With a 3-2 overtime win over the Toronto Maple Leafs and David Rittich on Tuesday, the Flames’ third quarter of the season thankfully came to an end. This means it’s time to once again see how the Flames roster fared over this stretch. We will assign an offensive report card grade for each Flames player that played over 100 minutes at 5v5 over the team’s 14 games between March 14th and April 13th.
To say it was an ugly stretch would be an understatement. The Flames went a dismal 5-9-0, their worst quarter of the season. In the first quarter they put up a 7-6-1 record, and in the second quarter of the year they went 6-6-1. This was also the first full quarter of the season with Darryl Sutter behind the bench, and it didn’t exactly go to plan.
They finished the third quarter in fifth place in the North division, sitting six points out of a playoff spot, and the fourth place Canadiens also currently have three games in hand. Entering the third quarter they sat only two points out of the playoffs.
Once again despite their below average record, the team posted some okay underlying numbers. The Flames finished eighth for CF% at 52.71 and 19th for xGF% at 48.30 over the stretch. They ranked 13th for CF% in the first quarter and 11th in the second. Their xGF% ranked was ninth in the first quarter and 12th in the second quarter.
How do these rankings work?
A reminder that these rankings are based on a model that evaluates 5v5 offence. In order to grade players, we will be using the TWC Player Offensive Evaluation Tool (POET).
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% at various danger levels, xGF%; individual statistics including goals, assists, offensive contributions, and penalty differentials; and includes an adjustment for time on ice, PDO, and offensive zone starts.
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. If their TWC score is above 0 on their player cards then they are above average compared to all other players of the same position (forwards or defencemen).
For the third quarter, all players in the whole league with at least 100 minutes at 5v5 between March 14th and April 13th are included in the overall model that the Flames players compare to. For the Flames, only players who met that threshold are given grades, and over the past 14 games, that equates to 19 skaters.
It is important to emphasize that the model is based on player performance at 5v5. 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. Let’s see who ranks where on the Flames squad. You can click on each card to see it in full size.
Q1 Grade: A+ / Q2 Grade: B-
So when should we start talking about Andrew Mangiapane as the Flames’ best forward? In just his third year in the NHL, he has truly established himself as an elite even strength player, and this year he’s starting to get the points to go with it as well. After an uncharacteristic second quarter of the season, Mangiapane bounced back over the next 14 games, earning himself yet another A+ grade.
His underlying numbers were a little down this quarter, but that can be expected given how bad the team was over the last month. He ranked fifth among Flames forwards for CF% at 53.18, second for xGF% at 53.58, and third for HDCF% at 53.97. He was one of only three forwards to post a HDCF% over 50.00, and one of only four over 50.00 for xGF%.
The good news is despite his underlying numbers dipping a bit this quarter, his scoring went way up. His eight even strength points ranked second on the team. Meanwhile his four goals at evens led the team with the next closest player at just two. He also did this despite playing the sixth most minutes among Flames forwards.
Mangiapane has developed into an incredibly important player for the Flames and one of their best at even strength. It seems that no matter how bad the team is playing, Mangiapane still puts up solid results. Remember when there was offseason talk in the media of him being exposed in the expansion draft?
Q1 Grade: A- / Q2 Grade: B
After Mangiapane there’s a pretty steep drop-off among Flames forwards as no one else graded above B. Mikael Backlund comes out as the team’s second best forward for the quarter, despite his underwhelming results. It’s a testament to just how bad the Flames were over the 14 games.
Usually an elite possession player, Backlund’s underlying numbers were very un-Backlund like this quarter. His CF% of 50.93 was eighth among forwards with at least 100 minutes. His xGF% of 49.25 was fifth, and his 39.36 HDCF% was second last. How much did playing most of the quarter with either Milan Lucic, Joakim Nordstrom or both contribute to his rough numbers? Probably a lot.
Backlund deserves some better linemates. Josh Leivo for example would be a huge upgrade over both Lucic and Nordstrom. Until then it will be tough for him to turn his underlying numbers around.
One positive though is that he led the Flames in even strength points with nine after putting up just three last quarter. His 29 shots and 49 iCF at even strength were also both first on the team. Give him some better linemates and he’d have a much better grade.
Q1 Grade: A- / Q2 Grade: B+
This just isn’t Matthew Tkachuk’s year. As is evident by his quarterly grades, Tkachuk’s play has been going downhill all season after a decent start. Once again, his underlying numbers look decent, but he hasn’t looked like himself all year. Whether it’s lack of confidence or an injury, the Flames will need to determine what’s gone wrong this year for the face of their franchise.
Tkachuk ranked fourth among forwards for CF% at 54.83%, xGF% at 50.62, and HDCF% at 49.57. Despite his decent rank among the team’s forwards, those numbers are much lower than what we’ve come to expect from Tkachuk. He’s never finished a season with a HDCF% lower than a 53.8, so his sub-50 percentage in that category this quarter is quite alarming.
His offensive production meanwhile was dreadful. He posted just three even strength points over 14 games, scoring just two goals. Part of that is the team’s complete lack of scoring over the last month, but part of it also comes down to his low ice time under Sutter. Tkachuk played the seventh most minutes at even strength among Flames forwards, a shockingly low number for the highest paid player.
When a team is struggling to score as much as the Flames are, an individual player’s offensive numbers are obviously going to be lower than usual. When you’re arguably the team’s most important player though, a lot of those struggles will be put on your shoulders. The Flames need Tkachuk to be much better.
Q1 Grade: C- / Q2 Grade: N/A
Everyone’s favourite 5v5 depth player Josh Leivo finally got his chance in the lineup once Darryl Sutter was brought on board. Then he didn’t, then he did again. It’s been a crazy season for Leivo bouncing around between the first line and a healthy scratch, but through it all he’s been a dependable player at even strength.
He only got into 11 games this quarter out of 14, but the ones he did play he made the most of. Leivo continues to put up very impressive results at even strength. He led all Flames forwards this quarter with a 60.72 CF%, an xGF% of 59.51, and a 57.88 HDCF%. Ranking first in all three metrics is very impressive for someone that both coaches have seen as replacement level. Maybe it’s time to realize he is one of the teams best possession forwards at even strength and deserves to play every night?
What lowers his grade so much is his dismal offensive production though, and that’s the exact type of performance that gets players scratched in the NHL. He had just one 5v5 point in 11 games, which was tied for last among forwards. His ixG of 1.08 was also third last. Similarly his iHDCF was second last at only three high-danger chances. Even if he isn’t producing points though he’s still been an effective player considering what he’s getting paid.
Q1 Grade: B / Q2 Grade: C-
Sean Monahan has to be playing hurt right? He’s had a very rough season, and his third quarter was no different as he struggled to get anything going. He’s either been dealing with a nagging injury all season or has fallen off a cliff at just 26 years old.
He’s never been a strong possession player, but his underlying numbers were once again ugly this quarter. He ranked third last among forwards for CF% and xGF% at 47.75 and 45.41 respectively. His HDCF% actually ranked fifth on the team, but was still an unimpressive 48.16%. All this despite starting almost 58% of his shifts in the offensive zone. Monahan was on the ice for just four goals for, and nine against at even strength during this quarter.
The bigger issue with Monahan’s play was that he still wasn’t producing anything on offense either. He had just four even strength points in 14 games, and just one goal. His iCF of 25 ranked seventh among forwards.
It’s fair to say he did suffer some bad luck as well though as he produced the most high-danger chances on the team with 13, but had the third worst shooting percentage at just 6.67% at 5v5. I would be shocked if it isn’t revealed after the season that he is dealing with some sort of wrist or hand injury.
Q1 Grade: C- / Q2 Grade: C
Behold the final quarterly grade of Sam Bennett’s Flames career. In true Bennett fashion it was bad. At least he keeps it consistent. In all fairness though he was nowhere close to the team’s worst forward this stretch and actually played some of his better hockey this year under Sutter.
Bennett actually ranked third among forwards with a CF% of 56.09. Unfortunately that’s where the good news ends as he didn’t much else. His xGF% of 46.20 was eighth among forwards and his HDCF% of 41.78 was ninth. He even started a whopping 68.0% of his shifts in the offensive zone, making the numbers look even worse.
However the one positive from this quarter for Bennett was his offensive production which wasn’t great, but still matched up well against the rest of the team. He put up six even strength points in 13 games, good for third among forwards. He actually scored half of his 12 points on the year in this quarter alone. That’s what we like to call perfect timing leading up to the trade deadline.
Q1 Grade: B+ / Q2 Grade: C-
Like the rest of the team’s tops forwards, Elias Lindholm has struggled this season. He was slightly better this quarter than the last, but that still isn’t saying much considering he’s expected to be the team’s top centre.
He put up a decent CF% of 52.98 which ranked sixth among forwards, but his xGF% of 45.97 ranked ninth, and his HDCF% of 42.54 was eighth. His numbers look like those of a third liner not a first liner. He did start just 47% of his shifts in the offensive zone, but as the team’s first line centre, he’s expected to take on the heavy lifting. Unfortunately he has struggled all year in the role and heavy workload.
His point production wasn’t much better as he put up five points at even strength over 14 games. He was generating a decent amount of chances though as he had 24 even strength shots, 34 iCF, and 10 iHDCF all three of which were good for second on the team. Regardless, like the rest of the teams top guys, they need Lindholm to be better.
Q1 Grade: A / Q2 Grade: D+
That A grade Milan Lucic got for the first quarter seems like a distant memory now. After a crazy start to the year, he’s regressed considerably and looks more like the Lucic we expect. Still though he wasn’t the team’s worst forward nor biggest problem this quarter.
Lucic was just above water this quarter logging a CF% of 50.07, good for ninth among forwards. His xGF% also wasn’t great at 48.21, although it did sit sixth among forwards. His HDCF% was awful though. He put up a team worst 38.36 HDCF%, and was one of only two players on the team below 40% for the metric.
His goal scoring completely evaporated this quarter, although he still put up six assists at even strength which ranked him tied for third on the team for even strength points. He was however the only forward with over 100 minutes that didn’t score at least one even strength goal. This was probably due to the fact he had just five high-dangers chances across 14 games. He does lead the team in grit per/60 though.
Q1 Grade: N/A / Q2 Grade: N/A
The first grade of the season for Derek Ryan is pretty harsh, as he continued to be one of the teams analytic darlings at even strength this quarter. Unfortunately for him his offensive production was non-existent which tanked his grade.
Let’s start off with the good first. Ryan ranked second on the team among forwards for CF% at 60.33, third for xGF% at 52.46, and second for HDCF% at 54.45. In a time when the Flames struggled big time, Ryan still put up some very strong underlying results. It’s honestly very surprising no playoff teams wanted him at the deadline even with his cap hit.
Now for the negative and the reason his grade is so low. Ryan put up just one even strength point this quarter over 14 games which tied for last on the team among forwards. His iCF of 19 was also last among forwards while his 11 shots at even strength were second last. Ryan is a very good possession player, but unfortunately that doesn’t usually turn into a ton of points for him.
Q1 Grade: C+ / Q2 Grade: A
It’s been a roller coaster season for Dillon Dube. After grading out as the team’s best forward last quarter, his play at even strength saw a steep decline as he sits tied for the worst forward grade this quarter. Sutter even scratched him for two games, although he is back in the lineup full time now.
Dube had some subpar results across the board. His CF% of 51.95 ranked seventh among forwards, while his xGF% of 47.58 was also seventh. His HDCF% ranked sixth at 46.31. Again his rank among forwards isn’t bad but it’s because the Flames sucked this quarter. Having a sub 50 xGF% and HDCF% isn’t very good at all.
His scoring also went down this quarter. During the second quarter he tied for first on the team with seven even strength points. This time around he had just four in 12 games, including only one goal. He struggled to generate chances for himself too as he had just 12 shots at even strength, and only five high-danger chances. Last quarter he also led the team with a points per 60 of 2.5. This quarter it was just 1.7. It’s been a rough year for Dube.
Q1 Grade: N/A / Q2 Grade: N/A
The Brett Ritchie experiment was a disaster to say the least. Thrust into a top six role by Sutter, Ritchie was not very good and stayed there for far too long. A player who signed as a PTO probably isn’t the best option to play in a top six role. Even more evidence of that will come with the next player grade.
Ritchie was dreadful across the board. His CF% of 47.12 was dead last among forwards, his xGF% of 42.84 was second last, and his HDCF% of 43.57 was seventh. He put up those ugly numbers while started 59 of his shifts in the offensive zone. To put it into perspective, his 47.12 CF% ranked 235th among forwards in the league, and his 42.84 xGF% was 291st.
He generated shots at an okay rate at least, putting up 14 which was sixth among forwards. He also had seven high-danger chances which ranked seventh. Points wise though he had just one even strength point in 11 games. Ritchie really isn’t an NHL player and here’s hoping he doesn’t touch the top six again anytime soon.
Q1 Grade: A / Q2 Grade: B-
Wow. Johnny Gaudreau may have just gone through the worst stretch of his entire career the past few weeks. He had been struggling since a hot start, but those struggles reached a whole new level this quarter. All you have to do is look at this chart right here to understand why the Flames have struggled to score so much.
Let me just preface this by saying I blame Gaudreau the least for his struggles recently. He was forced to play the worst possible style for his skillset while anchored by two dreadful players. #FreeJohnny.
Anyways let’s get into these depressing numbers. Gaudreau ranked second last among forwards for CF% at 47.73, last for xGF% at a terrible 41.04, and third last for HDCF% at just 40.10. Across the league his xGF% ranked 313th out of 337 forwards with at least 100 5v5 minutes. His total TWCScore of 127.23 was the 29th worst in the league among forwards, and just two points from being in the lowest graded tier of F.
In terms of production he had just two points in 14 games at even strength, both goals. His 12 even strength shots were third last on the team among forwards, while his two high-danger chances were last. When Gaudreau has just two high-dancer chances in 14 games, the Flames aren’t gonna score many goals.
There’s no way Gaudreau is truly this bad, and his play has already rebounded a bit in the last couple games away from Ritchie and Monahan. Here’s hoping Sutter let’s him play his style of game going forward as well.
Q1 Grade: A / Q2 Grade: A
For the third straight quarter, Noah Hanifin grades out as the Flames’ best defencemen, landing an A once again. It’s been an outstanding season for Hanifin and even when the team struggles, his numbers and results still hold strong. This is the player the Flames hoped they were getting in the Dougie Hamilton trade.
Hanifin put up a solid 54.0 CF%, good for second among defencemen, and first for those who played all 14 games of the quarter. His xGF% was just okay at 49.79, but still ranked second among the four Flames defenders who played 14 games. His HDCF% was just 47.27 though. However, it still ranked first among defencemen with 14 games.
His offensive production was very solid. He had five points at even strength, leading Flames defenders. He also had four primary assists at even strength, while the next closest defenceman had just one. His 29 even strength shots, 64 iCF, and two iHDCF all led Flames defencemen. His ixG was also very good sitting first at 1.26 with the next closest defenceman at just 0.57.
Hanifin has been one of the team’s best players this year and certainly one of their most important. Now entering the final quarter of the year, Hanifin is proving it wasn’t just a hot start carrying him early on.
Q1 Grade: D- / Q2 Grade: B
He still hasn’t looked like his usual self this year, but Mark Giordano has been getting better as the year goes on. He went from being graded as the team’s worst defencemen in quarter one, to the third best in quarter two, and now the second best in quarter three. A big reason for that is his shot generation as his underlying numbers were still not great.
He put up a CF% of 51.58, which ranked sixth on the team among defencemen this quarter. His xGF% and HDCF% were rough though as they came in at 45.43, and 41.72 respectively. Both numbers ranked second last as well.
He did put up the second most even strength points among defencemen, although he had just three points in 14 games, two of which were goals. He was also the second best defender on the team at generating individual chances. His 22 shots at even strength and 49 iCF were both second behind only Hanifin. Giordano is clearly feeling his age right now, but it’s good to see him playing a bit better now.
Q1 Grade: N/A / Q2 Grade: N/A
Did I think I’d be grading the play of Michael Stone this year? No. Did I think it would be anything but a bad grade if I did? Also no, but here we are. In such a strange year, maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised that Michael Stone is for some reason still playing for the Flames, and two that he’s actually playing decent hockey. He only played seven games this quarter but he just barely made the 100 minute cut off by 51 seconds, so he gets a grade.
It was obviously a small sample size but Stone actually led all Flames defenders in CF% at 54.3 this quarter. His xGF% was also decent coming in at 50.91, good for third among defencemen. His HDCF% wasn’t that great at just 48.88, but it still ranked third as well.
Hey, he even scored a goal too. It was his only even strength point in seven games but still more than I expected. During a quarter where the Flames were bad most of the time, Stone was decent enough to earn his minutes. All things considered he actually played well considering his history, I still wouldn’t play him very often in the future though, as I don’t expect these results will last.
Q1 Grade: D+ / Q2 Grade: D-
This was certainty Nikita Nesterov’s best quarter of the season. He got into nine games out of the 14 in the quarter and looked okay for most of them playing on the bottom pairing.
His underlying numbers were his best of the season though. His CF% of 52.26 was fourth among Flames defenders, but he actually came first for xGF% at 53.79 and HDCF% at a very impressive 58.89. No offence to Nesterov, but when he’s leading your defence in high danger percentage, that’s not good.
He even put up more than one point this quarter as well, getting two even strength points in nine games. He had just one point in the previous two quarters combined. Unfortunately his 10 even strength shots ranked last, while his 29 iCF was second last. He is what he is and you’re never going to get more than a bottom pairing guy out of him, but he held up well this quarter.
Q1 Grade: A- / Q2 Grade: B-
Juuso Valimaki had an interesting quarter. After many thought he had cemented his spot in the lineup, he was scratched four times this quarter under Sutter. We took a look at why that might be happening, but he has since gotten back into the lineup on a consistent basis.
His underlying numbers weren’t bad by any stretch, but they weren’t great either. His CF% of 52 ranked fifth among defencemen, while his xGF% of 49 was fifth, and his 51.24 HDCF% was second. He was actually on the ice for the most Flames goals of any defencemen at nine, and the third least against at seven.
He didn’t get much going in the way of points as he only put up two points in 10 games at even strength. although that still ranked tied for third among defenders. His 13 even strength shots were fifth and his iCF of 30 were fourth. He didn’t look as good as he did in the first two quarters, but he definitely wasn’t bad. Overall a pretty meh quarter from Valimaki.
Q1 Grade: A- / Q2 Grade: C
First of all, I’d like to once again remind everyone that these grades are for a player’s offensive 5v5 play. The model evaluates offensive production at 5v5 which causes a defensive defender like Chris Tanev to come out looking not too great. That being said, his underlying numbers slipped as well this quarter.
After being top two in all the major metrics for the past two quarters putting up some crazy numbers, Tanev’s play slipped a bit recently. His CF% was 53.63 which ranked third among defenders, while his xGF% of 52.34 was second. The biggest drop was in his HDCF%, which went from 69.3 last quarter to just 46.97 this quarter, fourth for defencemen on the team.
His point totals were expectedly pretty low. He put up just two even strength points in 14 games, although this was actually tied for third among defencemen. He registered 15 even strength shots over 14 games, which ranked third on the team, while his iCF of 29 was tied for second last. Tanev slipped this quarter on offence, but was still one of the team’s better defencemen.
Q1 Grade: D+ / Q2 Grade: A-
After improving big time in the second quarter of the season, Rasmus Andersson was once again very bad this quarter. The team was expecting huge things from Andersson this year, and it just hasn’t worked out on any level. After signing him to a long-term extension last year, the team must be beginning to worry as Andersson’s struggles continue.
Andersson ranked dead last among defencemen for CF% at 51.23, for xGF% at 42.80, and for HDCF% at just 41.48. He was by far the team’s worst defender this quarter. Not great for a guy who was supposed to be your number one guy.
After putting up some decent points in the second quarter, his offensive production dried up recently. He had just one even strength point in 14 games, which tied for last with Stone who played seven less games. He had 15 even strength shots and 34 iCF which both ranked fourth, so at least those numbers weren’t terrible. Something has been seriously wrong with Andersson this year and it’s becoming a major concern.
The final stretch
The Flames have been playing some do-or-die hockey and stringing together a few wins. They’ve tweaked their forward combinations, and have found a decent flow. Of course, it could not have come at a worse time as the team either goes against all odds as gets a playoff berth, or more realistically, play themselves out of better lottery odds.
Whatever happens with the Flames, expect the final quarter to lead to some very different 5v5 results for a lot of the players, as their on-ice product is not the same as it has been. Come along for the wild finish as the NHL wraps up its regular season.