Thank goodness it’s finally over. After playing four rescheduled regular season games against the Vancouver Canucks while the first round of the 2021 NHL Playoffs were well underway, the Calgary Flames season has mercifully come to an end. That means it’s also time to assign our final quarterly report card grades of the season.
We’ll assign a report card grade for each Flames player with over 100 minutes TOI at 5v5 during the teams final 14 games between April 14th and May 19th. The Flames went 8-6 over this stretch, a big improvement over their season worst quarterly record of 5-9 during the third quarter.
Their eight wins was actually the most they put up in any quarter this season. Unfortunately three of the wins were meaningless as the team was eliminated from playoff contention on May 10th, but it was still nice to see some success to close out the year. The Flames ended the quarter and the year sitting fifth in the North Division, four points out of the playoffs.
The Flames put up some very solid underlying numbers during this stretch. Their CF% of 56.82 was good for fifth in the league. Their xGF% was also very impressive sitting at 61.52, which ranked third in the league behind only the Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche. Both numbers were their best of any quarter by a wide margin. At the very least, this quarter offered some encouraging signs going into next season with Sutter behind the bench.
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 fourth quarter, all players in the league with at least 100 minutes at 5v5 between April 14th and May 19th 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 17 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+ / Q3 Grade A+
There’s the Matthew Tkachuk we all know and love. After an up and down season, Tkachuk finally found his game to close out the season. It’s no coincidence that it occurred after being played on the team’s new-look top line.
Tkachuk was in a word, elite this quarter. His total TWC Score of 317.7 was actually ninth across the entire league among forwards this quarter. He was dominant all over the ice and looked much more like his regular self.
He ranked third on the team among forwards with 100 5v5 minutes for CF% at 55.29, fifth for xGF% at 54.70, and fifth for HDCF% at 54.27. The big change for Tkachuk this quarter was his offensive production though. After putting up just three even strength points last quarter, he nearly quadrupled it this time around, sitting second on the team with 11 even strength points in 14 games, including four goals. He also led the entire team with an ixG of 3.85 during the 14 game stretch.
After a dismal year it was great to see Tkachuk have some real success to close out the season. It offers a very strong sign that he will bounce back in a big way next year.
Q1 Grade: A / Q2 Grade: B- / Q3 Grade D-
Similar to Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau had a massive bounce-back during the last quarter of the season. After grading out as the team’s worst forward last quarter, Gaudreau rebounded in a big way and earned his A+ grade. His total TWC Score this quarter of 313.1 was 13th in the league among forwards.
His offensive production and possession numbers both saw a huge increase over the last quarter. His CF% of 58.73 was third among forwards on the team while his xGF% of 63.35 was fifth. Even his HDCF% which ranked seventh among forwards was still very solid at 63.62. For reference he sat below 50% in every metric last quarter, and ranked bottom three on the team for all three.
His offensive totals also exploded. He put up a team leading 13 even strength points this quarter, including nine assists which was also first on the team. His four even strength goals were tied for second on the team.
It’s fair to assume Gaudreau’s lacklustre numbers from the previous quarter were due to his line mates. It’s no surprise that going from Brett Ritchie and an injured Sean Monahan to Elias Lindholm and Tkachuk drastically improved Gaudreau’s numbers. Now get working on that extension, Treliving.
Q1 Grade: A+ / Q2 Grade: B- / Q3 Grade A+
Sitting at an A+ grade for the third time this year, Andrew Mangiapane was once again incredible for the Flames. He truly is developing into the teams most reliable and consistent 5v5 forward right in front of our eyes.
His underlying numbers were once again very strong. He put up a CF% of 56.12 which was good for sixth among forwards. His xGF% and HDCF% were even better though, sitting at 63.92 and 69.03 respectively, both of which ranked third among Flames forwards.
His eight even strength points ranked tied for third on the team, while his five even strength goals was tied for first. His five even strength goals were actually tied for fourth league wide this quarter. Another crazy fact about his production is that he didn’t get a single secondary assist this year, only primary assists. Despite this, he still ranked second on the team for even strength points. Even better, over the season he sits first on the team for 5v5 points per 60 minutes among players with at least 100 minutes.
Mangiapane is developing into an elite top six winger and proved it once again this quarter. He is quite clearly one of the team’s most important forwards and is in line for a huge season next year.
Q1 Grade: B+ / Q2 Grade: C- / Q3 Grade C
This was without question Elias Lindholm’s best quarter of the season. He had some big struggles in the middle of the year but like Gaudreau and Tkachuk, he thrived on the team’s new top line.
Lindholm had some rough underlying numbers last quarter, but improved on them a ton this quarter. His CF% of 56.3 was fifth among forwards, his xGF% of 58.85 was eighth, and his HDCF% of 56.83 was ninth. His team ranks were rather low, but his actual numbers were very solid across the board.
It was his offensive production that earned him an A grade though. He put up eight points at even strength which was tied for third on the team. His five even strength goals was tied for first with Mangiapane.
Lindholm looked very good this quarter flanked by Gaudreau and Tkachuk, and the hope is he can continue that strong play with the two next year as well.
Q1 Grade: C+ / Q2 Grade: A / Q3 Grade D-
Dillon Dube has had a pretty disappointing season after a breakout performance in the bubble last year, so it was nice to see him put up some decent results to end the season.
After putting up some rough underlying numbers last quarter, Dube came out looking much better this quarter. His CF% was ninth among forwards, but was still very solid at 54.43. His xGF% however was one of the best on the team, sitting at 63.82 which was fourth among forwards. Similarly his HDCF% was also elite, as he sat at 68.76% over this stretch which also ranked fourth.
After getting just four even strength points last quarter, he improved with six this time around, including four goals which tied for second on the team. His ixG was also very good as he came in at 2.42 which was third on the team.
Like most of the teams top six forwards, Dube had a nice bounce-back during the last quarter of the year. Here’s hoping he can build off of it and continue his strong play next season, and wishing that he has a good recovery after his concussion he suffered in that last game of the season.
Q1 Grade: A / Q2 Grade: D+ / Q3 Grade C
After a rough middle of the season, Milan Lucic had a nice little bounce-back this quarter and looked more like the Looch we saw at the beginning of the year.
Lucic was actually last on the team among forwards for CF%, however he still came out looking solid sitting at 52.78. His xGF% of 60.54 was much better, as it ranked sixth among forwards. His HDCF% was his shining achievement though. He put up a ridiculous 69.46 HDCF% which was second on the team among forwards.
His offensive production of six even strength points was the same as last quarter, however this time around it wasn’t just six assists as he put up three goals. He didn’t generate much in the way of individual shots, but the rest of his game was solid.
Q1 Grade: N/A / Q2 Grade: N/A / Q3 Grade D+
Derek Ryan once again put up some elite possession numbers this quarter along with some solid offensive production.
Ryan led all forwards on the team for CF% at 64.65, xGF% at 70.32, and HDCF% at a ridiculous 81.15. He was the only forward over 60 for CF%, over 70 for xGF% and over 80 for HDCF%. He actually ranked top 10 league wide among forwards in all three metrics, including leading the league for HDCF%.
Unlike last quarter, he also added some offensive production as well. After getting just one even strength point last quarter, he put up seven this time although they were all assists. That’s most likely due to only registering 11 shots at even strength in 14 games. Regardless, he still played some very impressive hockey over the team’s final quarter.
If the Flames can find the room to re-sign him this offseason, they 100% should.
Q1 Grade: A- / Q2 Grade: B / Q3 Grade B
Call him Mr. Consistency. Mikael Backlund again received a B grade for the third straight quarter, showing once again that he is one of the team’s more dependable forwards.
After some uncharacteristically subpar underlying numbers last quarter, Backlund bounced back along with the rest of the team this quarter. His CF% of 54.7 and xGF% of 60.09 both ranked seventh among forwards while his HDCF% of 68.08 sat fifth. He’s taken a step back this season, but he still remains one of the teams best forwards possession wise.
His even strength offensive production dipped a bit from nine last quarter, however he still put up a solid six even strength points this quarter. His shot production was very solid though. He led the team with 31 even strength shots, and was second for iCF at 53. Unfortunately Backlund had some awful luck shooting just 3.23% which explains the dip in his total points.
Backlund continued to prove his worth for the Flames this quarter, especially after Monahan was shut down with an injury.
Q1 Grade: N/A / Q2 Grade: N/A / Q3 Grade D-
Credit where it’s due, Brett Ritchie wasn’t terrible this quarter, which was a big improvement over last quarter.
Ritchie spent most of his time in the bottom six near the end of the season, which certainly helped his results as he was way out of his depth in the top six last quarter. His CF% of 54.55 was eighth among forwards while his xGF% of 52.23 and HDCF% of 54.03 were both last. His numbers were decent, however for a second quarter in a row he ranked near the bottom among forwards for all three metrics.
He did put up four even strength points this quarter, however three of them came in the final game of the season. All things considered Ritchie looked fine this quarter, which is about as much as you should expect from a PTO signing.
Q1 Grade: B / Q2 Grade: C- / Q3 Grade C+
A brutal season for Sean Monahan came to an end early this quarter as he was shut down for the season with four games left due to a hip injury. He had reportedly been playing through it for over half the season, which explains his lacklustre play for most of the year.
In 10 games, Monahan put up a CF% of 52.88, an xGF% of 57.46, and a HDCF% of 55.11. All three of which ranked second last among forwards on the team. His actual numbers look decent, however he was still one of the team’s worst forwards this quarter.
His offensive production was dreadful. Monahan registered just one point, a goal all the way back on April 23rd. His nine even strength shots in the quarter were last on the team, as was his iCF of 15.
It’s unfair to blame Monahan for his rough play this quarter considering he was playing through a major injury, however his injury history is becoming a concern going forward into next season.
Q1 Grade: N/A / Q2 Grade: N/A / Q3 Grade N/A
This was the first quarter in which Joakim Nordstrom reached the required 100 minutes at even strength to receive a grade. His grade was predictably bad.
Nordstrom did put up some decent underlying numbers, however most of that was probably due to the fact he spent a lot of time playing with Backlund and Mangiapane near the end of the season. His CF% of 56.67 was fourth among forwards while his xGF% of 58.14 ranked third last. His HDCF% was solid at 63.17, but was still eighth among forwards.
His offensive production looks fine on on the surface but when you dig deeper it comes out looking much worse. He registered five even strength points in 13 games, however all five of them were secondary assists.
Nordstrom is not an NHL calibre player and was one of the team’s worst forwards this quarter as he has been all year.
Q1 Grade: D- / Q2 Grade: B / Q3 Grade A-
Mark Giordano must have dipped back into the fountain of youth this quarter because he looked like his old self to close out the year. He got better as the year went on and that continued this quarter as he earned his highest grade of the year and the best among Flames defencemen.
Giordano put up some elite underlying numbers this quarter. He had a CF% of 60.92, an xGF% of 68.11, and a HDCF% of 73.96, all of which ranked second among defenceman on the team behind Chris Tanev. He also ranked second among defencemen across the entire league for xGF% and third for HDCF%. There’s no doubt a big reason for his turnaround was being moved to a pairing with Tanev.
His offensive production was pretty lacklustre however, as he put up just three even strength points in 14 games. It wasn’t for a lack of trying though as he registered 36 even strength shots and 66 iCF, both of which were first on the team.
Giordano returned to his regular elite self this quarter after a rough season, showing he may have escaped father time for a little while longer once again.
Q1 Grade: N/A / Q2 Grade: N/A / Q3 Grade B
Once again Michael Stone graded out as one of the Flames’ best defenders. Not something I expected to be writing at any point this season, let alone for the second time. That’s just the type of season it was for this team.
Stone put up a CF% of 56.27 which ranked fourth among defencemen, an xGF% of 58.77 which ranked third, and a HDCF% of 59.24 which ranked fourth. He even added three even strength points which was tied for third on the team among defencemen. His 24 even strength shots and 44 iCF both ranked second.
Stone was a legitimate top four defenceman once again this quarter. He’s probably earned himself another contract and if he can continue to play like this it would be a solid move for the Flames as shocking as that is to say.
Q1 Grade: D+ / Q2 Grade: A- / Q3 Grade D-
Rasmus Andersson was just average this quarter, but it was still a huge improvement over his performance in the third quarter where he was the team’s worst defenceman.
His underlying numbers were finally improved this quarter, but still near the bottom among Calgary defencemen. Andersson ranked fifth among defencemen for CF% at 51.78, and for xGF% at 54.21. His HDCF% was better though sitting at 59.33 which ranked third. Overall some very meh results.
The good news his he put up four even strength points which was second among defencemen on the team. He did however register just 11 shots at even strength across 14 games which was second last among defenceman. His performance was a very mixed bag.
He still didn’t look like the player who earned a big contract extension last year, but at the very least he closed out the year on a relatively positive note.
Q1 Grade: A / Q2 Grade: C / Q3 Grade C
Chris Tanev continued to do Chris Tanev things this quarter, putting up elite possession numbers while not offering much on offence. If these were defensive reported cards Tanev would be an A+, however they are offensive report cards which lowers his grade.
Tanev was simply incredible possession wise this quarter after somewhat of a down third quarter. He ranked first on the team among defencemen for CF% at 62.5, first for xGF% at 72.11, and first for HDCF% at 75.78. He also ranked first in the entire league among defencemen for both xGF% and HDCF% this quarter.
He did actually lead all defencemen for even strength points this quarter with five, however four of them were secondary assists. He also registered just 15 even strength shots and 21 iCF both of which ranked second last.
Tanev has turned back the clock this year and closed out the season on an absolute tear. He also accomplished all this while suffering from broken ribs and a torn pec.
Q1 Grade: D+ / Q2 Grade: D- / Q3 Grade B-
Nikita Nesterov played pretty much how you would expect this quarter. He wasn’t terrible but he also wasn’t very good either. He played just eight games as he was scratched for nearly half of the teams games this quarter.
Nesterov finished the quarter last among defencemen for CF% at 48.16, last for xGF% at 49.77, and last for HDCF% at 52.29. He was also the only member of the team to put up a CF% and xGF% below 50.
He didn’t do anything on offence either as he registered just one point and four shots at even strength across his eight games. Nesterov wasn’t impressive in any manner this quarter and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him playing elsewhere next year.
Q1 Grade: A- / Q2 Grade: B- / Q3 Grade C+
After a great start to the season, it’s been nothing but downhill for Juuso Valimaki in his rookie season as he grades out as the team worst defencemen to end the season. He also fell out of favour with head coach Darryl Sutter, suiting up for 11 of the team’s final 14 games.
His underlying numbers were actually decent. He put up a CF% of 56.93 which ranked third among defencemen. His xGF% was also solid at 57.65 and ranked fourth. His HDCF% ranked fifth at 57.63.
What lowers his grade so much was his complete lack of offensive production. He put up just one point, a secondary assist, in his 11 games. His ixG of 0.43 ranked second last among Flames defenders.
Overall this grade is probably harsh on Valimaki considering his strong underlying numbers, but regardless he wasn’t great this quarter and his nonexistent offence really hurt his grade.
A disappointing season, but an encouraging finish
It’s no secret that this season was a massive disappointment for the Flames. The good news, however, is that the results down the stretch during the final quarter were some of their most impressive of the year. The team put up some elite underlying numbers, and finally started scoring goals consistently.
The team also saw some great performances from some of their top players in Gaudreau, Tkachuk and Giordano during the final quarter, which is very encouraging after up and down seasons for all three. After an abysmal season from many of the team’s top players, it was great to see so many of them looking like their usual selves down the stretch.
Was this impressive quarter enough to keep the management from making major changes to the roster in the offseason though? We’ll have to wait and see. Regardless of who is still around, the hope is that this team can continue to build and improve under head coach Darryl Sutter next season and get back into the playoffs.