Calgary Flames

Evaluating who should quarterback the Flames’ first power play unit

There hasn’t been much that has gone right for the Calgary Flames lately. Fortunately for them, the Montreal Canadiens and Vancouver Cancuks are still sputtering, and there is still a window open for them to make the playoffs. However, to do that, they’ll have to get a number of things back on track, one of which is their power play.

Operating at just 21.3%, the Flames’ power play has dried up in the last few weeks. As well, their four shorthanded goals allowed is the most out of every team in the NHL. The Flames will not be able to gain back ground in the standings without a stellar powerplay, and need to start figuring out how to score again.

Last week, we wrote about how the Flames could employ triangles in their defensive structure so as to increase their effectiveness, and this starts with having the right player manning the point. So far, the Flames have used three defensemen to quarterback their top powerplay unit: Rasmus Andersson, Mark Giordano, and Juuso Valimaki. Let’s break down which has been the most effective so far, and who should be quarterbacking the top unit going forward.

Rasmus Andersson

So far, Andersson has logged the most power play minutes out of all Flames defensemen at 76:22. To level the playing field, we’ll look at all metrics based on /60 rates.

When Andersson is on the ice during the man advantage, the Flames generate significantly more shot attempts than when a different defender is on the ice.


It’s not particularly close, either. Andersson ranks first among all Flames defenders in terms of on ice shot attempts, unblocked shot attempts, and shots on goal. The volume is definitely there. Quality wise, Andersson is also among the best.


The Flames generate the most high danger chances when Andersson is on the power play, with just over 20 per hour. However, the most chances generated when Andersson is out there are low danger chances, and more than three times the number of high danger chances.

GF/60xGF/60Goals above expected

The Flames’ success rate with Andersson on the power play is definitely the best among all defenders. The team has scored the most goals per hour with Andersson, the most expected goals, and the second highest goals above expected. Andersson has done well with the increased power play opportunities he’s gotten this season.

Mark Giordano

Giordano was the staple on the Flames power play for years prior to this one, and still factors in on at least the second unit. He’s logged 46:41 on the power play so far this season, primarily on the second unit but at some points on the top unit. With Giordano on the ice, the Flames generate significantly fewer chances.


Compared to Andersson, Giordano’s power play units generate approximately 20 fewer chances across the board. Still, the Flames have the second most unblocked shot attempts with Giordano, but a much lower percentage make it to the net. Quality wise, Giordano has a much more desirable split than Andersson.


Despite the lower rate of shots in general, Giordano’s power play units generate the fifth most low danger chances, second most medium danger chances, and third most high danger chances. Giordano actually generates more medium danger chances per hour than Andersson, but about half the high danger chances.

GF/60xGF/60Goals above expected

Success wise, Giordano is very good. His 7.71 goals per hour is just slightly below Andersson, but his goals above expected is first on the team by a wide margin. It’s hard to say whether this is due to increased efficiency or sheer luck, but the fact of the matter is that Giordano gets results on the power play.

Juuso Valimaki

The newest Flame to get a kick at the can on the first power play unit, Valimaki has only had 6:11 of power play time this season. However, the Flames are committed to giving Valimaki opportunities to succeed, and he definitely wasn’t a liability on the power play for the short time he was on it. In fact, Valimaki’s power play units generated more shot attempts than Giordano’s.


At just over 77 shot attempts per hour, Valimaki generates basically the same amount as Giordano. He’s second only to Andersson in terms of unblocked shot attempts and shots on goal, which means Valimaki was very efficient at getting scoring opportunities for his team when he was on the power play. Quality wise, Valimaki leaves a lot to be desired.


With exactly zero high danger chances generated on his brief power play opportunities, it’s no wonder the Flames didn’t score any goals. It’s a very small sample size of course, but not getting to the high quality areas of the ice even once isn’t great.

GF/60xGF/60Goals above expected

Still, the Flames generated around 3.5 expected goals per hour with Valimaki on the power play. Mathematically, the Flames would need 18 power play minutes to score one goal with Valimaki’s current rates. Again, it’s a small sample size, so we shouldn’t judge him based on these totals yet, but more needs to be generated with the man advantage.

The Verdict

Right now, it’s a two horse race between Andersson and Giordano. Valimaki is a rookie and just not yet ready to quarterback a power play, though he will be at some point probably soon. At this point, it’s probably safe to say that Andersson is a better option than Giordano, while considering that Andersson has twice the minutes Giordano does.

The tough balance to strike will be with Giordano’s power play ice time. He’s still very effective on the man advantage, so it makes sense to keep him at least on the second unit, but as he ages, it will be more and more important to give that opportunity to younger players.

It will be interesting to see how Valimaki does on the second unit though, as he is definitely one of the defensemen of the future for this team.

The Flames seem to have gotten this one right. Andersson is the man for the job on the top power play, and should remain the quarterback for the foreseeable future.

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