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Calgary Flames

So You Want To Make a Change?

Understanding a players perceived value and what’s needed in a return to effectively replace them.



By Shane Stevenson (@Flash_33)

There’s losing in a Game 6, shaking hands and going home disappointed leaving your fan base wanting more. Then there’s ripping the joy you feel from an early 3-0 lead right out of your soul, collapsing a cliff on themselves, and crawling home like the Flames actually did. Man that one’s brutal and hard to swallow. So naturally the fans around the world after multiple years of failure and not enough success want one thing from this core group, change. So let’s break it down, tear it up, and see what we need to replace if we’re truly going to be shuffling. Some terms you’ll need to know:

WAR = Wins Above Replacement – This value uses other metrics to calculate how many wins each player is worth to the roster. It’s specific to which model you use, and can fluctuate, but for this purpose we’re using a trusted source – Evolving-Hockey.

GAR = Goals Above Replacement – Being replacement level is like being an NHL call-up. Naturally you’ll want your players to be able to produce well above what just an NHL replacement level player can. This calculates how many more goals each player is valued above what a replacement level player could be worth.

xGF% – Expected Goals For Percentage – looks at the quality of shots/attempts a player has for him vs. the quality he allows against when on the ice (@ 5v5). If a player sits at 50% he’s considered average, he’s allowing the same quality against as he creates. The higher above 50% you go the better ratio of quality for and against is when that player is on the ice, vice versa when it drops below 50.

CF% – Corsi-For Percentage – The ratio of Corsi (shot attempt) events for and against, if a player is above 50 then he has been controlling more events on the ice than he’s allowed his opponents to control.

Format for reading xGF% & CF% — (Regular season // Playoffs)

NTC = No Trade Clause // NMC = No Movement Clause // M-NTC = Modified No Trade Clause // ARB = Arbitration rights

Statistics and contract projections were gathered from & Contracts from Baseline for WAR & GAR was replacement.

Below is a chart to help you further understand what the WAR ratings mean, and where each player would be classified under.

Johnny Gaudreau – 70 games, 18 Goals, 58 Points // 2 years x 6.75M left 

WAR: (19-20: 0.5 // 18-19: 3.2) 

GAR: (19-20: 3 // 18-19: 17.3)

xGF%: (19-20: 49.53% // 41.13%) (18-19: 54.11% // 42.09%)

CF%: (19-20: 49.9% // 44.89%) (18-19: 54.58% // 48.42%)

Elliotte Friedman said it best on the FAN960 radio hit. You could trade Johnny yes, but then are you confident you’re going to score enough to even get back to the dance? Look at the sheer amount of value he provided in 18-19, only to be forced to play a defensive first system in 19-20, completely trashing his numbers. Players don’t accidentally get to a WAR of 3 or higher, they have to be truly skilled. If the fanbase does want to trade JG13, they better be prepared to lose the ~4 to 6 standing points it would surely cost them. This season that would have pushed them from 8th to 10th in the western conference, and under normal circumstances a playoff miss for the team. Last season Johnny was a superstar, in 17-18 his WAR of 3.3 also classified him as a superstar. I’m hard pressed to believe that at age 27 he randomly naturally regressed into an average NHL player. This is where deployment and system utilization is a huge factor going forward. Management needs to decide what kind of team and roster they have and how to deploy them properly, instead of forcing superstars into systems that make them look average. (WAR change: -2.7 // GAR change: -14.3)

Sean Monahan – 70 games, 22 goals, 48 points // 3 years x 6.375M left (M-NTC)

WAR: (19-20: 0.2 // 18-19: 2.3)

GAR: (19-20: 1.1 // 18-19: 12.2)

xGF%: (19-20: 47.91% // 45.14%) (18-19: 52.87% // 45.8%)

CF%: (19-20: 49.04% // 43.46%) (18-19: 54.06% // 49.7%)

The main man currently circling the Flames rumour mill, Monahan has truly been the best C the Flames have had since the Nieuwendyk days. That’s saying something. Monahan is not very good at defence, but most top end point getters aren’t. They shouldn’t need to be because they spend the large majority of their TOI in the offensive zone trying to create goals. That’s usually the case, but with Ward coming in and forcing a defensive first style on the team, a player like Monahan isn’t suited to play that way. If the team does decide to go in Ward’s direction then Monahan is absolutely expendable, but not just for the sake of change. Monahan has true All-star (not superstar) upside. So yes you can improve on the position, but going ahead and sacrificing what’s a useful asset just because he doesn’t fit is how the train to the draft lottery starts. (WAR change: -2.1 // GAR change: -11.1)

Matthew Tkachuk – 69 games, 23 goals, 61 points // 2 years x 7.0M left (RFA – ARB)

WAR: (19-20: 2.2 // 18-19: 1.3)

GAR: (19-20: 12.4 // 18-19: 7.2)

xGF%: (19-20: 53.7% // 54.72%) (18-19: 53.84% // 47.49%)

CF%: (19-20: 52.12% // 51.94%) (18-19: 57.08% // 48.4%)

The Calgary Flames’ best player. Both analytically, and using the eye test. You will NEVER be able to get someone that can bring what Matthew Tkachuk brings every night. When his contract is up anything less than an 8 year deal will be considered a massive fail. His WAR numbers may not be historically as high as Gaudreau’s were, but this is where I let other factors into evaluation. His ability to draw penalties, his ability to unnerve the other team, mixed with his skill level just puts him in a very niche class. (WAR change: -0.9 // GAR change: -5.2)

Elias Lindholm – 70 games, 29 goals, 54 points // 4 years x 4.85M left

WAR: (19-20: 0.9 // 18-19: 2)

GAR: (19-20: 5.2 // 18-19: 11)

xGF%: (19-20: 50.14% // 39.58%) (18-19: 54.82% // 40.07%)

CF%: (19-20: 50.37% // 44.47%) (18-19: 55.84% // 46.84%)

His play in 18-19 almost made up for the fact that we gave up an elite RHD to get him livable. Almost. Lindholm thrived under the possession first system employed by the previous coach, putting up career numbers and living up to the reputation of a former 5th overall pick. As a right handed forward that can take faceoffs and play up the middle, with an extremely team friendly contract to boot, I can hardly see them moving Lindholm. His utter disappearance in this years post-season was alarming and how he bounces back in 20-21 will go a long way to figuring out just what type of player Elias Lindholm is going to be in Calgary. (WAR change: -1.1 // GAR change: -5.8)

Mikael Backlund – 70 games, 16 goals, 45 points // 4 years x 5.35M left (NTC)

WAR: (19-20: 1.2 // 18-19: 0.9)

GAR: (19-20: 6.8 // 18-19: 4.6)

xGF%: (19-20: 50.98% // 46.88%) (18-19: 52.83% // 40.24%)

CF%: (19-20: 50.47% // 50.49%) (18-19: 55.49% // 44.66%)

It’s very lovely having an above average player that we drafted stick around in the organization so long. Personally I’ve come to love him, and yet I’d still include Backs in a deal for another player that’s proven to be more of a difference maker. Now many of you won’t like the fact I’m about to make a basketball reference (ThEy’Re TwO DiFfErEnT SpOrTs) but that’s not gonna stop me. Raptors fans loved Demar Derozan, they always will, but I’m willing to bet that they loved that championship they won more. If giving up one of the cities most beloved players becomes a thing that the organization thinks can but them over the edge, they should always do it. (WAR change: +0.3 // GAR change: +2.2)

Milan Lucic – 68 games. 8 goals, 20 points // 3 years x 5.25M (NMC)

WAR: (19-20: 1.4 // 18-19: 0.0)

GAR: (19-20: 7.6 // 18-19: -0.2)

xGF%: (19-20: 49.85% // 53.75%) (18-19: 49.14% // N/A)

CF%: (19-20: 49.66% // 49.73%) (18-19: 50.43% // N/A)

Lucic is what Lucic is. He’s become a fan favorite, but at any point and time if someone’s willing to take his full contract you have to accept that offer (not counting if they’re trying to fleece us). I’m currently fine with him staying, they have some flexible cap space still because of some very savvy contracts (Andersson, Lindholm) so keeping him, and his positive WAR value, isn’t the end of the line. For comparison’s sake James Neal’s numbers from 2019-20: WAR – 0.0, GAR – -0.2. Very positive trade result from the Flames perspective. (WAR change – Neal to Lucic: +2.1 // GAR change: +11.6)

Sam Bennett – 52 games. 8 goals, 12 points // 1 year x 2.55M left (RFA – ARB)

WAR: (19-20: -0.8 // 18-19: 0.6)

GAR: (19-20: -4.2 // 18-19: 3)

xGF%: (19-20: 52.17% // 56.03%) (18-19: 52.97% // 35.33%)

CF%: (19-20: 49.44% // 49.91%) (18-19: 53.53% // 38.74%)

Sam Bennett did play absolutely out of his mind in the 19-20 playoffs. He also played horrendously bad in the 18-19 playoffs. Bennett provided the single worst value on the team during the regular season with his -0.8 WAR. That means his play cost the team about 1.6 standing points. Now this was not the regular Bennett season we’re used to seeing, but his value around the league has never been higher. There’s an expansion draft coming up as well where you could lose him for nothing as well. While his value is actually no higher than that of a “locker room guy – average player” if an offer for someone that could make more of an impact came along, management shouldn’t hesitate. (WAR change: -1.4 // GAR change: -7.2)

Dillon Dube – 45 games, 6 goals, 16 points // 1 year x 779K left (RFA)

WAR: (19-20: 0.7 // 18-19: 0)

GAR: (19-20: 4.2 // 18-19: -0.1)

xGF%: (19-20: 46.38% // 56.75%) (18-19: 45.82% // N/A)

CF%: (19-20: 46.42% // 50.38%) (18-19: 45.73% // N/A)

Dillon Dube is going to keep stepping it up. He improved from 18-19 to 19-20, then took another step again in the 2020 playoffs. He’s statistically projected to get better this coming season too. This is a case where you can look at where a player’s current statistical value stands and add inflation. Currently he’s valued as an average player, but I see no reason he can’t make it to be a consistent good player, if not an all-star. I will say this though, if you’ve got an opportunity at a Superstar + level player, I’d consider him as part of the package, if and only if it made sense. (WAR change: +0.7 // GAR change: +4.3)

Derek Ryan – 68 games, 10 goals, 29 points // 1 year x 3.125M

WAR: (19-20: 1.2 // 18-19: 1.1)

GAR: (19-20: 6.8 // 18-19: 5.7)

xGF%: (19-20: 50.43% // 40.39%) (18-19: 56.05% // 39.83%)

CF%: (19-20: 48.86% // 47.05%) (18-19: 54.89% // 35.19%)

Derek Ryan went from consistently playing well in a third line role, and providing value on both ends of the puck, to being a 4th line penalty killing staple in the playoffs. His xGF% took a big hit over the year change, but his WAR numbers remained largely the same. Defensive prowess is often overlooked in the hockey world. In 18-19 Derek Ryan was a shot suppression beast, one of the best on the team. In 19-20 the majority of his game fell off, but his xGA/60 was still a positive aspect in his game. He gets knocked for his contract, but he’s most certainly earned it, more so than most can see. His defensive impact is not easily replaced. (WAR change: +0.1 // GAR change: +1.1)

Mark Giordano – 60 games, 5 goals, 31 points // 2 years x 6.75M left (M-NTC)

WAR: (19-20: 1.2 // 18-19: 3.2)

GAR: (19-20: 7.0 // 18-19: 17.3)

xGF%: (19-20: 52.91% // 47.17%) (18-19: 54.25% // 46.52%)

CF%: (19-20: 51.83% // 47.81%) (18-19: 57.4% // 43.97%)

Regression? I’m not scared to suggest it. It sure looks that way. I do believe he’s as young and fresh as one can be at 37 years old. Despite saying that, Gio still brought a large positive impact to the team. Nobody played good against Dallas, fans can try to pinpoint which guy to blame it on all offseason if they wish but everything from the system to the execution was crap. Bottom line is Giordano can still provide great value, and if for some reason he can’t handle top line minutes anymore the Flames have a Rasmus Andersson they can try. Gio’s not gone yet folks, don’t let recency bias get to you. (WAR change: -2.0 // GAR change: -10.3)

Rasmus Andersson – 70 games, 5 goals, 22 points // 6 years x 4.55M left

WAR: (19-20: 1.2 // 18-19: 2.0)

GAR: (19-20: 7.0 // 18-19: 10.8)

xGF%: (19-20: 53.8% // 45.28%) (18-19: 52.27% // 42.65%)

CF%: (19-20: 51.83% // 48.09%) (18-19: 51.3% // 51.32%)

The team friendly contract, the ability to play successfully against other teams top skill and not sink, the fact that he shoots right handed. There’s also the fact he’s only 23 years old. I’d put Razz in the same category as Dube in the sense of I believe his ceiling is higher and you can evaluate him with an inflated outlook. Razz is one of the players management shouldn’t touch as he could be better than he already is. (WAR change: -0.8 // GAR change: -3.8)

Noah Hanifin – 70 games, 5 goals, 22 points // 4 years x 4.95M left

WAR: (19-20: 0.1 // 18-19: 0)

GAR: (19-20: 0.4 // 18-19: -0.2)

xGF%: (19-20: 49.92% // 49.92%) (18-19: 53.66% // 30.37%)

CF%: (19-20: 50.22% // 48.83%) (18-19: 53.25% // 39.1%)

The curious case of what IS Noah Hanifin? He creates xGF at an extremely good rate and yet it doesn’t lead to goals. With the right partner it’s shown that he can play at a very good level possession and offence wise, but he sacrifices a lot defensively and relies on his partner to bail him out. Pair him with Razz for the next 4 years and he won’t be buried in his own zone, but if the chance to improve and get a guy that can actually defend comes along the Flames should take it. (WAR change: +0.1 // GAR change +0.6)

David Rittich – 48 games – 24-17-6 – 2.97 GAA, 907 sv%. // 1 year x 2.75M left
For the goalies i’m going to touch on a different stat, instead of their WAR. No instead we’re gonna look at their Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA) and Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx). GSAA: -4.22 GSAx: -7.99. Basically David Rittich fell well below the performance he should have employed. 1 year left on his deal, at his number, it’s not the worst thing in the world to have him come be a backup, but if his numbers stick to that level the Flames shouldn’t want to keep him past that.

Pending UFA’s/RFA’s

Andrew Mangiapane – 68 games, 17 goals, 32 points

WAR: (19-20: 2.1 // 18-19: 1.2)

GAR: (19-20: 11.7 // 18-19: 6.2)

xGF%: (19-20: 55.64% // 47.84%) (18-19: 59.93% // N/A)

CF%: (19-20: 52.68% // 50.33%) (18-19: 55.33% // N/A)

Projected Next Contract: 4 years x 3.036M with Flames

Pay this man. He bet on himself after a solid campaign in 18-19, I mean he had to. Treliving never offered him more than his Qualifying offer, and now he goes into free agency with arbitration rights. This past season only Matthew Tkachuk provided more WAR and GAR, so he’s got a case to be made. His agent should be going for the moon and stars, but Evolving-Hockey’s projected contract is one I’d take 9.5/10 times. 6th round GOLD. (WAR change: +0.9 // GAR change: +5.5)

TJ Brodie – 64 games, 4 goals, 19 points.

WAR: (19-20: 1.6 // 18-19: 1.8)

GAR: (19-20: 9.0 // 18-19: 9.9)

xGF%: (19-20: 53.66% // 47.65%) (18-19: 52.67% // 40.39%)

CF%: (19-20: 52.16% // 45.89%) (18-19: 56.02% // 43.04%)

Projected Next Contract: 3 years x 4.909M with different team

Brodie led the Flames D in value this past season. After his terrifying collapse to which he thankfully recovered he was unstoppable. This is not a player that I would have wanted to let hit free agency, because there’s some smart analytical teams out there that need D to play on the right side. Any rumours you hear of Brodie going to Toronto? I’d count them as legitimate. A rare combination of D-man that can create chances, capitalize on them, limit them in his own end, and drive play, TJ Brodie should be a very rich man come (Insert whatever day this new COVID free agency starts). (WAR change: -0.2 // GAR change: -0.9)

Travis Hamonic – 50 games. 3 goals, 12 points

WAR: (19-20: 0 // 18-19: 1.6)

GAR: (19-20: 0 // 18-19: 8.5)

xGF%: (19-20: 47.16% // N/A) (18-19: 55.77% // 29.61%)

CF%: (19-20: 48.76% // N/A) (18-19: 54.18% // 37.81%)

Projected Next Contract: 5 years x 5.21M with different team

Travis Hamonic’s 18-19 season is an outlier from what he usually does. Evaluating him based on his one good season in a Flames uniform would be naive. The same goes for the bad season he had in 19-20, he is better than replacement level. Is he worth the payday he’s about to receive in free agency? Not with the role he’d have in Calgary. If Travis does leave I would like to use this article to state that he’s an absolutely tremendous human being that puts others first, and I admire his selflessness every time his name comes up. As for next season though? Good luck in your future endeavours. (WAR change: -1.6 // GAR change: -8.5)

Erik Gustafsson – 7 games, 3 assists, 3 points

WAR: (19-20: 0)

GAR: (19-20: 0.1)

xGF%: (19-20: 48.17% // 52.93%)

CF%: (19-20: 43.16% // 49.85%)

Projected Next Contract: 5 years x 6.038M with different team (LOL)

His numbers above are just from his 7 regular season games with the Flames. His projected contract appears so inflated because he’s a defenceman with a 60 point season under his belt, he will NOT be getting that. I’m more than willing to have Gus come back for a team friendly deal to try and re-vitalize his career, but then again I’d also want to give Kylington a proper shot instead of wasting him and stunting his potential growth. 

Derek Forbort – 7 games, 0 goals, 0 points 

WAR: (19-20: 0)

GAR: (19-20: 0.1)

xGF%: (19-20: 51.46% // 48.54%)

CF%: (19-20: 43.55% // 45.61%)

Projected Next Contract: 1 year x 1.60M with different team

All defence, no offence from Forbort. His possession numbers are pretty bad, and he’s slow. I fully believe Forbort will be gone in place of a Connor Mackey that should be able to jump into our 3rd D pair and not be completely lost (hopefully).

Oliver Kylington – 48 games, 2 goals, 7 points

WAR: (19-20: 0 // 18-19: -0.5)

GAR: (19-20: -0.1 // 18-19: -2.8)

xGF%: (19-20: 49.99% // N/A) (18-19: 47.7% // N/A)

CF%: (19-20: 47.74% // N/A) (18-19: 49.62% // N/A)

Projected Next Contract: 2 years x 967K with Flames

Are you gonna trust him? Are you going to put him in the right positions to grow? No? Well then capitalize on his value because of all the “prospects” in the system Kylington looks like a stand out. His closest comparable is Torey Krug. They’ve shared a very similar development path, but if you’re going to keep blocking him with Forborts and Stone’s then get something back before he leaves for nothing and lights it up Kulak style for another team. (WAR change: +0.5 // GAR change +2.7)

Mark Jankowski – 56 games, 5 goals, 7 points

WAR: (19-20: 0 // 18-19: 0.9)

GAR: (19-20: 0.2 // 18-19: 4.7)

xGF%: (19-20: 51.34% // N/A) (18-19: 52.47% // N/A)

CF%: (19-20: 49.22% // N/A) (18-19: 51.87% // N/A)

Projected Next Contract: 1 year x 1.577M with Flames

Unpopular opinion – Mark Jankowski is just fine as the Flames 4th line center. I do think that his QO being north of 1.6M might be enough to go find a cheaper option, like Glenn Gawdin. One of my favorite things about the Tampa Bay Lightning is the fact that they seem to always give their high level AHL players at least a look, and they typically perform well. (i.e Jonathan Marchessault, Mathieu Joseph, Cedric Paquette, Anthony Cirelli, etc.) That is something the Flames almost never do, and with more science and numbers coming out that a players average peak is 26 years old, maybe they should be a little more willing to allow their AHL guys to at least have a taste. Anyways back to Janko, if they brought him back it would not be the end of the world, but it would be at a slight overpay. (WAR change: -0.9 // GAR change: -4.5)

Tobias Reider – 55 games, 4 goals, 10 points

WAR: (19-20: -0.5)

GAR: (19-20: -2.7)

xGF%: (19-20: 51.6% // 43.79%)

CF%: (19-20: 49.05% // 47.95%)

Projected Next Contract: 1 year 692K with different team

Another guy whose playoff performance will overweight his value. He was absolutely not good all year. Just because a guy has a history doesn’t mean you have to ride him religiously. Yes he killed penalties, but when you have Ryan, Backlund, Lindholm, and Janko you don’t need Tobi. Matthew Phillips is someone that comes to mind when i think of people that deserve a shot based on past performance. The Flames should really give it to him. 

Zac Rinaldo – 19 games, 3 goals, 5 points

WAR: (19-20: 0)

GAR: (19-20: 0.2)

xGF%: (19-20: 49.44% // N/A)

CF%: (19-20: 45.01% // N/A)

Projected Next Contract: 1 year x 752K with different team

I’m sure he’s an awesome guy to be friends with, and can bring energy to the room. I’m okay with him being in the press box and being a cheerleader of sorts. He can’t play though, he gets absolutely buried scoring chance wise when he plays. I’ve never seen a player get as many games as he did without creating almost any scoring chances. Again i’m sure he’s friendly and i wish him a great life, but if management is truly trying to win a cup you could have used his bubble spot to have a possible offensive fill in for when Chucky went down.

Michael Stone – 33 games. 2 goals, 7 points

WAR: (19-20: -0.8 // 18-19: -0.3)

GAR: (19-20: -4.7 // 18-19: -1.6)

xGF%: (19-20: 43.29% // N/A) (18-19: 43.86% // N/A)

CF%: (19-20: 44.55% // N/A) (18-19: 51.14% // N/A)

Projected Next Contract: 1 year x 763K with different team

He’s bad. He’s really, really bad. Bringing him back was a mistake that i’m sure was based solely on the fact that he holds his stick a certain way. Don’t do this again management, Do some research or ask someone, just the basic due diligence. Please. Whatever he had in his Arizona days are gone and all that’s left are missed coverages and fluttery bombs up the middle of the slot that cause turnovers. (WAR change: -0.5 // GAR change: -3.1)

Cam Talbot – 26 games played, 12-10-1, 2.63 GAA, .919 SV%

GSAA: 3.43 GSAx: -2.87. Talbot did in fact stop more goals than average, unfortunately for him, based on his workload, he still let in more goals than expected. Obviously his superb playoff performance is on the minds of everyone currently, but be warned over the long run he’s a 1b goalie. There are going to be better options on the FA and possible trade market. One important note to add that statistically goaltenders hit their peak at age 26. Not many, if any, of the options available are going to be near that. Whatever the Flames choose to do, let’s hope they don’t dish out a Bobrovsky/Price contract, because nothing would hurt the impact of the team more than dumping money into a position as random as goaltending.

Flames aggregate WAR change from 2018-19 to 2019-20: -9.5 or 19 standing points

Flames aggregate GAR change from 2018-19 to 2019-20: -46.7 goals

So how does a team who did nothing but change out James Neal for Milan Lucic, which as we see was a net positive move in terms of wins and goals, lose 19 standing points? Can it be blamed just on the regression of Mark Giordano? No because he wasn’t the only guy to show signs of fallback. So where does the problem lie? What’s the one major change that could see a successful team lose 19 standing points?

Team utilization. Taking skilled players that know how to play one way and forcing them to play the other way. We’ve seen how it can possibly work (CBJ – Tortorella, NYI – Trotz), but unfortunately for the Flames they don’t have the upper end of their roster built for that style of play. Active defence and rush chances, mixed with controlled zone entries not dump & chase, were the bread and butter that got this team to the top of the conference. Then they got walked on by a Colorado team that got Cale Makar in game 2, something that no team would have game-planned for. 

The purpose of this article was for reflection, to understand the change in perception between the previous 2 seasons, and to help the public be able to see what each player is valued at. We can see that the Flames forcing their players into a game plan they aren’t built to play has hurt their value league wide. Sean Monahan going from being worth 2+ wins in back to back seasons to being only worth 0.2 would meet the definition of selling low. If the Flames want to get eventual value in trades it starts by utilizing the roster the way it was built, and not trying to make pudding out of rocks. (that one was for you Brad)

Remember, if you’re going to trade Johnny Gaudreau and his typical 3 win value, you’re going to want to get at least 3 wins of usable value back. Remember that when hearing possible outlandish rumours and evaluating future trades.

by Shane Stevenson