Wednesday, November 08, 2006



Baseball-style standings are shown at the left. Even with the Wild losing 3 of their last 4, they're in a nice early season position; the rest of the division is still finding their way.

Eric Francis wrote a column in the Calgary Sun a week ago today predicting that the Flames (3-6-1 at the time) would miss the playoffs. I think (and thought) that this was premature, in large part because what he saw as the biggest problem, I think is probably an opportunity:
Last year, the Flames won the Northwest crown thanks to a 20-8-4 record in their division. This year they'd be lucky to be .500, costing them a top-eight finish.
Suggesting the Flames aren't good enough to play this spring has nothing to do with panicking.

It has to do with being realistic in a division that is leaving them behind.

The Flames, to date, have played 2 of 32 division games (1-1 vs. EDM, 0 games vs. VAN, COL, & MIN). Minnesota has obviously looked good so far this season, but the Flames have had their number recently (6-2 last year, IIRC). The other 3 teams are all basically .500, and the Northwest doesn't look like a power division (yet). And even if it is, the Flames could surely be the Big Dog on the strength of successful head-to-head results.

Will they? I still like their chances. They look excellent 5-on-5 in the last bit; they haven't allowed an even-strength goal in 193+ minutes (excluding the Guerin goal where Regehr was stepping out of the box). On the other hand, their special teams has been ten kinds of crappy, and while the upside of this is that the numbers are unquestionably going to get better, they still have to improve their play. Looking at mc79's numbers through the St. Louis game, the Flames are 20th or worse in everything: PP shot rate (25th), PP shot% (20th), PK "shots allowed" rate (21st), and PK Save% (26th). The cherry on top is being 22nd in the league in Penalty Differential, i.e. # of PKs relative to # of PPs.

The key math here is this (GD = Goal Differential):

10th in ESGD + 24th in PPGD + 24th in PKGD = 4-7-2, 12th Place (as of Sunday)

When one-third of the game is played on special teams, you simply can not afford for both to be dismal.

Here, by the way, is the full baseball standings for the league right now. I gave ties, arbitrarily, to the team with fewer games played.


Calgary is basically the Minnesota Wild with bad specialty teams. (and no Brian Rolston). Calgary can live with a bottom half power play, but the way they play they have to have top ten penalty killing. I think more broadly Special teams is an area where coaching can make a difference: Does Calgary have a Penalty Killing coach? If they do, do they need a new one? If its just a question of Yelle getting back, then we're not deep enough.

The early season PK struggles have as much to do with underperforming goalies as it has to do with coaching and missing Yelle. Kipper was less than spectacular on the Eastern roadtrip where they got lit up by Toronto and Montreal with a man down, and McLennan let in two (if not more) stinkers in Columbus.

Once the goaltending is consistently good-to-excellent, the PK numbers will no doubt improve.

So Calgary passing St. Louis last night was only illusory, it seems.

We're actually holding percentage stats rather than games back here if anybody prefers that over the baseball stats.

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