Flames 2011-12 Player Grades: Top Six Forwards

Kent Wilson
April 21 2012 09:16AM

 

 

It's time for that most contentious of sports writing activities: player grades/rankings! I've chosen to start things off with the Flames main forwards before we get into the support cast, back-end and goalies.

To grade the players, I used a mix of their results (both offensive output and underlying numbers) and my own subjective impressions from observation. I weighted thing by expectations and according to each guy's place on the roster and pay grade. Meaning, a fourth liners aren't going to be graded by the same criteria as first liners and vice versa.

So without further ado...the top sixers.

Report Card

Jarome Iginla

82GP, 32g-35a-67pts

Grade: C-

It was an undeniably rough season for the captain. Although he lead the Flames in scoring again this year, the rest of his game took a very serious step in the wrong. Iginla was forced to see some of the tougher ice time thanks to the team's make-up and injury problems and frankly he got his head beat in most nights. His scoring chance ratio was an abysmal 46.3% and his possession rate was a team worst -11.53 corsi/60. It's the first time Iginla has ventured into negative double digit territory by that measure as a veteran.

When He's Good: Jarome is still capable of stretches where he dominates in the offensive zone, particularly when he finds ways to avoid coverage in the slot so he can unleash his still lethal shot. Iginla is also highly durable and so well conditioned he's capable of playing 20+ minutes a night, which can't be said for a lot of players in their mid-30's. Only 11 forwards in the league played more than Iginla last season, with only four of them (Stamkos, Heatley, St. Louis, Tavares) skating more at even strength.

When He Struggles: Iginla is liability in both the defensive and neutral zone on most evenings, but especially when he isn't right at the top of his game. He tends to be generally unengaged behind his own blueline and can give the puck away when trying to carry it through the neutral zone or in shallow areas of the opposition's end. Iginla is particularly bad when he tries to overhandle the puck around the bluelines.

It's an especially rough night when he is routinely pinched off along the boards during a rush, resulting in him stopping short, curling back and trying to make something out of nothing (which usually ends up in a give-away). The captain isn't quite the bull along the boards that he used to be in his prime as well, so he tends to the surrender the puck during battle down low a lot more frequently these days.

Olli Jokinen

82GP, 23g-38a-61pts

Grade: B-

Everyone's favorite photoshop subject, Olli Jokinen had a bit of renassaince this season, scoring 60+ points for the first time since 2008-09. He was on pace for almost 70-points for a majority of the year, but the percentages that were sustaining his output collapsed down the stretch.

Frequently lauded as the Flames most consistent forward, Jokinen saw the second toughest quality of competition on the team (only slightly behind partner Curtis Glencross) and started more often on the defensive end of the rink (47.9%). Those are really tough circumstances, typically reserved for Selke type players. Jokinen isn't that, to be sure, which is why his scoring chance ratio was terrible (44.4%) as was his possession rate (-10.25 corsi/60). On the plus side, Olli lead the team in power play production rate (5.82 points/60) for the second straight season.

When He's Good: I hate to use this terrible cliche, but Jokinen is best when he keeps things simple. A big guy who can really move once he gets going, Jokinen can slice through coverage in the middle of the ice and catch opponents off their guard with his speed. Short, simple passes to his wingers work best for him and he possesses an absolute howitzer of a shot which is how he scored so many goals for the Panthers back in the day.

When He Struggles: Jokinen is still a mediocre puck handler with average to below average vision on the ice. His feet move quicker than his hands, so when he tries to stickhandle through multiple opponents on the rush or when he attempts long passes through traffic, the puck tends to go the other way.

Olli is also only average at thinking the game as well, so sometimes he'll struggle with his positioning or decision making on a play. He can also fall back into bad habits now and then with large, swooping, inefficient routes around the ice. He remains pretty poor in the face-off circle as well (46.5%).

Alex Tanguay

64GP, 13g-26a-49pts

Grade: B+

Limited to just 64 games due to injury, when healthy Tanguay was at times the best offensive player on the ice for Calgary. He remains a rare talent who manages to make everyone on his line better due to his ability to anticipate plays and find his line mates in heavy traffic. Tanguay doesn't drive possession anymore, however, and he's not overly physical.

Interestingly, Alex is the only guy over the last two seasons whose scoring chance differential is way out of line with his possession ratio. Both years he's been in the red by the latter measure, but in the black in terms of chances for and against (chance ratio was 51.1% this season, well clear of everyone else who played consistently in the top-6). The correlation between possession and scoring chances tends to be about 0.7 or better, so either Tanguay is a unique anomaly or I have some sort of unconscious bias towards him while counting.

When He's Good: No Flames player reads and reacts to the action as well as Tanguay when he is on his game. Alex has sublime on-ice vision, can stickhandle in a phone booth and thread passes through opposition sticks and legs. He also has one of the most accurate shots in the league, as his 18.8% career shooting percentage proves.

When Alex is in the zone, nobody on the team is more dangerous because he can make chances out of nothing, set-up team mates for easy goals or snipe it top corner himself.

When He Struggles: A quintessential pass-first winger, Tanguay sometimes tries too hard for the perfect play or easy tap-in, which leads to needless give-aways or lost scoring chances. When things aren't going well for Alex, he starts to force low percentage plays in bad areas of the ice far too frequently, short-circuiting rushes or periods of sustained pressure. Tanguay also isn't overly big or strong, so while he can win puck possession with skills and smarts, he can also be out-muscled during battles along the boards.

Curtis Glencross

image via ramizle

67gp, 26g-22a-48pts

Grade: B

After a career high 16.6% shooting rate the season before, Glencross signed a new deal in the summer and, improbably, managed a new career best SH% this season (23.6%). Not only is that a high water mark for Curtis himself, but it was the second highest SH% in the league amongst players who appeared in 30 or more games (Mathieu Perreault was first at 26.7%). So despite only playing in 67 games and managing only 110 shots on net, Glencross nevertheless scored 26 goals - in fact, he was the only player in the league to score 20+ goals on less than 120 shots.

As mentioned, Glencross played the toughest minutes on the team this season. He and Jokinen were almost always matched against the other team's big guns (regardless of who was their other winger) which is the reason this year was the first time he had a negative possession and chance differential since becoming a Calgary Flame. As such, even strength was a struggle for Glencross when the puck wasn't going in the net for him (think the last 3 weeks of the season) and the grade would have been a lot uglier if the bounces had gone the other way for Curtis this year.

When He's Good: Fast and mean, Glencross can drive play along the boards and on the rush, which is why he and David Moss used to be dominate other third liners when they were playing in the middle of the rotation. Glencross also has a hard, accurate shot, so he can bury quality chances when they appear. His speed and tenacity means he can play on both the penalty kill and power play as well.

When He Struggles: Glencross can get in toruble in a number of ways. First, if he's angry or frustrated, he tends to get overly aggressive and takes ill-advised penalties at inopportune times. Secondly, Curtis also suffers through periods of needlessly fancy or maddeningly lackadaisical play that tends to neutralize his core strengths as a player. Although speedy, strong on his skates and possessing decent instincts, Glencross certainly isn't Mario Lemieux. Meaning...it becomes a problem when tries to play like number 66.

Mike Cammalleri

66Ggp, 20g-21a-41pts

Grade: B -

It was a rough start of the season for Cammalleri as a Hab, eventually leading to a fall from grace in Montreal and a trade back to the Flames in exchange for Rene Bourque. The deal worked out for Calgary, with Cammalleri stepping into the Flames top-6 as both a winger and center (depending on need) and garnering 11 goals and 19 points in 28 games.

Cammalleri struggled to find his feet when he first arrived, disappearing into the mix completely aside from a couple of power play goals. As things rolled on, however, he appeared to get more comfortable and driving offense a lot more consistently down the stretch. He wasn't too bad as a pivot when half the club's regular centers were injured, to the degree that I'd have no problem with the team penciling Cammalleri in as a center if the club can't find a useful guy in free agency.

All that said, like everyone else in the top-6, Cammalleri spent more time in the defensive zone and was outchanced at 5on5. HIs specialty has always been creating chances and finishing around the net rather than a solid 200 foot game, but with a $6M cap hit, the expectations are a bit weightier.

When He's Good: Cammalleri is a slick, crafty player in the offensive zone. He has a nose for loose pucks and soft coverage in the slot which is where he does a lot of damage. Cammalleri has a wicked shot and a fast release, so he's dangerous as both a triggerman on the PP or as a guy causing havoc down around the crease. He's a decent puck handler and can make slow or clumsy defenders miss with both their stick and body checks.

When He Struggles: Not the best defensive presence, Cammalleri will cheat for offense when he can and make high-risk plays at times which can back fire. Although he is solid on his skates for a smaller player, Cammalleri can definitely be overwhelmed by bigger opponents in certain situations. And although agile, Cammalleri doesn't have the high-end speed one usually expects in smaller forwards.

Coming Up...

These are the only guys on the team who were consistently top-6 type forwards (even there's only 5 of them). The next round will look at everyone from Backlund to Bouma.

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Former Nations Overlord. Current FN contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
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#1 Bikeit
April 21 2012, 11:22AM
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Great summary Kent.

The things I think i see but can't quite explain.

Flames have alot of good tools in the arsenal when they are across the blueline in the opposition zone. The problem is getting into the opposition zone on a consistent basis to use those tools.

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#2 Vintage Flame
April 21 2012, 11:32AM
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One thing that has always kind of gnawed at me was Glencross and his ~24sh%. When I see that a guy like GlenX has 26 goals in 67 GP and a mind-blowing sh%, the first thing that comes to mind is, wow this guy has some decent talent. When I think about it more though, I think, "Wow.. This guy needs to shoot A LOT MORE."

The fact that he is the only guy to have 20 goals while taking under 120 shots leaves me wondering about what goes through his head when he's on the ice. Does he consider himself the last scoring option? Will he take the shot when there is no one else around to do it for him? If that is the case then how long will it take before he catches on that when he shoots, a lot of the time, he scores.

I've often thought that Curtis could and should be a consistent 30 goal scorer. He is getting closer, and if he can balance out his shooting percentage and his production, I think he can get there.

Would probably bump his grades up to the B+ range as well.

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#3 Emir
April 21 2012, 07:02PM
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Fun read, thanks Kent. This is the stuff that fuels me needs through the off season and gets me posting again haha.

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#4 RexLibris
April 21 2012, 10:58PM
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Not that I'm trying to be a downer or anything but...

Anyone notice who is fifth in WHL playoff scoring right now?

I know Baertschi is second, but the throw-in on that Cammalleri deal is looking none-too-good from where I sit.

Anyway, I didn't post just to re-hash the trade.

The Portland/Tri-City series looks like it could be a pretty entertaining one. For what it's worth, I'm cheering for Portland, just so we can have some articles about some Alberta prospects going head-to-head. Although picking a team for whom to cheer in that scenario might be a little hard for Flames fans (Baertschi vs Brossoit).

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#5 schevvy
April 22 2012, 01:10AM
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@RexLibris

Holland is 20 (I think) so he should be dominating. His game works nicely in the WHL but does not work nice for the pros. He's not built enough physically and has only average hands, so I'd say at best he's a guy who'll get the occaisonal call-up.

It's hard on me to be a downer on Holland, he is from Lethbridge after all, but I don't see him becoming much of anything in the NHL

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#6 RexLibris
April 22 2012, 10:12AM
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@schevvy

So from what you're saying I'm guessing the argument is that he is a beneficiary of playing on a strong team. Is that more or less correct?

Do you have a preference for the Flames at the draft, in them either choosing a forward or a defenseman? If the mock drafts I have seen are anywhere close to accurate they should have a decent choice of prospects between the two positions.

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#7 RKD
April 22 2012, 11:26AM
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Really can't disagree with those grades, I heard that Jarome was taking a lot of face offs in his own zone. His offensive zone % was way down to like nearly 50%, I think A.V. has the Sedins start in the o-zone like 80% of the time, Quenville has Toews and Kane start like 65%.

Hope the new coach can get Iggy to start more in the o-zone assuming he is still here.

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#8 schevvy
April 22 2012, 12:13PM
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@RexLibris

Yes, that is my opinion on Holland. Tri-City was the best team in the West this year, and Holland gets the benefit of playing lots of PP time, and having lots of his points come from the PP. So I just don't think he'd be the same in the NHL.

For the Flames, unless there is some can't miss D man available at 14, I would draft a forward. I haven't looked into the specific prospects very much, but the Flames need some forwards who can score. We all know Iggy won't be around forever, and even though Sven may prove to be a high-scoring forward, it'd be nice to have more than one.

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#9 Kevin R
April 22 2012, 12:33PM
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@RKD: Yeah I agree, I cant argue the grades too much either. Brent was so stubborn he was determined to change even the veterans on the team. New coach will hopefully utilize Iggy better & get him out of the gate much quicker. Max that value for a trade deadline deal for him. Not sure if anyone else has been hearing rumblings, but Iggy is wanting out more & more as he knows the window for a cup is pretty well closed for him with the Flames.

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#10 MC Hockey
April 22 2012, 12:48PM
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Nice job, you grades and rationale make a lot of sense to me. Also, while I think trading Iggy is best, it will not happen so the next coach needs to just work with him the way he likes to lay (I.e. Focus on offense only)

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#11 RexLibris
April 22 2012, 02:27PM
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@schevvy

With Reinhart, Baertschi, Ferland, Gaudreau, and perhaps even Granlund, might it not be better at this time to focus on a defensive prospect?

It might be a choice between Sebastien Collberg and Olli Maatta, or something in that range.

I know that the easy answer is best player available, but at 14 that opens up a bit to interpretation. And frankly, the debate about whether the Flames should draft by need is moot because they really need a bit of everything.

My point though is that they have virtually no decent defensive prospects in their system and this might be the year to start the clock on one.

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#12 schevvy
April 22 2012, 06:01PM
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@RexLibris

Top-end forwards are far tougher to find than good d-man in my opinion. Good defensive prospects can be found later on in the draft (2nd round or so), where as with forwards most of the good ones are gone by round 1. Personally, I think Feaster needs to find a way to get another 1st round pick at the draft, and if that happens, I take a forward + a defenceman.

Also, I wouldn't necessarily say the Flames have no real defensive guys. J-Bo, Gio and Butler are still quite young and then they also got Brodie. Depth guys like Smith and Wilson can fill in the gaps for now. Obviously a few more would be nice but it's not like they're in dire need of a d-man

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#13 RexLibris
April 22 2012, 10:57PM
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schevvy wrote:

Top-end forwards are far tougher to find than good d-man in my opinion. Good defensive prospects can be found later on in the draft (2nd round or so), where as with forwards most of the good ones are gone by round 1. Personally, I think Feaster needs to find a way to get another 1st round pick at the draft, and if that happens, I take a forward + a defenceman.

Also, I wouldn't necessarily say the Flames have no real defensive guys. J-Bo, Gio and Butler are still quite young and then they also got Brodie. Depth guys like Smith and Wilson can fill in the gaps for now. Obviously a few more would be nice but it's not like they're in dire need of a d-man

I was thinking of defensive prospects. Butler and Brodie are past that stage, as far as I can tell. It doesn't mean they are done learning, just that they are call-ups due to roster space and ability now more than development. The Flames have defense now, but the now isn't the problem (okay, it is A problem, but not the ONLY problem and also not one they can solve at the draft).

I was thinking more along the lines of a prospect to replace Tim Erixon in the Flames depth chart. And I think they are in dire need of a defensive prospect with 1st or 3nd pairing potential.

I do actually agree about finding forwards with skill. The Oilers have trended towards drafting forwards heavily in the early rounds and then picking up defencemen and goalies in the middle. Right now the only prospect the Flames have that Vegas would give you good odds on is Baertschi. The others have potential but it is still too far away to say with 100% certainty that they will become regular NHL players. So another couple of prospects would certainly help them.

Kent has written about this though, in that the replacement level of talent for the Flames is only in the bottom six positions and only to an extent that was sorely tested this season.

The only way Feaster manages a second first-rounder, in my opinion, is in a trade of Iginla at the draft. Could happen, but it's a long shot, especially with Feaster hiring a new coach and then being able to say to the team that they are "going for it" again this year. Trade deadline is the likelier option and then one has to wonder about Feaster's apparent reluctance to make what he considers "bad trades" like he did this deadline. Heaven help the Flames if Feaster does like Niuewendyk did last season with Richards and hold on to Iginla at the deadline because the Flames are making a push for the playoffs.

I think draft day 2013 is the one that may have more interest for Flames fans. A name I would recommend they begin to research would be Curtis Lazar. If the Flames were to draft as late as 6th overall next year there is a chance he could still be available and he is a kid that a team might be able to build around. Depends on what Feaster does this off-season.

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#14 loudogYYC
April 23 2012, 12:46AM
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@RexLibris

I think there's a reason the Oilers pick that way. Whether it will work for them is still to be seen, but I see a similarity to what Philly does with their picks. Draft and develop forwards and acquire defensemen.

Trying to do everything all at once seems very Darryl Sutteresque to me, specially when you look at the 11 draft picks the Flames have had in the past 2 years compared to lets say the 23 Florida has had. Flames have to go heavy on one type of asset and THEN balance them out.

As it stands right now, Feaster has 7 picks in the 2012 draft. None in the 2nd round (to Buffalo in the Kotalik salary transfer) and an extra pick in the 7th round thanks to the Wayne Primeau salary dump back in '09.

With Calgary's top 3 picks coming in at 14, 75, and 105, there's just not enough to work with. They have to draft offense and preferably a few centremen. Olli Maatta may be available at 14 and that would be great, but he probably won't play in the NHL till 2015 and the team may still lack depth at C by then.

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#15 Robert Vollman
April 23 2012, 09:04AM
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You were far too generous - all of these players got dominated at even-strength.

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#16 Domebeers.com
April 23 2012, 10:27AM
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What Rob said.

Also, I thought Tangs wasn't so great this year, especially down the stretch.

Whatevs.

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#17 RexLibris
April 23 2012, 01:43PM
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@loudogYYC

The Oilers draft priority in the first three rounds tends to be forward/defence/goal so that in the event they have a second pick in a round it may be spent on either a forward or defenseman, and if defense then the following pick is rarely another defenseman but can either revert to forward or be used on goaltending. It has been rare these past few years for them to draft a goaltender in the first three rounds (Samu Perhonen seems to be an exception).

Overall the strategy appears to be to take skilled forwards early and then explore the later rounds for defence. Goaltending tends to be addressed in the middle rounds (4 and 5) while the final two rounds have lately been used to take players from farther afield (Pelss, Hartikainen).

There has been a reluctance since MacGregor took over to take defensemen too early in the draft and history would seem to suggest that selecting defence in the top five is a risky proposition. The development of those prospects usually outlasts the patience of the team.

For the Flames, when I said that they have every need to address (save perhaps goal) I was essentially saying that, due to their mid-ranking in the first round, there may not be a clear and easy choice from a fan's perspective. Collberg, Pouliot and Gaunce all seem like potential names that will be kicking around at that position and from where I sit the Flames could take whichever one strikes their fancy because they need all of the above.

My money is on Collberg for the Flames. A fast, scoring winger.

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