Calgary Flames midterm report cards: Forwards

Unfortunately we are a few games late for the true midterm report cards, but with the hustle and bustle of the holidays behind us, we thought it would be a good idea to dish out some grades for the Flames for the second quarter.

The rankings are made up from statistics gathered from Game 21 (November 13th, a 3-1 loss to Dallas) to Game 41 (December 29th, a 5-3 loss to Vancouver). Of course, the Flames have played multiple games since that loss to the Canucks, so keep in mind that these rankings don’t include the very recent games.

In short, it has been a whirlwind quarter for the Flames. They went through a coaching change and an embarrassing situation with Bill Peters, followed that with a long winning streak, and then finished with some middling play as of late.

With the change on the bench came significant shuffling of the lineup, as most of the forwards spent a majority of the second quarter of the season playing with entirely new line mates.

Some of the results were excellent. For example, Milan Lucic, Tobias Rieder, and Andrew Mangiapane all had stronger quarters. Others were less spectacular. Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk for example both fell off a little bit after hot starts.

Overall, the club will look back at this time period which will always be tainted by the Bill Peters saga as an up and down time. On the bright side they went on a winning streak that put the team back in the playoff conversation. Meanwhile consistency still evades them as they try to keep pace in a loaded western conference playoff race.

How Do these rankings work?

A reminder that these rankings are based on a computer model. In order to grade players, we will be using the player ranking model developed by TWC’s 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.

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.

We are a few days late, but at long last, class is back in session!

A+

Sean Monahan

TWCScoreTime on IceES GoalsES Assists First Quarter Grade
185.9286.3645A-

Arguably the best development of this quarter for the Flames was Sean Monahan finally getting going offensively. In the 21 games that made up the quarter, the center looked like his vintage self. He has been getting into more dangerous areas where he can use his best skill: his ridiculous release.

At his best, Monahan is an elite finisher in this league, and he was flashing that skillset often. His possession numbers were solid during the first quarter, but the puck really started to go in for him in the second portion of the season. The Flames are back in the hunt in large part because number 23 has started to find the net.

ANDREW MANGIAPANE

TWCScoreTime on IceES GoalsES AssistsFirst Quarter Grade
184.5271:3753B+

Mangiapane was an interesting case this quarter. He led the team in even-strength goals with five, and his ability to bury the puck was huge for the club. What was interesting though was that he spent most of this segment playing with Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm. As a whole, that line never really felt like it clicked.

Tkachuk and Lindholm both posted worse grades in the second quarter than the first. Yet Mangiapane seemed to find his way through all that to be productive and continue to fill the net. Interesting stat: Of the regulars on the team, Mangiapane led all skaters in CF% with 52.13%. A recent demotion to the fourth line only complicates what has been an odd year for the young winger.

A

Johnny Gaudreau

TWCScoreTime on IceES GoalsES AssistsFirst Quarter Grade
171.1301:0142B

As might be expected, Monahan’s improved play has correlated with a much improved stretch of play for Gaudreau. To be clear, six even-strength points in 21 games is way below what the Flames, their fans, and surely Gaudreau himself expect. But the club will take it, as there have been nights when Gaudreau has started to look like his old self.

Like many of the Flames forwards, it was an odd quarter for Johnny, as he found himself playing on a depth line with Milan Lucic and Derek Ryan for a portion of the time. Now back with his buddy Monahan, the Flames need Gaudreau to kick it into the next gear for a stretch run. He made some outstanding plays in the second quarter, but more consistency will be key. On a positive note it seems like he has cut out the really costly turnovers, and the defensive play for his line has been better. Go Johnny Go.

A-

Matthew Tkachuk

TWCScoreTime on IceES GoalsES AssistsFirst Quarter Grade
161.9286:1333A+

After a really hot start, Tkachuk was solid in the second quarter. Luckily he did not have to be quite as good, as other members of the forward crew found some scoring touch. With that being said, Tkachuk has seemed a little quiet lately. His chemistry with Lindholm and Mangiapane never seemed to really mesh perfectly, and recently that experiment has ended.

Tkachuk is fantastic at making small plays all over the ice, but fans will be hoping for some more offence to come. As a team Calgary has had chances off the rush but less established zone time. That zone time is when Tkachuk can really shine. To be clear Tkachuk was still really good in the second quarter, he just wasn’t willing the team into games like he was at the beginning of the period. Good thing was that he didn’t have to be.

B+

Mikael Backlund

TWCScoreTime on IceES GoalsES AssistsFirst Quarter Grade
154.5301:0906A-

Offensively Backlund has been a disappointment this season. Through 41 games he has exactly one even strength goal. This comes also after he was put on a line with the Flames two best offensive players (Monahan and Gaudreau) and he still has not find the net at five on five.

The new lineup was designed to free up Backlund to focus more on offence as he was stationed on the wing and could focus more on creating chances on the offensive end. That worked to an extent as he produced early in his time with the big line. Backlund seems to be plagued by consistently low shooting percentages. His ixG of 2.36 was seventh on the Flames over this period, and he was sixth among forwards in shots with 23. To shoot zero percent really hurts when Backlund had his chances in Q2.

It is worth noting that Backlund contributed in different situations over this time period on the penalty kill and power play. But these rankings just take five on five into account, hurting Backlund a little bit. One worrisome thing to watch: Backlund had the second worst CF% at five on five this quarter, behind only Michael Stone.

B

Derek Ryan

TWCScoreTime on IceES GoalsES AssistsFirst Quarter Grade
147.3253:4924B+

Ryan has been really steady for the Flames this season. This quarter he did two really important things. Firstly, he continued to produce. Amazingly on the season, Ryan is currently tied with Monahan and Gaudreau for the team lead in even strength points with 17.

Arguably more impressive during this quarter however was Ryan’s ability to turn Milan Lucic, a player who really struggled in the early part of the season, and Dillon Dube, a talented yet unproven rookie into an effective third line. At a time when the Flames were in desperate need of secondary scoring, Ryan and his line mates started to really give the Flames some sustained offence.

His possession stats are mediocre, and he is in the middle of the pack in most categories, but given the relative strength of his line mates, and that he has actually found the back of the net, it was a solid quarter for the third line centre.

B-

Elias Lindholm

TWCScoreTime on IceES GoalsES AssistsFirst Quarter Grade
139.8280:5825B+

Lindholm was arguably the most disappointing Flame this quarter. The points were still there but his goal production dropped off. In the first quarter report cards I wrote about his ridiculous shooting percentage that would be hard to sustain. He shot 19.23% at five on five in Q1. In Q2, that number dropped to just 9.09%. He was playing centre for most of the quarter and had some increased defensive responsibilities, but he still did not seem to find great chemistry with his new line-mates, at least in terms of goal scoring.

What was also troubling was his shot numbers. In 21 games, he managed just 22 shots, good for 11th on the team. His ixG was 12th. Without the shooting percentage he just was not producing enough chances.

C+

Tobias Rieder

TWCScoreTime on IceES GoalsES AssistsFirst Quarter Grade
129.0174:3604D+

Rieder begins an interesting section of the grades. By the eye test, Rieder was significantly improved in Q2. His CF% of 50.91 in Q2 was right at the top of the Flames over the quarter, just behind Mangiapane among regulars. In fact, his xGF and SCF on ice numbers are superb as well, right there with the best on the team. Even his individual numbers were pretty good, as he posted 2.43 ixG in this time period.

The problem is obvious. He didn’t actually score any of those chances, and unfortunately, expected goals need to matter beyond spreadsheets. On the ice, Rieder did not contribute a single even strength goal. While his play was better, the Flames need him to convert. The possession numbers merit a promotion from D+ up a full grade to C+. But like a number of these forwards, the team needs some production, and soon.

Milan Lucic

TWCScoreTime on IceES GoalsES AssistsFirst Quarter Grade
126.3255:4612D+

It is important not to overemphasize the play of Lucic in Q2. As many fans have pointed out on social media, there is an argument that Lucic gets credit for everything good he does by the media and fan base. To that note, it is important to temper the applause for a player who only scored once at five on five and was among the lowest point producers on the team. On the flip side, Lucic looked like a real NHL player in Q2, something you would struggle to say after the first quarter.

Lucic is obviously not what he used to be, but he has found some chemistry with Ryan, and he is still effective at shielding pucks and creating zone time, something the Flames struggle to do as a team at times. His possession numbers are pretty good, although he struggles to create high danger chances. He was 16th in HDCF% this quarter. Somehow he needs to turn zone time into more dangerous chances, if not for him than for his linemates.

Lucic is another guy who contributed on the power play, where he scored twice. Again, with these rankings based of five on five play, this doesn’t factor into his 5v5 SVA rating.

Dillon Dube

TWCScoreTime on IceES GoalsES AssistsFirst Quarter Grade
124.8207.9533N/A

Dube was not in the NHL at the time of the last report cards, so he is making his debut here. He is basically the opposite of Rieder. His possession stats are all pretty ugly. He was third last in CF%, fourth last in xGF%, and third last again in SCF%. However, he also had six even strength points and three goals in Q2, right there at the top of the list for Flames forwards.

At his best, Dube has provided some flair to the Lucic and Ryan line, and has looked comfortable on the puck in the offensive zone. He still has a penchant for turning the puck over though, and as evidenced by the possession numbers still has a ways to go defensively. His 15% shooting percentage will be hard to sustain.

D

Mark Jankowski

TWCScoreTime on IceES GoalsES AssistsFirst Quarter Grade
75.9144:3101D

I feel like I could copy and paste my last grade for Jankowski here. There is no way to sugarcoat it: Jankowski is in the midst of a remarkable offensive slump, and at times looks like a broken player. Jankowski has been a productive offensive player throughout his NHL career. It just has not happened this season at all. He produced just nine shots on goal in 144:31 of time on ice, and still has not scored this season. Those numbers are so low, its not as if Jankowski is just having bad luck, he is simply creating no offence.

The closest thing I can remember to this was Riley Sheahan a few years back with Detroit, when he didn’t score until the last game of the season. Another example might be Rieder’s season last year with the Oilers. They’re harsh comparisons, but its hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel for Jankowski, especially at even strength. He could find himself out of the lineup or off the team unless something changes soon.

Incomplete

The player model weights time on ice into the formula, so players with really low time on ice are disproportionately negatively effected. Thats why their grade is incomplete.

Zac Rinaldo

TWCScoreTime on IceES GoalsES AssistsFirst Quarter Grade
95.762:1621N/A

Rinaldo had a bizarre quarter. Finally back in the NHL, and long time checker found some sudden scoring touch, with three even strength points in just over 60 minutes. Despite the production, he promptly found his way out of the lineup, and has not been a regular recently. Fans have called for an increased role for Rinaldo, and given the struggles of Jankowski they might be right. Rinaldo seemed to provide a spark to this team that can be slightly passive at times. Look for Rinaldo down the stretch as the playoff push comes and the hockey gets heavier. With Lucic and Rinaldo new from last year, the Flames have an ability to stand up for themselves that was lacking last season.

Sam BennetT

TWCScoreTime on IceES GoalsES AssistsFirst Quarter Grade
64.575:3400B-

Bennett is incomplete just because he missed so much time with injury. He has been okay recently, but mostly is the same player he has been for most of his Flames tenure. We will look at him more deeply in Q3 where he can hopefully stay healthy and get on the ice more.

Stay tuned for the defensive grades later this week!

One thought on “Calgary Flames midterm report cards: Forwards

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s