As of today, November 20th 2011, Jarome Iginla sits fourth on the Flames in scoring with just four goals and nine points in 18 games. He is also a team worst -10. Although he’s one of the higtes paid forward in the league, Jarome currently sits 170th in league scoring, trailing the likes of David Desharnais, Kevin Shattenkirk, Nik Antropov, Maxime Talbot, Chad Larose, Jason Chimera…you get the idea.
So the Flames captain has definitely struggled. We’re not even past the quarter season pole, so it’s important to note variacne/luck has had a large influence on the results so far, with some guys in the league riding the percentages wave and other drowning beneath it. To better understand Jarome’s issues, I aim to separate the bad luck from the bad play.
Like last year at the same time, the pucks just aren’t going for in Iginla currently. His on-ice shooting percentage at even strength is just 4.6%, almost half of the typical league average of about 8%. In other words, the Flames have had 131 shots on net with Jarome on the ice in all ES situations this year, but have scored just six goals. On the other hand, Calgary has surrendered 139 shots against, including 12 goals (.914 SV%). His percentages combined equal 96.0, a number well below average (100.0) and not bound to last forever. Particularly that SH%, which is abysmal.
If we assume team average SH% (8.0%) and SV% (92.5%), we get an expected goals for total of 10 and goals against of 10, bringing his personal goal differential down from -6 to 0 at ES. Iginla has contributed on 4 of the 6 six goals the Flames have scored with him on the ice (66.7%). If we assume a stable percentage of contribution, then his expected even strength points bumps up from four to about 6 or 7.
On top of all that, Iginla’s personal sooting percentage is lagging slightly behind his career average (13.3%) at 10.4%. Again, if we assume Iggy’s real talent is 13%, then his expected goals through 18 games would be (13%*48 shots) 6.24 or 6 rather than the five he has now.
As we can see, much of Jarome’s poor plus/minus is courtesy rotten percentages (ie; bad luck). And he jumps up to first or second amongst Flames scorers with team average goal and save rates thus far. We can safely expect things to regress at some point, meaning don’t bet on Jarome finishing the year with a plus/minus of -40 or anything.
All that granted, it’s notable that even with assumed team average luck Jarome’s results don’t become all that noteworthy (12-13 points, plus/minus 0) in absolute terms. This is because on top of the bad bounces, Jarome hasn’t been driving the play north. Anyone who has watched the games will likely agree Iginla has struggled to be effective most nights.
The math agrees. As noted above, the Flames have been outshot at even strength with him on the ice (139 to 131). If we add in missed shots (55 for, 67 against) and blocked shots (62 for, 82 against) we get a better idea of how much time Iginla spends in the defensive zone. Overall, the Flames have managed 248 shots at the net at even strength with Jarome on the ice, but have surrendered 288.
That’s what we call "corsi" around here, and his raw corsi is -40. If we convert that to a ratio, it comes out to .463 which currently stands as the third worst amongst regular Calgary forwards – ahead of only Rene Bourque (.449) and Roman Horak (.411). League average is about .5 (50%) and really good players are usually at .55 or above.
To some degree, those possession results wouldn’t be completely substandard if Iginla was, say, starting in his own zone a lot against the other team’s best players. But that’s not really the case. His offensive-zone to defensive-zone faceoff ratio is almost right on 50% (75 offensive, 78 defensive) and the first line has split duties with the Jokinen unit when it comes to facing the other big guns. In fact, it’s arguable that Jokinen/Glencross have seen more of the opposition’s best thus far, a contention supported by their relative quality of competition score via behind the net.
We have repeatedly stated around these parts over the last year or two that Jarome is a forward who needs the high ground to succeed at this stage of his career. That means: high zone start ratios and lesser competition to the greatest degree the coach can manage it. As illutrated here, the puck travels the wrong way when Jarome skates at ES otherwise.
Before moving on, I’ll note that Iginla has been helped (rather than hindered) by playing to score effect so far (the tendency for trailing teams to get moer shots on net and vice versa). The captain’s score-tied shot ratios are even worse than his overall numbers: .410 (shots for/against), .420 (shots+missed shots) and .439 (corsi). That stands as the worst rate on the club currently, since Bourque (.515) and Horak (.456) both do better by this measure. To add further context, the Flames overall score-tied corsi is .514.
The Power Play
One of the Flames most obvious weaknesses thus far has been the man advantage. It has actually improved nominally over the last week or so, with Calgary now generating 40.9 shots on net per hour at 5on4 – good for 27th in the league, whereas they we down around 39 shot/60 perviously. The problem seems to lie primarily with the first PP unit – of which Iginla and Alex Tanguay* are the principles. They average 3:29 and 3:39 per game on the PP respectively, the most amongst Flames forwards.
This is actually an area where Jarome has been relatively lucky. He is averaging 4.9 PP points/60 minutes so far (which is good-to-very-good) despite the fact the team manages just 32.4 shots/60 when he’s on the ice. In contrast, the Flames garner 41.1 shots/60 when Iginla is on the bench, a difference of almost 8 shots per hour. This suggests the Flames PP is actually improved by Iginla’s absence.
What’s floating Iginla’s decent scoring rate right now is a on-ice SH% of 13.16%. The bad news is shot rate is far more indicative of a team’s PP skill than SH% in the long-run. And right now, the Flames manage less shots on net with Jarome on the ice than the worst PP in the league (38.4/60 – NYR).
*For those wondering about Tanguay – he’s even worse at 32 shots/60 and a differential of -10.1/60. Alex manning the point can probably be declared a failed experiment and abandoned without regret.
Iginla’s poor start is an intersection of bad luck and poor play. The Flames captain has suffered through abnormally low percentages through the first 18 games, but the team has also been routinely outshot with him on the ice at 5on5. In addition, the Flames PP struggles are legitimate and Iginla seems to be one of the problems rather than the solution.
Going forward, we should expect to see a break-out of some sort. Iginla still plays a lot each night (8th most ES ice time per game for forwards in the league) and is bound to hit a hot run of percentages eventually. For the rebound to be sustained beyond a run of good fortune, though, at least one of two things will need to happen:
1.) Jarome will have to drastically improve in terms of getting pucks into the offensive zone and on net. The team’s shot rates at both ES and on the PP are poor when Iginla is on the ice currently.
2.) Brent Sutter will have to ger far more agressive in terms of giving Iginla and his linemates favorable circumstances. A 50/50 split in terms of zone starts and match-ups against other top lines isn’t really going to cut it. I can understand Brent’s reluctance to bury one or more of the other trios given his dearth of established, shut-down options up front, but I’m not sure $10M+ worth of Tanguay and Iginla getting beat up every night is a viable option either.
It’s entiely possible that shifting a larger burden on, say, Jokinen/Glencross would merely mean a shift (rather than improvement) of results from one line to the other, but it’s not like the Flames have much to lose by trying it.