Calgary Flames

It is time to end the Dominik Simon experiment with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan

Since Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan arrived in Calgary, playing on their right wing has been one of the most rewarding assignments on the team. Say what you want about the powerful duo, they have made a lot of money for their right wingers. First, it was Jiri Hudler, a small lefty with tons of skill and almost no physicality.

Then it was Micheal Ferland‘s turn, and he scored 21 goals during the 2017-2018 season. Ferland is nearly the exact opposite from Hudler, a big, strong power forward who could hit and loved to shoot the puck.

Then in recent years, Elias Lindholm has had the good fortune of playing on that right wing. Lindholm never scored more than 17 goals in Carolina, but cashed 27 and 29 respectively in his two years alongside Johnny and Sean.

That is not to say that Gaudreau and Monahan are perfect players or anywhere near it. But they do produce offence, and playing on their wing has teed guys up for career years.

When Dominik Simon was brought in the offseason, it wasn’t immediately clear what his role would be. Early in training camp however, it became more and more obvious that he was going to get a long look with the top group. That was a massive opportunity for a guy coming into a new team, but given the long list of players who have found success on that wing, it seemed reasonable that the new guy would be ok.

checking in

Through eight games played this season, Simon has done remarkably little. Lets start with the individual stats at 5v5 using data from Natural Stat Trick (although there is little variation from his overall numbers).

TOIGoalsAssistsShotsShot AttemptsHits

Again, I maintain that he has done remarkably little, because I do find it pretty remarkable that someone can have so few recorded statistics in this much ice time.

He has spent 58:12 of that time with Johnny Gaudreau, over a period in time where Johnny has been pretty dynamic at five on five. In that time, Simon has just two shots. His shot rate per 60 of 1.50 is 445th among forwards who have played more than 20 minutes. There are only 452 players who fit that criteria. Not good.

That is the statistic that keeps jumping out to me, because it is so surprising given that he is playing with a true pass first player in Gaudreau. It is also surprising given that Simon’s historical shot rates are so much higher than he is showing right now. During his time in Pittsburgh, he shot more than 4.78 shots per 60 minutes, just under three times higher than he is right now.

Adding to that, the rest of his individual numbers are not great either. He is last among forwards in individual scoring chances for, behind Joakim Nordstrom and Derek Ryan, and has created just one individual high danger chance for. While playing alongside the Flames’ top offensive duo, these numbers simply are not good enough. For more on what these stats mean, check out our primer.

On top of that, he’s not doing much else on the ice. Goeff Ward likes his lines to have two players who can take faceoffs, and Simon is expected to be that guy. However, he has won just 25% of his so far this season, putting him right near the bottom of the team. Simon is not a hitter, having thrown just eight this season, and he is not blocking shots, having put his body on the line just four times all year.

The possession stats tell an interesting story as well. Simon individually has not posted good possession numbers, with a CF% of 41.86%, good for last on the team among regular forwards. He is second from the bottom in scoring chances for, although he is sitting at 50% high danger chances for. These numbers are in spite of him starting a team high 66.7% of shifts in the offensive zone. The team is clearly giving him tons of chances to succeed, but he has not rewarded them individually.

Here is where things get interesting. With Gaudreau and Monahan, the line has been ok from a possession perspective. Going into the game last night, their CF% was 50%. After a tough outing, the line has posted a CF% of 44.82%, with an xGF% of 51.18%. Without Simon, Gaudreau and Monahan have posted CF% of 52.22% and xGF of 54.73%. Its worth noting that those numbers are slightly exaggerated because of the big night (possession wise) from Gaudreau, Monahan, and Brett Ritchie last night.

What should we make of that? Well, it seems that Simon has pretty much been invisible, but oddly Gaudreau and Monahan have not seemed slower with him on the ice. He is in a bizarre situation right now where he either gets scratched or plays with 13 and 23. It would be nice to see him contribute offensively, and help that line go to the next level, but at least when playing with the big boys, he doesn’t seem to be a problem either.

Is not slowing them down good enough for this team? Having played seven years with the organization, Gaudreau and Monahan have rarely found a linemate that works with them and often it felt that their linemate was the problem. The Sam Bennett experiment seems to have reached its end, after putting up some very poor numbers across the board. There is no sign of Josh Leivo, spending more time in the press box than on the ice. Joakim Nordstrom seems unable to do much more than kill penalties, and the Flames need Elias Lindholm elsewhere to handle heavy defensive assignments that Gaudreau and Monahan are not able to do.

The Flames could go back to Ritchie, who had a great game with the duo, but unless he can bring the same energy game in and game out, this seems like a stop-gap solution. Ritchie has put up some excellent numbers earlier in his career, but has not been able to continue growing his game recently. Ditto for guys like Buddy Robinson who looked decent in minimal minutes last season with his former college teammate Gaudreau, but this also seems to last a couple of games before poor play breaks this group up. Maybe not detrimental analytically is not the worst thing in the world.

However, the not detrimental numbers are not translating to on ice performance. Last night however, seemed to be a low point for Simon’s young career in Calgary. After a bad turnover on the first goal, he barely played while the game was close, and found himself benched for long stretches. While Gaudreau seems to be back to his scoring ways, very little of it can be credited to Simon. He has not been a factor offensively for the Flames so far this season, rather being a piece that has brought the Flames down of late. Simon is a virtual lock to find his way out of the lineup next game.

For a team that needs some answers, and some forwards to really make an impact, it is hard to make an argument for him dress next contest. The Flames need somebody to step up to the plate with 13 and 23, and whether it is Andrew Mangiapane, Dillon Dube, Leivo, or simply reverting back to Lindholm on the wing, the Flames need a change and they need it now.

What do you think? Should Dominik Simon stay with the top line? let us know in the comments or on social media.

Photo credits: Gerry Thomas/ Getty Images

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