The Calgary Flames had the 10th ranked power play last season, scoring 54 power play goals. This season, it’s been a completely different story. The 2022–23 Flames have the 23rd ranked power play in the NHL, and are visibly less dangerous than they were a year ago.
One of the reasons for their lacklustre power play is the Flames’ inability to get shots on a consistent basis, and their insistence on prioritizing shot volume over high quality opportunities.
The importance of shot quality
Sportsnet released an article this week talking about how the NHL is moving away from shot volume, a pillar of successful team systems in the past. The Calgary Flames under Darryl Sutter prioritize shot volume over everything else, which is causing them to lose games that they heavily outshoot their opponents in at a rate not seen in years prior. The Edmonton Oilers, who have the top ranked power play in the NHL, don’t have this problem. They shoot significantly less than other teams, but lead in high quality chances on the power play. It’s one of the reasons why they’re ahead in the standings.
As the league tries to increase scoring and increase the entertainment value of games, the power play is becoming that much more important. Learning how to capitalize on the man advantage is absolutely essential to succeeding in the regular season, but more importantly in the playoffs.
The Flames shot quality on the power play
Because each team spends vastly different amounts of time on the power play, the most useful way to evaluate a single team against the rest of the league is by using rates. NaturalStatTrick.com has a handy feature that shows rates for a plethora of stats, including shots, in a per-60 minute rate format. This allows for easy comparisons.
Here’s how the Flames fare against the rest of the NHL:
The Flames generate about 102 shot attempts per 60 power play minutes this season, 56 scoring chances, and 23 high-danger chances. This translates to approximately 7.5 expected goals per 60 minutes on the man advantage.
It’s difficult to contextualize these numbers without seeing the rest of the league, so we’ve added ranks as well.
The numbers speak for themselves. The Flames’ power play is not good at anything. They don’t generate shot attempts very well, and the ones they do generate aren’t of high quality. Their mark of 7.57 expected goals per 60 power play minutes is significantly lower than their peers. For example, the Oilers generate two full expected goals more than the Flames on the man advantage per 60 minutes.
Scoring may be up, but the Flames are falling behind on the power play. With the personnel they have, there should be a lot more offence creation up a man than there is right now. Last season, Jonathan Huberdeau scored 6.7 assists and 7.71 points per 60 power play minutes. Nazem Kadri averaged 6.32 points per 60 power play minutes. The Flames barely generate that many expected goals this season.
The worst part about the power play right now is on the defensive end. The Flames not only fail to generate offence, but they give up chances at a high rate as well.
Once again, the Flames are at the bottom third of the league when it comes to bleeding shorthanded chances. At their current rate, the Flames would be expected to give up 13 shorthanded goals over the course of a full season. That’s simply not good enough.
And, of course, the shorthanded chances they give up are generally high quality chances. This is definitely not the type of chance you want to allow your opponents to have, and the Flames do it on a much too regular basis.
The power play is becoming one of the most important tools an elite team has to overcome the parity that exists in today’s NHL. It’s the thing that can separate a team from losing a lot of one-goal games to winning them instead. The Flames can’t get six power play opportunities and not score on any of them. If this team wants to succeed in the second half of the season and make any kind of noise in the playoffs, they desperately need to figure things out on the power play. Kirk Muller, the ball is in your court.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire