April 01 2011 08:44AM
About six months ago I was planning on penning a piece like this, except as a eulogy for Langkow's career, cut tragically short by an unfortunate injury. All the signs pointed to Daymond Langkow never playing hockey again - each attempt at a comeback was met with a significant regression, to the point he wasn't even skating mid-season.
It's therefore something of a minor miracle that he is playing tonight. I don't know how effective the 34-year old will be after sitting on the sidelines for more than a calender year, but I am certain the team has be worse for his absence.
In March of last year I penned a defense of Daymond Langkow. Spurred by lackluster scoring totals, the general Flames fanbase had begun to turn on Lanks thanks to the perception that his value was not living up tp his cap hit.
The truth is, though, Langkow has been the best two-way center on this team since he was acquired and in the wake of Sutter's failed experiment of matching Iginla and/or Jokinen against top lines, Langkow was handed the unheralded role of being the Flames go-to shut-down option last season. His counting numbers suffered for it, but he continued to get the job done nonetheless. Amongst regular centers on the team last year, Langkow started most often in the defensive zone (zone start = 47.7%), played some of the toughest competition, but still ended up with one of the best possession rates on the team (+7.65/60). His regular linemates ranged from Nigel Dawes to Ales Kotalik and they all ended up above water in terms of advanced numbers, no doubt thanks to Langkow's influence. Dubbed "Mr. Chemistry" by Matt Fenwick years ago, Langkow is that rare player who quietly makes his line mates better. In his absence, Rene Bourque has seemingly gone from a difference maker to an inconsistent floater for example. Remember when Langkow, Huselius and Iginla was one of the best first lines in the league?
Langkow is an easy guy to underestimate because there's nothing overly compelling about him. He isn't very big and he doesn't knock people down. His skates in a sort of squat, choppy manner. He doesn't have a blazing shot, nor does he make Tanguay-ian passes through sticks and skates. He's also fairly terrible in the face-off circle. Despite those issues, Langkow simply gets the job done. He's a guy who rarely makes an error, is almost always in the right position and is excellent at winning puck possession along the boards despite his lack of size. He also has some of the best hand-eye coordination on the team and is probably the best player at tipping pucks the club has had in years. Langkow isn't great at any one thing and he doesn't have the physical tools that make people notice him, but he's good-to-very good at just everything that matters.That's why he ended up with one of the best scoring chance ratios on the team last season. There's no doubt that Brent's unending "dance of the match-ups" this season has been due to the lack of a proven, tough-minutes pivot like Langkow on the roster.
It's an open question whether Daymond can come back and be the same guy he was given his age and the extent of his injury. He'll turn 35-years old next September, which is about the time guys really start to fall of a cliff. Those issues can be assessed and dealt with when they crop up, however. For now we can welcome back Langkow with open arms.
Congratulations on the recovery, Daymond. We've missed you.