The Effectiveness of Gulutzan’s Stick Throw

Edit (1/19/18): The Gulutzan info-graphic previously stated that the Flames’ combined goal differential, for their 5 games before the stick throw was “-7”. However, it was actually “-1” and the info-graphic has been adjusted accordingly, apologies for the error.

Sometimes a little motivation goes a long way, whether that’s figurative, regarding the emotional impact of proper encouragement. Or in this case, we’re talking “long way” as in the distance traveled by the stick of disgruntled Calgary Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan.

On the first Friday of January, the Calgary Flames were in the middle of an ordinary practice, and they had just come off the back of a 4-3 victory over the Pacific Division rival L.A. Kings. However, despite back to back wins, which may have led some players to breathe easy, Gulutzan didn’t like what he was seeing from his team. He began to… kindly let everyone in the building know what he was thinking, with such talking points as:

“This is it? This is it? One f***ing game?!”

“We’re so f***ing good?! You check the f***ing standings?”

“I’ve seen one good game from some of you f***ing veteran guys”

Additionally, if his words didn’t speak for themselves, his actions sure did, as in the middle of his “State of the Flames Address”, he launched his stick over the glass, and up to the far seats of the lower bowl.

Were they really that bad?

Well, yes and no. Excluding whatever lack of effort Gulutzan was seeing on the ice during practice that day, it’s true that the Flames seemed to be coasting in their last 10 contests. With only 4 wins and 6 losses total, 2 in overtime, Calgary had been maintaining a middle of the pack style of play. At this stage in the season, that’s not somewhere they’d like to be.

Yes, Calgary was in the middle of a 2 game win streak, but both games ended with a goal difference of only 1, and their Chicago game on New Year’s Eve took overtime for them to grind out a win. So you can see why Gulutzan didn’t want his team to get so high on themselves, when their recent track record hasn’t been enough to rest easy on.

AST: After Stick Throw

Now that we’re into the Flames’ bye week, and they’ve played 5 games since their coach grabbed them by the collar and snapped them out of it, we can start to see the effects of Gulutzan’s coaching style. He might wanna start throwing sticks more often, because since that January 5th practice the Flames have yet to lose a single game, and for the most part, boast more improved numbers all around.

Below is a colorful info-graphic, showcasing just a handful of stats, sampling Calgary’s 5 games before and after the stick throw. There’s seemingly an infinite number of ways you can analyze the progress and play of an NHL team, but with such a small sample size of games, I’ve only selected a few heavy hitting stats; Goal Difference, Goals Against Average and Shooting Percentage.

Stick throw chart-01
BST: * -1 Diff * 3.14 GAA * 8.1% SP AST: * +11 * 1.59 GAA * 13.3% SP

Obviously, this graphic and the trend it suggests is not without holes. As mentioned above the data is taken from a sample of only 10 games, or two groups of 5 games, depending on how you want to split hairs. As well, the 3 stats I’ve showcased are not the be-all and end-all of measuring team success. With that being said however, at the very least this shows that Calgary is doing something right in recent games, something that might have been missing from their style of play until recently. So should you take this chart to heart and bet your Bitcoin fortune on the flames to win the cup? Probably not, however, if you own a red and yellow sweater, things are looking good for your hometown team.


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