Leave Moss Alone!



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So Flames have one win in four games and the "first line" has been notably behind the play much of the time. Jarome Iginla has a single point so far and it’s a power play goal. They’ve been greatly outplayed in all but a handful of shifts.

This has all been fairly obvious to most Flames fans so far. The resultant focus and theoretical remedy seems to be replacing David Moss as the "number one" center. While there are superficial reasons why this seems like a the needed fix (not a natural center, low career point total, struggling at faceoffs) the truth is the real culprit for the first lines struggles is standing behind the bench. 

Regular readers of this space and my previous site know that Jarome Iginla has struggled in a power vs. power role for several years. When Brent Sutter arrived he played Jokinen and Iginla in a tough minutes role, hard matching them against other top lines and starting them in their own end a lot. They got their heads beat in. As in, worst corsi and scoring chance differentials on the team for the first two months of play.

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Last year, Iginla and Tanguay split power duties with Jokinen and Bourque, with the Iginla line getting more offensive zone draws. Even then, the captain put up only pedestrian possession rates and scoring chance differentials.

In short, Jarome has been drifting in the direction of "one-dimnesional offensive player" for many seasons and every time he’s been deployed like a Selke candidate, he struggles to keep his head above water. This has been shown over and over again.

Obviously having David Moss as the Flames top-line center isn’t an ideal solution insofar as every Flames fan would prefer to see Ryan Getzlaf or Pavel Datsyuk there instead. And absent an addition of that magnitude, there isn’t a centerman on the Flames of that caliber currently – meaning, if Brent Sutter continues to stick Iginla and Tanguy with the low ground, swapping Moss for Morrison or Stajan or Jokinen will be little more than shuffling deck chairs.

I’s possible Sutter will shift his use of the lines once Moss re-joins Jokinen and Glencross. I’d be extremely surprised to see those three guys get the cushiest minutes going forward the same way Brent has priviliged Glencross, Jokinen and Stempniak for instance. If so, things might improve for the top line as a function of the burden shifting back to Jokinen et al. Ironically, that wouldn’t be Moss’ fault but if it happens many fans will point to David as the obvious weak link in the chain. 

As we established in this space during the summer, the Flames should be seeking to shelter Iginla as much as possible. This was one of the reasons the Langkow trade was viewed with some skepticism ’round these parts: he was the only pivot on the club who has proven he can be buried without having the the crap kicked out of him. It was assumed Jokinen would be the guy to draw the short straw (for good reason) heading into the season, but for whatever reason Brent has gone in exactly the opposite direction in the first four games.

  • icedawg_42

    ..yeah, but I think that’s kinda our point. No, Moss isn’t hurting things on that line, but wouldnt the best thing to do, be to put the OMG line back together and play them vs the “kid line/Brat packs” of the world? then shelter the ever livin H.E.doublehockeysticks out of Iggy Tangs and CenterX? I dont think we (only referring to flamesnation here) are jumping on Moss as the reason for the lack of success of that first line. Just that the Flames are probably better served having him where he’s been most effective.

    • It only matter if Moss’ demotion comes with the shifting of the roles. In many places I’ve looked, the consensus is things aren’t working because Moss “isn’t a number one center”. That’s not really it.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      I’ll speak for myself, but Yes!

      icedawg stole my thunder. I for one want Moss out of harms way, and off that line. He’s more valuable on OMG, than with Iginla and Tanguay. If the line is going to struggle give it to another non-producing centreman (say like . . . Stajan). And yes again – shelter this trio.

      Outside of FN, Moss is probably not valued for what he brings to the Flames. So, I see why you are defending his role there. My point is to put him and the rest of the players in winning situations.

      I’m not sure what Sutter is doing, but he seems to be going down a philosophical path instead of a pragmatic one, ie placing Stajan on the PK (as some kind of purgatory, and putting Iggy against other top lines, because he’s our top guy come to mind). I will reserve my judgement on Brent Sutter, since I thought he did a good job after Christmas last year, but the scales are starting to tilt.

      • T&A4Flames

        I agree. Get Moss back where he belongs with OMG. Given our injuries, give Stajan a chance to get out of the doghouse. OMG can carry the load like last year and the Iginla line can get some sheltered minutes. Stajan is a fairly decent face off guy and with some offensive starts they may be able to produce.

      • My intent was in part to defend Moss in the particular, but moreso to attack the idea that another Flames center would make a tangible difference. The problem is – and will forever remain – the lack of a truly elite ES difference maker. There’s a sort of opportunistic nativity to thinking Morrison or Backlund would have turned the tide instead of Moss given how Jarome has played and been deployed so far.

        I liked what Sutter did last year too. Hell, I said his improvement was one of the reasons for optimism heading into the year. I’m definitely willing to give him some time to see how things play out here.

        • ChinookArchYYC

          Fair comment, there is no magic tonic for what’s ailing the Flames top forwards. The top line will all have to pick up their game, particularly Iggy.

    • Jeff Lebowski

      Because it`s what he does… he keeps on thinking that he has the team that he wants to have rather then the team that he does have. He doesn`t learn from his mistakes he keeps on convincing himself that he was right the first time all appearances to the contrary.

      I`m done with Sutters, I halfway think that Feaster is just keeping Brent around primarily because he doesn`t want to pay him to sit at home like Daz paid Keenan if this is going to be a gap year anyways and maybe on the off-chance a familiar face might help lure Parise

  • jeremywilhelm

    Moss isnt the cause but he certainly isn’t helping. He is a winger that can push possesion against mid tier. He is being played as a center(?!) against top tier competition. He’s terrible at face offs and definitely more of a shooter than a passer (hes actually more of a tipper than a shooter even).

    All in all, Sutter seems to be too pig headed to play these guys in any position than one of assured failure.

    It’s annoying. Work hard not smart there team!!

  • jeremywilhelm

    Kent, I think you are way overstating things here.

    First, I already posted in the other thread why I think the zone start stuff is way blown out of proportion.

    As for the quality of competition, I have some serious doubts about the reliability of QoC after 4 games of data to base it on, but I have looked at the shift charts for the first three games and it does appear that Iginla’s line has had many/most of their shifts against the other teams stronger lines (the Malkin line from Pitt, the McDonald-Backes line in St. Louis, the Gomez-Gionta line in Montreal). Still, it is way too early to make much of this for the following reasons:

    1) The Flames have played 3 of 4 games on the road. They are up against it in terms of line matching without the last change. In the Pittsburgh game it looks like Sutter tried to get away from the Iginla-Malkin match up in the second half of the game.

    2) Iginla has played more EV minutes than any other Flames player. The other teams top lines will also play more EV minutes than their other tlines. It is invevitable that a distinct portion of Iginla’s minutes (if he is going to play that many minutes) will have to be a against the other teams top lines. You just cannot get him on the ice that much and avoid it.

    For those reasons I think it is way too early to draw many conclusions about how Sutter is using the Iginla line. If it goes on through the next six game homestand, set up the gallows. But for now lets see what happens.

    One thing I will say is wtf is Sutter doing playing Iginla more minutes than any other forward after he missed most of training camp? He can’t possibly have been the most game ready forward after missing that much time. That doesn’t seem like very good coaching to me.

    • I think your notes are fair criticisms. Caveat emptor when it comes to 4 game sample sizes.

      I should also note at this point that, of course, some of the reason the first line is struggling is that it’s simply not playing well, particularly Jarome himself who seems to be a step or two behind the play.

      Perhaps more to the point I could have written that replacing Moss with someone else through the first four games probably wouldn’t have significantly changed things (the Getzlaf/Datsyuk ideals exempted, naturally).

      On Sutter, I’ll say these are the sort of ratios and usage indicators I don’t want to see after 25/40/60 games for Jarome.

      But your dissenting voice on this issue is stabilizing one. Thanks.

  • Vintage Flame

    I think the big problem with the top line comes as a collective, rather than one guy specifically. In the first couple games, Tanguay was carrying that line and doing a fairly good job.

    The problem is, that both Moss and Tanguay keep looking for Iginla on the ice. Maybe they think they can play him into game shape, but all they are doing is ‘playing down’ to his rust level.

    Tanguay and Moss have to do what they do best and literally drag Iginla along until he finds his stride. Moss driving the net and Tanguay putting more shot/passes towards the net, would produce more dividends.. IMO

    It also might help Iginla’s game if the opposition is more focused on Moss in front or Tanguay in the slot.. Iggy might get some more back door opportunities?

  • jeremywilhelm

    There was a couple shifts in the Penguins game where Sutter let a defensive zone faceoff happen with Sarich and Babchuk out against Malkin. Those are the kind of stupid decisions that Sutter makes in a game that loses us games. It’s unacceptable from a coach and a management team that have the resources and supposed forward thinking and progressive atitudes they claim.

    I honestly believe Sutter is just too stubborn for his own good.

  • Vintage Flame

    Kent, Why is it so difficult for the Flames to see that it’s not in their best interest to play Iginla PvP? I’m not being sarcastic either.. I’d like to know your thoughts or opinion?

  • jeremywilhelm

    Wow, all these stats & jump to coaching conclusions. First off, doesnt a coach need to know how his top players are going to match up against other teams top players, & then when the realization is that your top players dont have what it takes to compete on the elite level, do you guys suggest B Sutter go and tell Jerome & Tangs they cant cut it and only play the soft minutes? I think Jerome would drop his gloves & punch out Brent. I’m trying to understand the bigger picture. It’s one thing to coach and manage young kids & groom them to elite playing athletes, but how do you humanly do that with athletes paid $11mill per year and are past that stage of their careers. Performance from your “star” players that are paid as such should not need the cushioning that is being put out here. I think the results of these stats should be a lot more alarming and raise flags that should not just be dropped on the coach.

    • icedawg_42

      So are you suggesting that it shouldnt matter for instance, whether you put Giordano’s pair or Babchuck’s pair out against the Sedins? IMO it absolutely DOES matter who’s on the ice if you want certain players to succeed.

      or are you only talking forwards here?

    • jeremywilhelm

      If you truly believe that Sutter is scared to play Iginla in any position besides Power on power, you are being silly. Sutters job is to use his tools as best as he can, he isn’t doing that, and I truly doubt it is because Iginla is telling him who he wants to play against. He wouldnt be much of a coach if he did.

      • xis10ce

        I think what Im saying is that the coach has to work with the players they have. It seems to me we are lacking that power line Sutter can go with. It seems to me the 1st line gets the extra minutes & will get tough & soft minutes. In games like Pitt & Vanc, it seems like we just dont have the talent to compete with the big boys. I think that’s all these stats are showing, our best players & top line is really only a 2nd line on the better teams.

  • Clearly it’s not Moss’s fault – it’s Iginla. Like every year, right? Well we should probably just trade Iginla. That’s the solution every time he starts the season off slowly, according to most “Flames Fans.” That’ll really solve our woes.

  • xis10ce

    I think the make up of the team (complicated by injury) is the root of the problem. I don’t like the top line being deployed power 2 power but there aren’t many options. This team lacks a shut down line.

    Despite some peoples inflated opinion Jokinen was barely adequete in a shutdown role last season. And with Moss forced to C there aren’t many options at RW that would work well in a shut down role. Bourque and Jokinen have zero chemistry.

    Jokinen’s line is also generating offensively which is probably why they are beign deployed offensively. Though I expect when Moss returns to wing and Iginla starts to produce they will start using Jokinen’s line in a shutdown role.

    I also think the top line needs to be better. That includes having a better option at 1C then Moss. But even more so Iginla needs to start playing smart hockey. When he is scoring it disguises that fact he doesn’t play smart. But he isn’t scoring.

    His line should be able to go head to head against the Kessel line without getting eaten up.
    Going chance for chance when you are up 2 nothing is not smart hockey. Continuing to do it after the other team scores is really not smart hockey. Being so frustrated that you aren’t scoring that you take stupid risks while you are up two goals isn’t okay.

    Questionable coaching. A lack of a shutdown line. The Captain not playing smart hockey (or playing well in general). And having a third line winger playing 1C. These all contribute. But the one area that can easily be addressed is the play of Iginla.

    • BobB

      But the one area that can easily be addressed is the play of Iginla.

      What makes you think this can easily be addressed?

      We’ve been hoping that Iggy would evolve his game, or be coached into evolving his game for the better part of four years.

      I get the sense the thinking goes:

      “Do you want me to score 40 goals or not? Cause if you do, I think I know what I’m doing. If you want me to score 15 goals and play defense I can, but will everyone else make up the other 25 goals? No? Okay…. then I’ll continue doing what I do best.”

  • xis10ce

    Sutter placing Iggy in tough situations like he has been doing seems to only make sense for one reason. (granted a bit of a weak one) Given that Iggy missed the preseason and is known to start slow, maybe Sutter is trying to beat him into shape/submission with tough love? Get him up to game speed faster by doubling down the pressure on him?

    That’s all I got…

    • Tach responds to me in the other thread and I think the right conclusion is that Sutter is altogether ignoring face-off position in favor of other considerations. The current spread is therefore likely moderated by other variables and mostly coincidental.

  • I think zone starts do matter although they have to be considered in the overall context of the game. There may be situations where zone starts are outweighed by other factors that take place in any particular game and need to be viewed with a bit of skepticism when there is a small sample size.

    Like many other advanced stats, if they are looked at with some context they can tell quite the story.

    Iggy has stunk it up over the past few years in a power v. power role. That isn’t to say that he can’t be effective, but it’s about time that the coaches start paying attention to how and when he struggles in order to put him in a position to succeed.

    • Jeff Lebowski

      I am not sure if this post is directed at Kent’s comment discussing face-off position, but I know I am not disputing that zone start affects the displayed possession rate demonstrated by Corsi/Fenwick rates. What I was saying was that it was not apparent on the data that Sutter was trying to play any particular line in any particular zone stat situation. I think both Kent and I are of the view that Sutter should be targeting Iginla for more zone starts in the offensive end.

      Also, zone starts does not correlate to a power v. power role. For example, in the Black Box thread Kent and I were looking at the zone starts for the Sedin’s. When I look at that data it would appear to me that Vigneault is certainly avoiding putting the Sedin’s out starting in the defensive end. This must come at the expense of starting them against weaker competition. There just aren’t enough face off shift starts that you can a) target competition, b) target zone starts and c) get your top line on for 18 or 20 EV minutes. That is why the Sedin’s only get 16 or so EV minutes a game.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    Which other first lines in the league are forced to play dump and chase? Not many.

    To me this is a problem regarding the Flames’ transition game and how the Iggy-Tanguay combo needs to get the puck on their sticks so that they can make plays.

    Morrison was just able to use his smarts to give those two the puck where and when they needed it (ie not dumping it in everytime). Moss just doesn’t do it with the same aplomb as Morrison.

    Look at Moss’ goal vs Montreal. That’s how they want to attack and they don’t really get that opportunity (gain the zone and score off rush).

    In these past few games I’ve seen either Iggy or Tanguay skate the puck into the zone, get directed to the wall and then get dispossesed.

    It’s hard to have possession time when your team just gives it up everytime (dump and chase). It’s a really hard way to play offense when you barely have the puck on your stick.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    The fact of the matter is, the Flames are struggling getting faceoff wins at the moment. Moss performs admirably on the top line, but is not a natural center, and his FO% reflects that. It is tough to generate offense if you never start with the puck.

    now that BMo is back, hopefully that means Moss can move back to the wing, at the very least until a faceoff is won or possession is secured. If BMo isn’t ready, I suspect it won’t be long until Bouma is recalled to ice four natural centers.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    Not only is there a real aura of negativity around this group but they are incredibly soft. It really is time for major changes and some wins in the long run on some trades.

  • TheRealPoc

    It might not make any real difference, but I’d really like to see Horak at least get some shifts with Iginla and Tanguay.

    Lebowski was spot on re: his comment about puck possession.

  • everton fc

    Would it be fair to say… Trading Langkow, when he only had one year left on his contract… And is much more proven w/Iginla than even Backlund… Was a huge error in judgment by the GM?

    • icedawg_42

      Theres gonna be a lot of pain watching this season, especially if someone like Langks finds a lot of success, but honestly I still think it’s the right move – as was the Reggie move. The Flames were on a short highway to nowhere, and keeping those guys is more running in place. This is a transition season, a lot of changes have to and will be made. Freeing up cap space by moving those two lets the Flames be a little flexible, and aggressive if some juicy opportunity were to surface.

  • xis10ce

    @everton fc

    I think it was more a factor of fearing future injury and evaluating the reduction of some salary.

    From a risk/reward point of view it seemed like the right decision given the amount of unknowns regarding Langks health. He has looked good so far in Pho, but it’s still the start of the season and while I’m not hoping he gets injured again, there is a lot of potential for that to still occur to him in the next 70 some games.

  • xis10ce

    There were some big numbers let go of in those two trades:

    Reggy: 4mil
    Kotisuck: 3mil
    Langks: 4.5mil
    Total: 11.5mil

    vs what we took back
    Stemp: 1.9mil
    Butler: 1.25mil
    Some AHL numbers that are insignificant
    Total: less than 3.5mil

    It was a huge salary dump. But there was a loss of quality too.