Flames Comparables: Kostopoulos, Jackman and Backlund


Every Thursday (and sometimes Friday) we’re using the Snepsts system to project how many points each of the Flames may score this year. The Snepsts system, explained over at Hockey Prospectus, searches history for players with similar statistics (adjusted for era scoring levels) and uses their future performance as yardsticks for today’s.

We’ve already looked at most of the Flames key forwards and key defensemen, and this week we’ll look at some of their secondary forwards: Tom Kostopoulos, Tim Jackman and Mikael Backlund.

Tom Kostopoulos

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Tom Kostopoulos’ historical projection is hardly going to be interesting – he has scored between 18 and 22 points in all but one of his NHL seasons.  Unfortunately it looks like age is finally catching up to him (he’ll turn 33 in January), and he won’t manage even that modest scoring expectation.

Historical matches: 8
VUKOTA: 62 GP, 7 G, 10 A, 17 PTS
SNEPSTS: 78 GP, 4 G, 8 A, 12 PTS
Closest matches: Sami Pahlsson, Randy Gilhen, Bob Corkum

Kostopoulos will have to produce in order to justify using up a fourth line roster spot on a veteran instead of one of the younger, developing players. 

Tim Jackman

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Tim Jackman hit a career high last season with 23 points after scoring just 28 points in his previous 191 NHL games.  The big winger continued to play a tough game, but with improved discipline and taking a lot more shots than usual. Can he keep that up into his 30s?

Historical matches: 4
VUKOTA: 63 GP, 9 G, 11 A, 20 PTS
SNEPSTS: 82 GP, 4 G, 6 A, 10 PTS
Closest matches: Matthias Tjarnqvist, Blair Betts

The VUKOTA projection system is optimistic that Jackman can continue to play at this level, but Snepsts is far more pessimistic, as usual. Only 10 points, and would need to really play well defensively to prevent his roster spot being handed to one of the Flames’ kids.

Mikael Backlund

The Snepsts system needs at least two solid seasons to run a good historical comparison, but there’s not enough data on Backlund, who has one-and-a-half seasons of experience.

Instead we can translate his 2009-10 AHL data, add in his one goal, nine assist, 23 game NHL seasons, and wind up with something almost identical.

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2009-10 AHL/NHL Translation 77  8 17 25
2010-11 NHL                 73 10 15 25

Backlund has essentially enjoyed identical back-to-back 25 point seasons, while playing just 12 minutes a game of mostly sheltered ice-time. Using that, we can search NHL’s history for all 21-year-olds who are within a goal and an assist of his 2010-11 season, and see what happened to them.

Now VUKOTA projects 13 goals, 18 assists and 31 points in 65 games, but the 30 matches we found with Snepsts averaged 15 goals and 19 assists for 34 points over an 82 game schedule – though we’re sure Backlund is bound to miss at least 5-10 games.

The high-water mark is Cam Neely’s 55 points in 75 games, and Mario Tremblay’s 47 points in 76 games.  At the lower end are players like Kris Beech, Jamie Lundmark, Jody Hull and Martin Gelinas, all of whom finished in the sub-20 point range.

A lot will depend on his opportunities this year. If Backlund gets top-line minutes with Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay he’s practically guaranteed to top 30 points and even threaten to drive up into this upper-40 high-water mark. Worst-case scenario is that he’s buried on the depth lines for another year and finished in the mid-20s again.

Coming Up

Cory Sarich, Chris Butler, Scott Hannan and Brett Carson
Derek Smith, Clay Wilson, T.J. Brodie and Brendan Mikkelson
Lance Bouma, Stefan Meyer, Paul Byron, Greg Nemisz
Raitis Ivanans, Guillaume Desbiens and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond.

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