If you’ve been following the weekly Black Box statistical summaries then you’ve also been following the OZQoC Charts, and you know how the Flames forwards are being used. Here’s how it sits today at the season’s one-quarter mark.
The players near the top of the chart are the ones facing the top opponents, and the ones on the left side of the chart are the ones getting to start in the offensive zone the most often – an easier, and more offensive-minded role.
You don’t need to be an OZQoC expert to know that the expectations for players like Curtis Glencross and Olli Jokinen should be different than those for Roman Horak, or Tom Kostopoulos, but what should those expectations be instead?
By searching the league for players being used in similar ways we can see how the Flames are stacking up against their peers on other teams. It will probably be obvious which players are playing their roles very well and which ones might need a change of assignment.
The Top Six
Using goals and assists, the so-called box score statistics, to figure out who is doing their jobs well has two fundamental flaws. First, luck has a tremendous influence on scoring over such a small time period. Secondly, and more importantly, it doesn’t tell us how well everyone is doing defensively.
Since hockey is a team sport, it’s more interesting to see how well the Flames are doing as a team with each of these players on the ice, and in a way that involves as little luck as possible at this early stage of the season. That’s why we’ll use Corsi%, which is simply the percentage of all attempted shots made by the Flames rather than their opponents, something over which luck has a far lighter grip than which ones actually go in. Let’s start with the top line.
Jarome Iginla, 48.7%
Similar players: Eric Staal, Joe Thornton, Patrik Elias, Anze Kopitar, Patrik Berglund, Derek Stepan, Jeff Carter, Patrick Marleau, David Backes, Dainius Zubrus
Group Corsi: 51.7%
Jarome Iginla is off to a horrible start, and a big reason why the Flames are struggling early is because their top line is getting beaten every night. The New York Rangers’ Derek Stepan is the only comparable top-line player with whom his team is enjoying less success than Jarome Iginla.
Often lack of scoring can be chalked up to bad luck, but in Iginla’s case it is largely bad performance. In that at least he has company in his statistical clone Eric Staal, both of whom are scoring at half the rate of anyone in the group except Patrick Berglund. If Iginla doesn’t improve then he’ll have to begin his inevitable transition to a 2nd-line player.
Alex Tanguay, 48.2%
Similar players: Patrik Elias, Patrik Berglund, T.J. Oshie, Michael Grabner, Anze Kopitar, Dainius Zubrus, Eric Staal, Brian Gionta, Patrice Bergeron, Chad LaRose
Group Corsi: 52.4%
There’s only a slight difference in role between Alex Tanguay and his linemate Jarome Iginla, so there’s no surprise that he has all his peers’ teams are enjoying more success with heir top lines than the Flames. At least Tanguay is right in the middle of the pack scoring-wise, closest to Dainius Zubrus.
Teams use their top lines in different ways, and there are roughly four that are used very similarly to Iginla and Tanguay, which we can put in box-score format for those less comfortable with our fancy stats.
Unit GP G A PTS +/- Cap Hit Thornton/Marleau 38 14 25 39 +12 $13.9M Elias/Zubrus 40 15 17 32 +4 $9.4M Oshie/Backes 42 13 13 26 +10 $6.9M Iginla/Tanguay 40 9 16 25 -17 $10.5M Staal/LaRose 46 10 14 24 -24 $10.0M
In contract, let’s look at their most frequent partner, David Moss.
David Moss, 53.0%
Similar players: Bryan Bickell, Patrik Elias, Patrik Berglund, Ales Hemsky, Michael Ryder, Michael Grabner, Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, Brandon Dubinsky, Chad LaRose
Group Corsi: 48.6%
Beofreb eing injured, David Moss was frequently being used as a top-line player, alongside two superstars who are clearly struggling, and still beating his peer group. In fact, only New Jersey’s Patrik Elias has been more effective in this role so far. And despite the the solid collection of players in his peer group, Moss’s even-strength scoring rate is roughly middle of the pack, closest to Michael Grabner. Great work by Moss.
Let’s move on to the second line, anchored by Olli Jokinen and Curtis Glencross, which we’ll treat as a single entity since their usage has been identical.
Olli Jokinen, 47.4% and Curtis Glencross, 48.0%
Similar players: Brad Richards, Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Derek Stepan, Radim Vrbata, John Tavares, Matt Moulson, Joe Pavelski, Justin Williams, Eric Staal
Group Corsi: 50.0%
Though the second line has certainly been below par, it would be considered typical in New York, where both of the state’s teams have lines with similar roles, and similar results, once again shown in more familiar box score format.
Unit GP G A PTS +/- Cap Hit Tavares/Moulson 38 14 13 27 -4 $6.9M Jokinen/Glencross 39 12 13 25 -8 $5.6M Richards/Stepan 36 10 14 24 +3 $7.5M
Coach John Tortorella shakes up his top lines frequently, with Brad Richards frequently playing with Ryan Callahan or Brandon Dubinsky while Derek Stepan might play with Marian Gaborik, but their over-all roles they’ve been assigned are similar to Jokinen and Glencross, which is why we’ve grouped them together here even though they’re not a unit persay.
Scoring-wise both Glencross and Jokinen are middle of the pack. Speaking of the middle of the pack, let’s look at Calgary’s.
The Middle Pack
Lee Stempniak, 50.6%
Similar players: Matt Calvert, Marco Sturm, Daymond Langkow, Richard Park, Jamie Benn, Steve Downie, Antoine Vermette, Paul Stastny, Magnus Paajarvi, Frans Nielsen
Group Corsi: 53.6%
It’s interesting to see Daymond Langkow, the player for whom Lee Stempniak was traded, playing the exact same role in Phoenix – though for a lot more money, and with far greater results. Stempniak is doing well, but he should be doing much better based on his average usage against lighter competition.
Stempniak has the 3rd highest scoring rate among his ten-player peer group, right after Jamie Benn and Frans Nielsen. Magnus Paajarvi’s the worst of the bunch Corsi-wise saving Stempniak, along with Steve Downie and Frans Nielsen, from being the lowest.
Rene Bourque, 45.0%
Similar players: Dustin Brown, Kris Versteeg, Colin Wilson, Derek Roy, Teddy Purcell, Teemu Selanne, Tomas Fleischmann, Tyler Bozak, Chris Neil, Jordan Caron
Group Corsi: 50.3%
Rene Bourque, the most common linemate for Olli Jokinen and Curtis Glencross, is scoring at the same super-low scoring rate as Jarome Iginla, easily the lowest scoring rate of his ten-player peer group, far behind Dustin Brown. If we had taken ice-time into consideration when compiling the peer list then David Booth would have knocked off Jordan Caron, and saved Bourque from being the lowest scorer.
Kris Versteeg is the real jewel of the group, being the highest scorer, followed by Teddy Purcell, and barely trailing Chris Neil for the best Corsi percentage, along with Colin Wilson. Needless to say Rene Bourque is dead last, right below Tyler Bozak.
Roman Horak, 40.3%
Similar Players: Jordin Tootoo, David Steckel, Patrick Kaleta, Aaron Asham, Matt Cullen, Philippe Dupuis, Loui Eriksson, Scottie Upshall, Paul Gaustad, Gregory Campbell
Group Corsi: 47.7%
Rookie Roman Horak has been assigned an interesting role – lots of time in his own zone, but fortunately against fairly average or weak competition. Among those sharing that type of duty, Horak has the 2nd highest score rate, the same as Matt Cullen’s, and a notch down from Loui Eriksson.
Unfortunately the team as a whole hasn’t done nearly as well as Roman Horak, suffering worse than even Nashville, with Jordin Tootoo’s 41.7%. It’s a tough role to succeed at, as the only ones with Corsi percentages over 50% include David Steckel, Patrick Kaleta (the two lowest scorers) and Scottie Upshall.
The Fourth Line
The one line that has outplayed their opponents most night is their fourth line, composed of veterans Tom Kostopoulos, Tim Jackman and Matt Stajan.
Tom Kostopoulos, 48.9%
Similar Players: Trent Hunter, Ben Eager, Matt Hendricks, Petteri Nokelainen, Kyle Clifford, Tom Wandell, Blake Comeau, Maxime Macenauer, Trevor Lewis, Scott Nichol
Group Corsi: 49.1%
Tom Kostopoulos’ clone this year has been San Jose’s Brad Winchester, who just missed this list. They have the highest scoring rate of the bunch, and are both middle of the pack in Corsi percentage, well ahead of Ben Eager’s lowly 37.8%, but well shy of Trent Hunter.
Tim Jackman, 52.4% and Matt Stajan, 52.7%
Similar Players: Kyle Clifford, Blake Comeau, Scott Nichol, Petteri Nokelainen, Maxime Macenauer, Ben Eager, Nicklas Bergfors, Trent Hunter, Devante Smith-Pelly, Matt Hendricks
Group Corsi: 47.1%
If Tom Kostopoulos has been playing like Brad Winchester, then Tim Jackman closest comparable has been Los Angeles’ Kyle Clifford. Their usage has been virtually identical, as has their middle-of-the-pack scoring, and how well their teams have done around them.
Once-promising rookie Trent Hunter has been off to a better start than his humble numbers suggest, leading the pack in scoring along with Nicklas Bergfors, and like Matt Hendricks, enjoying more team success than the others. Fortunately Stajan and Jackman are only slightly behind by that measure, and their scoring has been middle of the pack, like Hendricks and also Patrick O’Sullivan. Here’s how their fourth lines shape up to those being used more similarly.
Fourth lines GP G A PTS PIM +/- Cap Hit Kostopoulos/Jackman/Stajan 54 2 9 11 51 -5 $5.0M Winchester/Desjardins/Murray 56 4 5 9 40 +2 $1.8M Hunter/Clifford/Lewis 51 1 5 6 34 -3 $2.2M
Five million is a rather large cap hit for a fourth line, especially since one with Brad Winchester and Kyle Clifford would presumably have identical results.
The Flames top lines, which are being used similarly to those you’d find in New York, San Jose, New Jersey, St. Louis and Carolina, are being outplayed, with David Moss standing out as the sole shining light. One could argue transitioning Jarome Iginla to the 2nd line, but there’s really no one to take his place.
Things actually get deceptively worse as you approach the middle of the pack, with Lee Stempniak actually underachieving, and Roman Horak and Rene Bourque getting blown away. Only on the fourth line have the Flames been beating their opponents every night, but it has come at the cost of using higher-priced forwards rather than young, developing and inexpensive players.
Hopefully things may turn around with players like Mikael Backlund and Brendan Morrison re-added to the mix, otherwise Calgary’s struggles may continue through the second quarter of the season.