A lot of things have been going very well for the Calgary Flames so far this season. Their top players have taken a huge step forward after a very down season last season, Oliver Kylington has emerged as a top-four defenceman for the team, and the team has a monster goaltending tandem in Daniel Vladar and Jacob Markstrom.
The one area that has not been working as well—or at all, for that matter—has been the team’s depth scoring. Aside from the top line and Andrew Mangiapane, they simply have not gotten enough secondary scoring this season. And while the trio of Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, and Matthew Tkachuk has been working overtime to put the puck in the back of the net, the team just does not have enough scoring from their second and third lines to compete against the best teams in the league.
Looking at depth scoring by rank
To visualize this, we took the 5v5 point data of all the forwards from Natural Stat Trick. We then compiled it by team, ranking players by points produced (ie. the top point-producer ordered first, second ordered second, etc.). From there, we averaged the number of points by the top, second, and so on across the league to determine where the team’s nth ranked scorer sits relative to league average.
Let’s take a look at the Calgary Flames:
The good news is the Flames’ top two point-getters sit substantially ahead of the league average. Both Gaudreau and Tkachuk are probably where the team would like them to be. Lindholm sits third, just a touch below where he should be relative to the league.
The next four skaters, Andrew Mangiapane, Milan Lucic, Blake Coleman, and Dillon Dube, are reasonably close to average for the fourth to seventh best skaters in the league, but then the drop-off is quite substantial. To make matters worse, this group includes Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund, both of whom should at least be among the team’s top-six point producers.
The Calgary Flames have not performed like an average team this season. They have looked far more like a top team, competing for the Pacific Division Crown than a team fighting for a wildcard spot. Their scoring should not be at or below league average but should be substantially ahead of it.
Instead, they’re buoyed by stellar goaltending to keep their goal differential high enough to be tied for seventh in the league with the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights with a +21.
Last week’s measuring stick games did not go the way that the Flames must have expected. They were not abhorrent in any of the three games in the Southeast but were far from being the best team in any of them. Had it not been for these three losses, the Flames’ goal differential would have been in the top five in the league.
And what was one of the biggest reasons the Flames were unsuccessful in securing points in their east coast trip? Depth. The Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, and Carolina Hurricanes got scoring from more than just their top players, and the Flames simply could not get the same reliably from theirs. The most telling game was against the Panthers, where the two teams were relatively even in most areas… other than depth scoring.
Comparing the Flames to their opponents
Here is how the Flames’ scoring stacks up against their last three opponents:
|Tampa Bay Lightning||24||22||18||13||12||12||10||9||9||7||7||5||5|
Aside from Gaudreau, the Flames are far and away the fourth-best team among the four in terms of points production by their forward group. They simply do not get as much from the bottom of their lineup as the other three teams.
Now it is worth noting that the Flames have had a number of games cancelled, which when played, should help bring these numbers up a touch. That said, every single team needs to make up games this season, and even if the Flames’ numbers do rise, the rest of the leagues’ will almost certainly go up as well.
Looking at this data, it is clear that the Flames need to find a way to get more from their forwards. It has been nice to see Coleman and Dube start scoring more reliably of late. Their low shooting percentages were not going to last forever, but the same cannot be said for Monahan or Backlund to this point, with the latter especially in need of some puck luck. This is to say nothing of the Flames’ bottom players like Tyler Pitlick, Trevor Lewis, et. al.
There’s always a chance that these numbers just continue to go up organically as the Flames continue to play this season out. But it probably is unrealistic to expect them to reach Florida or Tampa levels without injecting another piece into the lineup.
Sorting out the Flames
There are a number of options in the AHL that could earn a look including Matthew Phillips and Jakob Pelletier, but both probably need a touch more seasoning to this point.
The more realistic option is on the trade market. It has been some time since the Flames have made a move for more scoring midseason, but if the Flames think this is their year, there is no time like the present to go out and add more to their roster.
Whether that is a move for Tyler Toffoli, Tomas Hertl, or someone else, the Flames are desperately in need of more points this season from their forward group if they hope to compete with the best teams in the league.
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