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Flashbag Friday - Answering Fan Questions

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Our resident analytic contributor answers fan questions in the debut of “Flashbag Friday”

NHL: FEB 25 FLAMES AT SENATORS Photo by Steven Kingsman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The C of Red is in uproar and rightfully so. The product on the ice has been sup-par, especially when comparing the result to what the pre-season expectations were. Our resident analytics contributor - Flash Stevens (@Flash_33 on Twitter) - took to the web to get some fan questions and, more importantly, try to find some answers

Dillon Dube got off to one hell of a start throughout the first 4 games of the season on a line with Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm. It finally looked like he was ready to take the next step before an unfortunate injury to his wrist forced him out of the lineup. Ever since he’s got back in he’s failed to re-discover the consistency he had to start the year, but has still showed flashes of brilliance at times. This is where the eye-test for most fans would seem to get a pass. However, to truly analyze with the eye test we need to not just look at the highlights, but what he’s been doing without the puck and how that’s impacting the team.

Dillon Dube has found himself in a position where the other team is getting more chances against him than he’s been able to create. Specifically since Feb 1st Dube’s impacts have been beyond atrocious. He’s got a goal differential per 60 minutes of -1.68 meaning that for every 60 minutes he’s played 1.68 goals have gone into the Flames net and not the oppositions. His on-ice save percentage is only 90.77 so when he’s on the ice the goalies aren’t making as many saves as when others are deployed - although its time to start considering he’s a factor in that and it’s not just all situational.

He’s struggled at times no matter who he’s been deployed with. His best success came with Lucic/Bennett in recent days. Although both those guys have seen their play drop off too in the last two weeks. Dube still is not a player that can drive the play on his line - he’s also only 22 years old and has room to grow - but in the short term he needs to be strapped to more dominant players like Backlund or Tkachuk to maximize the impact he can bring to the lineup. Things may start to flip for him if the team can find some more passion all around.

Coming out of the 6-1 loss to Ottawa the only pairings to remain in tact no matter what have been Johnny Gaudreau/Sean Monahan and Noah Hanifin/Chris Tanev. Tkachuk and Lindholm have had plenty of time to also find some chemistry, but as for every other player it’s been a mystery on who they’re going to play with every single game. Now while some players naturally click together it would have been a pipe dream to think all the Flames new additions would have as well - but they aren’t being given an opportunity to grow or figure out each others tendencies. The new guys (Leivo specifically) may be able to find a spot where they can contribute consistently but they haven’t been given the opportunity to find it. (well Sam Bennett has, maybe more people should request a trade and get prime ice time with quality zone deployment)

As for guys coming in and out of the lineup i can see some benefit in that. If you’re going to try and be a playoff team you’re going to want your taxi squad to get some actual game reps. If the Flames somehow scrape their way to an unlikely postseason effort and end up with some injuries you aren’t going to want guys coming in cold without having played games in over a year. Getting Kylington and Mackey some games can allow them to see where they’re games are at and what they need to do to get ready to compete should they be called upon - so i’m not against that.

If we have the power to bring ghosts back i’m going to assume we also have the power to do some other wild stuff? I would channel this dark energy into being able to control the space time continuum - thus ensuring that the Flames from here on out would have the most tremendous luck in the history of sports. Pucks going towards the post? I’ll just stop time and make sure it bounces in the net instead of out. Shooting % about to see a massive spike and an unprecedented run to 5 straight cups would commence.

I’ve been tracking the team in seven game segments so far this year. So i can speak about what’s happening analytically in regards to this team with great confidence. The first 7 game segment saw the Flames show some potential - the second segment even saw them build on that potential. However, in the second set of seven games, some issues started to arise. The team started to lose the possession battle, players started to go cold, and their goaltender had to bail them out of a few bad outings.

The third segment has seen the team go completely off the rails. The team went into the 4 game set against Vancouver - got handily out played - and has yet to recover. They’ve been outmatched by Edmonton, Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa since and really look like a bottom dwelling team. They started getting beat across the board in every single ratio you could bring up and haven’t had a bounce back game at all. They’ve become way to reliant on their special teams and if those falter it’s looking like a dark hole to come out of.

As for systems vs skill It’s extremely hard to look at a team with Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm, and Andrew Mangiapane up front mixed with mobile defenceman like Juuso Valimaki, Rasmus Andersson, and Noah Hanifin on the back end and say they lack skill. I don’t think these players styles of play mesh with what the coaching staff is echoing. The system involves a lot of static movement with absolutely no priority in puck possession. It’s all about limiting chances against but that’s hard to do when you allow other teams to skate around you while you build a wall in front of your goalie. I manually tracked the effectiveness the team had in transitioning from their own zone to the offensive zone the last two games. The results of that found that 60% of the time they turned the puck over to the opposition before establishing any sort of attack. Its hard to do anything with your skill if you can’t even gain offensive zone attack time.

The perimeter play in the offensive zone is frustrating as well. Low percentage shots have been the go-to of late and there hasn’t been a large priority - from everyone - to get pucks to the dirty area in front of the net. My next stat i’m going to be manually tracking is passes to the slot at 5v5 so stay tuned because i’ll have more on that coming.

That’s the question every writer/podcast/radio station is trying to answer today. What’s going to happen and what needs to? It’s very doubtful anything happens with the coach. Now in saying that should the Flames somehow win NO games against the Sens that would almost force the GM’s hand to do something along those terms. There’s lots of road left in this season and management will probably stand pat and see if this team can correct themselves. I doubt they can, but all of the GM’s eggs are in this basket and he really needs it to work out in his favour or the coach isn’t the only one in trouble.

Should they break expect to see major changes. The most likely casualty from the core would be Sean Monahan. If Johnny Gaudreau declines to negotiate a new contract when the time comes to extend him i would imagine he gets moved as well. (This is NOT an advocation to do that, Johnny should be kept if possible and should only be moved should he deny the opportunity to negotiate an extension). The Flames have a lot of holes to address, mainly a true number 1 C and a natural RW with a high goal scoring ability.

The major issue is they just signed a quality goaltender to a long term deal. They basically need to compete because having Markstrom will almost ensure they aren’t a basement dweller for the immediate future. It’s a rough situation to be in - the expansion draft presents both conflict and opportunity for the team as well - and it’s not going to be easy to navigate. Should they break there will be changes, we may not know who will be making them, but there will be changes.