FanPost

Flames Forwards and Their Truculence

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Spor

There's been some arguments over how necessary the grittiness and the willingness to drop the gloves on a team is actually required. Old school conversationalists state that teams need toughness and grit to fill out their bottom pairings but rarely mention how they affect the team. During Brian Burke's tenure he seems to have taken this to a bit of an extreme. The fourth line has consistently featured players with a willingness to drop the gloves. Last year the team determined that Tim Jackman wasn't quite feisty enough and shipped him out only to acquire Kevin Westgarth and play him along with Brian McGrattan. How well did they play compared to the rest of the league? How well did they play against most fourth liners?

The most important part of this study was to figure out which players fit which line. The most accurate method of determining which line a player played on (short of going through each team line by line) took all players that played in over 40 percent of all games. From there players in the top 75th percentile in even strength minutes were first liners, the top 50th were second liners, the top 25th were third liners while the remainders were fourth liners. Players that didn't play in 40 percent of the games didn't qualify.

The next step was to make necessary adjustments for team play. Teams like the Devils that play at a very boring slow pace would obviously have less goals scored due to less shot attempts while teams like the Senators would be enhanced. To adjust the pace, the team's total number of Corsi attempts both for and against per minute were added up and divided by the league average. Players that played on multiple teams were defaulted to 1. This was used as a multiplier for goals, assists, points, goals for, goals against, Corsi attempts and Fenwick attempts.

Assists and goals for were adjusted assuming the player's teammates shot at the league average shooting percentage at even strength and while on the power play. To do this, the lines' Corsi shooting percentage was divided into the league average. This also affected the points as well. The goals against were also adjusted to assume the team had an average goalie. The shooting percentage against was divided into the league average shooting percentage. Again, players that changed teams couldn't be adjusted. This was done for both even strength goals against and penalty kill goals against. The Flames obviously benefited from this change.

The average first liner played about 1100 minutes of even strength time. Of the ones that qualified for the power play and the penalty kill, the average was about 200 minutes of power play time and 100 minutes of penalty kill time. Goals, assists, points, goals for, goals against, penalty +/-, and fighting majors were changed to reflect this. If a player didn't qualify he was marked as "NQ" and it didn't count against him. For faceoffs, players had to average two faceoffs a game. Power play and penalty kill qualification required at least 50 minutes.

The final step was to weight the players against others that played similar minutes. They were rated according to which percentile they fell within. The breakdown looks something like this:

Grade Chart
Grade Percentile
A+ 0.9375
A 0.875
A- 0.8125
B+ 0.75
B 0.6875
B- 0.625
C+ 0.5625
C 0.5
C- 0.4375
D+ 0.375
D+ 0.3125
D- 0.25
F 0

The overall rating took each category and weighted them evenly except for goals, assists and points which were weighted five times (except for the penalty kill category where everything was weighted evenly). The average was then divided by the number of categories the player qualified for. The percentile of that number was then taken for the overall ratings. Included are "grittier" categories such as hits, blocked shots and fights. It is more of a suggestion than an actual rating and obviously not everyone will agree with the categories being used. Again, this is a completely subjective category and not everyone will agree with it. The overall number goes by number of goals including the power play so individuals that don't play there look worse than they might actually be. Here is the glossary for the different statistics used below (most are pretty self-explanatory) -

5V5Min Minutes Played Five on Five
5V4Min Minutes Played Five on Four
4V5Min Minutes Played Four on Five
Goals Even Strength Goals
Asst Even Strength Assists
Pts Even Strength Points
GF Even Strength Goals For
GA Even Strength Goals Against
Mod+/- Modified Plus Minus
iC/15 Individual Corsi Attempts per 15 Minutes (Shots+Missed Shots+Blocked Shots)
iSH/15 Individual Shot Attempts per 15 Minutes
On Net% Percentage of Corsi Attempts that were on Net
CorSh% Individual Goals/Individual Corsi Attempts
CF/15 Corsi For per 15 Minutes
FF/15 Fenwick For per 15 Minutes
FA/15 Fenwick Against per 15 Minutes
CA/15 Corsi Against per 15 Minutes
CF% Corsi For/(Corsi For+Corsi Against)
FF% Fenwick For/(Fenwick For+Fenwick Against)
CFRel% Team Relative Corsi
FFRel% Team Relative Fenwick
Pen+/- Penalties Drawn-Penalties Taken
FO% Faceoff Percentage
BlSh Blocked Shots
Hits Hits
Ost% Offensive Zone Starting Percentage
Dst% Defensive Zone Starting Percentage
O/DSt% Offensive Zone Starting Percentage/Defensive Zone Starting Percentage
QoC% Quality of Competition
PP Goals Power Play Goals
PP Asst. Power Play Assists
PP Pts. Power Play Points
PPGF Power Play Goals For
iC/PP Individual Corsi Attempts per Power Play
iSH/PP Individual Shot Attempts per Power Play
PP ON% Percentage of Corsi Attempts that were on Net
PP Csh% Individual Goals/Individual Corsi Attempts
CF/PP Corsi For per Power Play
FF/PP Fenwick For per Power Play
PK Goals Penalty Kill Goals
PK Asst Penalty Kill Assists
PK Pts. Penalty Kill Points
iC/PK Individual Corsi Attempts per Penalty Kill
PK GF Penalty Kill Goals For
PK GA Penalty Kill Goals Against
PK +/- Modified Penalty Kill +/-
CA/PK Corsi Against per Penalty Kill
FA/PK Fenwick Against per Penalty Kill
Fights Fighting Majors
Tot. Goals Total Goals
Tot. Asst. Total Assists
Tot. Pts. Total Points
Tot. GF Total Goals For
5v5 Rate Overall Rating Five on Five
5v4 Rate Overall Rating Five on Four
4v5 Rate Overall Rating Four on Five
Overall Overall Rating


Finally here's a look at the Flames enforcers and how they fared.

Brian McGrattan
Statistic Numbers Line 1 Line 2 Line 3 Line 4 League Statistic Numbers Line 1 Line 2 Line 3 Line 4 League
5V5Min 501.8 PP Goals NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
5V4Min NQ PP Asst. NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
4V5Min NQ PP Pts. NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
Goals 8.9 F D- D B- D PPGF NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
Asst 8.8 F F F F F iC/PP NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
Pts 17.6 F F F D- F iSH/PP NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
GF 30.8 F F F F F PP ON% NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
GA 34 A B+ A B A- PP Csh% NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
Mod+/- -3.2 F D- D- D+ D- CF/PP NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
iC/15 3.77 B A- A A A- FF/PP NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
iSH/15 2.36 B+ A A+ A A PK Goals NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
On Net% 62.4% A A- A- B+ A- PK Asst NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
CorSh% 3.2% F F F D F PK Pts. NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
CF/15 10.99 F F F F F iC/PK NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
FF/15 8.3 F F F D- F PK GF NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
FA/15 11.93 F F F F F PK GA NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
CA/15 17.6 F F F F F PK +/- NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
CF% 38.4% F F F F F CA/PK NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
FF% 41.0% F F F F F FA/PK NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
CFRel% -9.1% F F F F F Fights 23.70 A+ A+ A+ A A+
FFRel% -7.8% F F F F F Tot. Goals 8.857 F F F C+ F
Pen+/- 2.2 C- C- C- B C Tot. Asst. 8.783 F F F F F
FO% NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ Tot. Pts. 17.64 F F F D- F
BlSh 48.2 A+ A A- B+ A Tot. GF 30.81 F F F F F
Hits 179.8 A A A C+ A- 5v5 Rate 0 F F F F F
Ost% 31.5% C+ C+ C D C 5v4 Rate 0 NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
Dst% 23.5% F F F F F 4v5 Rate 0 NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
O/DSt% 57.3% F F F F F Overall 0 F F F F F
QoC% 26.3% F F F F F


Brian McGrattan was the one constant on the Flames fourth line and he didn't do very well. In fact he was terrible in every sense of the word. Even among fourth line comparisons he was in the bottom 25th percentile in assists, goals for, Corsi for, Fenwick against, Corsi against, Corsi against, Corsi for percentage, Fenwick for percentage, relative Corsi, and relative Fenwick despite being in the bottom 25th percentile in defensive zone starts, offensive zone starts to defensive zone starts and quality of competition. He was well below average in points, modified plus minus, Corsi shooting percentage and Fenwick for percentage. He also received favorable time in the offensive zone. He did take a lot of shots and get a lot on net, but they didn't go in and his teammates didn't exactly get any opportunities from them. He drew more penalties than the average fourth liner and actually scored more goals while blocking a decent number of shots, but for a guy with a reputation of being a physical player he barely outhit the average fourth line player. The only other statistical category where he excelled at? Fights - if he were to play average first line minutes he would drop the gloves almost 24 times. Realistically he's not a very good hockey player and his performance and spot in the league is indefensible unless you're attempting to lure in a crowd with the idea of violence while attempting to tank.

Kevin Westgarth
Statistic Numbers Line 1 Line 2 Line 3 Line 4 League Statistic Numbers Line 1 Line 2 Line 3 Line 4 League
5V5Min 309.1 PP Goals NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
5V4Min NQ PP Asst. NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
4V5Min NQ PP Pts. NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
Goals 14.2 C- B- B+ A B PPGF NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
Asst 13.8 F F F C- F iC/PP NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
Pts 28 F D C- B+ C- iSH/PP NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
GF 41.8 F D- D+ B+ D+ PP ON% NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
GA 49.8 F F F F F PP Csh% NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
Mod+/- -8 F F F D- F CF/PP NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
iC/15 2.72 F F D+ C D FF/PP NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
iSH/15 1.5 F F D- C- D- PK Goals NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
On Net% 55.4% D- D- D- D- D- PK Asst NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
CorSh% 7.1% B A- A- A A- PK Pts. NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
CF/15 11.79 F F F D+ F iC/PK NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
FF/15 8.69 F F F D+ F PK GF NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
FA/15 10.97 F F F F F PK GA NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
CA/15 15.82 F F F F F PK +/- NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
CF% 42.7% F F F F F CA/PK NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
FF% 44.2% F F F F F FA/PK NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
CFRel% -7.1% F F F F F Fights 21.17 A+ A+ A+ A- A+
FFRel% -6.1% F F F F F Tot. Goals 14.23 F D C A- C-
Pen+/- -49.8 F F F F F Tot. Asst. 13.80 F F F C- F
FO% NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ Tot. Pts. 28.04 F F D- B D-
BlSh 35.6 B+ C+ B- C C+ Tot. GF 41.84 F F F B F
Hits 160.1 A A- A- C- B+ 5v5 Rate 0 F F F D+ F
Ost% 33.2% D+ D+ D+ F D 5v4 Rate 0 NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
Dst% 24.9% F F F F F 4v5 Rate 0 NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
O/DSt% 57.1% F F F F F Overall 0 F F F C- F
QoC% 26.0% F F F F F

Westgarth's performance was only a wee bit better than McGrattan's. He actually outscored the average fourth line player and had more points and goals for, but that came with a very high shooting percentage (some might call that luck). He was still in the bottom 25th percentile in goals against, Fenwick against, Corsi against, Corsi for percentage, Fenwick for percentage, relative Corsi and relative Fenwick while having even easier zone time than McGrattan. Westgarth has a terrible tendency to leave his team short handed and spends much, much more time in the penalty box even though he doesn't fight as much. Overall his numbers aren't as terrible as McGrattan, but he's also a below average fourth liner which means he really shouldn't have a spot in the league and that penalty differential is unforgivable not only because it hurts his team, but because penalties have a pertinence for legitimately injuring other players who are generally more skilled than Westgarth is.

Tim Jackman
Statistic Numbers Line 1 Line 2 Line 3 Line 4 League Statistic Numbers Line 1 Line 2 Line 3 Line 4 League
5V5Min 251.5 PP Goals NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
5V4Min NQ PP Asst. NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
4V5Min NQ PP Pts. NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
Goals 17.5 B A A A+ A- PPGF NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
Asst 7.8 F F F F F iC/PP NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
Pts 25.3 F F D B- D- iSH/PP NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
GF 48.5 C B A- A+ B+ PP ON% NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
GA 48.1 F F F F F PP Csh% NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
Mod+/- 0.4 D- D C- C+ D+ CF/PP NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
iC/15 3.76 B A- A A A- FF/PP NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
iSH/15 2.68 A A+ A+ A+ A+ PK Goals NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
On Net% 71.4% A+ A+ A+ A+ A+ PK Asst NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
CorSh% 6.3% B- B B+ A- B PK Pts. NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
CF/15 13.96 D- C- B- A C+ iC/PK NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
FF/15 10.02 F D C A- C- PK GF NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
FA/15 10.68 F D- F F F PK GA NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
CA/15 14.25 F D- D- D- D- PK +/- NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
CF% 49.5% D- D D+ B C- CA/PK NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
FF% 48.4% F D- D C D FA/PK NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
CFRel% 1.3% D+ C B- A B- Fights 43.01 A+ A+ A+ A+ A+
FFRel% -0.2% F D C A- C- Tot. Goals 17.49 D C+ B A B-
Pen+/- -17.5 F F F F F Tot. Asst. 7.757 F F F F F
FO% NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ Tot. Pts. 25.25 F F F C+ F
BlSh 17.5 F F F F F Tot. GF 48.52 F F D+ A- D
Hits 297.4 A+ A+ A+ A- A+ 5v5 Rate 0 F F D+ C D
Ost% 41.4% F F F F F 5v4 Rate 0 NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
Dst% 20.1% F F F F F 4v5 Rate 0 NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
O/DSt% 67.3% F F F F F Overall 0 F F D- C F
QoC% 26.4% F F F F F

Jackman was quite a bit better than the aforementioned players at the game of hockey and at least contributing as a fourth liner so of course he was traded. He scored quite well at even strength but again benefited from a high shooting percentage. He wasn't much of a passer much like McGrattan but again at least his shots went on net. He actually managed to generate a decent amount of offense but at the expense of defense and wound up on the positive end of possession in terms of relative Corsi though he was slightly outshot. He did receive the most favorable of all three in terms of zone starts and quality of competition. He's not a shot blocker. He's basically average for a fourth liner, but average fourth liners are easy to replace and they were actually able to obtain an asset for him so it was easy to see why he was moved. So who's replacing Jackman and Westgarth this year?

Brandon Bollig
Statistic Numbers Line 1 Line 2 Line 3 Line 4 League Statistic Numbers Line 1 Line 2 Line 3 Line 4 League
5V5Min 811.6 PP Goals NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
5V4Min NQ PP Asst. NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
4V5Min NQ PP Pts. NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
Goals 9.8 F D D+ B D+ PPGF NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
Asst 9.5 F F F F F iC/PP NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
Pts 19.3 F F F D+ F iSH/PP NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
GF 38.3 F F F B- D- PP ON% NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
GA 38.2 B- B- C+ C C+ PP Csh% NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
Mod+/- 0.1 D- D C- C+ D+ CF/PP NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
iC/15 3.48 C- B+ B+ A- B FF/PP NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
iSH/15 2.05 C+ B+ A- A- B+ PK Goals NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
On Net% 59.0% B- C+ B- C+ C+ PK Asst NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
CorSh% 3.8% F F D- C- D- PK Pts. NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
CF/15 12.85 F F D- B- D iC/PK NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
FF/15 9.71 F F D+ B D+ PK GF NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
FA/15 8.61 A+ A+ A+ A+ A+ PK GA NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
CA/15 12.39 A- A- A- A- A- PK +/- NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
CF% 50.9% D+ C- C+ B+ C+ CA/PK NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
FF% 53.0% B- B B A+ B+ FA/PK NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
CFRel% -5.6% F F F D F Fights 7.833 A+ A+ A+ B- A
FFRel% -2.9% F F D- C+ F Tot. Goals 9.757 F F F B- D-
Pen+/- -5.4 F F F D+ F Tot. Asst. 9.503 F F F F F
FO% NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ Tot. Pts. 19.26 F F F D F
BlSh 29.8 B- C- D+ D+ C- Tot. GF 38.26 F F F C F
Hits 273.8 A+ A+ A+ B+ A+ 5v5 Rate 0 F F D B D
Ost% 11.4% A+ A+ A+ A+ A+ 5v4 Rate 0 NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
Dst% 50.7% A+ A+ A+ A+ A+ 4v5 Rate 0 NQ NQ NQ NQ NQ
O/DSt% 18.3% A+ A+ A+ A+ A+ Overall 0 F F F C- F
QoC% 28.3% F F C+ A+ C-

Bollig was acquired during the 2014 N.H.L. Entry Draft for a third round pick. That's a steep price to pay for a fourth line player who isn't really going to be getting any better. Is he great at the game of hockey? No not really. Is he better than the average fourth liner? He certainly plays much, much more complicated minutes than the average fourth liner. In fact out of fourth liners he is in the 93.75 percentile in offensive zone start time, defensive start zone time, offensive to defensive start ratio and quality of competition. He's already much better than the predecessors in that aspect. He was above average in goals which seems impossible given the starts and he didn't even do it with an incredibly lucky shooting percentage.

Despite the zone starts he was also among the best in the league in Fenwick against and well above average in Corsi against. His relative Corsi was below average, but his Fenwick was higher than average. Zone start modified Corsi and Fenwick would be around 53.3% and 54.8% respectively; a vast improvement over the other two. The modified plus minus is decent and the hits are there. The fact that the block shots are noticeably absent is odd given the Corsi and Fenwick against differential which means somebody else is blocking the shots. The penalty differential is a little discerning. Interestingly enough he does not fight anywhere near as much as the other goons; it's almost as if players that drop their gloves more than other players are worse at hockey - quite a befuddling revelation indeed. If they can unload McGrattan and saddle Bollig with some decent possession fourth line guys he could be the beginning of a vast improvement on the fourth line even if his contract and the draft pick required to obtain him were overpayments.

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