No matter how you look at it, the Calgary Flames roster currently has more underperformers than they do overachievers. In a frustrating half season of hockey, the Flames resorted to bringing on Darryl Sutter as their head coach. Now, after the first experience of 2021 Sutter brand hockey, we’re beginning to get a sense of what the Flames might be able to do to close out the year. So that begs the question: which players now have a little more hype behind them in the second half with Sutter as the coach?
Who will thrive under sutter?
Turning to Twitter and Facebook to see what fans have to say, it’s clear that having an experienced coach with a good track record behind the bench renews a lot of expectations as well as excitement for the Flames roster at large.
Sutter’s going to do what he can to get the best out of the players in front of him, and each player has different ways to improve their game. To see if there’s basis for improvement or elevated play for the players that were mentioned, let’s compare how the Flames have done with Sutter and without him.
Tabulating all the replies, we will only look at all the players that were mentioned for this post. There are different reasons to be excited about each player playing under Sutter, so let’s see if the stats can reveal a bit more context.
2021 Stats with Geoff Ward/Ryan Huska
The tables include 5v5 score-and-venue adjusted stats from NaturalStatTrick.com and percentages greater than 50% are in bold.
At a high level look, this group of players have had all wildly different seasons when it comes to their on-ice results.
- Andrew Mangiapane and Noah Hanifin were the only two players to have positive results in all three stats of corsi for, goals for , and expected goals for.
- In contrast, Dillon Dube, Rasmus Andersson, and Sam Bennett were all below 50% for all three stats.
- Matthew Tkachuk and Dube had the best GF/60, but greatly overperformed in that category compared to expectations.
- Josh Leivo had the biggest difference in GF/60 to xGF/60. He’s played well all season long and needs some puck luck.
2021 STats with Darryl Sutter
The sample size is small, repeat, the sample size is small. However, there are some early reasons to be bullish on the Flames so far.
- In the two games, the Flames outplayed Montreal signficantly, so the CF% for every player is well above 50%.
- Every player except for Mangiapane, Johnny Gaudreau, and Sean Monahan saw massive increases in xGF% in the past two games. Mangiapane is still well above even, whereas Gaudreau and Monahan actually struggled significantly in that department.
- The trio of Dube, Andersson, and Bennett all strung together two solid games with all three stats will above 50% (except for Dube not being on the ice for a goal for or against yet). It’s early, but it would be a big flip on the narrative on each player’s individual seasons.
Small Red Flag
The numbers are generally pretty good so far for this group of Flames. However, there are some concerns still, and this circles right back to who should play right wing with Monahan and Gaudreau.
Right now, Brett Ritchie playing with them, and while the line had more time playing in the offensive zone (as seen by their positive CF%), their defensive zone play is worrying (as seen by their negative xGF%).
This combination suggests that offence generated has not been effective at turning into scoring chances, while the defensive zone play has led to more scoring chances for Montreal. In general, neither Gaudreau nor Monahan are expected to play highly defensive-minded hockey, but they’re absolutely expected to bring the offence. If they are bleeding chances in their own zone, then they better make up for it on offence.
This has not been the case so far for the duo. Does this suggest that Ritchie is not the right fit for them? That’ll be something to look for over the next few games. It just highlights how the Flames are in dire need of that one extra right handed right winger that can allow Elias Lindholm to remain at centre, and allow Gaudreau and Monahan to play their best offence.
Will Sutter be the one to solve this problem? Time will tell.
Elevating their game
These stats tell an early story about what to expect out of the Flames now with Sutter behind the bench. The style of hockey the Flames played the previous two games is completely different compared to the first half of the season.
A handful of players previously struggling have all rebounded so far, and all to exceedingly high levels. Obviously, no one will sustain this level of hockey for the remainder of the season, but it’s still a good start for the Flames to turn a new leaf. The critical second half of the season officially kicks off for the Flames tomorrow against the Edmonton Oilers. In Sutter We Trust.
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