Alex Tanguay – A Closer Look at EV




One of the most interesting moves of this off-season was the return of Alex Tanguay to Calgary. The 30 year old winger left Cowtown after an unhappy 07/08 campaign, with the player and then-coach Keenan equally happy to have a parting of the ways. Since then, Tanguay endured injury in Montreal, followed by a sub-standard year on the Gulf Coast, which has lead people to wonder if he’s on the slide.

With that in mind, I wanted to look beyond the boxcars to see if there was any good news in his underlying numbers. First, his over-all possession stats, via 

Shots % Fenwick % Corsi %
0.477 0.484 0.493

Here are the team’s:

0.479 0.477 0.475

Tanguay played against middling competition last season with decent teammates, so those numbers are pretty meh, particularly when you factor in Tanguay’s ZoneStart number. Tanguay finished the season with a ZS of 55.9%, second easiest amongst T.Bay forwards. To be fair, Rick Tocchet really tried to get his skill guys out in the offensive zone, leaving guys like Nate Thompson (27.8%!?!?!) in the crap end of the ice most nights. It wasn’t like he sheltered Tanguay significantly more than he protected St. Louis (58.6) or Lecavalier (55.4) or Stamkos (54.6).

Since score effects can skew shooting attempts, here are Tanguay’s possession numbers when the game was tied, with the team’s below:

0.451 0.459 0.465
0.460 0.461 0.454

Again, poor. Tampa was a lousy possession team last year, and unfortunately, Tanguay didn’t really out perform his teammates in that regard. 

Tanguay ‘s primary teammate in terms of Corsi events was Vincent Lecavalier, and there’s some small evidence that Tanguay might have aided Lecavalier to a degree. Here are Lecavalier’s overall numbers:

0.476 0.481 0.485

and with Tanguay:

0.490 0.495 0.504

That’s certainly better. The two of them were also +32/-27 GF/GA when they were on ice at EV, but the duo had a PDO of 101.9, so they did have a bit of fortune on their side. Their numbers when the game was tied, however… 

0.447 0.462 0.469

Yuck. There were times when Tanguay and Lecavalier were split, but I suspect Tocchet shortened his bench and used the two of them on one line with St. Louis and Stamkos on the other when Tampa was chasing the game. If they played a worthwhile amount of time together when the Lightning were trailing, that might help to explain the better overall Corsi figures when they were paired. At any rate, their work as a duo was mixed at best.

It seems to me from looking at the overall numbers that Alex Tanguay was merely along for the ride last year in Tampa, just like the rest of their forwards at EV. As to what that might portend for his future effectiveness in Calgary, that really depends on how he’s used. I’m not sure he can carry a line at this point, and if he’s deployed in the manner that the management suggested in early July (with Jokinen and Iginla), I can only hope that they aren’t expected to play the other team’s first lines too often. 

One thing that did spring to mind is the possibility that Sutter and Sutter see Alex Tanguay as the de facto center on that line. We often talk about the role that centers may or may not have on a team, but one area where forward roles undoubtedly differ is in defensive coverage. Most teams in the league demand by design that their centers be major contributors below the hash marks in their own end, and the Flames aren’t any different in that regard. Olli Jokinen’s work in that part of the game has been somewhat indifferent, of course, and Alex Tanguay has always been pretty sound away from the puck, so I do wonder if he might practically fill that sort of role, sans faceoff responsibility. That might work better than expecting Jokinen to become Pavel Datsyuk overnight. No matter, if the Flames employ that trio, I hope that they get a healthy dose of offensive draws, and I certainly hope that Daymond Langkow is healthy enough to carry more of the heavy lifting. 

Summing up, I wasn’t sure I’d find any magic answers as to what the Flames have in the current version of Alex Tanguay, and I can’t really say I found any. He was mediocre enough last year that I have to entertain the possibility that he’s finished as a serious EV difference maker, and yet I have to acknowledge that his shoulder injury might have continued to hamper his performance last season, his demurrals aside. I will say that his price point and his career history do make him worth the gamble, and if it doesn’t work, at least it’s a short commitment. If he finds anywhere near the form he had on his last tour in Alberta, he can help, irrespective of his line mates. Here’s hoping.

    • Robert Cleave

      Yup. My hope is that he just needed more time to heal from his injury, and that the general malaise in Tampa last year affected him more than he’s let on. That team was an EV sinkhole last year, and as I mentioned, their skill forwards all had juicy ZS numbers, and none of them had positive Corsi numbers. The only forward who even had a decent looking +/- was Downie, and his PDO was 103.2. Honestly, as much as we malign Joker and Iginla, they still might be better at moving the pile forward than anyone was in Tampa, and guys like Langkow, Bourque, GlenX and Moss absolutely are better. If Sutter doesn’t lose his mind and send Tanguay-Jokinen-Iginla out PvP every night, there’s a decent chance they’ll do OK.

  • Gange

    At worst it’s a contract that can be buried easily and not have ownership choke too badly. At best he could help some much maligned forwards score some goals.

    It’s a win/lose scenario but the lose appears pretty small.

    • Given that it’s one year, I don’t think burying is going to be an issue really.

      It remains a low risk move and I endorse it. It’s just too bad that all of Tanguay’s results from last year (both counting and underlying numbers) indicate he’s done as a true difference maker.

  • I like your theory of Tang’s playing rover on that line. There are a ton of shooters on this roster so there has to be some gel for him somewhere. I also agree with RCleave that tampa was just awful. Is it possible that Tocchet was more of a rah rah coach like Keenan?

    For some reason i suspect Hagman and Jokinen are destined to be together and I also suspect that Iggy and Joker are not. If you run through the roster you have playmaking centers all the way through with shooting wingers. Could even work out for Kotalik. And if it works out for him, you know he’s on a 20 goal pace. And you know what that means. We are fighting for a division with a third liner heating up the lamp. Woo.

      • Upkeeper

        Popular opinion isn’t always shared with management. I believe he was waived through the league to prove a point. Nobody wanted you at your current salary but you have a shot to make this roster if you bring your beast to camp. I think that’s what we are looking at with Kotalik. Whether or not he is up to the challenge is up for debate. The fans have already cast him off but if he has 4 goals in his first 15 and 8 or more in his first 30 im sure people will come to like like him even if it first appeared to be a spoonful of yuck.

        We’re head2head on two issues aren’t we now Kent? Go easy on my corsi!

  • Upkeeper

    Tangs is a win/win I think. 1) He signed on the cheap 1.7mil. 2) He’s a playmaker not a shooter, although he can and should shoot. 3) He has played with Iginla before and has shown good chemistry with Iginla back then. Hope the chemistry is still there.

    On a different topic, can’t wait to see the Heat play a few games on CBC, will be interesting to see how they do this year. Hope Irving has a big bounce back and develops into a NHL caliber goalie in the near future. Kipper isn’t getting any younger and Irving is supposed to be our goalie of the future. Hopefully his story turns out better then our last goalie of the future, Brent Krahn. Poor guy couldn’t stay off the injury list to save his life.

    I’m optimistic at our chances this year, to make the playoffs. Once into the playoffs you never know what can happen. Look at 04 Flames and 06 Oilers, even the Habs and Flyers this year. Can’t wait to see some Flames hockey! Is it pre-season yet?? Sad I know.

  • Upkeeper

    I’d really like it if we were a better face-off team in general. Jokinen is largely awful, Langkow is average to below-average, Conroy and Stajan are our strongest bets but they easily both be in the bottom six. If you look at Vancouver/Detroit/San Jose/Chicago they all have elite, go-to offensive centremen that can win the puck in the offensive zone. Of course, this is a huge help in maintaining aggressive possession and keeping opposing skaters on their heels. If Jokinen was a good face-off man his presence, consistency be damned, would be a boon. The likely line of Tanguay-Jokinen-Iginla doesn’t stand a very good chance of winning the puck from the get-go against other top sixes in the Western Conference, particularly those teams I’ve already mentioned.

    Hopefully, I suppose, our third line just dominates like it did frequently enough the last two years. I do like the idea of Glencross-Stajan-Moss as our third line. Or maybe Kotalik instead of Moss however the cards end up falling come October.

  • Upkeeper

    Faceoffs are really overrated. Having a team-wide 60% faceoff win% at even strength will give you 3 goals (1 point) over the course of the season, as opposed to the average 50% team.

    If memory serves, that’s a bigger % than any team has been able to accomplish in recent memory.

    I mean it’s not nothing but it’s not much. It’s true that the centres that win a lot of faceoffs tend to be the centres that are good at other things on the ice but usually you pursue those centres for those other qualities.