We are now a quarter of the way through the NHL season, so we have a decent enough sample size to see which players are performing well, and which ones aren’t. The Calgary Flames haven’t gotten off to a great start by any means, largely in part to players underperforming compared to last year. A few of those underperforming players are Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson, who have not been the same dominant pairing that they were last year.
One reason for this could be playing increased roles when Chris Tanev and Michael Stone were out of the lineup for extended periods of time. Not only were they playing increased minutes at 5v5, but also special teams as well. With Tanev’s absence, Andersson played a career-high 29:43 against the Devils. That isn’t easy at all. Hanifin played 24 minutes to upwards of 26 minutes as well.
But, Zadorov and Weegar played upwards of 25 minutes to as high as 28 minutes, and performed at a much higher level than Hanifin and Andersson. Another reason could be natural regression, but we will get into why I don’t think this is the case.
With that said, let’s take a deeper look into exactly how Hanifin and Andersson are playing:
Diving into Andersson and Hanifin’s numbers
Looking at Natural Stat Trick, their 5v5 score- and venue-adjusted numbers tell quite the story. I’ve removed Nick DeSimone, Connor Mackey, and Dennis Gilbert from the equation, as they’ve only played four, five and seven games, respectively.
Now that the depth defencemen have been removed, we are left with NHL regulars. Of the seventeen regulars, here is where Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson rank individually:
|Noah Hanifin||46.90% (last)||49.04% (6th last)||44.43% (2nd last)||47.34% (3rd last)|
|Rasmus Andersson||48.12% (3rd last)||48.32% (3rd last)||47.17% (7th last)||49.49% (8th last)|
|Calgary Flames Average||54.14%||52.86%||50.75%||52.29%|
Looking at that chart, we can see that Hanifin and Andersson are playing below the Flames’ averages in all four categories, ranking near last place in almost all. Rasmus Andersson ranking a little higher can probably be attributed to his higher PDO of 1.006 compared to Hanifin’s 0.997. Both players are having close to the average in terms of PDO, meaning they haven’t been unlucky or lucky. In fact, Andersson’s PDO rating of 1.006 means that he has actually had some luck go his way.
Looking to MoneyPuck.com, of the 91 defence pairings who have played more than 115 minutes together so far in 2022–23, Hanifin – Andersson ranks 58th in terms of expected goals percentage. This is well below the likes of Zadorov – Stone (eighth place), Weegar – Tanev (11th place) and even Zadorov – Weegar (30th place).
Hanifin – Andersson has taken a major step back from last season, where they ranked as the eighth best pairing in terms of expected goals percentage among defence pairings who played 500+ minutes together. Considering the other pairings have remained where they were last season (fourth to 11th) and (10th to eighth), while the Hanifin – Andersson pairing has regressed from eighth place to 58th is very telling. This is an alarming statistic.
Moving onto the regularized adjusted plus-minus (RAPM) chart from EvolvingHockey.com, and it shows just how bad Hanifin and Andersson have been. Both rank averagely in terms of offence (Andersson a tad better), while Andersson ranks much higher in terms of Chances For metrics per 60 minutes. Both players have been caved in defensively, while the rest of the defence corps has been positive in the defensive end.
Now onto the 5v5 charts from HockeyViz.com, which shows us the Flames offence and defence with and without Hanifin and Andersson. If you aren’t aware of what these charts mean, I’ll give you a brief synopsis. On the offensive side, red spots show areas of excess shot attempts. The darker red you get, the more shot creation is happening there. So, the more red you see in the offensive end, the better. Switching to the defensive end, where the more blue you see, the better. Darker blue spots show areas where shot attempts of the opposing team have been limited. So, players with a “sea of blue” in the defensive end are fantastic defensive players, as the opposition’s shot attempts are limited.
Both Hanifin and Andersson’s charts demonstrate that the Flames offence is about the same with them on the ice compared to when they aren’t. With Hanifin the offence has been a tad worse, while the offence has been a tad better with Andersson, but the difference it incredibly small.
When we move to the defensive side of the game, the performance of the “Handersson” pairing is questionable. For both Hanifin and Andersson, the defensive impacts shot a ton of shot generation from the opposition. These shots are coming from the slot or middle of the ice, which we all know is the most dangerous area for scoring. When you allow the opposition to get into the hard areas of the ice, bad things will happen to your team. When Hanifin and Andersson are not on the ice, Calgary’s defence is very solid, with much less areas of excess shot generation. So, Calgary’s defence is better when Hanifin and Andersson are not on the ice.
Defensive struggles for the Flames duo
The defence pairing of Hanifin and Andersson is a major concern for the Flames, and they have to be better if the team wants to make the playoffs. Hanifin and Andersson both rank very low in terms of CF%, xGF%, SCF%, and HDCF% when compared to the rest of the Flames team. The pairing was ranked as the among the best defence pairing last year based on expected goals percentage, but has fallen to the bottom half of the league this year.
Their overall defensive game isn’t where the Flames need it to be, as they are allowing quality shot generation from the opposition. Calgary’s offensive end is roughly the same with Hanifin-Andersson, but the defensive end is taking a massive hit. Since the other defencemen on the Flames have fared generally the same as last season, the “Handersson” pairing remains the outlier with cause for concern.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire