The Lambert grades are in, so it’s time to get out the graphing calculators and slide rulers and jump head first into the esoteric world of advanced stats once again. This time, I’ll be taking a look at the Flames top-six forward group. Well…sort of, since a lot of guys jumped in and out of the top-six as the season progressed. I had to make some decisions as to who to concentrate on, so a couple of guys may look out of place here *cough*Stajan*cough*. Don’t worry though – we’ll get to everyone in good time.
ESP/60: 2.41 (2nd out of 13)
PPP/60: 4.62 (3rd out of 9)
Corsi/60: +2.73 (9th out of 13)
Zone start: 52.9% (7th out of 13)
Quality of Comp (relative): +0.787 (4th out of 13)
In terms of production, a nice bounce-back season for the Flames captain. Jarome’s ES and PP efficiency had dropped for several years in a row prior to this one, so to jump back up to very good/excellent territory is good news. I have no doubt that Alex Tanguay had something to do with that improvement given his play-making abilities, although a good chunk of the pair’s top-end production came thanks to some team-high on-ice shooting percentages (11.62% for Alex and 10.57% for Jarome). Regular readers know that the percentages are notoriously fickle with an annoying habit of eventually regressing toward the mean. As such, I wouldn’t bet on Iginla repeating that ES rate next season.
The big guy’s possession rate, on the other hand, continues to be mediocre at best. The only regular forwards worse than Jarome in terms of corsi this year were the likes of Jokinen, Bourque and Tanguay himself – basically, the only other guys who regularly played against other top-line players. His circumstances were pretty much right in line with his career norms, although this is the first year he’s fallen outside of the top-three in terms of quality of competition since 2008-09.
Aside from Tanguay and the percentages, another major reason Iginla’s production grew was a big increase in PP time. In 2009-10, the club was lousy at drawing penalties for whatever reason, finishing 28th in the league with just 268 PP opportunities. This year the Flames were fourth (!!) with 318. As a result, Jarome’s 329 minutes with the man advantage was about 40 minutes more than last year (289). In fact, only six forwards in the entire league played had more PP time than Iginla: Ilya Kovalchuk, Alexnder Ovechkin, Eric Staal, Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos and Brad Richards.
ESP/60: 2.51 (1st out of 13)
PPP/60: 3.29 (8th out of 9)
Corsi/60: -0.21 (10th out 13)
Zone start: 55.4% (12th out of 13)
Quality of Comp (relative): +0.893 (3rd out of 13)
Like Jarome, Tanguay’s numbers are mix of extremes: he led the team in terms of ES production efficiency (which has been Tanguay’s calling card for years), but wasn’t really effective by any other measure. Alex was lousy on the PP (again, has been for years), was relatively sheltered in terms of starting in the offensive zone and managed one of the poorest possession rates on the Flames.
To be fair Tanguay regularly played against quality opposition, but it’s clear the puck often traveled in the wrong direction while he was on the ice. This weakness was completely overcome by the potency of the Tanguay+Iginla duo, but as previously mentioned, riding the percentages in lieu of controlling the play is a tenuous tight rope to walk in the NHL. If things regress on Tanguay and Jarome next season, then they’ll need to start spending more time on in the offensive zone to avoid becoming detriments at 5-on-5. Being 30+ and therefore unlikely to improvement markedly in this regard, that will have to be accomplished by either furnishing the pair with a high-end ES center (unlikely) or managing their match-ups much more aggressively (probable).
This stuff should be kept in mind when/if the organization decides to re-sign Tanguay this off-season. There’s some real risk attached to signing him longer term given these results, so the organization should be aggressive in looking for a discounted rate.
ESP/60: 1.75 (7th of 13)
PPP/60: 5.15 (1st out of 9)
Corsi/60: -0.82 (10th of 13)
Zone start: 52.9% (6th of 13)
Quality of Comp (relative): +1.006 (1st of 13)
As has been established by others, my favorite punching bag wasn’t all that bad this season. He played in a role not suited to his skil set and while he didn’t exactly knock the ball out of the park, he wasn’t completely horrendous at it. Jokinen became Brent Sutter’s hard minutes center this season. This occurred out of necessity more than anything else – his other options were rookie Mikael Backlund, Brendan Morrison (good value, but still doddering and not up to the task) and, uh…Matt Stajan.
So a good portion of the heavy lifting fell to Jokinen. He had the toughest quality of competition on the team but was only mildly underwater in terms of possession. Sutter didn’t completely bury Jokinen like, say, Quenneville does with Dave Bolland or even Brent did with Langkow last season (a sensible move), but considering his body of work and abilities, Jokinen acquitted himself better than expected. An added bonus was his work on the PP, where he garnered the best production rate on the Flames. Jokinen acquired his reputation as a scorer in FLA thanks to his work on the PP, so it was there I always expected (hoped?) he would provide some value. This season, he did.
With Langkow back in the fold and Backlund taking a solid step forward this season, it’s entirely possible Jokinen can settle into a much softer role next season in terms of responsibilities at ES. If Brent can give Olli a few more offensive zone draws and play him against third liners more often, there’s a chance he can up his corsi and ES production.
ESP/60: 1.71 (8th of 13)
PPP/60: 3.66 (8th of 9)
Corsi/60: -3.87 (13th of 13)
Zone Start: 52.6% (5th of 13)
Quality of Comp (relative): +0.900 (2nd of 13)
Bourque became a lightning rod for criticism this season and for good reason – he took a giant step backwards. Previously a stalwart at ES, Rene mostly skated with Jokinen in tougher circumstances, but struggled even more than the big headed fin. Rene spent huge portions of the year being ineffectual along the boards and in puck battles, previously his area of expertise. He was never a guy with great passing or vision but in his prior couple of seasons with the Flames, Bourque was a monster with the puck down low in the opposition’s end. This season, that fell right off.
His underlying numbers all stunk as a result. Worst possession rate, middling production rate, rather horrid goal differentials, nominal production on the PP (where he was a team leader previously as well).
The cause of Bourque’s fall from grace is the main concern for the team going forward. All sorts of potential antecedents have been suggested: the lack of Daymond Langkow, some sort of lingering injury (or reluctance caused by multiple knocks to the head in 2009-10) or just a lack of motivation due to inking a long-term deal.
Whatever the cause, the team needs to hope the issue is fleeting. If his problems are chronic, the organization will need to dump overboard at the earliest convenience.
ESP/60: 1.80 (6th of 13)
PPP/60: 0.75 (9th of 9)
Corsi/60: +5.84 (6th of 13)
Zone start: 53.0% (9th of 13)
Quality of Comp (relative): +0.206 (9th of 13)
The centerpiece of the Phaneuf deal was a top-six forward in pay only this season. He spent some time with Iginla and Tanguay in th first few months of the year, but was mostly poor in that role, as he was at the end of 2009-10 when he was first acquired. Stajan spent most of the year in the Flames bottom-six rotation, eventually settling in as the club’s fourth line center by March.
His zone start and quality of competition were fairly easy, but the corsi and production rate at ES remained unremarkable nonetheless. Stajan has some nice qualities as a player, including good hands and vision, but his weaknesses more than overcame his strengths this season. I found Stajan to be way too easy to knock off the puck and he had a bad tendency to lose possession in all areas of the ice. Stajan has also assumed the Chuck Kobasew mantle as player "most often rocked by opposing defenders".
As bad as he was, Stajan also had some poor luck. His PP production rate is goonishly awful, so we can assume some of that was the bounces. He also finished with the worst personal SH% of his career (7.4), which was almost half of his career average (13.1). There’s little question that Stajan has to improve immensely in order to be worth anything near his contract, but I also assume that he can’t possibly be this bad again next year, just as a matter of natural regression.
ESP/60: 2.08 (4th of 13)
PPP/60: 3.29 (7th of 9)
Corsi/60: +5.99 (5th of 13)
Zone start: 51.4% (3rd of 13)
Quality of comp (relative): +0.648 (6th of 13)
In contrast to Stajan, Curtis Glencross enjoyed probably the best season of his career. Although he found Brent Sutter’s doghouse sometime in November, the speedy winger was quality from that point on, working his way up the Flames depth chart before settling into the top-six rather nicely. Glencross had spent a couple of years crushing third-liners with David Moss previously, so his ascension doesn’t come as a huge surprise, particularly in light of the disappointing seasons of, say, Stajan and Hagman.
Although Glencross had one of the best corsi rates with the score tied, all of his other underlying numbers are merely decent rather than mind-blowing. This isn’t an indictment of a guy who made $1.2M this year, of course – just a word of caution should Curtis look for a big pay day from the Flames this off-season. He’s been an excellent pick-up for Calgary given his cost since he was signed as a free agent and can continue to be a highly useful, middle-rotation winger for the Flames. The team should resist paying him too much for too long, however – it’s long-odds his personal SH% will crest 16% again.