What are we talking about? George's column deals with the sentiment out there, which we are sure you have run into, that this team is winning because Darryl got fired. George, in our view, seems to come out on the side of the argument that goes "I actually don't really believe in unicorns". You have to read between the lines with George, because he likes to act objective (we don't mean that derisively by the way, all journos 'act' objective, you know?), but we, at least, get from his tone that he is thinks that 'Darryl is gone' is too convenient an explanation.
Fine, all well and good. But here is the thing, this isn't abstract philosophy. You can actually go look at what happened on the ice to see why a team is winning or losing. Crazy, we know, but it is possible.
And we aren't even going stat-guy here. We would have been happy with some surface stats, some 'what happened' stats. We would be thrilled if you put some 'why' stats up there, but we will take what we can get at this point. Because if those stats are in there, it kills one sides argument. Well, sorta.
It is our contention that the Flames went on a win streak not because Darryl was fired, but because they are playing better. We think we can all agree on that.
Why are they playing better? It is our contention that they are playing better as a team for a variety of reasons, the biggest of which happens to be they have gelled as a unit as a result of the Brent Sutter being able to cultivate an 'us against the world' type of swag on the team. Equally as retarded as the Darryl being fired theory, we know. So let's test the Darryl theory, ok?
Darryl got fired on December 28th. Therefore, we have two groups of data we can look at. Pre and Post Darryl Sutter. Only looking at data of this season, and far as we can tell some of the 'why' stats on behindthenet aren't broken down game by game, which is a shame. As we are writing this, we haven't looked at any of the data available either. We have no idea if the data is going to prove the theory one way or the other. Oh the tension in the air.
So what does this tell us, if anything?
Goals for per game has gone up dramatically in the 22 games played since Darryl has been fired. It went from roughly 2.6 to 3.4. That's a +0.80 point gain. That's a lot. That's damn near a goal a game difference. It's such a drastic improvement that it can in no way be caused by Darryl Sutters departure. It is probably caused by puck luck.
Well, wouldn't you know it. We are scoring more goals because more of the pucks we put to the net are going in. You know what that is called? Luck. The team is shooting 11.08% over it's last 22 games, a full 2.58% higher than they were shooting the previous 37, and 1.62% higher than it's season average. We know one and two percent sound small, but that's a big jump, and probably not a sustainable one.
Last year, the teams shooting percentage (all players included) was around 8.80%. Have we added talent that can lift an average of 23+ people a full 2 percentage points higher? No. The hockey gods are smiling on the Flames right now.
The goals against rate is pretty similar Pre/Post Darryl, although we are letting in marginally more goals now than before Darryl got fired (on a per game basis). The PP is marginally worse post-Darryl, both in terms of drawing opportunities and capitalizing on them. The PK has improved dramatically post-Darryl, which is nice, but again, the goals against rate has remained roughly the same (it has actually gotten worse post-Darryl) which would seem to indicate what we are taking away on the PK we are giving up on ES.
But yeah, the reason the team has gone on a win streak is because it is scoring more goals now. Our shots per game has remained largely consistent throughout the season. More are simply going in. Because the team has not added more skill, and because we refuse to attribute such a giant swing in shooting percentage to the voodoo caused by Darryls removal from power, we have to call it what it is, and that's puck luck.
Well timed puck luck for people who like to construct narratives, but puck luck nonetheless.
So to answer the question: Why are the Flames playing better, the answer seems to be an inflated shooting percentage. As the Flames did not add any talent to the team to explain this inflation, we are going to chalk it up to luck.
Right? Boom-boxes, good vibes, and unicorns don't score goals. It's a coincidence, an accident of timing. Or you can believe that it is Darryls departure that got the team playing to whatever you consider their 'potential' to be. Which means you think the team was sulking, or something. Which, if you do, means you think the team is incredibly mentally fragile. Which probably means they can't withstands the rigors of a playoff run. Which means you are in the 'end-the-charade-blow-it-up' camp at the end of the day.
We don't think you are in that camp if you subscribe to the 'they are playing better because Darryl got fired' theory. We think you are just looking for explanations to events that are unexplainable. Why the puck is bouncing in our favour now is a mystical question. Chalk it up to whatever you want, it isn't provable. Which means all this speculation amounts to ghost hunting.
For the record, the team would have had to improve in all measurable categories to get us to buy into 'It's because they fired Darryl'. Because only one category improved, it looks like fluke to us, obviously.
George posits it is the players buying into the coaches system, or the confidence that comes from winning, the happiness in the locker room, to blame for the win streak. This is as nonsensical as the Darryl got fired theory. Sure, maybe on the very margins of the equation it has some effects. We don't even dismiss that, because in a league with the best athletes in the world and salary cap created parity, what is on the margins does matter. But come on with this noise. The coach has wanted them to score a goal a game more the whole season and the team was fighting him? Really? Because that is what you are saying when you say 'they bought into the coach'. Confidence is something you have until you don't have it. Same with the happiness in the locker room. And the team currently has both of those things because they are winning.
And they are winning because of luck. If you don't like the term luck because you think it diminishes the efforts the players have put out on the ice, then use the word streak. Team is on a hot streak right now, like a hot shooter in a basketball game. But it isn't the true team, it's an aberration.
Darryl spent a lot of money on a flawed team. He got fired for it. Specifically, he got fired for trading for Kotalik. Now, that same team is catching some breaks, and it's ok to keep it together? Weird logic, dude. But ok, we do get it. We are fans, too. We don't trust the teams ability to draft, either. But if we are all in for a run to the playoffs, just know that you are betting on a hot streak that has gone on for 22 games continuing for another 23. And if we make the playoffs, an even more extended streak after that.
Zombie Flames or not, it's going to be difficult to maintain. Unless Curtis Glencross has really turned into a point per game player.
We never want to hear about how Darryl was mean to the media ever again. The only people who care about that work in the media. When it gets brought up, it makes whomever is bringing it up, in this case it was George, look bitter. That's a bad look. Avoid that look.
With all that said, you know we are going to win tonight. Saw Pete Maher at the Saddledome while purchasing some Alumni/Heat game tickets, and asked him if he thought we were going to win. He was a little worried the Stars were saving their effort for us. That's what 30 years of following this team will do to you, eh?
Pete couldn't have been nicer, by the way. Class act. Even got an autograph. He signs 'Peter Maher, HHOF'. Yeah, like we would forget that, Flames-Pope Maher.
Furthermore, I think Peter Loubardias should be fired.