Flames Comparables: Iginla and Tanguay



Predicting how many points a player will score is tricky business.  Even the new Vukota system, which has already been regarded as the best, is off by 0.14 points per game on average – or 11.5 points over an 82 game season.

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That’s why I like the Snepsts System, which since it was first introduced in 2009 over at Hockey Prospectus, projects how many points a player will score by searching NHL’s vast history to find players with similar scoring trends.  While it’s no more accurate than the Vukota system over-all, it offers up a range of historical probabilities, offering us the opportunity to decide for ourselves where a particular player will fall, depending on their individual circumstances.

The methodology is no secret, and in fact the simple approach was explain when we did this for the Calgary Flames last year.  As a group the results were almost bang on.  The wide net of history caught great seasons like Iginla’s, Tanguay’s and Giordano’s at one end, and disappointments like Stajan’s and Hagman’s at the other, averaging out almost exactly in the middle.

Part 1: Iginla, Jokinen, Tanguay and Bourque
Part 2: Stajan, Hagman and Langkow
Part 3: Bouwmeester, White and Giordano
Post-Season Projection Review

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This year we’ll begin with Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay, who together generated over a quarter of their offense.

Jarome Iginla, RW

Jarome Iginla has scored between 86 and 98 points in four of the past five seasons, with the only aberration being a 69-point campaign in 2009-10.  He’s missed games only once since the lock-out – 12 games in 2006-07.  Only Alexander Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Dany Heatley have more goals since the lock-out. 

Iginla just earned his tenth straight 30 goal seasons, only the 10th player to do so, and he had 28 and 29 the two seasons previous.  Iginla’s 43 goals at age 33 is impressive – normalized goal scoring to today’s era, Iginla is one of only five players to score that many goals at this age.  The others were Bobby Hull, Johnny Bucyk, Teemu Selanne, and Jaromir Jagr.

Last year Jarome Iginla’s average Snepsts projection was just 27 goals and 64 points, but knowing him like we do, we were expecting him to scored 30 goals and 75 points.  Instead Iginla instantly regained his chemistry with Alex Tanguay and his 43 goals and 86 points lined up nicely with our best-case scenario: Sergei Fedorov’s 2002-03 season.

If Iginla continues to follow Fedorov’s track, he’ll be good for 33 goals and 69 points this year, which happens to be Vukota’s projection, and the average of the ten closest historical comparables below.

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Age Player            Season  GP  G  A PTS
32 Tomas Sandstrom    1996-97 74 17 23  40
34 Luc Robitaille     2000-01 82 37 51  88
32 Alexander Mogilny  2001-02 66 25 35  60
32 Brendan Shanahan   2000-01 81 31 45  76
32 Joe Mullen         1989-90 78 27 25  52
32 Pat Verbeek        1996-97 81 16 35  51
34 Sergei Fedorov     2003-04 80 33 36  69
33 Norm Ullman        1968-69 75 32 40  72
32 Brett Hull         1996-97 77 39 39  78
33 Dino Ciccarelli    1993-84 66 24 25  49

VUKOTA                        75 32 37  69
Worst (Sandstrom)             82 19 26  45
Best (Robitaille)             82 37 51  88
Average                       82 30 38  68

In total Jarome Iginla had 23 close historical matches, averaging the slightly more optimistic projection of 31 goals, 42 assists and 73 points. 

If Iginla is to overachieve as he did last season, history suggest the best-case scenario is 37 goals and 88 points, like Hall-of-Famer Luc Robitaille in 2000-01 (remember, these are era-adjusted).  In his last year as a King, Lucky Luc finished a close second to linemate Ziggy Palffy in both goals and assists, before struggling through four more seasons as more of a 50-point player.

The worst case is Tomas Sandstrom, Iginla’s closest historical comparable who split a near-career worst season between Pittsburgh and Detroit at age 32 – but winning his first Stanley Cup – before ending his career with two forgettable years in Anaheim.

Still, the most intriguing historical case is definitely Sergei Fedorov’s.  Look how closely his era-adjusted numbers compare.

Jarome Iginla GP G A PTS
1996-2008 860 374 387 761
2008-09    82  34  51  85
2009-10    82  32  36  68
2010-11    82  43  43  86

Sergei Fedorov GP G A PTS
1990-2000 672 263 384 647
2000-01    75  32  37  69
2001-02    81  32  39  71
2002-03    80  37  48  85

It’s not easy finding players whose statistical production closely match Jarome Iginla’s, but you’re not going to get too much closer than Sergei Fedorov.  Should the trend continue, expect Iginla to score 30-some goals and graze 70 points, just as both Vukota and Snepsts project – and potentially his last strong season.

Alex Tanguay, LW

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Playing on his 3rd team in three years, Alex Tanguay jumped to 22 goals and 69 points after just 10 goals and 37 points with Tamp Bay.  It was his 7th 40-assist season, and his first since his last time as a Flame back in 2007-08.

The average projection last year was just 42 points, because players whose production dropped that rapidly historically generally didn’t recover as quickly and thoroughly as Tanguay.  Even back then we knew that he would improve from his career-worst 11.0% shooting percentage (he got 18.3%), and finish closer to the best-case scenario of 61 points.

Despite his tremendous success last season, history still suggests he’s not likely to repeat, ultimately scoring between 31-65 points and likely ending the season in a quest for 50.

Age Player            Season  GP  G  A PTS
34 Charley McVeight   1932-33 40  8 20  28
31 Art Somers         1932-33 48  8 25  33
32 Dale Hunter        1992-93 84 15 45  60
30 Red Sullivan       1959-60 70 11 24  35
31 Walt Tkaczuk       1978-79 77 12 22  34
34 Todd White         2009-10 65  7 19  26
30 Todd Marchant      2003-04 77 10 27  37
31 Keith Jones        1999-00 57  9 16  25
32 Shayne Corson      1998-99 63 12 21  33
33 Henri Richard      1969-70 62 15 36  51

VUKOTA                        69 15 33  48
Worst (White)                 79  8 23  31
Best (Richard)                79 19 46  65
Average                       79 13 32  45

Given the see-saw nature of his career recently, there were only three close matches, which agreed with the average projection even when we widened the net.

It’s understandable for the cold, objective mind of Snepsts to be so pessimistic.  Tanguay suffered a bad shoulder injury in Montreal, and really struggled the near year in Tampa Bay.  It’s reasonable to have assumed that at age 31 his scoring touch was gone, and he’d be relegated to being a 40-50 point secondary scoring option.  Perhaps if he hadn’t been lined up next to the incomparable Jarome Iginla, that would have been correct.

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Given the high-risk, five-year, $17.5 million deal he recently signed, the Calgary Flames are obviously incredibly confident that he can continue to produce at last year’s rate until he’s 36 years old.  For a team burned by optimistic long-term deals as frequently as the Flames, it says a lot that they’d offer one to Tanguay rather than invest those dollars more conservatively. 

They obviously believe in him, and want him to be successful, making it far more likely he’ll be at the high-end, 60-point, Dale Hunter/Henri Richard level of scoring.  Of course, a lot depends on how much he gets to play with Iginla, and who centres them, otherwise the pessimistic, sub-50 point conclusions of both Vukota and Snepsts could ultimately prove valid.

Coming Up

Daymond Langkow Lee Stempniak and Olli Jokinen
Matt Stajan and Niklas Hagman
Rene Bourque and Curtis Glencross
David Moss and Brendan Morrison

Jay Bouwmeester, Mark Giordano and Anton Babchuk
Tom Kostopoulous, Tim Jackman, Cory Sarich, Chris Butler and Scott Hannan
Mikael Backlund and Brett Carson
Raitis Ivanans and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond.

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  • The Iginla prediction strikes me as entirely reasonable. Tanguay looks on the slim side, if only because 45-points would be a disaster given how much ice time he’s going to get.

    Very interesting stuff though Rob.

  • RexLibris

    Hey Robert,
    A while ago I had mentioned on this site that I perceived Iginla to be in the top-tier of historical RW’ers, but just outside of that elite class. Of course, I don’t have any mathematical evidence to support that observation, so it’s just an opinion. When I looked through your list of comparables for Iginla in this coming season though it was uncanny as to how each of those names echoed exactly that sentiment. Every one of those players is recognizable, had a good deal of success in their time, some more than others, and even made it into the HHOF. I don’t think that Iginla will be remembered as one of the best wingers to ever play the game, but as one of the better wingers to have ever played the game. Of course, the debate will always revolve around what he might have done on a deeper team with a better supporting cast, but there are so many other players who are in the same position.

    I am intrigued by the Vukota system, though and look forward to more analysis along these lines.

    • I guess it depends on where you draw the line between “great” and “elite”. Iginla will certainly finish his career as one of the very best forwards to ever where a Flames uniform, but he probably won’t be a guy who CHANGED THE GAME or anything like that.

      • I’d say that Iginla is the best ever Flame. Did he change the game like a Gretzky? Absolutely not. But in terms of the best Flames players, Iggy is #1, and in my opinon, he should be a hall of famer. I mean, the guy played the majority of his career with nobody to help him out.

          • Vintage Flame

            I’m still shaking my head as to why #2 isn’t hanging in the rafters of the Dome yet?? I think #12 will be an automatic trip to the rafters.

            As much as I loved Nieuwendyk I don’t think we will see #25 retired.. barring some “Quantum Leap”, as you put it, from Moss.. So let’s just stay with no.

            And because I don’t think Nieuwy gets retired, I think he pulls Theo out of that conversation as well.

  • You can say elite, great, whatever. If Jarome Iginla is not a first ballot Hall of Famer every single member of the electing committee should be summarily dismissed and replaced by six year old girls who would inevitably do a better job.

    As for “best Flame ever”, while MacInnis and Nieuwendyk may have been close at their peaks, they also spent considerable periods of their “peak” eras outside of Calgary. Neither of them spent as long being as good in a Flames jersey as Iginla. Frankly, I think Fleury would be as close to being in the conversation as those two if you are just looking at time in a Flames jersey – he just didn’t have the same stuff after he left.

  • Let’s hope Tanguay is more like Richard or Hunter and less like the Todds (Marchant and White). The Todds were just terrible players.

    Otherwise, I love this type of analysis, and it’s fairly interesting to see how well players lined up with potential expectations at the end of a season. Gives a good idea of where they might be next season – rebounds for the crapshoots (Hagman/Stajan) and perhaps a bit of decline for Tanguay/Iginla/Gio?

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I’m looking forward to seeing how both Iginla and Tanguay play together. I tend to believe that Tanguay will be near the top of his comparisons, and I hope that Iginla will come close to equalling his results from last year. You have to wonder about how much improvement both would see, if they actually had a bonified #1 center.

      • SmellOfVictory

        He’s at the right age for a quantum leap. Actually, even a moderate leap on his part would be an improvement on Morrison.

        I hope I’m not jinxing the kid by saying this (knock on wood I guess), but I have a good feeling about him this season.

    • I saw about half of it. Some of it was interesting, as Feaster remains far more engaging and honest than Sutter. That said, a lot of it was paint-by-numbers off-season banner waving, which is to be expected of course.

    • Vintage Flame

      I’m not sold on that idea. Theo burnt a lot of bridges when he left here. Said a lot of stuff he shouldn’t about the organization. Even though they brought him back on the try-out, the Flames brass might have forgiven but not forgotten.

      The same goes for Nieuwy. Let’s not forget that when he was traded from here, he was a hold out.. and walked out the team. that doesn’t inspire the organization to honour these kinds of players.

  • Vintage Flame

    MacInnis didn’t exactly leave on the best of terms either.

    As for I ginla in the Hall of Fame – BWAH HA HAHA AHHA HAHA HAH HAHAHHA !!!!!!!!!!1

    Seriously, give me a break. Talk bout homer-ism. HOF for a guy who got past the first round of the playoffs once in his career? I don’t think so. Takes more than one-timers from the top of the circle to get in the HOF. Or at least it should.

    Iggy deserves the HOF as much as 2 of the guys compared to him – Kovalchuk and Heatley.

    Of course, instead of raising his jersey to the rafters (that will happen), maybe they should find a way to fly it over the Okanagan where he spends most of his time.

    Greatest Flame of all time? Lanny – hands down. 100x the leader Iginla supposedly is.

    • Vintage Flame

      I disagree with you. Lanny had 10x the team that iggy had so that gives far more credit to piggy.

      kovalsuck and Heatley WISH they had guy’s scoring history in the past 5 years.

      while iggy has yet to hoist the cup there is no shortage of accomplishments during his career. Also just happens to be one of the few infamous nice guys of the sport as well.

      so yeah first ballot HOF.

    • Vintage Flame

      “MacInnis didn’t exactly leave on the best of terms either.”

      True.. but he stuck it out and played. He didn’t abandon the team like Nieuwy did. He also was a Conn Smythe winner and the stats to back up his case. [Not to imply Nieuwy didn’t!]

      Greatest Flame of all time? Lanny – hands down. 100x the leader Iginla supposedly is.”

      Totally disagree with this. Lanny was a good Flame, but he was a figure head Captain compared to Iginla. Lanny was the, “Let’s win one for the Gipper!” The team had far more motivating leaders in MacInnis, Nieuwendyk McCrimmon during his service as the “C”

      Lanny was far more prominent as a Leaf in his career. As Emir pointed out, Iggy has had a lot less to work with, and done far more.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      Non-sense. I was there for the golden era too, Lanny was a good leader and put up some nice points on an exceptionally talented team. Iginla on the other hand put the 2004 team on his back and won the cup in 6 games. He also has 2 gold metals and was a prominent fixture on 3 Olympic teams.

  • Thanks everyone for the comments.

    Jarome Iginla has 224.2 career GVT, placing him roughly 78th all-time, between Dave Andreychuk and Mike Gartner. Of course, he’s still going strong.

    As for best Flame ever:

    Jarome Iginla has the highest GVT as a Flame, and is tucked in between Gilmour and Fleury for 3rd over-all among those who wore the Flaming C at some point (if you ignore those who weren’t here very long, like Hull and Housley).

  • ChinookArchYYC

    The Tanguay numbers are hilarious, this guy should always be signed to one year contracts as soon as he gets three or four years on a piece of paper he slides. I think the real humour is Kent thinking that Tang will somehow go against his nature and actually have two good years in a row.
    This guy is a dud and the Sutter made a boneheaded move bringing him back but then he made a lot of those kind of decisions before he was booted.

  • Canucks Suck

    I agree I don’t get how anyone thinks otherwise, yes the flames never make it past the second round or they miss completely. But have we ever had another truly elite player to to compliment jarome. Washington has Backstrom, Pittsburgh has Malkin, Chicagco has Kane, we have? Alex Tanguay? not trying to knock tangs its just the way I see things.

  • RKD

    Fedorov is one of my favourite players. It’s eerie how closely matched his stats are to Iggy in this article.

    Iggy will probably score 40 goals again this year with 40 assists. I can’t see a significant drop off.

    This year Iggy needs 16 to hit 500, I’m more interested in when and if he can hit 600 goals. It’s certainly doable.

  • Canucks Suck

    It’s my opinion that a player should start and finish his career with the same organization in order to have his number considered for retirement. The rest can be honored.