 0
2019-20  Peterborough Petes OHL 55 12 63 75 23

SDA had a nice rebound last year after a setback in his post draft year, we’ll see how he progresses in pro hockey.

Given that it is a loan agreement, we’ll likely see SDA given the opportunity to return and earn his spot on the Marlies, but given that Der-Arguchintsev hasn’t played since March, this is a great opportunity for him to have his best shot at earning a key role on the AHL team.

The news of SDA comes on a day when we were considering the fate of his Peterborough Petes teammate, Nick Robertson, and where he will play the 2021 season. While Europe wasn’t previously considered as an option for him, the Leafs might be wise to find a loan agreement for him as well.

Where will Nick Robertson play?

Vancouver Canucks top prospect Vasili Podkolzin has been sent down to the minor leagues in Russia

There was plenty of commotion early Monday morning as the Canucks top prospect Vasili Podkolzin was sent down to the VHL in Russia.

After being healthy scratched for two games in the KHL, Podkolzin will now be playing in the Russian minor leagues in the foreseeable future.

He played in 16 VHL games last season and tallied up three goals and five assists in those games before being called up to the KHL for the remainder of the season. The last time that he played a regular season game in the VHL was December 8th, 2019.

Podkolzin has one goal and three assists in 18 KHL games this season. He is currently on a seven game pointless streak and only has two assists in his previous 15 KHL games.

If there are any positives to take away from this situation, he is now expected to put up points and play a lot more minutes. This is a league where he should be a top talent and he does need to play hockey to continue his development towards being an NHL player. The six and seven minute outings in the KHL were not helping and being stuck in the press box was even worse for the kid.

From watching the first few minutes of his VHL game, he is being used on their first powerplay unit and killing penalties for SKA-Neva.

Podkolzin is set to travel with Russia’s U20 team to Finland in a week and a half to play in the Karjala Cup.

His struggles to get on the scoresheet have been noticeable and this demotion to the VHL could spark his offence as he will be playing against much worse competition. Podkolzin will likely captain Russia at this Winter’s World Junior Championships. He is on the final year of his contract in Russia and will be able to come over to North America sometime in the month of April or early May. He will not be able to play for the Canucks in the playoffs unless there is a change in the NHL because of the Covid-19 season.

We will continue to follow Vasili Podkolzin’s season as it continues. It’s been a rollercoaster ride so far.

Edmonton sports legend Joey Moss dead at 57

A man revered for his commitment to the Edmonton sports scene, Joey Moss, 57, has died.

Moss, born in 1963, was the 12th of 13 children born to Lloyd and Sophie Moss. Born with the genetic condition down syndrome, a disorder that results in developmental delays and varying intellectual disabilities, it never held him back.

Wayne Gretzky was the one who helped Joey get his start in Edmonton’s sports scene. Wayne, who was dating Moss’ sister Vikki in 1985, lobbied to Glen Sather to give Joey a job after seeing his hard work at a local bottle depot.

Whether he was filling up water bottles, folding towels or vacuuming the dressing room, Moss’ commitment to the Oilers was unmatched as his tenure was longer than that of nearly anyone in the organization.

Joey’s witty personality and outgoing nature were what made him such a staple. Moss could always be seen on the broadcasts of Oilers games right alongside the tunnel to the dressing room belting the national anthems, too.

Over the years, Moss worked hand-in-hand with all of those who walked through the doors of the Oilers arena. As his figure grew in the organization, so did it outside, too.

Moss became a staple of what it means to be an Edmontonian — someone who always came to work and gave it their all. His dedication was just as deep for the Edmonton CFL team, where Moss spent countless hours working a similar job to that with the Oilers.

He’d work for the CFL team from the opening of training camp in June through the middle of August, before heading to the rink to work in the Oilers room for the hocey season.

In 2003, Moss was given the NHL Alumni Association “Seventh Man Award” in recognition of the behind-the-scenes work Moss did. In 2015, he received another major nod as he was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame.

Above all, Moss was beloved by everyone in the city of Edmonton. One thing is for certain: the Oilers locker room will never be the same.

On Twitter: @zjlaing

FlamesNation Mailbag the spooky signing season

It’s the last week of October and the Calgary Flames keep signing players! With new faces in town, it’s time to delve into this week’s edition of the mailbag.

Honestly, I think Jakob Pelletier (2019’s first rounder) has a chance next season (2021-22), with Emilio Pettersen (2018 sixth rounder) ad Dmitry Zavgorodniy (2018 seventh rounder) as dark horses. Basically, I think the small, speedy, smart wingers have a shot.

Probably, yeah.

If you’re the Flames, you probably don’t have the cap space to give Rittich a raise to stick around and with Jacob Markstrom now cemented as the top goalie, they can’t offer Rittich more than being 1B (or the clear-cut backup). They don’t have any strong internal candidates for the backup gig yet, but that’s not Rittich’s problem. If you’re Rittich, you’re hoping you can impress this season and then perhaps get a gig somewhere with a bit more upward mobility.

My guess is if we get divisional play to minimize travel in the regular season, we’ll see something similar in the playoffs with the same goal in mind and probably a playoff format grouping divisions together initially.

That said, it’s way too early to guess what hockey will look like when it returns.

Honestly, aside from cap-wise, it makes no sense from a hockey perspective to trade Derek Ryan right now. He’s a bit pricey for a third or fourth line centre, but he’s been excellent in his role and the Flames have a bunch of question marks behind him on the depth chart – Glenn Gawdin and Adam Ruzicka have zero combined NHL games.

And creating cap flexibility by trading Ryan only to blow it all on one signing would be counter-productive.

There hasn’t been much chatter in either direction for Kylington. He was qualified, so the Flames have his rights. And unfortunately for the Swede, he doesn’t have much leverage. There’s no time pressure for the Flames to sign him and with so many players on loan in Europe, there aren’t a lot of gigs for Kylington to go to Europe to pursue.

And so, we wait. I would imagine he signs a one-way deal for close to league minimum and begins the season, whenever it begins, as the seventh defender.

Honestly, if there’s any kind of pre-season I’d love to see Gaudreau and Monahan moved apart for a bit and tried out on different lines. Maybe Gaudreau-Bennett-Lindholm (in some combination) and Dube-Monahan-Lucic could be fun groupings to try out.

If by “next season” you mean 2021-22, I would say there’s a great chance. Kinnvall has been one of the top offensive defenders in the SHL over the couple seasons and it was a big coup for the Flames to get him. He was a coveted free agent league-wide.

I think we’ll see one (or both) of Bennett and Lindholm at centre for a good chunk of the season. Lindholm at centre pushes Monahan down the rotation a bit and makes it easier for the Flames to roll four lines and wear the opponent down.

Things would look something like this:

  • Gaudreau-Lindholm-Bennett
  • Mangiapane-Backlund-Tkachuk
  • Dube-Monahan-Lucic
  • Leivo-Ryan-Simon

(Man, that fourth line could be killer.)

Nope!

The whole purpose of most of their moves this off-season has been lineup flexibility and depth. Valimaki also hasn’t played a wink in the NHL since the 2019 playoffs. They’re excited for him, but trading Hanifin before Valimaki plays any NHL games is crazy talk.

I’d expect Ward to be a bit more assertive with his lineup decisions now that he has a full-time gig and new contract. He seemed a bit too hesitant to make changes in the post-season. The roster changes that Brad Treliving has made seem aimed towards allowing Ward to mix-and-match new combinations more readily, as a lot of the new faces can play multiple roles and positions. It’ll be interesting to see what Ward does with the flexibility.


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