Now that the dust has settled on yesterday and the madness is over, it’s time to take an objective look at the pieces the Flames picked up. I’ll endeavor to eject my sour feelings (which I’ve obviously made quite clear) over the Jokinen debacle in this analysis and let the data do the talking instead. I’ll also take stock of the Flames new situation moving forward.
Alex Tanguay, $1.7M/year, one year
The best acquisition of the day in my view. Tanguay was once a proven even strength outscorer in this league and he managed to be the second best ES player on the Flames behind Jarome Iginla during his time here. Both in terms of outscoring and the level of competition he faced. I was an ardent defender of Tanguay as a Flame and lamented his departure.
That said, there’s a reason the ex-Av was available for a third-liners ticket. His last two seasons since leaving Calgary were injury marked and awful, in that order. He was still scoring at a decent clip in MTL, but a shoulder injury knocked him out of a third of the season. In Tampa Bay, however, Tanguay was flat out awful. Bad enough to be a healthy scratch on a team that desperately needed quality ES minutes. It wasn’t bounces or circumstances that hurt Alex either – his PDO was a perfectly average 100.6. He faced middle of the road competition, had one of the cherriest zone start ratios on the team (55.9%), but still put up a mediocre rate of production at 5-on-5 (1.63 – perhaps the worst of his career).
To add some context, Nigel Dawes (now a free agent after being bought out by the Flames) scored 1.59 ESP/60, faced tougher competition, started in his own zone much more often (50.5) and had better raw and relative corsi rates than Alex last year. Dawes was also vastly superior on the power play (5.26 PPP/60 vs 1.56 PPP/60), which is why his PPG pace was superior to Tanguay’s last season.
I still consider Tanguay a worthwhile gamble at the price the team paid – but that’s what he is: a gamble. His last truly notable offensive season was 4 years ago and the last time he held his own against heavy hitters at ES was three years ago. Tanguay isn’t old by any means, but he has crested the 30 year mark and has suffered some significant injuries along the way. If Tanguay can even somewhat recapture the player he once was, Sutter has hit a homerun with this addition and the Flames have another heavy hitter in the top 6. If not, then Tanguay will struggle to replicate the contributions of Nigel Dawes, at twice the price.
Olli Jokinen, $3M/year, two years
Let’s ignore, for now, the ridiculously circuitous and expensive manner in which Jokinen has found his way back to being a Flame and focus on what he may bring to the club.
I was never a fan of this acquisition. Initially it was because Jokinen was miscast as a "first line center" which, despite gawdy point totals in Florida, is a false impression. Jokinen has never in his career faced other top players and come out ahead. He’s made hay beating up lesser lights and scoring with the man advantage. There’s a reason both FLA and PHX dispassionately moved him along when he had a ticket of $5.25 and it was clear he couldn’t carry the mail.
So the Flames paid a bundle chasing the White Whale of a "first line center". Predictably, Jokinen came in, was placed in a tough minutes role with Jarome Iginla and immediately fell on his face. His possession stats, scoring chance stats, scoring rates were all putrid through the first few months of play last year. If Iginla hadn’t have scored at a 30% rate in November, Jokinen’s totals would have been even more laughable.
Brent Sutter started to play with the lines and match-ups after December when it was clear the Jokinen+Iginla pairing wasn’t going to fly. Then the 9 game losing streak hit, Darryl lost his mind and the rest is history. During a brief stint on the 2nd/3rd lines, Jokinen certainly wasn’t as detrimental as he was previously, but he didn’t exaclty knock it out of the park either. Ditto for the relocation to NY, where he mostly skated with Prospal against second tier competition. In 26 games for the Rags, Jokinen managed just 4 goals and 15 points (a 47 point pace).
Like Tanguay, Jokinen’s underlying numbers ended up being mediocre across the board last season. His ESP/60 rate was basically the same (1.69), he played middling competition, he started in the o-zone more often than not (51.9%) and his corsi rate was marginal as well (+4.91). That said, there’s no question Jokinen was also unlucky last year. His SH% of 6.4% was well below his previous career average (10%). If he can get back to his established norms, then he should at least break the 15 goal mark.
In terms of my personal observations, I’ll state that I don’t think much of Jokinen as a hockey player. He’s a decent enough skater and has a great shot, but that’s probably the extent of his strengths. He handles the puck like a man stickhandles a brick with a fishing rod. He has worse than average vision in the offensive zone, choosing poor shooting angles over other, perhaps more appropriate plays. I also find his awareness in the defensive end lacking. Jokinien is a player that has to be carefully managed to be effective. Here’s hoping the club sticks him on a second or third line with good players and easy match-ups this time around. With Langkow and Stajan on board, that’s certainly possible. The good news, is, of course, his salary is more in-line with his ability level now (although personally I would have preferred a sub-$3 deal).
I’m not going to spend much time on this signing. I’ve gone record to say I think dressing a goon is pointless in the modern NHL. However, Sutter insists that the team have one year after year, despite the fact that they never seem to make any material difference (aside from giving up a lot of shots and scoring chances against whenever they’re on the ice that is). Ivanans is a legit heavyweight for those who care for that sort of thing. For my part, I dread having to watch the Flames 4th line be rendered non-functional all year by the anchor-like presence of an enforcer.
A Prust/Mayers replacement, Jackman was fed to the wolves by his coach in NYI last year (33% offensive zone start ratio, high level of competition) and he mostly got his head beat in, as would be expected. He’s another big guy that can throw the body around, but probably isn’t much better than a host of other, similar players out there.
– The Flames spent about $6M in cap space yesterday and have a more or less have full roster. They are also technically over the salary cap and have RFA Ian White yet left to sign (or trade).
– The Ivanans and Jackman acquisitions render Backlund’s immediate future with the parent club rather murky, given the fact it would be inefficient in terms of both dollars (1.27M cap hit) and development to skate him with a grinder and a goon for 5 minutes a night. Unless he somehow usurps Langkow (which will only happen if Daymond is still hurt come OCT), it’s back to the farm for Mikael.
– Calgary still has 7 NHL defensemen on one-way contracts (Regehr, Bouwmeester, Sarich, Staios, Pardy, Giordano, Kronwall), plus the aforementioned Ian White and the now-waiverable Matt Pelech. That’s 9 NHL defenders of various levels of quality. Something’s gotta give.
– Ales Kotalik remains in limbo. There’s no apparent place on the team for him now and his $3M salary needs to go away more than ever. However, the team has chosen not to buy him out, so he remains a curious, problematic remnant a trade should have never been consummated.
– I noted at the start of the free agent frenzy that the Flames desperately need another top-flight player. Meaning, another guy who can play against other top players and excel. If Sutter’s gambit with Tanguay fails, that need remains unfilled. Cleary, Darryl is banking on a return to classic form from both the "big names" he signed yesterday. If that happens, the Flames will improve next year. If not, they’ll be worse.