While Kent and Robert will handle the bulk of the 2011 draft prep, I’m going to be setting you up for the major date that follows a week after picks are made in Minnesota. July 1st fast approaches, which means the opening of free agency is also very much upon us; we’ll be profiling Calgary’s pending unrestricted and restricted free agents in the coming days, but before we do that, let’s take a look back at July 1st, 2010; a day full of…surprises.
The Flames signed four players on Canada Day 2010, and it goes without saying that two of them turned into very successful ones this past season. Many are still on the fence about one of them, and the other was a straight up Darryl Sutter fail…but even if you only like two of the deals, Calgary still went .500 at the plate last year.
Starting in chronological order, Tanguay was the third player signed on July 1st of last year, inking a one year deal with Calgary worth an affordable $1.7 million. I had first heard of the deal while working the draft in Los Angeles, as many around the league were thinking the Flames and Tanguay were a likely match. When the deal was signed, there wasn’t a whole lot you could dislike about it, at least in my eyes.
You were getting (at the time) a 30 year old forward coming off his worst season as a pro, but a guy who also still had a ton of upside. The fact that it came at a dirt cheap price on a one year deal made this thing basically risk free for a Flames team that had decided to try and remain competitive in the Western Conference. The worst case scenario was for Tanguay to see his numbers continue to slide downhill and for the Flames to cut bait when the contract expired; the upside, however, came in many different forms.
Alex entered the season remaining one of the most gifted passers in the league, possessing vision seen in very few players. He enjoyed some of the best success of his NHL career in a prior stint with the Flames, putting up a career best 81 points during the 2006-07 season. And there were also a couple of factors that lead to his poor play the year before: recovering from serious shoulder surgery, not great game shape, and a poor Tampa team. There were plenty of things that pointed to a potential rebound for the former 12th overall pick, and that’s exactly what we’d see.
Almost immediately, Tanguay clicked with Jarome Iginla, playing almost every shift last season with the Flames captain. Alex would see his point total almost double, which was due in large part to flanking #12…but the on ice relationship also worked the other way, as Iginla thrived off Tanguay’s playmaking ability. Jarome would finish with 41 goals while Tanguay would rebound with 69 points, all the while seeing myriad centerman come and go. It’s true, Calgary’s top line didn’t typically see the top opposition on the other side, but offensively, Tanguay did the job and provided the Flames with crazy value on his one year contract.
If you heard the free agency all day program on Sportsnet Radio last year, you’ll know our reaction to Calgary’s shock signing of our coverboy. We had three guys on the air at the same time that day, and all three of us were completely and utterly shocked that Darryl Sutter would go ahead and re-sign a guy who was a massive disappointment in parts of two seasons with the Flames. He was such a letdown during the 2009-10 season that he was deal to the New York Rangers along with Brandon Prust (sigh) in exchange for Chris Higgins and Ales Kotalik (le sigh)…so you can understand why no one saw this coming.
There were two main reasons why Jokinen was seen as such a disappointment in his first stint with the Flames. First, the expectations. This guy was talked about for YEARS as someone who would finally give Calgary their number one centerman and finally give Calgary the type of top line that elite, Stanley Cup contenders are able to ice. Second, the price tag. Jokinen’s cap hit was $5.5 million, which seemed a tad steep for a guy who managed only 11 goals in 56 games to start the 09-10 campaign.
Olli’s new two year, $7 million deal wasn’t actually awful in terms of term and dollars; but it was the shock and surprise of him signing seemed that seemed to win the day. And I’ll give credit where credit is due…the guy actually was somewhat effective as the season went along. He finished with 54 points, he was above water when it came to even strength scoring chances at the end of the year, and at one time he centered one of Calgary’s most effective lines along with Curtis Glencross and David Moss.
I still don’t understand the whole chain of events that lead to the signing last year; it was an example of the worst of Darryl Sutter. The guy could have brought Jokinen back at the same contract if he had just let the original one expire; instead, he got rid of a very effective Prust AND saddled the team with a ferry anchor in Kotalik. That said, Olli exceeded expectations, at least in my eyes…and that’s a pretty big win.
Later on in the day, Darryl made two moves that kind of flew under the radar. One of them was signing Tim Jackman to a two year contract, in what many believe now was a favor to Head Coach Brent Sutter. Jackman had come off two seasons with the New York Islanders and Brent was familiar with him from his time behind the Devils bench. No one thought a whole lot about the deal, but they think a whole lot more about it now.
Jackman put up solid numbers for a bottom six forward, posting ten goals and 23 points in 82 games…but his value on the team went far beyond goals and assists. First off, he was probably Calgary’s most consistent player, giving you the exact same thing on night one against the Oilers as he did to finish the season against the Canucks. But you can’t really quantify consistency, so instead, we’ll look at some underlying numbers.
Tim would finish an impressive +28 when counting ES scoring chances for the season, which is pretty damn impressive for a guy who rarely saw more than ten minutes of ice time. That right there speaks to his ability in driving possession and doing valuable things in the offensive zone despite limited ice time. While his high 16.31 Corsi number is inflated by a 57.7% offensive zone start, it doesn’t really matter…that’s straight up value from a bottom six forward.
The most impressive thing to me was his short stint playing with the aforementioned Moss and Tom Kostopoulos right as Calgary started to get on their ridiculous run at the beginning of 2011. While only playing a few games together, the line finished +14 in scoring chances, putting something meaningful on net 69.4% of the time. But that’s a small sample size, counting only 36 total chances; however, Jackman and Kostopoulos played together much of the time in the final three months, and the numbers are almost as impressive: +24 in the chance count (116 total chances) good for 60.3% of the time on the opposing net.
For a guy who no one really thought much of when he signed, Jackman was a revelation for the Flames this past season. Kent wrote an article last summer showing that he might be more than just a goon-type player, but Mr. Wilson readily admits he didn’t see this coming either. Of all four of the signings on July 1st, 2010, this one might be the most resounding success.
So…the guy played one game. It looked like a bad signing when pen was put to paper. It looks worse now. And he’s under contract for next season. That about covers it.
So, in the coming days, we’ll look ahead to July 1st, 2011, another important date in a very important summer for the Flames organization. With six unrestricted free agents and two more restricted free agents, Jay Feaster and company will have a mighty task in front of them, and that doesn’t even take into account other potential open market targets. Let the fun begin.