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 timeonice.com:
|Shots %||Fenwick %||Corsi %|
Here are the team’s:
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:
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:
and with Tanguay:
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…
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.