Investigating Tim Jackman

UNIONDALE, NY - MARCH 25: Forward Mikael Backlund #60 of the Calgary Flames battles for the puck with Tim Jackman #28 of the New York Islanders during an NHL game at the Nassau Coliseum on March 25, 2010 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)


Spurred by this conversation at M&G, I decided to take a deeper look at one of the clubs more uninteresting acquisitions this summer: tough guy Tim Jackman. The 29 year old has scored all of 28 points in 191 career games and is known far more as a tough guy than a capable NHL player as a result. The assumption is that he was acquired to skate around for 5 minutes a night with a scowl on his face and little else.

A cursory look at his underlying numbers suggests that Jackman is indeed little more than a below replacement level enforcer type. Last year, his corsi/60 rate for the Islanders was absolutely ghastly: -20.16. That’s one of the worst rates in the league, so it would be defensible to write Jackman off as a musclehead.

A deeper look reveals some pretty harsh circumstances for the big guy though. Jackman also had one of the most merciless zone start ratios in the league at 33.8%. That was the toughest row to hoe in New York last year, with Richard Park being the only other guy below the 40% mark. And while Franz Nielsen was mostly taking on the big guns, Jackman wasn’t just facing the dregs: the various quality of competition metrics at behindthenet suggest at least middling opposition.

I decided to normalize Jackman’s 2009-10 corsi rate in order to get a better feeling for the player. It’s something I’ve done for Langkow in the past. For those unfamiliar, it’s correcting for the skewing effect of zone starts on possession. Here’s what I found for Jackman:

corsi rate/60: -20.16

raw corsi: -170.35

zone start differential (o-zone – d-zone): -93

normalized corsi (raw): -95.95

normalized corsi (rate/60): -11.36

Delta: +8.8

Correcting for zone starts doesn’t bump Jackman into positive territory, but it does up his rate by 8.8 per 60 minutes of ice. That’s a fairly sizable jump and it speaks to the sheer difficulty of his circumstances. I went back three years to see how Jackman had fared for the Islanders previously and found that he’s only been fighting up hill for the last two. In 2007-08, Jackman only played 36 games, but his possession stats were much more palatable: +8.2/60 (fifth best amongst NYI forwards that season). What was the difference? A much saner zone start ratio (50%) and level of competition (bottom of the barrel).

It’s entirely probable that Jackman’s role with the Flames will be much closer to this latter situation than the ones he’s faced in NY recently. As such, I think he just might be able to hold his own (assuming the Brent doesn’t bury him to the same degree, of course).

    • I think he’s clearly better than Ivanans though – at least when it comes to actually playing hockey. Frankly, I wish Sutter had picked one or the other if he simply had to add a pugilist. And by “one” I mean Jackman.

        • dustin642

          Both of these guys have very different fighting styles. Ivanans is a monster but he has a lot of skill in terms of a hockey fight. He uses his weight to pull opponents off balance and is very methodical in his punching strategy. Whereas Jackman is about as old school as it comes to a Hockey fight. Most of his scraps consist of just hold on to the other guys jersey and punch until the other guy goes limp.

    • Arik

      I know! Like that Jonathan Toews guy? Only 68 points and yet he’s a captian. What a bum. Or man, that Langkow, he’s TERRIBLE. Why don’t we just sign a buncha 40 goal scorers who can’t play D.

      • Greg

        …obviously the box scores aren’t the only stats that matter. There are however obvious flaws with the corsi rating system. In many ways it’s just an extension of the plus minus rating. Hockey is not baseball, and if you rely only on stats to determine the value of a player your missing the boat just as much as a person who doesn’t rely on stats at all.

        • Graham

          Frankly, I’d gladly put more emphasis on a deep statistical anaylsis of a players performance then some sort of gut feeling, subjective, and bias ridden appreasal of “intangibles” that lead to paying 2.7M to over-the-hill bottom pairing d-men that even the Oilers don’t want around.

          Stats are good.

          • Matty Franchise Jr

            Frankly ;), stats are good. But as others have pointed out, human beings have the ability to judge a variety of a player’s characteristics that stats can’t. Stats are good, but not the infinite be all or end all. They are a supplement to the human element.

  • Good read man. The only thing that stands out for me while never seeing him play is that this may be a Butter signing as he was quoted although not verbatim: while in Jersey, Sutter noted Jackman was a thorn in their sides everynight. Also… Kerr interviewed him and asked how he felt about other players hating him and he said it looks like ive been doing my job.

    I like having guys like this on my team especially if they can contribute night in night out.

  • Greg

    How does he compare to a Jarko Ruttu/Ville Niemenen/Jonathan Tootoo type agitator? Cause if he’s anything like one of those types of guys, stats be damned, I’ll enjoy having him around. 🙂

  • Graham

    You often get what you pay for… since we can only afford a fourth line made up of guys at or near the NHL minimum, we can’t really expect that much. The Flames are obviously looking for some big guys who can bang and crash for 5 – 8 minutes a game, and maybe make the Dome a harder place to play in.
    Not sure if this is modern post lock out hockey, but it is certainly fits our GM’s approach to the game.

  • I think Jackman will play his butt off for us night in and night out. Coming from a team that never had a shot of winning anything, I think he’ll be motivated to help the Flames win in any way he can.

  • dustin642

    Great article, I was hoping you would do a little digging on this guy! I am excited to see what Jackman can do for this team. Last year the Flames had a very hard time bringing 100% of their effort to the rink with them. Jackman does not seem to have that problem and hopefully that will rub off on some of the other guys on the team. This guy has been playing for crap teams with crap for defense in crap markets, so of course his major stats are going to be – crap! The dude is a 4th liner, with energy+effort to spare who is capable of holding his own defensively. It will be interesting to see how well he does statistically now that he will have good D-men behind him.

  • dustin642

    Corsi and all that stuff is useful, but it gets a little too much. I like having Langkow on this team cuz I know he plays against top flight competition, and never complains. that gut feeling, as its reffered to, is only useful to true die hards ( like myself) cuz theyve watched each and every game, and know the strengths and weaknesses of every player.i.e langkows a reliable centreman, but he sucks on the draws. i know that cuz i watch the game, not cuz i waste my time with stats. Stats are nice for fans, and maybe the media aswell, but I doubt Mike Babcock (the best coach in the league right now) or Scotty Bowman (the best coach, period) would sit and worry about corsi and delta

    • Matty Franchise Jr

      IIRC, Corsi was developed by an NHL coach. And yes, most coaches probably use a lot of their own observations to evaluate players as opposed to stats, but the coaches see their players playing every game and practice. Advanced stats are something to help evaluate players that you don’t get to see all the time, or to help put what you’re seeing in context. If I were to presume a particular type of hockey professional to find advanced stats to be useful, it would be a GM rather than a coach.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    i.e langkows a reliable centreman, but he sucks on the draws.

    I honestly have never noticed anybody’s faceoff ability separate themselves from anybody else’s faceoff ability, just from watching them.

    You really need the numbers if you think that faceoff ability matters. And in the end, faceoff ability really doesn’t matter.

    But Langkow is a very reliable centre, I hope that anybody who’s watched 6 Flames games would know this as hard fact.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    There are however obvious flaws with the corsi rating system. In many ways it’s just an extension of the plus minus rating. Hockey is not baseball, and if you rely only on stats to determine the value of a player your missing the boat just as much as a person who doesn’t rely on stats at all.

    If they are so obvious then I think you should list them.

    • Matty Franchise Jr

      Here you go big guy 😉 (paraphrased from the OILREPUBLIC [posted by OILBARON] site w/direct passages in “”)

      1. Blocked shots are a negative (count against a player).

      2. All shots on goal aren’t equal (many aren’t at all dangerous).

      3. Good player playing with bad linemates (or just bad chemistry between linemates).

      4. Bad goals (whether it is another player getting burned or the goalie is a funnel).

      5. “Look at line changes. If the line is under attack and the forwards out of the play change, the new line is penalized for being on the ice during this situation also applies to defensemen making a late change and the new pairing chasing.”

      6. The players role on the team:
      1. Checking centers vs. 1st line centers
      2. Shutdown d-man vs. 1st pairing defensemen.

      …go watch some baseball.

      • freshpotofcoffey

        I’m not sure you understand what Corsi is supposed to measure. Corsi is about possession and territorial play (ie. where the puck is), so:

        1. If you’re blocking shots it means the puck is in your end.

        2. You’re right, not all shots are created equal. However, probably 98% of them take place in the offensive zone.

        3. This is why you look at context, rather than one stat on its own.

        4. Corsi is about shots, goals are treated the same as the rest.

        5. A limitation of the stat, no doubt, but I have to assume that this doesn’t occur so constantly as to suggest that the entire thing is meaningless.

        6. See #3.

        Corsi does not measure “is he a good player?”. It measures “where does the puck tend to be when he’s on the ice?”. Try and keep that in mind. Because:

        *cue brilliant hockey insight*

        Most goals are scored in the offensive zone.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    ..and don’t make this out to mean that you either like stats or you don’t. Read my previous posts, it’s not about that at all. The point is, if all you rely on is stats to evaluate a player, you are as clueless as a person that doesn’t value stats at all. Hockey has an intensity, a flow, and an unmatched complexity to any other team sport period.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    Boy, if the contrast between “checking” and “1st line” centre wasn’t enough to prove you don’t know beans about hockey, then surely the imagined dichotomy of “shutdown/1st pairing dman” nails that coffin.

    • Matty Franchise Jr

      …because there is a difference. Most teams try to match lines. Ever heard of that big guy? Or are you too worried about ignoring everything that’s wrong with the corsi to at least aknowledge it has some flaws. You’re being such a child. I’m not even saying the corsi rating isn’t relevant. It’s a good stat. There are many good stats. All I’m saying ( and I get the feeling you are one of the people I’m talking about) some people rely only on stats because they don’t understand hockey enough. Take it a little more personal and I’ll be even happier 😉

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    The moment Corsi and QualComp became popular was the moment regular FAN960-calling-in, HFBroad moderating hacks started throwing around the notion of line-matching without having the slightest clue about how that is actually done on the ice.

    And I’d bet not even 1 in every 10th person who has ever typed the word “Corsi” knows what aspect of the game on the ice it reflects. And I’m being generous.

    The more things change, the more they stay the same

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    …what do you want RO? I provide a numbered list of the flaws of the corsi system and all you can do is say that I don’t know what line matching is? OH WISE ONE! ONLY YOU KNOW WHAT LINE MATCHING IS! I BOW BEFORE YOUR HOCKEY KNOWLEDGE!