In Defense of Daymond Langkow

Calgary Flames v Los Angeles Kings


The Flames second most expensive forward has been something of a hot issue around here recently. The Nation’s own Pat Steinberg was challenged by RO of M&G for denigrating Lanks on-air recently. Domebeers got in on the arguement as well, pillorying Langkow for his poor production this season.

It’s not an unfair point. It’s easy to see why Langkow has suddenly become a controversial figure. Over the last few weeks, the Flames have added some $12.9M in forwards (Hagman, Bourque, Stajan, Kotalik) crowding the roster and making future decisions about value and contract retention that much more salient. At 33 years old with a stats line of 12g-21a-32pts, there has rightly been some scrutiny directed his way.

This is my contribution to the debate. It’s an explication of RO’s continued defense of the guy and the reason he (and I) think Langkow remains probably the best center on the team.

I recently wrote an explanatory post on the "corsi" stat. Here’s the coles notes version –

"Here’s an analogy that might help. Let’s say a hockey game is a tug of war. Corsi is the how far right or left of center the rope is. On an individual level, it’s an expression of which players are really pulling the rope."

Langkow is a guy that pulls the rope for the Flames. Hard. His corsi rate this season, according to, is +7.43/60, the fifth best rate amongst regular Flames skaters this year behind Pardy, Bourque, Giordano and Glencross. The ranking, however, is misleading in that not all circumstances are created equal. Langkow has played against other teams first and second lines all year and he’s started more often in his own end than any other Calgary forward. As such, I went about adjusting the Flames corsi rates via the method described at Objective NHL. First, the results:

This is each Flames players corsi rate, raw corsi, ES ice time, zone start (number of offensive zone face-offs, etc) and their adjusted raw corsi stats. In "zone start" any player with a negative figure started that much more in the defensive end of the rink. As you can see, Langkow and Conroy are the two guys that have been given the least attractive zone starts so far this year at ES.

Now, the adjusted/60 ranking:

Langkow jumps over Pardy, Glencross and Giordano. He’s also only one of five skaters whose rating improved after the adjustment. The "delta" category is the amount of change between each players adjusted and unadjusted rates. The lower the number, the more favorable zone start enjoyed by the guy in question. Conversely, the higher the number, the more difficult the zone start.

Clearly, Langkow is a team leader at moving the puck in the right direction. He’s well clear of Jarome Iginla this year. His quality of competition is also amongst the highest on the Flames, so it’s not like he’s beating up lesser lights the way Glencross and Moss did last season. On a related note, Langkow was one of the best players on the club in terms of scoring chance differentials through the first 40 games (corsi and SC are highly correlated) and I suspect that trend will hold through the entirety of the season.

As for his production levels, there’s no question they’ve suffered this year. His ESP/60 rate is middling at best. The team as a whole has had troubling scoring this year, however, and on top of that Langkow has basically been given the dirty spade work while Sutter has tried to find ways to spark the club’s offense. Combined with Higgins and Kotalik (to cast-offs from the Ranagers) Langkow has been deployed in a shut-down role the last few weeks, so as to shelter the third and fourth lines and give Iginla more chances to start at the good end of the rink. Not a role terribly conducive to generating output, especially while skating with two of the most snakebitten wingers in the league this year. 

On top of all that, Langkow’s PP ice time has fallen by an average of more than 1 minute/game relative to last season thanks to being demoted to the second unit (in favor of first Jokinen and now Stajan) and because the Flames are just generally lousy at drawing penalties. As a result, he has seen just 149 minutes on the PP this year, as opposed to 282 last year (iin 73 games) and 312 in 2007-08. That’s bound to take a bite out anyone’s offensive output.  

There’s no question that the Flames will have to consider Langkow’s contribution to cap-hit ratio going forward and make some hard decisions. However, it’s also clear that even at 33 years old, Langkow still moves the puck north efficiently despite tough circumstances. He can play against anyone in a variety of circumstances and he can outchance quality opposition. Given his solid underlying stats and long history as an effective point producer, I would suggest that the offensive downswing is more aberration than decline.

  • maimster

    Nice article Kent.

    Thought experiment for you. If the league didn't keep any stats at all, no day-to-day tabulation of who scores which goals or who wins which faceoffs or whatnot, and we were left to our own devices as to figure out which players were any good. Would we better know who are the better players in this league?

    I suspect the answer is yes.

    • Depends what you mean by "we" I think. I've watched hockey with lots of different people and some are more impressed by the size and amount of a players body-checks rather than who he plays with/against and where the puck goes when he's on the ice.

  • maimster

    Steinberg should start getting into discussion regarding the underlying numbers on the air. It would be refreshing to hear a member of the MSM use these figures to help explain why or why not a player may be useful. On one hand, it is controversial to judge a player solely on his advanced statistics, as they don't include 'intangibles,' that the media cling to so dearly, but on the other hand, they are a useful tool on determining a player's worth. I was always skeptical on the deeper stats pulled from behindthenet and timeonice until I saw Kent, RO and Mr Cleave accurately predict that Jokinen was not going to be the savior everyone expected him to be, including myself. Steinberg, before you jump to conclusions on the merits of these stats, you should first look at the analysis at M&G regarding Jokinen when CGY first acquired him, and then consider the fact that there may be something to these numbers. Trashing Langkow based on his production may be the trendy thing to do, but it would be pretty damn hard to score to his potential when starting every faceoff in his own zone while playing against opponent's top lines.

  • Kent:

    I think scoring chances are something even the MSM could understand (and if they can't then there's no hope).

    You're doing thankless work with the scoring chance project but I for one am glad that at least it will shed light in a more mainstream-acceptable manner than our discussions of territorial advantage.

    Plus for us reality guys it will hopefully confirm our intuitive notions that territorial advantage -> scoring chances -> goals.

    One of the interesting things, if you've read any of Vic's commentary on the matter, then you've seen him talking about Corsi's predictive value breaking down on the PP.

    Of course Corsi was only ever used as a proxy for territorial advantage which is a notion that only makes sense at even strength. Special teams are really a different game entirely, it's a wonder that the best EV players are overwhelmingly also tremendous PP players. But that's the beauty of hockey.

  • Also, amidst all the transactions and extensions that have been recently happened it occurs to me that I've seen more press against Langkow's remaining two years than against the Stajan signing. Maybe I'm just not reading in the right places but that's how it has shaken out for me.

    The only salient defense of the Stajan extension I can think of was yours, where you outlined how the market would dictate his contract. Of course the market is flawed and in a big way, you and I both know that.

    Anyways, I haven't heard any of the MSM question if Stajan was actually a difference maker. Most discussions were about point totals and whether he'd sustain them. Most criticisms revolved around his lack of point producing history, most defenses centred around the fact that he's in his point production prime.

    Hockey commentary is really a slave to points, we'll forever be in the dark age of understanding until that changes.

    • The Stajan contract is one that I'll evaluate next year. His underlyings this season are apparently strong, but I'm loathe to interpret them too broadly given I'm not exactly sure how he was used in Toronto.

      Maybe he's a guy that can reliably drive possession. We'll see.

      • I think the mere fact that he managed to get good underlying stats in Toronto means he deserves some kudos. Pretty hard to shelter anyone on a team with that much fail. I'm not saying he's necessarily worth 3.5 mil (aside from market forces. Thanks, market!), but I'd be very surprised if he wasn't just a slight overpay as opposed to the miniature contract disaster that people seem to imply.

  • madisonjanine

    I really enjoyed this article you made the stats make sense. I am always defending Langkow to the people I watch the games with and this will help a lot. He is the kind of player that is always there even when he isn't scoring goals and you need players like that on the team.

  • The stats tell part of the story but not the whole thing.

    This isn't about stats, it's about figuring out how a player helps you win.

    Horcoff's a pretty good player. You should tell your friends on OilersNation and HFBoards.

    • It's probably the wrong nation site to talk about Horcoff. I actually think he's a player that is undervalued by a lot of people and I was a big defender of his contract when it was signed for many of the same reasons outlined in the mc79hockey article, Jonathon Willis' many articles and Lowetide's analysis. His performance this year hasn't really helped me try and justify the contract however even though he is playing on a terrible team.

      The points aren't the only stat to be concerned about when addressing a player's "value" but looking at CORSI in isolation doesn't tell the whole story either. CORSI is a statistical measurement that helps you "[figure] out how a player makes you win" which in my book is a "stat".

  • I like Daymond Langkow. Clearly, he's been a guy that you can throw out against pretty much anyone. For the most part, I'd suggest he's underrated. I've played hockey in Vegreville with many guys he knows. I got nothing against him… except for his age.

    At 33, he's not too too old. But as I've stated in the past – I think Matt Stajan is a younger, poor-mans version of Lanks. Smart management can rebuild on the fly. That means bringing in some younger guys to replace the aging ones. Depending on what is 'out there', I see them bringing in Stajan – whom although isn't yet as accomplished as Daymond is 7 years younger – as Langkow's possible replacement at a milli less (perhaps its this summer, perhaps next), and then spending Daymond's $'s on a better fit for Jarome.

    I never heard Pat's comments, but I didn't realize Daymond was taking such a beating. Is it not maybe a good idea to trade assets BEFORE they begin to diminish… at least as far as return on value goes.

    I don't strongly sit on either side of the fence, but I'd look at moving him this summer. Depending on what you can get for him and/or who you can get to replace him (preferably a younger play-making center IMO), its at least worth the look. And if the options out there don't make you a better team, well then, you don't have to move him.

    Also, I've often been on the defending side of Horcoff over at OilersNation. This season has obviously been abysmal, but if he can bounce back, he can still be a valuable piece for them. I've often compared him & Langkow (tough minutes, no respect). I wonder what people's perception would be if Horcoff made 4.5 and Langkow made 5.5.

  • Further on Stajan, he's not a guy I've ever really liked up until earlier this year. He's too soft for my liking, BUT I still see value in him and think he has the potential to be a really good fit for this club. We shall see…

  • Look, I've defended Langkow plenty on the show, plenty. I'm not taking shots at the guy, huge fan.

    As for the stats Kent busts out…to be honest, I'm really new to the online community, or at least being this involved. So, let me get my head around them and understand them…but you guys are all savvy, that's fact, so they clearly have merit. I just don't know how to use that merit until I get my small brain around them.

  • In reading more, I wish I knew these stats were available before. While I don't really understand them yet, if I can get someone smarter than me to email me a primer that'd be great (walkinvisible or Kent).

    Basically, I just want to know what they mean, how they're compiled, how they're tracked, all that kind of stuff…because from what I can see, they'd add a ton to the show and to the station, at least for me.

    I'll say this…people laughed at the OBPS and WHIP in baseball, and now it's considered gospel. This seems very similar.

    I'm at