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Is 6-4 good enough ?Strength of Schedule analysis at the 10 game mark

 

The 10 game mark is a good point to take stock, I tend to think in halves and quarters and therefore an eighth of the schedule is also a nice measure, though I always find an eighth of a pie as too small of a piece.  

 

To determine if the record 6 and 4  is a good predictor of things to come, we need to see if the games played so far are typcial of what to expect the rest of the way. Intuitvely, with 3 games against the Oil and one against Columbus my sense is that it is weak. I suggest we break down the schedule in to tough completion, middle level teams and cellar dwellers.

I consider Vancouver, Chicago, Detroit, San Jose as the elite of the Western conference and would consider those games as quality competition. The Flames record against Colorado last year makes me put the Avalanche in the category of tough games as well, and I have also added the Los Angeles Kings to the tough competition list. That’s a total of 28 tough Western Conference games for the year. In the East, Calgary gets Washington and Pittsburgh once each, as well as trips in to Philadelphia, New Jersey and MSG to see the Rangers. I consider all of these tough games, the latter 2 mostly due to the fact that they are road games against elite goaltenders. The Flames also have a game against Boston and 2 against Montreal, both of which could be tough so I’ll call these quality games as well , giving us 8 against the east and 36 in total, or 44% of the schedule. So far with 4 games in the first 10 against this group we are right on track with schedule difficulty.

 

Games against the next level of Western competition including Phoenix, Nashville, Dallas and St Louis are critical as they are teams they need to hold their head above water with to make the playoffs. Eastern mid level teams I assigned are Carolina, Tampa and Toronto. In total there are 20 games of this variety, just under 25 %. To date only the one  game against Nashville in this group has been played.

 

At the bottom end of the scale, there are 26 games against Edmonton, Minnesota, Columbus, Anaheim, Florida, Atlanta, Ottawa, NY Islanders and Buffalo.

 

To get to the playoffs I am predicting 96 points as necessary. To get to 96 points I have projected that the team must get 33 points in the 36 games against the tough competition, 26 points in the 20 games against the mid level squads, and they need to make hay at a .700 rate with the weak sisters and score 37 points in those 26 games.

 

So how are we doing ?

 

With 12.2 % of the schedule complete, Calgary has already played 19.2% (5 of 26) of their games against the bottom teams, and record of 3-2 is just short of the pace they need to play at to achieve the target of 37 points. Against the mid range squads, only the single game against Nashville – or 5% of that schedule has been completed. Obviously the sample size is not large enough to get a read, but with the win we are at present ahead of pace. With 4 games against elite competition and a record of 2-2 puts the team right on track for  pace necessary.

 

To sum up, the Flames have been good enough against the top teams – a .500 record, but not quite good enough against the cellar dwellers – wish we could have at least one more point out of those shutout losses to Edmonton and Florida. There is nowhere near enough data to see how the Flames fare against the league’s middle class, and that is where we will find the true makeup of this squad.  

 

Goaltending:

 

2 shutouts by Kipper 5 wins and 8 games played. He has looked good, except against Edmonton.

Karlsson – Last night’s performance hearkens back to the days when we called Reggie Lemelin Reggie Rebound. Here’s hoping he can work on that control. If he only plays in back to back situations, from here he’ll get just 12 starts. Not enough by my estimation – would like to see this number closer to 20.

 

Defence

To me, the rebound of Cory Sarich is the story amongst the defenders. This from someone who has been advocating his trade out of town to help with the cap situation (disclaimer : because he is more tradeable than Kotalik or Staios, not because he’s not useful). Glad to see Brodie go down and get a chance to play first pair minutes, perhaps he is a top 4 guy as early as next year.  The next story is the continued elite play of Mark Giordano. Leading the team in blocked shots and holding his own  in hits, he leads in value and if his play continues, he’s bound for a massive payday come summer. ( How does $30m over 7 sound ?) Well that got fixed - only 5 years is a good piece of work.

 

Bouwmeester remains an enigma – playing lots of minutes, but never appears to be the difference maker either defensively or offensively. Where have the 40 plus point seasons gone as he is on pace again for a disappointing total of 25.

 

One year younger than Gio, and competing for the same money on next year’s roster, having lost the battle for a place on next years' roster Ian White has to do more, or he will be moved soon.  to make this his permanent home, unless Gio walks and he is in by default.

 

The pickup of Brendan Mikkelson, and his decent  play so far probably signals the end is near for Matt Pelech with this organization. It also likely means a west coast adventure for (not so Steady) Steve Staios on the return of some injured forwards, or Pardy from his shoulder injury.

 

Forwards

All summer I was expressing my doubts of the ability of the forward group to be competitive if the best forwards were those guys that were well in to their 30’s, specifically Iginla, Langkow, and Jokinen. So far, Iggy and has been ok, showing some of the old chemistry with Tanguay and if Jarome is off to his typically slow October start, his totals don’t look that bad. What is most promising  is that the next age level of guys; Bourque, Stajan , and to a lesser extent Hagman have been quite good. If those 3 guys continue at the pace their on for 40 goals, 70 points and 30 goals respectively then we have a new set of younger “best players” with the vets playing a supporting role.

 

The third and fourth lines have been the bus drivers. Jackman has looked good with limited ice time, journeyman Stefan Meyer has not hurt the squad either; and a pair of goals from old man Conroy almost matches his output from all of last year. The emergency pickup of Brendan Morrison has worked out very well so far, and his presence seems to have motivated young Mikael Backlund to play a more complete game.  The pair of them alongside 3rd line warrior Curtis Glencross have looked excellent on most nights since the opener.

 

The imminent return of David Moss is good news, but one wonders if it will actually strengthen the bottom 6 very much, his hands might be better than Meyer’s but his speed and physicality might be inferior. The same could be said for the eventual return of Ales Kotalik after the mandatory 10 games on LTIR, again better hands than Jackman( for scoring at least), but much less on the physical side.

 

Shots and shooting percentages

Overall offence is 7th – a big improvement on last year, but the soft schedule to this point is a factor with 3 fairly large offensive games against Edmonton and Columbus, plus last night’s 5 spot in the loss.  They are getting lots of shots, currently about 8th in the league and outshooting teams by almost 5 per game, and the shooting percentage is a passable 9.3% at 12th in the league, moving up a dozen spots last night thanks to Peter Budaj. .

 

Looking Forward

10 of the next 13 games are of the tough variety - with only one softie against Minnesota and a pair against mid level Phoenix. I dare say we will know alot more about this team by the end of November.

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