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Steinberg's Slant: A Quiet Impact

by Pat Steinberg / Calgary Flames

Over the first half of the season, I’ve heard questions about the performance and production of Curtis Glencross. His eight goals in 40 games is down a little bit from his usual scoring rate, so I guess I can understand where some of those questions have come from. My opinion differs greatly, however, because I believe Glencross is in the midst of the most impactful season in his NHL career.

First of all, let’s attack this from a purely production standpoint. Yes, his goal totals are down a little bit from what we’re used to, but his point totals are most definitely not. With 26 points in his first 40 games, Glencross is on pace for between 53 and 54 points this season, which would mark a career high by a decent margin.

If Glencross keeps on producing the way he has the last two months or so, it could end up being even more. 24 of his points have come in his last 29 games, which is a pretty decent sample size as well. For frame of reference, if his current clip continues, his point totals could finish closer to 60. Regardless, from a purely statistical perspective, Glencross is making a larger impact this season than he ever has before.

So why are his goal totals down? When you analyze his shooting percentage numbers, it starts to make a little more sense. Glencross has a career shooting percentage of 14.7 percent, which is significantly higher than the league average. Because we’re talking about eight seasons, it’s fair to say he’s been one of the league’s most accurate shooters. That’s been especially true in his time with the Flames, as he’s shot at 15.1 percent in his six seasons prior to this one.

At 11.3 percent through 40 games this season, he’s more than three percentage points under his career average and almost four full points under his average with the Flames. A seemingly unexplainable dip like that is going to lead to fewer goals.

And let’s be honest, Glencross hasn’t forgotten how to shoot or stopped being accurate. When an accurate career shooter has a dip of more than three percent, typically the only explanation is bad luck. Don’t be surprised if we see his shooting percentage progress to his career average in the next 41 games, which would mean more goals.

Taking a deeper look at the numbers will also tell you Glencross is having a very strong season. His raw possession numbers are decent, but it’s when you combine those numbers with his situational play that you get the full picture.

Glencross’ -7.38 Corsi rate ranks him seventh on the team, only slightly behind guys like Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. But no one on this team, and I mean no one, has seen tougher assignments against more difficult opposition players than Glencross has. For him to have respectable offensive possession numbers is a testament to the quiet good work he’s done.

With a 45.4 percent offensive zone start, Glencross starts the least amount of shifts in the offensive zone than any regular player on the team. On top of that, head coach Bob Hartley deploys him against the top opposition players basically every single shift of every game. No player on the Flames, not even Mark Giordano or TJ Brodie, faces tougher opposition than Glencross does. The average possession percentage of his opposition is 51.1 percent, higher than names like Monahan (51.0), Brodie (45.8), and Giordano (45.8).

Plain and simple, what Glencross is doing is extremely impressive. For him to have the defensive responsibility he has on his shoulders against the type of opposition he’s being asked to defend, lower comparable possession stats could easily be accepted. But that’s not the case, because Glencross is right there with his positional peers, and he’s putting up points to boot.

So, yes, the goal totals for Glencross are down a little bit through the first 40 games of the season. But, the reality is, he’s having one of the best seasons of his NHL career with more than half of it still to go. In fact, if you ask me, I’m comfortable saying Glencross has never been more important to the Flames than he is right now.

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