Flyers

Why this year's Flyers team has been an analytics nightmare

Why this year's Flyers team has been an analytics nightmare

WASHINGTON — At least the Flyers spared us from the throwaway cliché of “If we play like this, we’ll win a lot of games this season” following their 3-1 loss to the Capitals on Sunday afternoon (see observations). 

It’s an all-too overused line that is thrown out there when a team dominates in possession time and by outshooting their opponent by a significant margin, only to be on the short end of the final score — much like the Flyers were in Washington.

It’s hardly believable on a number of levels. 

First, only the elite teams in the league dominate possession consistently over the course of an 82-game season enough to actually believe that, and secondly, the Flyers have proven when they do play like that, they simply don’t win. 

The Flyers have been an analytics nightmare this season when it comes to the metrics of shot totals.

The “Corsi For Percentage” at even strength metric is an easy computation of the team that attempts more shots (shots on goal, blocked shots and missed shots) than its opponent. Over the course of an 82-game season, the conventional wisdom is that the better Corsi teams will win a higher percentage of games.

Quite simply, more volume equates to more victories. 

For the most part, this season has played out like the proponents of advanced metrics would have hoped for. The top ten teams in the CF% metric are currently occupying a playoff spot, while eight of the bottom 10 teams are currently outside the playoff picture. 

Except in the case of the 2018-19 Flyers, who are a completely flawed team in the analytics department.  

Sunday’s game was yet another example of the Flyers dominating possession and shot totals only to lose, and the most puzzling part is that this has been the case all season long.

When outshooting their opponents, the Flyers are a dismal 10-20-2, but when they’ve been outshot, they’re a head scratching 23-12-6. You’d expect those records to be flipped.

Under interim head coach Scott Gordon, those lopsided shot totals are even more tilted. The Flyers' CF% is 43.7 percent in the team’s wins under Gordon and nearly even at 50.5 percent in their losses.

By comparison, the Ottawa Senators, as you might expect, own the worst Corsi For Percentage in the NHL at 45.1 percent, as they’ve played the majority of their games in the defensive zone this season.

But how does one explain the Flyers? 

During their eight-game winning streak in January, the team's CF% was a miserable 41.4 percent when rookie Carter Hart was bailing them out on a nightly basis. Throughout their eight-game winless stretch in December and January, it was a very respectable 52.3 percent.   

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story. 

With the Flyers this season, they seem to be telling us a lie. 

They needed to win the majority of games in which they outplayed the opposition, and to win a handful of games when they didn’t. 

Jakub Voracek may have summarized it best Sunday: “I don’t want to take anything out of this season, to be honest. I had way higher expectations. I think everybody did. It’s really disappointing. It sucks.”

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Flames look to avoid 2-game series deficit vs. Avalanche

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Flames look to avoid 2-game series deficit vs. Avalanche

The NHL-best Lightning were shockingly swept by the Blue Jackets in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The NHL's second-best team the Flames are in some first-round trouble, too. Calgary is facing a 2-1 series deficit against the Avalanche with Game 4 Wednesday night in Colorado.

Below is the full schedule for Day 8 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch the entire playoffs on the networks of NBC. 

Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs (TOR 2-1)
Game 4, Eastern Conference first round
7 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here

Nashville Predators at Dallas Stars (NSH 2-1)
Game 4, Western Conference first round
8 p.m. ET | TV: USA | Live stream here

Calgary Flames at Colorado Avalanche (COL 2-1)
Game 4, Western Conference first round
10 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here

Why Flyers did just fine with Alain Vigneault, not Joel Quenneville

Why Flyers did just fine with Alain Vigneault, not Joel Quenneville

It's uncertain how hard the Flyers went after Joel Quenneville or if the team was even in on the three-time Stanley Cup champion at all.

On the day Quenneville took the Panthers' head coaching job, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher appeared unflappable when asked about his level of disappointment with the news.

"I'm happy for Joel," Fletcher said April 8. "We're less than 48 hours since the end of our season and the process of identifying the next head coach of the Flyers will start today. We'll start the process.

"He's not available. I'm not going to speculate on names or people that may be available or were available or were available in past years. It's a big decision for the Flyers."

Backup plan or not, Fletcher didn't do too shabby with his big decision, tabbing Alain Vigneault as the Flyers' new head coach. 

Maybe there's some short-term memory with the outside perception of the hire. When you see Vigneault's name, many think of his final days with the Rangers. After four winning seasons, New York fired Vigneault last April as the team was ready for a fresh approach following a 25-point drop-off.

Well, the same happened with Quenneville. While he experienced a much longer and more fruitful run of success in Chicago, the situation eventually grew sour to the point in which new direction was wanted. Quenneville was fired 15 games into this season after his worst year with the Blackhawks in 2017-18.

Vigneault is not Quenneville. But he's no slouch, either.

The Flyers needed a coach with experience and got one.

Vigneault has led three teams to the Presidents' Trophy and two to the Stanley Cup Final. In 16 seasons as an NHL head coach, 11 have featured playoff berths, with eight of those teams advancing past the first round (see 5 takeaways).

He owns three 50-win seasons and eight 100-point seasons. The Flyers haven't won 50 or more games in a season since 1985-86 and haven't amassed 100 or more points in a season since 2011-12, when they last won a playoff series (see story).

"I think his track record speaks for itself," Fletcher said Monday. "He's had success at the junior level, had success in the minor leagues, and he's had success in the NHL. You can't have success at all those levels unless you're good at developing players and good at connecting with veteran players. He's a guy that gets his teams to play hard and gets his players to buy in."

And for Fletcher, what likely made Vigneault such an attractive candidate is the head coach's track record in Year 1 on the job. At Vigneault's previous three stops (Canadiens, Canucks, Rangers), each of his first seasons resulted in playoff bids and at least one series win. Overall, his combined record in those seasons was 131-89-26 with a .585 points percentage.

"Right now, it's about trying to continue to build our group and become as competitive as quickly as we can," Fletcher said.

Quenneville was clearly set on South Florida.

It's also clear why that didn't break the Flyers' hearts.

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