Calgary Flames first quarter report cards: Forwards

Having just finished their 20th game of the season, the Calgary Flames have finished one quarter of the regular season. After a rocky start to the season, it finally feels like the team is finding some consistency and is starting to play like the team they were last season.

While a lot has been made of team performance so far this season, let us break down the team individually to determine who is succeeding and who is struggling. In order to grade players, we will be using the player ranking model developed by our own Karim Kurji.

The model operates similarly to the power rankings model we update on a weekly basis. The player model takes specific on ice statistics including CF%, SCF%, HDCF%, and GF%; individual statistics including goals, assists, individual contributions to team CF, SCF, and HDCF; and an adjustment for time on ice and PDO.

Each player’s statistics are put through the model and combined to produce an overall TWCScore. These scores are then compared to the rest of the league to determine what letter grade they fall into.

GradeTWCScore Threshold
A+180
A170
A-160
B+150
B140
B-130
C+120
C110
C-100
D+80
D60
D-40
F0

It is important to note that the model is based on player performance at 5v5 SVA. This is not meant to diminish the efforts of the Flames work on special teams, but to be more representative of a players form against equal opposition.

Without further ado, class is in session!

A+

Matthew Tkachuk

Total ScoreTime on IceES GoalsES Assists
182.3273.2246

Tkachuk has been the Flames’ best forward this season by a pretty good margin. Coming first in our model, he currently leads the team in even strength goals, assists, and points. In terms of efficiency, he also leads the team with 2.19 points per 60 minutes showing that he is converting his zone time to production. Coming off a contract dispute over the summer that caused him to miss most of training camp, it was expected for Tkachuk to look a little rusty to start the season. While it took him a few games, he has found his game in a big way recently for the Flames, with nine points in six games since Halloween.

A-

Sean Monahan

Total ScoreTime on IceES GoalsES Assists
171.4282:0625

Monahan has had an odd year. While he has been widely credited for improving his defensive game and physical play, the applause quickly died out as the Flames centre went on one of the longest scoring droughts of his career. Monahan had two goals in the first two games of the season, and then did not score from October 5th until November 2nd.

While his raw possession stats are below average, Monahan ranks excellently in his individual scoring chance numbers, as well as high danger chances for. He is currently third on the team in iSCF and is tied for second in HDCF. This not only speaks of his ability to get open in high danger areas, but also suggests that he should probably have more goals than he does. The puck has not been going in for him, but Monahan is getting his chances. Expect his 5.41% shooting percentage at 5v5 to increase as the year goes on.

Mikael Backlund

Total ScoreTime on IceES GoalsES Assists
164.6275:3713

Backlund can be a frustrating player because he is excellent at driving play and is sound defensively, but it just has not lead to offence over the past two seasons. This trend has continued this season, with Backlund having an excellent year from a possession perspective, but only having four even strength points to show for it. He has the second highest outright CF% on the team, and the model weights him higher due to his high ice time.

He also ranks very well in terms of chances created and high danger chances created. Again, these have not led to goals, and it is somewhat remarkable that Backlund only has four points compared to the ten that his linemate Tkachuk has scored. Regardless, the veteran centre has been an outstanding play driver this season in Calgary.

B+

Andrew Mangiapane

Total ScoreTime on IceES GoalsES Assists
148.0200:4334

Mangiapane has a different story than Monahan and Backlund. In significantly fewer minutes, Mangiapane has actually converted his scoring chances into points and goals, posting almost double the ES points as Backlund in 75 fewer minutes. Mangiapane has been aided by having the highest on ice shooting percentage of anyone on the team, but his ability to drive play and create high quality chances is certainly a contributing factor.

Where Mangiapane really thrives is in the percentage of scoring chances his team generates when he is on the ice. He has the second highest on the team, and when combined with his shooting numbers, it is easy to see why the model likes Mangiapane. It may look like Mangiapane is getting a bump from playing alongside Backlund and Tkachuk, but he has played more minutes away from them than with them and has looked excellent up and down the lineup.

Elias Lindholm

Total Score Time on IceES GoalsES Assists
143.8260.3753

Why is Lindholm so low? His success this season has been overvalued due to his inflated shooting percentage. Lindholm is shooting at 19.23% individually this season at 5v5, a mark that sits right near the top of the league, and easily the best on the team. Lindholm is a good shooter for sure, but expect some regression in those numbers as the season goes on. Other than shooting percentage, his other individual numbers this season are all above average.

His possession numbers and chance creation numbers have all been mediocre as well, and Lindholm’s goal production doesn’t carry much weight in the model when his other metrics are nothing special.

This doesn’t take away from the fact that Lindholm has been one of the most consistent forwards on the team to start the year. As the team improves around him, expect Lindholm’s underlying numbers to improve as well, and that should vault him up the grading chart. Lindholm has been tremendous relative to the rest of the team, but he has work to do as well.

Derek Ryan

Total ScoreTime on IceES GoalsES Assists
143.6219:5835

Lost in the narrative of the Flames bottom six struggling has been Ryan who has quietly been fairly effective this season. Most of the players in the model either have strong individual numbers and weak on ice numbers or vice versa. Ryan is not one of those players, and has been consistently “pretty good” so far this season.

Like Mangiapane, Ryan has been helped by a very high on ice shooting percentage at 10.7%, and also a high on ice save percentage at .945. Both of those numbers rank in the top five on the team which inflates Ryan’s numbers. Nonetheless, despite his below average possession numbers, Ryan is near the top in even strength points. In fact, Ryan is a very close second to Matthew Tkachuk in terms of even strength points per 60 minutes, and his production in relation to his ice time has been important for the Flames, especially when so few of their forwards are scoring.

B

Johnny Gaudreau

Total Score Time on IceES GoalsES Assists
141.5299:0426

Flames fans all have strong opinions about Gaudreau. When he is playing well, he takes your breath away like few in the league. However when it does not work, as it hasn’t for much of the early season, the results are really, really bad. Not to mention Gaudreau does not provide much in terms of defence, and the result is that Johnny has to be scoring and creating offence to be effective.

Unfortunately that just hasn’t been the case this season. Gaudreau is scoring 1.6 points at even strength per 60 minutes. For context, last season he scored 2.84 points per 60 minutes. In addition to not scoring, Johnny has there 12th most giveaways in the entire league this season. While it is a necessary evil for high scorers to have high giveaway rates, Gaudreau’s goal drought makes it harder to stomach these mistakes.

Even on the power play, Gaudreau has been underwhelming. Most troubling has been his propensity for forcing passes through the seams, and settling for sharp angle shots. Gaudreau is going to need to find a way to get to the dangerous areas more reliably if he wants to pick up his scoring. He can do it, and Gaudreau is one of the truly special players in the modern NHL, but those were not his best 20 games.

B-

Sam Bennett

Total Score Time on IceES GoalsES Assists
137.7199:1631

Bennett has been disappointing to start the year. While not horrible, many were hoping Bennett could provide a spark for this team following a strong playoffs, and hopefully play himself into more minutes. He has gotten some opportunities, including a golden one near the start of the year where he got a brief chance to play alongside Tkachuk and Backlund but he played really poorly and might have wasted one of his only opportunities to play on a scoring line.

His even strength scoring rates have been mediocre, and worse than last year. In addition, he is second on the team in penalties per 60 minutes, and has continued to show a penchant for making bad mistakes that really bury his team. He does deserve credit for being second on the team in hits per 60 minutes, and for providing some grit on a team that many have criticized was too soft. For Bennett though, it will always be about translating plays into goals, and it just hasn’t happened often enough for number 93.

C-

Michael Frolik

Total ScoreTime on IceES GoalsES Assists
100.9192:2812

Our model has a significant drop off from Bennett to Frolik, putting him solidly in C range. Frolik represents an interesting problem for the Flames. Over the past few seasons, Frolik has been a part of one of the best lines in hockey alongside Tkachuk and Backlund. He has been admired for his responsible defensive play and his ability on the penalty kill.

The problem is that Frolik no longer offers much offence, and when he plays with anyone else he looks really mediocre. The reality is that Tkachuk and Backlund are elite play drivers, and Frolik does not offer much at this point in his career. Frolik is ninth among Flames forwards in terms of points per 60 minutes, and his one goal in nearly 200 minutes of even strength hockey are extremely underwhelming, especially considering a good portion of those minutes have been alongside some excellent players.

D+

Tobias Rieder

Total Score Time on IceES GoalsES Assists
94.6125:4910

When a veteran player making the league minimum clears waivers, that usually is not a good sign. Rieder broke his long goalless streak in garbage time of a game earlier this season, but otherwise has contributed very little to the offence. For a fan base who has lived through years of slow depth forwards, it was nice to see Rieder buzzing around the ice early in the season, but it can be frustrating to watch him continuously get time despite creating any offence.

Defenders might say that Rieder is responsible defensively and a good penalty killer. The problem is the Flames can only use this excuse for so many players. Rieder may be serviceable on the PK, but so are Backlund, Frolik, Jankowski, and Lindholm; while Ryan and Bennett could serve there as well. Someone has to score for this team, and Rieder has a reasonable track record to show that he is not that guy.

Milan Lucic

Total ScoreTime on IceES GoalsES Assists
85.0177:1602

Lucic has been basically what reasonable Flames fans expected. He is a massive human being, who leads the team in hits, protects the star players, and doesn’t do much else. The problem obviously is the price tag, but most fans have come to terms with the fact that Lucic is probably here for the long haul.

The frustrating part of Lucic’s game is his bizarre decision making. He often tries to get far too cute in the defensive zone, leading to tons of turnovers and scoring chances against. However, when in the offensive zone, he often doesn’t look to the net at all, but simply passes any puck back to the point where for low percentage point shots. Lucic is slow, but he needs to spend way more time around the net, and needs to carry the puck to the goal when he gets a chance. Playing below the circles should be one the areas where his strength and size are still an asset but he has not found a way to reliably translate offensive zone touches into dangerous chances.

He also needs to um… shoot for corners. Oddly Natural Stat Trick does not keep this stat but this writer would be willing to bet Lucic leads the league on shots that hit the goalie square in the chest.

D

Mark Jankowski

Total Score Time on IceES GoalsES Assists
73.2124:1500

If you look at the season stats for Mark Jankowski, you will notice more than a few zeroes. Not only has he posted zero goals, and zero assists, but through over two hours of ice time, Jankowski has not been on the ice for a single Flames goal. He has actually posted the best CF% on the team so far this season, but has had a remarkable run of bad luck along with his line mates.

Jankowski has been in and out of the lineup throughout the young season, and his long awaited break out year has not happened to this point. He is one of a few Flames forwards who has been extremely disappointing to begin the year, even if he has been a victim of shocking shooting percentages.

Incomplete

Alan Quine

Total ScoreTime on IceES GoalsES Assists
80.587:2410

Quine gets off the hook for these report cards for his lack of ice time. The model weights ice time to favour those who play more, so to rank him poorly would be unfair. It will be interesting to see if he remains in Calgary given his lack of production so far this season, and given the number of prospects banging on the door in Stockton.

Austin Czarnik

Total ScoreTime on IceES GoalsES Assists
52.770:1211

You have to feel for Austin Czarnik. Just when he was starting to build some momentum he suffered a serious injury that will keep him out of the lineup for a while. When he was in, he was actually ok, with the fifth highest points per 60 minutes (admittedly in a small sample size). Czarnik provides two luxuries for the Flames. He is a skilled player not on the top line, and he is a right handed shot, both rarities in this lineup. Hopefully he can find his game again when he returns to the lineup.


In the coming days, we will be looking at the Flames defencemen to see how they have performed so far this season.

2 thoughts on “Calgary Flames first quarter report cards: Forwards

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