There was a long running twitter discussion the other day between myself, Steinberg and various others (speak up in the comments) on who may land between Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla this year.
Most of the popular opinion seems support Mikael Backlund. That said, none of the Flames various pivots is a slam dunk to center the first line: if Sutter decides to go power-vs-power in his match-ups, the best dude for the role is Daymond Langkow. Maybe Olli Jokinen will get yet another audition (unlikely). David Moss had a nice turn as the front-line centerman last year. Pat also suggested that Brendan Morrison may get the assignment once he returns from injury. Nobody suggested Matt Stajan, of course.
All of the options have some merit. Except, that is, for Morrison. Of the centers who played any significant amount of time with Iginla and Tanguay last year, BMo is the guy sunk the trio the most. We’ve already discussed how Morrison had some of the very worst underlying numbers on the club last year, but here’s how the elder statesman specifically effected Tanguay and Iginla in terms of scoring chace ration last season:
|With Morrison||Without Morrison|
Absent Bmo, Tanguay and Iginla were well above water. With him, they sank. For comparison purposes, here is how things settled out with Jokinen and Backlund:
|With Jokinen||Without Jokinen|
|With Backlund||Without Backlund|
Naturally, some caveats apply here. It’s entirely possible each center was playing with the Iginla and Tanguay duo in different circumstances which would effect the resultant chance ratios. For example, it wouldn’t surprise me if Jokinen was often elevated with Tanguay and Iginla in the third period while the team was trailing. I alos know Mikael Backlund mostly saw ice time with the first line if Brent Sutter wasn’t overly concerned with the oppositions attack. That means of the three, Morrison saw perhaps the toughest ice time.
That said, it’s not like Iginla et al were ever buried to any great extent, meaning the chance numbers are bad enough to suggest it’s not something ever really worth pursuing anyways. Besides all that…Morrions is a 36-year old who hasn’t scored more than 45 points in five years. There is also no less than 3 other centers on this club taking down pay checks of $3M or more next season…and a kid who hit it out of the park against nobodies besides. Morrison should therefore be the last name folks think of when the first line center debate rears it’s head.