Will Cammalleri Come to Life?

Robert Vollman
February 09 2012 09:14AM

 

 

Mike Cammalleri is back! But he has just 2 points - both goals - and is -6 in 8 games.  This doesn't seem like the only Flame to beat Jarome Iginla in the goal-scoring race since Valeri Bure in 1999-2000.  What gives?

Let's take a look at his career stats, including some of the more advanced statistics available since the 2007-08 season.


Year    Team     GP  G  A PTS TOI:ES/PP/SH  QoC  OZ%   RC  PDO
2002-03 L.A.     28  5  3  8  11.5 2.7 0.0  Not Available
2003-04 L.A.     31  9  6 15  10.7 2.4 0.0  Not Available
2004-05 Lockout
2005-06 L.A.     80 26 29 55  10.7 5.3 0.7  Not Available
2006-07 L.A.     81 34 46 80  13.2 4.7 0.2  Not Available
2007-08 L.A.     63 19 28 47  14.3 4.0 0.2 -0.3 56.1% 11.4  972
2008-09 Calgary  81 39 43 82  13.4 4.0 0.0  0.2 58.1% 12.2  997
2009-10 Montreal 65 26 24 50  16.5 2.9 0.0  0.3 48.0%  8.6 1018
2010-11 Montreal 67 19 28 47  14.7 3.1 0.7  0.6 52.2% -6.9 1008
2011-12 Mtl/Cgy  46 11 13 24  14.1 3.1 0.9  1.2 53.5% -1.9  977

Glossary :

TOI: Time on Ice per game, Even-Strength, Power Play, Short-handed
QoC: Shot-Based Quality of Competition metric (0.0 is average)
OZ%: Percentage of shifts started in the offensive zone (50.0% is average)
RC: Relative Corsi (An attempted shot-based plus/minus per 60 minutes, relative to teammates)
PDO: On-ice shooting percentage plus save percentage (Tends strongly to 1000)

There are a few trends that pop out since his great 2008-09 season:
- He has missed 15-17 games in the previous two seasons, injuries could be affecting his play
- He's getting 3 minutes of power-play time per game instead of 4 to 5+
- He's being used as a penalty killing option (albeit a depth one) for only the 2nd time in his career
- He's facing increasingly more difficult competition
- He's starting in the offensive zone 48%-53.5% of the time instead of 56.1%-58.1% of the time
- Perhaps as a consequence of the previous two points, his overall shot-based performance has been going down
- He's had his roughest season luck-wise since his equally disappointing final season as a King

It seems pretty obvious that his decrease in scoring can be explained by age mixed with injuries, and by being used in less advantageous situations.

It's also arguable that he was never an elite player. He deservedly established himself as a power play specialist, scoring 60 power play goals in the four seasons after the lock-out, including finishing 2nd in the NHL with 19 as a Flame. Only five players managed more power play goals over that period: Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Dany Heatley, Teemu Selanne and Tomas Vanek. Unfortunately he has just 14 in the three seasons since then.

If he's not an elite forward, then how did he get a five-year, $6.0 million-per-year deal with Montreal in 2009-10, how did he get originally traded to Calgary for a 1st round pick (the one used on Jake Gardiner) despite contract disputes, a long slump and a rib injury, and how come it cost another 2nd rounder and Rene Bourque to get him and his crazy contract back?

Right on Time

The answer is this: it's not what Mike Cammalleri is done, it's when he's done it.

- At the University of Michigan as a teen he twice made the all-star team, and factored in all three goals while playing in front of the largest outdoor game in history (to that date).
- He scored 11 goals and 17 points in 14 games in his two seasons in the World juniors, being named the tournament's best forward the 2nd year (but left with bronze and silver - a major disappointment for a Canadian)
- Despite his small stature (he's 5'9") he was drafted in the 2nd round by the Los Angeles Kings
- Led the AHL with 46 goals and a franchise record 109 points during the lock-out, finishing 2nd to Jason Spezza in the scoring race.
- Scored the first ever regular season NHL goal in Europe in 2007 when the Kings opened the season in London.
- In 2006-07 he won the Bill Libby award by the local media as the Kings' most valuable forward
- His only NHL fight was in 2009-10, knocking down David Krejci http://www.hockeyfights.com/fights/99970
- Everybody remembers Jaroslav Halak's playoff heroics in 2009-10, but Mike Cammalleri led the post-season with 13 goals in 19 games, tying a Montreal franchise record (which isn't easy to do) with 7 goals in one series.
- He's 5th among active players in play-off goals per game (behind Ovechkin, Kessel, Bergenheim and Umberger, one notch above Iginla himself)
- He's 7th among active players in play-off points per game (behind Ovechkin, Crosby, Malkin, St. Louis, Jagr and Kane)
- He scored the 20,000th goal in Montreal's franchise history
- This year he scored the first regular season goal at Winnipeg's MTS Centre

And remember how his time in Montreal came to a close - shortly after getting booed by the home team fans after a 3-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues. "I can't accept that we will display a losing attitude as we're doing this year.  We prepare for our games like losers. We play like losers. So it's no wonder why we lose." 

Mike Cammalleri is a competitor. He played hard as a teenager, he played hard in the AHL, he played hard for the Kings in 2008-09, he plays hard with the man advantage, he plays hard in the play-offs, and yes, he has always played hard for the big contracts.

The bigger the spotlight, the brighter he shines. Whether it's the largest outdoor game in history, the NHL's first game in Europe, Winnipeg's first game, or (of course) the NHL play-offs, Mike Cammalleri has stepped up his game. 

Whether that's a persistent character trait or merely a fortunate coincidence, it's the reason why he has been viewed as (and paid like) an elite player - he has produced at the elite level when it counted.

While he doesn't play elite hockey over the long-term, and certainly hasn't been playing elite hockey in his 8 games back in the Flaming C, Calgary's front office obviously believes that he's the type of player who can help them in their most desperate of situations. 

We've painted a picture of an ultra-competitive skill player - he won't hit or block shots, but plays best when the chips are down and the spotlight is on him. Whether he'll rise to the challenge or not isn't a question we can answer with facts and statistics, because it's a matter of character. 

There's no questioning Mike Cammalleri's character. He's a Jewish descendant of Holocaust survivors on his maternal side, Sicilian on his paternal side, and is said to have very strong family ties. He won the Jean Beliveau trophy last year for his local contributions to such organizations at the Starlight Children's Foundation, World Vision, SickKids Foundation and families of the armed forces (follow him on Twitter @MCammalleri13).  n his personal life he clearly believes in helping people get a fighting chance, and so far that has also translated into his hockey life too. 

Would I bet on Mike Cammalleri coming back to life and leading the Flames to overachieve to the extent that would be required for that last play-off position?  No way - I'm a numbers guy.  But it'll be an interesting stretch of hockey to watch.

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Rob Vollman of www.HockeyAbstract.com is a regular feature writer on ESPN Insider, co-author of Hockey Prospectus 2010-11 and 2011-12, and regular contributor to NHL Numbers, Flames Nation and Arctic Ice Hockey. Innovator of Player Usage Charts, Quality Starts, GVS (Goals Versus Salary), the Snepsts Projection System, and known for work in League Equivalencies (NHLE). Twitter: @robvollmanNHL
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#1 Kent Wilson
February 09 2012, 09:19AM
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He won't as long as he's being buried alongside Jones and Comeau.

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#2 Justin Azevedo
February 09 2012, 09:24AM
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if sutter knew how to match lines then I doubt we'd be having this conversation; but you make some good points, robert.

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#3 Colin
February 09 2012, 09:24AM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

He won't as long as he's being buried alongside Jones and Comeau.

Captain common sense to the rescue! But seriously, yeah when he's playing with a bunch of defensive rather than offensive options what do you expect numbers wise.

Though since we've got him our PP has gotten a whole lot better, I don't know if thats just cause he's opened other players up because now teams have to 'Account' for him on the ice, or its just a fun coincedence.

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#4 Bob in the Abbey
February 09 2012, 09:58AM
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Good points by you Robert...and some really good digging to get the information too.

But I agree with Kent, Justin & Colin. 5v5 he's not playing with overly skilled forwards, but I know that has to be contributed to the injuries we have. I wouldn't mind seeing him line up with Backlund (who's been mentioned on this forum too many times to count) and maybe Bouma.

If some healthy bodies get back in the line-up we can always hope to see the OMG line back together and maybe have Cammy center Iggy and Tanguay...though Sutter may want to keep Iggy and Jokinen together now.

Hey, a play-off spot is just a couple of points away...and I honestly doubted if we would get this close. It will be interesting.

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#5 @Gingras34
February 09 2012, 10:09AM
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Give him a break. He isn't exactly playing in between "all-stars." He will settle in and do just fine.

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#6 @Gingras34
February 09 2012, 10:10AM
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He has also been very beneficial to the power play.

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#7 Graham
February 09 2012, 10:35AM
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Like the Flames themselves, he needs a solid top six center who can distribute the puck!

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#8 marty
February 09 2012, 11:18AM
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yes his linemates are not going to lead him to offensive production, i do not think sutter is a bad coach, but i don't think he is the right coach for this team. i would like to see the team move in a different direction with coaching and realize that it will not happen til at least next season.

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#9 PrairieStew
February 09 2012, 11:33AM
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The Flames are missing 3 of their top 9 forwards, but Cammy's play so far might push him down the depth chart even more if and when they return. Don't be surprised to see Moss at centre if he returns. If Cammy gets Backlund as his centre and Stempniak on the other side, that might work out well.

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#10 Sworkhard
February 09 2012, 11:51AM
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I think Cammy's play will really take off when the Flames get some of their best two way forwards back (Glencross, Moss, and Stempniak). Cammy doesn't drive play on his own, but put him with Glencross and Moss, Backlund or Stajan and I think you'll see his numbers skyrocket(Glencross is an underrated playmaker).

Ideally I'd like to see Cammy get the high ground with Stajan and Glencross as Stajan, despite his faults, is wiz with the puck behind the other teams net.

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#11 maimster
February 09 2012, 12:12PM
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I keep reading "when Moss, Glencross and Stempniak get back". Is there any update on when this might be? I have it in my head (without looking back at previous posts) that we're still weeks away from having any of those guys. I'd hate to keep using their return as a panacea if they're that far away.

Agree with previous posts - Cammy is almost invisible out there, but his linemates are certainly not helping (and as a side note, I feel like Comeau is the one guy who most deserves to slide down the depth chart when some of those other guys get back - oops, there I go, using the same conditional).

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#12 Derzie
February 09 2012, 12:44PM
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I agree with the general sentiment here that injuries have Cammi buried in a tough line. Also the fact that the Sutter system is not a slam-dunk match for his assets. I can't ignore his warrior attitude in the playoffs. That alone is worth the risk of signing him this year.

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#13 Danny Lawson
February 09 2012, 12:53PM
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I guessing this is why Montreal was so willing to trade Cammalleri to the Flames. Many here thought they were getting the player of 3-4 years ago. I'm thinking not.

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#14 John F
February 09 2012, 01:26PM
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I always like his effort and belive he is a positive leadership addition.

What I don't like is his contribution realtive to his salary.

I don't however feel he is a good value for $6 million type player. I'd be interested to know what is the value expected for $ spent. I can certainly understand why the Flames didn't want to pay him $6 million and still think that was the correct decision as his performance since his signing with Montreal has not met what we might expect for $6 m.

I'm not sure who his linemates were in Montreal but he was on a similar pace there as here maybe if you are getting buried there is a reason for it. He has been playing 1st unit power play. Those in the $6 million range should drive play and raise the level of their play.

Right now if you look at Jokinen, he is driving play to the extent that whoever plays with him has their level raised.

In summary I like Cammy-just not at $6 million.

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#15 Emir
February 09 2012, 05:28PM
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Lets get Backlund and Cammi to play together for a while a develop some chemistry. Two scoring lines might actually be a good idea.

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#16 Redd3vil
February 09 2012, 05:59PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

He won't as long as he's being buried alongside Jones and Comeau.

bwahaha you think they suck?

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