Have the Trades Helped Jarome?

Calgary Flames v Ottawa Senators


Yesterday I talked about the apparent team-wide improvement that has occured since the Phaneuf and Jokinen trades. Today I’ll focus on the apparent effect they’ve had on Jarome Iginla. One of the unspoken reasons for executing such a major exchange was the struggles of the Flames captain, who is (was?) having one of his worst seasons in the last decade in terms of results and underlying stats.

Prior to the deals, Iginla wasn’t really driving possession in a manner that was consistent with his past or his paycheck. In fact, he and Jokinen spent the first half of the season chasing the bad guys around their own end for most of the night. Iggy was on pace for his lowest point total since 2005-06 and his lowest goal total since 1999-2000. It wasn’t the result of bad bounces either, since his personal shot rate (3/game) was way off his typical pace (3.65/game). That doesn’t look like huge difference, but over an 82 game schedule that’s about 50 shots.

Part of the problem was a lack of power play time, since the Flames are one of the worst teams in the league at drawing penalties. That said, Iginla wasn’t getting the job done at even strength either where his shot rate lagged behind others on the team, including the erstwhile "# 1 center" Olli Jokinen. The causes of his struggles have been hotly debated by Flames fans this year, with some pointing to lackluster line mates and tough opposition as the cause, while others claim it’s a sign of decline. Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle of the debate. By observation, Iginla looks less effective to me relative to past years: he spends a lot of time on the periphery of the play and tends to try to make plays while stationary. He doesn’t look as strong on the puck as he used to either. However, the rival viewpoint is also valid. Brent Sutter began the year pairing Iginla with Jokinen and then sending them out against other team’s best players. The pair spent a lot of time taking own zone draws against superstars, which is, to put it mildly, not Jokinen’s bag baby. They got murdered most nights. Through the first 40 games, Iginla and the pumpkinheaded fin were two of the worst Flames in terms of corsi rates and scoring chance differential. That’s hardly ideal when talking about $12 million worth of forwards.

Over the first 56 games of the season we can look at Iginla’s ES possession stats thanks to this handy app. It takes a minute to compile and the results look confusing, but for the purposes of this analysis all you need to consider is the CORSI% column. For those unfamiliar, corsi is a proxy for zone time (shots directed at the net both for and against while the player is on the ice at even strength). This program displays the corsi ratio, so if player X is at .600, then that means that 60% of all the shots that were taken while he was on the ice at 5on5 were directed at the opposing goalie. If he’s at 40%, that means 60% of the shots were directed at his goalie. And so on.

Iginla’s ratio from October 1 to February 1 was 51.9%, which is just okay. He was under water for most of the year, but there was some recovery after he and Jokinen were split up. Since that time, Iginla’s corsi ratio in the six most recent games has increased to 57.5%, an improvement of over 5%. Again, that sounds small, but it’s actually fairly substantial. Assuming, for example, that there are 75 total shots directed at either net over the course of a game, that’s 450 shots over 6 contests. Fifty-two percent represents 234 shots, while 57.5 is about 259 (+25). If we prorate that over an 82 game schedule again, we’re talking about a difference of of some 340 shots. That’s a lot more time spent at the good end of the rink.

If you glance at the bottom of both links, you’ll notice the team overall has improve from 52.2% to 56.3% since the deals went down. Again, we’re talkiing about a small sample here so what we might be noticing is a temporary aberration rather than a real improvement. Assuming, for the moment, that the step forward is genuine, the fact that Calgary is spending more time in the offensive zone at ES is another good sign. The improvement, for both Jarome and the club as a whole, has come through the addition of Stajan and Hagman to Iginla’s line, as well as the combination of Langkow and HIggins on the second unit. If you glance at the latter pairs corsi results so far (#21 and #22 in the chart) you’ll notice that they are moving the puck in the right direction (60.9% for Higgins and 56.7% for Langkow), despite the fact that Sutter has deployed them in a "shut-down" role for much of their time together. This does two things for Iginla: frees him from having to play against the other team’s best players all the time and sets him up for more offensive zone draws since the puck ends up at the good end of the rink more often when he’s not on the ice. This is why we see Iginla’s personal shot rate up around 4.8/game since the changes.

This analysis doesn’t answer questions surrounding Iginla’s theoretical decline – this is a discussion of the apparent effect the improvement in circumstances have had on him thus far. It remains to be seen if these gains are enduring and to what degree they situation dependent. Afterall, $7 million players should be driving results rather than relying on favorable matchups, but that’s a debate for another time. In context of the Flames fight for a playoff spot, I’m pleased with the direction things are headed.

  • I thikn we saw from last night's CAN vs NOR game that Iginla is going to perform much better with a true, #1, play-making centerman (or linemate). He's NEEDS to have someone feed HIM the puck.

    Give us a Brad Richards, Getzlaf, or (heaven forbid) an Alex Tanguay. Someone that is going to make a crisp pass EVERY time.


  • That's a good point. There are no real puck distributors on the Flames currently. Tanguay may still be available too…

    That said, Iginla played with Crosby against a team who probably would struggle to be competitive in the AHL. We should be cautious about drawing conclusions from that game.

  • Interesting look at Jarome. Although his critics will continue to say they're right (duh, he IS getting older and he IS on the decline… but the decline from superstar to star isn't all that bad and isn't nearly as bad as some critics suggest).

    While its clear that Iggy isn't the guy that can do it all by himself anymore, its just as clear that when playing with suitable linemates, he can still score. Although they aren't the big names one would hope for, Stajan (a playmaker) and Hagman seem like a better fit than anything else over the last while.

    WELCOME BACK KENT, we missed you 😉

  • I'd still like to see Iggy with Langkow.

    It's not so much about puck distribution skills or anything like that to me. The average NHL player will look like an all-star passer and shooter when they play against the average AHL player. That's because the average AHL player is not as fast, not as quick thinking, makes more mistakes, is not as strong, etc.

    I'm pretty sure all of these players have the fundamental skills and can put on a show in a skills competition. Even the lowly McGrattan (probably). But not against actual players, because the opposition defines how much time and space you have to get out of your team's danger zone and into the opposition's danger zone.

    Langkow has the complete package – passing, receiving passes, shooting, positioning in the scoring area, puck battle winning, when to provide support vs. when exit the zones, forecheck decision making, etc. And he does it all against tough comp. He may not wow anybody with shootout-style skill plays but he buys time and space like nobody's business. At this point in his career curve that's the kind of guy Iginla needs to play with.

    TLDR: We have a #1 centre, his name is Daymond Langkow.

  • I think we can safely say that isn't going to happen this year. Sutter's had every reason and every opportunity to give it a try and outside of a few games in December, he''s refused to abandon the parsing of Langkow and Iginla (and, for good measure, Iginla and Bourque).

  • Kent:

    It's funny that the narrative forever has been "Darryl has to find a #1 centre to play with Jarome". I knew as soon as I saw goal #2 that this would be the common refrain wailed by Flamesland.

    The complaint used to be absolutely unfounded since Iggy could play with practically anybody against practically anybody and look good. And now that Iggy really does need good players on his side to play against other good players, well, uh, Langkow, dude's been here for 4.5 seasons now.

    • While I agree Langkow is more than capable to play with Iggy, I'd like to see what Stajan can do. He has some playmaking ability and is young enough to be a perfect fit. And while Stajan or Langkow both remain decent fits, its also likely that a legit playmaking center (a la Jason Spezza) would make for a world of difference.

    • Which is funny, because Iggy had some pretty big seasons next to Langkow just a couple of years ago.

      Oh well. The addition of a few decent NHLers seems to have done something for Jarome thus far, even if he isn't playing with the guys I would consider ideal.