NEWARK NJ - NOVEMBER 24: Goalie Henrik Karlsson #35 of the Calgary Flames stops this breakaway by Patrik Elias #26 of the New Jersey Devils during the third period of a hockey game at the Prudential Center on November 24 2010 in Newark New Jersey. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
At the quarter point of the season, the statistical picture for the Flames is getting a bit more clear. That said, 20 games is a pretty small sample size, so it's far from set in stone.
"We had a lot of nicknames - Scarface, Blackie, Toothless- and those were just the cheerleaders." - Utah Jazz Coach Frank Layden remembers his high school days in Brooklyn (via Big Book of Sports Quotes)
That seems to be the way most of us think of the Flames' train wreck so far through 21 games. That said there are a few positive notes too. Let's take a look.
Bonfires and Pilot Lights (best & worst) & Team-Level Performance
Unfortunately for Stefan Meyer, it looks like he's not a great fit on the top club at the moment. He's getting cushy ice time and really has produced nothing. It's a tough reality for a lot of young players trying to crack any squad, but a small sample size is usually all a prospect is afforded unless they're a high draft pick.
Backlund and Glencross may be getting easy zone assignments, but they're making the most of them. They are dominating Corsi and creating 3 scoring chances for every 2 they give up. While this may be the expectation when given such a great starting position, it's nice to see it actually happening.
Jokinen, Bourque and others that are forced to match up with the top lines, however, are getting killed. This may be a microcosm of the Flames season as a whole so far. Killing 2nd-4th lines but getting rocked by the big guns.
Robyn Regehr is still being handed the tough assignments but he's getting killed as well. He's getting worked on Corsi and scoring chances while turning the puck over much more than he's taking it away.
While Matt Stajan's even strength point production is quite good, he's done nothing with the man advantage. Frankly, the trio of Stajan, Iginla and Bouwmeester have been handed top PP minutes and are scoring at a lower rate than they do at even strength. It may be time for Sutter to shake the snowglobe a little and hand the 2nd unit of forwards a more prominent role with Giordano and Babchuk on the point. It's worth a try for a few games.
It's also good to see Kirpusoff's ES Save percentage start to creep up a little. If he continues to at least give the team a chance, the surplus of scoring chances should result in a few more wins.
On a team level, the Flames are definitely creating more scoring chances than they're giving up at even strength. Thanks to Kent Wilson for making all this data available on Flames Nation.
While the team has gotten marginally better results at even strength and on the PP in the last 3 weeks, they've slipped on the PK, so unfortunately the results on the scoreboard haven't been any better.
The Flames seem to be spitting in the face of all who study the game and conclude that possession and chance creation is the path to success in the NHL. That said, it's what you do with those chances that counts in the short-term and the Flames have suffered a few times from dumb luck, but also possibly just a talent gap.