Flames Additions Analysis

UNIONDALE, NY - FEBRUARY 13: Alex Tanguay #13 of the Tampa Bay Lightning warms up before playing against the New York Islanders on February 13, 2010 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

 

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).

Raitis Ivanans

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.

Tim Jackman

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.

Going Forward…

– 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.  

  • WI, you’ve got valid points, and I think you speak well for the general populous of Flames fans who want this team to get better.

    A big part of getting better, at least in the fans psyche, is progression, and by default signing guys who will lead us to believe in the faith of progression.

    So, we’ve added:

    Karlsson: never played a game in the NHL, top ten stats in the SEL, but was usurped for playoffs by Rahm. Have we progressed past McL? Well….he’s taller, so there is … uh..that.

    Tanguay: Is he healthy? Probably, played 80 gms last year. Can he score still? Maybe, last year was brutal. Will he be the Tanguay we remember? Likely not. Progression….hmmm…

    Olli: There is little reason to believe Olli will be much different this year than last, and he didn’t last. Now we’re stuck with him…NTC, why don’t we just kill ourselves.

    Jackman and Ivanis…McG and Mayers (if that)

    OK, so it’s true. A whole lot of splashing and not much swimming. Is there reason to believe we’ll be much better, maybe not player by player. So that is valid.

    However, the cult of worshiping Cammalleri needs to stop.

    What people seem to be intentionally ignoring is the financial value of the signings of Joker and Tanguay.

    Cammalleri makes 6.0 million freaking dollars! OK. 6.0 million. one more time….6.

    We can’t keep saying: “39 goals with the exact same icetime, teammates, and opposition that led Olli to 11 goals with the flames last season?

    It’s entirely mislead. Everyone can have a great year or a poor one. Cammy got dealt the ace at the right time.

    Cammy now makes exactly double Joker. So, even the simplest look breaks it down pretty quick.

    Cammy:
    39/2 = 20 in 82 let’s say @ 3 million (although his pace was 32g in 82 @ 6m, or 16 per 3m last year) approx.

    Joker:
    11 in 56 = 16 in 82 @ 3mil. Well! Holy Sh1t! Look at that.

    For both these one dimensional, scoring only players we’re paying about 3 million per 16 goals. This doesn’t even factor in that Joker was shooting at 6%, which is much less than his career numbers, while Cammy shot 15.3!% when he got 39, and as soon as that came down to earth the next year he was on pace for 32.

    Additionally, with Joker getting a real 3 million vs Cammy at a real 6, we have more flexibility to add more roster players, are less prone to lost production through injury days etc.

    So, the point is, when we talk about these deals, and the Joker signing, can we please consider the value of the contract, amongst other details.

    • Gange

      Going off what Conroy said, Cammy would’ve played for Calgary at 5 million. If we’re going to theorize, we may as well use that as the cap number (much more reasonable than 6, in my opinion)

  • I think you’re misinterpreting RO, WI. He’s not for or anti Darryl. He just thinks some of the condemnation is overwrought.

    The Flames aren’t a terrible team on the one hand. As they’re currently constructed, they’ll fight for a playoff spot.

    On the other hand, this is all classic Sutter. No lessons have been learned here. He remains wedded to his biases and continues to, as always, go back to the well. He has forever stuck with “players he knows” and has for years bet on bounce back or rebound performances from guys he’s liked previously.

    • BobB

      Although I agree that this fits the mold of Sutter going back to the well, I’m willing to overlook that issue here.

      It’s very difficult to argue signing Tanguay again at 1.7 million for one year. The risk is so low, and his ice-time and QOT will ensure he out-earns that value almost certainly.

      Jokinen as well. I struggle to imagine a better centre, with his assets (shot, speed, size, ok in F/O’s) that we could get for near 3.0mil.

      Lombo is a good example. Would we have been ok if Sutter went back to that well? Not me. Especially at 3.5+

      Jokinen and Tanguay for 4.7 is good value at this point IMHO, and we’ll see if they don’t earn it.

      As I eluded to in my last comment, guys like Cammy scoring 39 goals at 3million are ghosts, and so is Jokinen at 5.25.

      I’ll take Olli and Tanguay on my team at 4.7m over almost any other free agent combos for a LW-C. So did Sutter really screw up so bad?

      Whitney-Malholtra – 6.0,
      Higgins-Lombo – 5.1,
      Nystrom-Cullen – 4.9,
      Tanguay-Jokinen – 4.7,
      Latendresse-Prospal – 4.6,

      With the exception of Whitney and Prospal, most of these other guys have yet to eclipse 20 goals and 50 points or thereabouts for career bests. And as for other abilities, I think many of those guys have significant deficiencies. And some players may not come to Calgary, or come for that same money, or be available to partner as listed.

      @SOV. 5 million is heresay, it’s no reality. I don’t care what could have happened. Jokinen could have scored 50 goals last year, but he didn’t.

  • Gange

    To provide a distraction from this “discussion” our favourite name/team generator (Eklund) has posted another Savard/Regehr bump.

    If this were to be true would this mean that Langkow is looking at retirement? What would the retirement of Langkow mean? How does that change the tack of the Flames management? Seems like this might be a worthwhile scenario to discuss.

  • Dominator39

    I sat next to Craig Button at charity dinner a few days after the Flames signed Mike Cammalleri. While I was ecstatic with the Cammalleri signing, I told Craig that I was concerned that the Flames did not seem to have a plan; rather, it was my view that the Flames seemed to be “reacting”. I believe that even more today.

    I firmly believe that, in today’s cap world, a team has to build through the draft and free agency; a team can’t ignore one at the expense of the other. I also believe that a team has to throw sentimentality out the window when it comes to keeping veterans on the roster. Stan Bowman and Dale Tallon seem to espouse this approach.

    I keep hearing the rumours that the Flames are going to make a move for Marc Savard (as reently as July 4 on XM’s Centre Ice). Given their cap situation, I don’t know how they’re going to pull this off without getting rid of salary.

    Clearly, the Flames have a glut of defencemen.
    I note that Darryl has been really talking up Matt Pelech and John Negrin recently. Assuming there are takers, I can see the Flames moving Robyn Regehr and Cory Sarich for prospects or draft picks (thereby freeing up cap space). This would give the Flames some breathing room to pursue a first line centre if Daymond Langkow does not recover from his injury.

    I just don’t hold out a lot of hope for this team.

    Just my thoughts.

  • BobB

    I’d be (cautiously) okay with Jokinen at 3$3.0MM if he were any good on the PP.

    I mean guys like him, you *know* they’re going to break you with any kind of workload at evens but you’d hope they could recoup the loss on the man advantage. Of recent trade rumors, I’m thinking a guy like Spezza. Average at evens but absolutely terrific up a man. Which is why I was open to having him here for the right acquisition price.

    Jokinen was horrible though. I mean all of his weaknesses at even strength were weaknesses on the PP, the guy does not have a lick of sense in the offensive zone. I mean I rail on guys like Spezza and Malkin for having the play die on them going forward but Jokinen’s got to be the crown prince of that, behind only Bertuzzi the King.

    Anyways. That’s my take on Jokinen. I’d probably rather have Lombardi or Stajan at their current prices but that’s not much of a choice. Ideally I’d rather have none of those guys.

    On Sutter: he is who he is. On the one hand Sutter has progressively constructed his teams with more and more “real NHL players” unlike the guys up north or all those Sunbelt teams. Or do we forget the 07/08 bottom 6?

    On the other hand he’s got his cowbells, he values some things which just don’t matter to winning games and the team suffers. I doubt he’s alone in that, I mean out of 30 GMs I only really think of one as the gold standard (Doug Wilson), everyone else is just varying shades of “damn lucky” and “good enough”.

    But we’ve seen competitive hockey for 5 years now (yes, even last year, contrary to the whinging) and this coming season’s team will be competitive. They won’t challenge for the President’s Trophy but as always, they have about as good a shot at Lord Stanley as a lot of teams who had nice playoff runs last year. Luck is a big component to advancing in the playoffs, shocker I know.

    And this run of competitiveness has come without the help of clattering lottery balls. Sutter can’t claim credit for Iginla but he did build up his teams with more real NHL players. More real NHL players == more winning.

    So in that context I don’t see how anybody can be negative about everything Flames-related. Go ahead and pick your bones but do it honestly and intelligently.

    • BobB

      There is a balance that needs to be struck between futures and existing NHL players; many people certainly overvalue prospects and picks, simply because they see a team pick a Crosby or Toews and feel like every pick is going to turn into something amazing, but from the way you speak it sounds as though you’re undervaluing them a little. If it were possible to stock a team entirely with existing NHL players without giving out too many market value contracts and giving up too much in return trade-wise, then that would be fine. Unfortunately, it’s difficult-to-impossible to gain an elite player without drafting him yourself, and it’s also difficult to get truly good value contracts from established NHL players – especially if they don’t have strong ties to your team to begin with.

  • BobB

    Re: Cammalleri

    All it takes to knock the 39-goal squawkers off their perch is to point out that he didn’t replicate his scoring rates in MTL.

    So either he doesn’t own some of his relative success in CGY or he doesn’t own some of his relative failure in MTL. Either way, it makes discussion of his goal and point totals kind of fruitless, they don’t characterize the player.

  • BobB

    Re: Cammalleri

    All it takes to knock the 39-goal squawkers off their perch is to point out that he didn’t replicate his scoring rates in MTL.

    So either he doesn’t own some of his relative success in CGY or he doesn’t own some of his relative failure in MTL. Either way, it makes discussion of his goal and point totals kind of fruitless, they don’t characterize the player.

    Caveat, now that I think about it: Or, injuries/aging turned him into a different player. He did have his crazy MCL tear or whatever it was but by the time he came back the Canadiens only had a few games left to play. And age seems HIGHLY unlikely.

    It’s more than likely he was the same player for CGY and MTL. Which means luck + circumstance had a big impact on his results, here, there and everywhere.

    • BobB

      the video part 1 and 2 are on flames.com but there are definitely parts missing (the “season ticket holders” part, and the part where he says “everyone who matters” likes the jokinen pickup).

      as for cammalleri, i wasn’t suggesting that we should have signed cammi at 5mil or the like. i was just suggesting that instead of a bunch of average/replaceable 3 million dollar guys on the roster (jokinen, sarich, staios, kotalik, stajan, hagman), it would be beneficial to get an elite (5-6 mil) goalscorer. roster spots, IMO, could be filled with workhorses like dawes (who don’t bleed goals –like dawes, who have low-rent deals –like dawes). and, yes, i realize that kindof goalscorer is not a dime-a-dozen.

      • BobB

        I heard the “everyone who matters” part on CBC. Holy hell man. I think Sutter has offically overtaken Brian Murray as the dumbest most incompetent GM in the league. Heck, he would give Mad Mike a run for his money really.

  • BobB

    Regarding Dawes: I think everyone needs to remember that his underlying stats are probably going to be inflated due to his linemates. I think anyone could look good when they play on a line with Langks and Bourque for the majority of a season. Granted, he still scored goals, but if you stuck him on the 4th line with Conroy (who I realize is still pretty solid) and some other league minimum player, he may not look so hot.

    That said, I do think the guys he was basically traded off for (Ivanans and Jackman or whatever their names are) look to be garbage, so that part of it I’m pretty dissatisfied with.

  • @ RO

    I don’t know how much of the team being competitive over the last 5 years you can hand to Sutter. His homeruns included Kipper, Bourque and Langkow. His missteps are probably more numerous. And With his track record with goalies here in town firmly in place, I think we can say the Kipper pick up was a thing of circumstance and fortune more than genius.

    Iginla and Regehr coming into their own plus Kipper being the best goalie in the league for about 2 and half years does a lot of the damage. The improved Canadian dollar and the playoff run (also clearly an aberration) raised this clubs budget beyond anything this franchise has seen before. Sutter made some good moves (and some dreadful ones) but he also had some notable advantages – lots of money, a lenient ownership group and the peak years of some of the best players this team has ever seen.

    I assume the Flames will be competitive for this season and probably the one after. Sutter’s real challenge will come when Iginla finally and completely slips off the perch. Frankly, I think we got a taste of it last year. Sutter’s response this summer thus far underwhelms me. The club’s cap space and dearth of meaningfully projectable youngsters suggests the Flames are in for some lean years ahead. If Darryl can’t continue to build competitive clubs once Iginla is no longer one of the best players in the league, well…that mostly means he just happened to take over at the right time.

  • Gange

    @Kent

    Definitely a little luck played into it, but it always does. I don’t think it’s possible in this business to have your performance separated from the effect of chance, though, a lucky run or something your predecessor did can completely add or eliminate an entire cluster of possible outcomes in the range of reasonable expectations.

    Anyways, I think the litmus test is doing a little thought experiment: what would happen if you hand these circumstances to the 29 other GMs in this league? IMO fully half of them would have burned it to ash.

    I mean setting the bar to “getting more NHL players” is pretty underwhelming, I’ll admit. But damn if half the GMs in this league can’t even get that right.

    Last thing: I think it says something good about management that the Flames best season bar none was 08/09 when Iginla already had one foot in the elevator shaft and the skaters were fighting an uphill battle against their own goalies.

    I mean I have a ton of contempt for some of Sutter’s individual moves (ex: trading Tanguay for beans) but the overall philosophy of “getting real NHL players” works.

    The biggest problem with Sutter (always has been) is that he sometimes, and unpredictably, deviates from his own perfectly sensible philosophy, for reasons perplexing or unknown.

    The Reinprecht send-off, the Tanguay send-off, the Bertuzzi signing, the very first Jokinen trade… all deviations from a sane and effective philosophy for building winning hockey teams, all in the name of cowbells or non-existent team needs.

    @SmellOfVictory

    I don’t think getting more good players now and getting more good players in the future are mutually exclusive. The tank-job route is the extreme and high-risk path to future talent. I prefer to just target underrated or underrepresented (by the numbers) players in that mid-to-late 20s range, either by UFA or trade or just by throwing darts in the draft.

    I mean not every good player needs to be younger than 25, in fact aside from the truly elite (e.g. Crosby, Ovechkin) most of these so-called under-25 stars aren’t all that, and certainly not worth the money they earn or are going to earn (e.g. Stamkos, Kane).

  • CitizenFlame

    This could be way out in left field, but has anyone considered that maybe Darryl’s hands are tied a bit by the ownership group? Maybe his mandate from ownership is to keep the team competitive and in the hunt year after year. That way the bums stay in the seats. From an ownership standpoint, the Dome was getting a little empty after 7 years in the wilderness. After 5 seasons of playoff bound teams even a 10th place finish hasn’t appeared to hurt season ticket sales.

    As for Jokinen, at first I was pissed when I heard the news, but when you consider Langkow’s situation and look at the what was available for free agent centerman I don’t think Jokinen was a bad pick up at $3 mil. I’ve never seen anyone hit the goal post as much as Jokinen did last year. If he scored on even half of those he would have had 20-25 goals last year.

    I think that Calgary’s centerman will probably look like this at the start of the season 1- Joker, 2- Stajan, 3- Backlund, 4- Conroy (signed at or near the league min). And depending on Langkow, Backlund will split time between the big club and the farm; which is probably good as he still needs some seasoning yet.

  • CitizenFlame

    What could be deemed positive or negative, depending on your pov, is that Jokinen and Tanguay were willing and (at least in the media) happy to be coming back. That’s the positive. The negative is, I’m not sure that Calgary is much of a preferred destination anymore; a reputation that it seemed to have only a few years ago which probably makes it a little more difficult to lure in the big free agent fish out there.

  • CitizenFlame

    I heard this story once:
    A farmer toiled his trade on land far from home. He got good yields but eventually it didnt progress and he moved to a new farm. At the new place it went well. Great yields, but again it tailed off and he went searching for a new farm. His home farm called and needed someone to help. Well the home farm was in trouble and needed work, but he knew he could do it. The first year things improved. The second year he had a perfect summer, great balance of rain and sun and had a bumper crop. The next year a bumper crop but prices dropped. So he changed things up a bit. He decided to try a new herbicide everyone was raving about. That first year it did well but the 2nd year it dropped off significantly. He finally decided to stop using it and eventually was convinced to use a new type of seed. It looked promising but ultimately it wasn’t working. He was determined to make it work but ultimately had to abandone it. The year wasnt good and yields have consistantly gone down the last few years. The farmer scratched his head. He then thought ‘What if i put the herbicide and the new seed together?’ Other farmers were skeptical, the herbicides value dropped as other farmers found it didnt work as well and the new seed was just dropped as it didnt yeild nearly what it was anticipated to. Other farmer who had used it too, didnt like it and went back to their old seed. But the ol’ farmer was again determined to prove his friends that by mixing the two he was bound to have success.

    Now, you mix a herbicide that didnt work well and a seed that didnt yield will that mean you get better results? The costs are down, only because its demand is down. I’m not a math wizard but when you add 2 negatives you dont get a positive.

  • CitizenFlame

    I heard this story once:
    A farmer toiled his trade on land far from home. He got good yields but eventually it didnt progress and he moved to a new farm. At the new place it went well. Great yields, but again it tailed off and he went searching for a new farm. His home farm called and needed someone to help. Well the home farm was in trouble and needed work, but he knew he could do it. The first year things improved. The second year he had a perfect summer, great balance of rain and sun and had a bumper crop. The next year a bumper crop but prices dropped. So he changed things up a bit. He decided to try a new herbicide everyone was raving about. That first year it did well but the 2nd year it dropped off significantly. He finally decided to stop using it and eventually was convinced to use a new type of seed. It looked promising but ultimately it wasn’t working. He was determined to make it work but ultimately had to abandone it. The year wasnt good and yields have consistantly gone down the last few years. The farmer scratched his head. He then thought ‘What if i put the herbicide and the new seed together?’ Other farmers were skeptical, the herbicides value dropped as other farmers found it didnt work as well and the new seed was just dropped as it didnt yeild nearly what it was anticipated to. Other farmer who had used it too, didnt like it and went back to their old seed. But the ol’ farmer was again determined to prove his friends that by mixing the two he was bound to have success.

    Now, you mix a herbicide that didnt work well and a seed that didnt yield will that mean you get better results? The costs are down, only because its demand is down. I’m not a math wizard but when you add 2 negatives you dont get a positive.