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December 11, 2010
Team Prospectus
Calgary Flames

by Timo Seppa

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TEAM STATS

Calgary Flames, 2009-10

Goals For: 	204	30th 
Goals Against: 	210	6th
GVT: 		-6	17th
Points:		90	15th

VUKOTA Projection for 2010-11

Goals For: 	223	24th 
Goals Against: 	229	11th
GVT: 		-6	19th
Points:		89	19th

It would have been hard to believe a month ago, but the Calgary Flames are now in the cellar of the Northwest Division—yes, overtaken in the standings by the once-struggling Edmonton Oilers. And not surprisingly, the Sutters are under fire for the underachieving performance of their aging lineup. We told you so, kind of…VUKOTA saw the fringe-playoff Flames fading of 2009-10, but just not this much.

INDIVIDUAL STATS

The revolving door in Calgary hasn’t done much to make the team more competitive. Quality parts like Niklas Hagman and Matt Stajan have been brought in, but quality parts like Dion Phaneuf have been lost as well. And while it’s “nice” to have brought in the “grit” of Raitis Ivanans, Tim Jackman, Tom Kostopoulos and Steve Staios, you’re not going to find a whole lot of GVT to go along with the Hits and Blocked Shots that they register. Additionally, the loss of an quality energy player like Brandon Prust pretty much wipes out any gains from better additions like Kostopoulos even as far as these secondary stats go.

Flames top forwards, by 2009-10 stats

Shots/60: Niklas Hagman 9.8, Olli Jokinen 9.7, Rene Bourque 9.7
Hits/60: Raitis Ivanans 15.5*, Tim Jackman 13.2*, Tom Kostopoulos 9.4*
Blocked shots/60: Tim Jackman 4.6*, Craig Conroy 2.9, Tom Kostopoulos 2.9*
Takeaways/giveaway: Tom Kostopoulos 2.6*, Niklas Hagman 2.0, Brendan Morrison 1.4*
Net penalties/60: Niklas Hagman +1.3, Jarome Iginla +0.6, Matt Stajan +0.3
Faceoffs: Matt Stajan 51.6%, Craig Conroy 51.5%

Flames top defensemen, by 2009-10 stats

Shots/60: Ian White 5.0, Mark Giordano 3.9, Jay Bouwmeester 3.7
Hits/60: Cory Sarich 7.7, Mark Giordano 5.4, Robyn Regehr 4.3
Blocked shots/60: Steve Staios 5.5, Ian White 4.6, Mark Giordano 4.4
Takeaways/giveaway: Mark Giordano 0.7, Adam Pardy 0.6, Ian White 0.5
Net penalties/60: Mark Giordano +0.0, Jay Bouwmeester -0.4, Adam Pardy -0.5

*New acquisition
Minimum 40 games played

Flames goaltenders, 2009-10 stats

Miikka Kiprusoff finally had a bounceback season in 2009-10 (.920) after sliding in overall save percentage for four consecutive seasons since 2003-04 (.933, .923, .917, .906, .903). Curtis McElhinney is off to Anaheim, leaving backup duties in the hands of 27-year-old Swedish rookie Henrik Karlsson.

Miikka Kiprusoff

Save percentage .920
Even strength save percentage: .928
Power play save percentage: .879
Shorthanded save percentage: .974

SHOOTOUT PROSPECTUS

If their roster is properly utilized, the Flames have got half of the equation to be a successful team in the shootout. Olli Jokinen, Brendan Morrison and Alex Tanguay are all decent options in the shootout, while Rene Bourque (27.3%), Niklas Hagman (26.7%) and Jarome Iginla (25.9%) provide a better depth of choices for extra frames than most teams have. In addition, forwards like Curtis Glencross and Matt Stajan should be added to the mix, to prove—over the long run—whether they’re better or worse than the known options that Calgary has. Unfortunately, in goal, Kiprusoff is well below average at the skills competition, regardless of his overall quality over 65 minutes.

Best options, shooters with 10 or more career attempts

Olli Jokinen: 38.9% (14 for 36)
Brendan Morrison*: 36.8% (7 for 19)
Alex Tanguay: 34.5% (10 for 29)

Best options, shooters with a limited track record

Curtis Glencross: 50.0% (1 for 2)
Matt Stajan: 25.0% (1 for 4)

Goaltenders

Miikka Kiprusoff: .573 career (59 for 103), .444 in 2009-10
Henrik Karlsson: .500 career (4 for 8)

THE BIG QUESTIONS FACING THE FLAMES

Big Question #1: What’s got Calgary sliding in the standings?

The talk:

Jarome Iginla (on Nov. 22 loss to New York): “What’s hurt us this year is we’ve had leads in different games and we haven’t been strong enough with the leads and confident enough. Tonight wasn’t a bad game. You’ve got to win the close ones and find ways to pull these ones out. Unfortunately, we’re not doing that. Give New York credit—they played hard. I thought we played hard, too. It was a good, physical intense game. But we have to find ways to get results and right now, unfortunately, we’ve let some points get away from us and that’s some momentum. But it’s not that far off. It’s close, but we’ve got to get over that hump and to start building some momentum because for us in the standings, we know where we’re at, and we know how many teams we’ll have to climb over.”

Miikka Kiprusoff (on Nov. 22 loss): “We have to play smarter for a full 60 minutes. Like today, we were not ready when the game started. Then we played all right pretty much for the whole game, but then some little mistakes cost us. In a road game, in a 1-1 game, [we] take a penalty there and they used it. We have to be smarter.”

Assistant head coach Dave Lowry (on Nov. 22 loss): “We need to play solid, mistake-free hockey. Obviously, when you look at the two goals that we gave up, they were two mistakes and they were at critical times. We’re a team that has to be a smart team and we have to make sure that we minimize our mistakes.”

VUKOTA says: Last season, the Calgary Flames had the least potent offense in all of the NHL. They kept in the playoff hunt through solid defense and strong goaltending. Thus far this season, it’s been the reverse—they’re eighth in scoring but only 23rd in goal prevention.

Timo says: The only reason to stick with an aging lineup is in retooling to prolong the peak of a perennial winner. On the other hand, sticking with a mediocre, aging lineup might get you into the playoffs on a good year, but sooner or later, the team’s results are bound to drop off the cliff.

Answer: The Flames are a mediocre team at best that needs to win a good share of their close games to stay on the fringes of the playoff hunt.

Big Question #2: How long can Miikka Kiprusoff continue to provide elite goaltending?

VUKOTA says: 53 GP, .911 save percentage, 7.6 GVT. Averaging a whopping 73 games per season since the Lockout, you can likely give the veteran Finnish netminder a bump in value.

Timo says: In his age-34 season in 2010-11, it’s very possible that Kiprusoff could have another five quality NHL seasons in him. And he’d better, given that he’s signed through 2013-14 at big bucks. Kipper and Calgary have had a great relationship over the years, but as he gets into the second half of his 30’s, management has to look very carefully whether future contracts make good sense.

Answer: Ideally, the Flames would have Kiprusoff’s heir-apparent groomed by the end of his current contract.

Big Question #3: Is the Flames roster too old to improve? And if so, what direction does this franchise need to go in?

The talk:

Kent Wilson of Flames Nation—and brand new author for Hockey Prospectus!—says: “Ideally, I would move Kipper and Iginla to the highest bidders. I'd look for a good roster player and one or more quality future assets, be they draft picks or prospects. I'd sell Glencross, Morrison, Hagman and Babchuk to the highest bidders this trade deadline as well. I'd see if I could move Cory Sarich for anything—just getting his dollars off the books would be a bonus, if possible. I'd also test the market for Robyn Regehr and move him if someone was willing to give up a mid-first rounder or a quality prospect/younger player. Kotalik and Jokinen are players I'd also try to deal, although I'm guessing it would be nearly impossible. The organization might be stuck with them indefinitely. Players I would keep are: Mikael Backlund, Mark Giordano, Jay Bouwmeester, Rene Bourque, David Moss, Tim Jackman, Matt Stajan, Henrik Karlsson. I don't think burning the team down to the foundation is necessary. Getting rid of depreciating assets/deadwood plus converting some of the currently viable assets into futures should be the vision going forward.”

Hockey Prospectus 2010-11 says: In 2009-10, only 16% of the Flames scoring came from players that were 25 years old or younger, by far the lowest percentage in the Northwest Division, compared to Colorado (79%), Edmonton (59%), Vancouver (31%) and Minnesota (25%).

Timo says: The average age of the roster is currently 29.7 years old, the second-oldest in the National Hockey League (27.5 is average). Coupled with a 16th overall finish in 2009-10 (.549) and currently sitting at 27th overall in 2010-11 (.450), that’s a formula for continuing to slide into the abyss.

Answer: Yes. Why try to hang on with mediocre veterans? Blow the team up and rebuild.

Timo Seppa is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Timo by clicking here or click here to see Timo's other articles.

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