Time to Break up Jokinen and Iginla Again

 

Those who heard me on overtime this week with Pat may have been confused by my rather consistent condemnation of the Flames first unit of Jokinen, Iginla and Glencross. Afterall, Jokinen has six points in the last three games, Iginla has three in three and Glencross has three in the last four. Altogether, Calgary’s first line managed a cumulative 12-points in four games.

That seems like good work and some of it was – Calgary’s powerplay looked markedly better than it has for awhile and much of that was the big guns finally finding the range with the man advantage.

It was a totally different story at even strength, however. The thing to keep in mind isn’t merely point totals but the differentials players are generating when they’re on the ice at 5on5. If a player is on the ice for 5 shots in a game and two goals, it’s not worth a whole lot if he gives up 10-shots and 3 goals against.

This was the case with Calgary’s top unit during the road trip. 

Player ES GF ES GA ES shots for ES shots against shots % Fenwick % Corsi %
Jokenin 2 5 24 43 35.8 39 40.7
Iginla 2 4 26 51 39.6 39.6 41.1
Glencross 2 5 17 45 27.4 31.1 36.6

The table above shows the top line’s various shot metrics over the last four games. Keep in mind that 50% is the minimum every coach is ideally shooting for with his lines and match-ups because that means his players are at least sawing off possession with the opposition. As such, a .50 ratio is also roughly the league mean for corsi amongst regular skaters. Elite players approach .55-.60 while the worst are south of .45.

With that in mind, you can see that Iginla et al. got their teeth kicked in at even strength. They were out-shot and out-scored fairly handily and boasted overall possession rates comparable to what you’d see out of, say, a barely functional goon over a season.

If you want to know why Calgary was outshot nearly 2-1 and didn’t get a single win on the their road trip (despite the PP suddenly coming alive), look no further. The Flames players with the most ES ice time on the team were spending a lot of it in the defensive end of the rink.

Let’s go a little deeper and look at the Jokinen unit’s score tied shot measures.

Player ES GF ES GA ES shots for ES shots against shots % Fenwick % Corsi %
Jokenin 1 3 10 25 28.6 29.7 29.2
Iginla 1 2 9 26 25.7 31.7 32.7
Glencross 0 3 8 25 24.2 29.7 29.5

The purpose of looking at numbers with the score tied is to eliminate playing to score effects – the tendency for leading teams to sit back and allow the trailing club to rack up more shots/possession.

As you can see, the situation was even more grim when things were tied for the Flames top trio: with them on the ice and the outcome in doubt, the Calgary was outshot to an even greater extent. The team owned just 25-30% of the total shot events with their putatitive top line on the ice. This is a very, very good way to lose hockey games. 

The deleterious effect of poor possession rates isn’t just limited to the first line, of course: bad outshooting by one line can spread across the rest of the team in a sort of ripple effect – particularly if it’s a unit that gets lots of ice. It means less offensive zone draws for every following unit, for instance, which is worth about +0.8 corsi per individual draw. The more time the top line spends in the defensive end, the more difficult it will be for the other units to get the play moving north.

Keep in mind the Flames didn’t exactly face a murderer’s row during their latest sojourn. The Blackhawks are legit and the Panthers are decent, but the Preds and Tampa Bay are near the bottom of the league in terms of controlling the play.

With Jokinen et al. scoring a bit recently, Sutter might be tempted to keep them together at even strength. That would likely prove to be a catastrophic mistake – things don’t get much easier from here on out, especially with the club spending so much time on the road. Unless Kipper stands on his head and the PP continues to score two goals a game, the losses will rapidly mount unless Brent can find a way to get Jarome and company in the offensive zone a lot more.

The way to start would to break-up the perpetually poor partnership between Iginla and Jokinen. Go back to giving Olli and Glencross the tougher assignment so Iginla can have an easier time of it. Put them back together on the PP (because that seems to be working) but the current arrangement at ES is a totally failed experiment.

  • If that’s not clear evidence that the Flames lack any, and I do mean ANY, legit first liners than nothing is.

    I guess despite rescuing cats out of trees and leaping tall buildings in a single bound, Iginla is, as I’ve maintained for years now, a completely one-dimensional offensive player.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    It was demonstrated by the Hawks last night, as well as by the Redskins against the Giants earlier in the day…possession is 9/10th of the law. As pointed out by Kent, if Iginla and company don’t have the puck…they aren’t effective, especially at even strength. I think for most observers, that’s been obvious for awhile and likely a reason why Iginla was so anxious to go against Sutter’s structure.

    I’ve said since the pre-season, during the season and for all future references…this is a .500 team. That’s my expectations, that’s a lot of the fan base’s expectation and I think it’s become the players expectations too.

  • Derzie

    Wolf, ease up on Iggy. I’ll take a one dimension player if he gets 500 goals and has a shot at the HOF. Now if he had an actual team around him, there may be other hardware in the mix as well. It is hard for someone to believe you are a fan if you are down on the best Flame scorer ever, when it’s the whole team that stinks.

    • I think what made him such a threat 5+ years ago is that he WANTED the puck. That meant he was willing to go into the corners and fight for it when in the Flames end or cause occasional turnovers in the neutral zone. Kind of what we see from Datsyuk now.

      • Jeff Lebowski

        I agree. I still maintain that Iginla’s game declined when he shed all that weight (muscle btw, not fat) and decided to give up the power game for a finesse game. Iggy is not a finesse player. And when he plays well now it’s when he goes back to his power days.

        Dude is uninterested a lot of time and needs a change of scenery. He’s become too comfortable in Calgary.

  • RKD

    Well once Moss comes back, Sutter could go back to Tanguay-Backlund/Morrison-Iginla, Glencross-Jokinen-Moss, Bourque-Backlund/Morrison-Comeau,
    Jackman-Horak-Kost. If Bourque doesn’t get suspended.

    It’s tough because Jokinen is producing, the line has chemistry but if the first line is struggling even strength it’s a detriment to the team.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    I agree Kent. I think the Flames need the Iggy-Tanguay combo to get going again. Those two need to have the puck on their sticks entering the offensive zone. They are ineffective dumping and chasing.

    It all starts with the D making good plays and hitting guys on the tape with passes. Or having the ability to carry it into the offensive zone.

    I’d play Brodie whenever Iggy is out there. Basically there are guys who make plays and there are guys who kill plays. Calgary should try putting their play makers out as a unit like Detroit did with the Russian 5.

    Detroit does well because they put their 5 guys between your forwards and d. They live off of outnumbering you in small spaces. Just watch them, watch how they make the game so easy. It’s easy to possess the puck when it seems like you always have a 3 on 2 advantage.

    Calgary, for a stretch, had good play from the back end. That’s dried up for whatever reason.

    To be a consistent good team, you have to be able to start out of your own end strong. Otherwise you’re just hoping for mistakes and turnovers by the other team to start your offense. Sometimes other teams don’t make many mistakes. If you can’t generate off the rush or more importantly if you can’t build an attack from your end, it seems like you’re chasing all the time. Right now that’s Calgary.

    • I find the Flames other problem is sustaining the attack for any meaningful length of time. The only line who could effectively cycle the puck more than a couple of times per game was the Backlund trio during the latest road trip (and sometimes the 4th line).

      Getting the puck into the o-zone efficiently is certainly a part of sustaining possession, but so is keeping the puck once you get there. Flames have had issues with both of these areas recently.

      • Jeff Lebowski

        Bang on Kent. What I see is that the lack of possession time in the offensive zone is because of the dump game. When they carry it in the zone, they make better plays and possess the puck. When they are forced to dump, you see a lot of plays die in the corners.

        Comeau was able to skate the puck in, protect it and get some cycles going.

        Obviously you’re not going to able to waltz in every time but have to show the ability to do it.

        I’m seeing teams press Calgary in their end, forcing chips and dumps off the boards. The Calgary forwards don’t get the puck on their sticks with speed, the opposing team stands them up and force a dump. Futility ensues.

        Brodie seems like the only guy who is beating the press with good plays. The other D just play it safe, hard off the glass.

        They have to find a way to not give up the puck so much, especially when opposing teams are standing them up. Sadly, you don’t see anyone with that skill set on the roster yet.

        Sutter would say dump it in better spots and win the battles (that’s how they’re built). It’s hard to make plays when you’re smashed up against the glass or boards battling another guy trying to stay on your skates. How can you read the play when you’re looking at the first row of seats?

  • Vintage Flame

    This is just a no-win situation. Everyone knows they are going to continue to keep this line together with the offensive output they have generated.

    It’s a clear case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing and the Flames have no regard for the beating this line takes defensively as long as they are scoring goals.

    For the life of me I cannot understand why they continue to ignore the
    Tanguay – Backlund – Iginla line.
    Move Jokinen and Glencross back with Moss when he gets back, but in the meantime, for the love of God and self preservation, shelter the hell out of your so-called top line.

    If Moss isn’t ready yet, give Comeau a shot on the line with Glennie and Jokinen. High energy and his physicality might make for an exciting line. With Stajan injured and out of the line up then it makes room for Horak and Backlund. I wouldn’t mind seeing lines look something like this.

    Tanguay – Backlund – Iginla
    Glencross – Jokinen – Comeau
    Stempniak – Morrison – Bourque
    TK – Horak – Jackman

    It means flipping Comeau and Stempers to their off wings, but they might be able to adapt to the move.. If not then put Stempy with Jokinen and Comeau with Morrison. They seem content to try every other hair-brained idea, so why not?

    • flamesburn89

      I agree VF with your line combos but this all looks the same. I feel like a hamster on a tread wheel. We go round and round and round & we actually find line combos that work really well together. Ie. Comeau, Stemper & Backlund. They’re young, fast & are creative & energetic. We had GlenX Jokinen & Moss playing well last year & it seems to me, anyone put with those two(GlenX & Joker) do well. The 4th line seems to play pretty good most of the time as well, TKO/Jackman & put whoever you want, Stajan(overpaid), Horak, Morrison, it doesnt matter. They make an excellent 4th line. It all comes back to a lack of a top line that has elements of true elite players that are in their prime. Iggy & Tanguay do not have the horse power to engine a #1 line and lead a team to consistent dominating performances. No one is going to give us an established elite player, no one. We have to cultivate our own & thas hard to do picking middle of each round. The answer is so obvious. We need to use the Kippers & Iggys to acquire the likes of young players just entering the big stage & the highest odds to probably live up to their billing. Use Iggy to get a Kassian, that kid has future power forward written all over him. Use Kipper to get a Connolly out of Tampa. Play Tanguay with them & then next year see how Bartsche does. Roll the dice or this hamster wheel will keep going round and round and round.

      • Vintage Flame

        I agree VF with your line combos but this all looks the same. I feel like a hamster on a tread wheel. We go round and round and round & we actually find line combos that work really well together. Ie. Comeau, Stemper & Backlund.

        Pretty accurate description there Kev. I’m sure there are many fans, and players for that matter, that feel they too are on a hamster wheel. It’s also like the shell game or card game you see on the Vegas street corners. You know the one.. find the pea under the shell or find the right card, while in reality it’s all the same con job in the end.

        I’ve said before that this is going to be a very telling month for the Flames and after this week, the answers look like they are revealing themselves to many of the skeptics. It’s not going to matter what they do in the 2nd half of the season, because they are showing this month that they just don’t have the horses to cope or the fortitude to match the opposition.

        I hope for the Flames sake that the question is no longer “if”, but now merely “when”.

        • Mitch2

          Yeah, I know, by mid January the countdown to being eliminated from playoffs will probably begin. Sad thing is, I listen to overtime & hear “Paddy” shut people down on the talk show that trading Iginla as a non starter just wont happen. He’s right, its just sad, because I really dont see any untouchables on this team right now. I would rather just hear Feaster say, any deal that improves this hockey club will be looked at. It still means a trade is very unlikely, but give the poor dogs(fans) a bone here. If we gotta chew on losing over 50% of the games, at least make something tasty.

  • Mitch2

    The Olli – Iggy combination is oil and vinegar, they simply do not mix. Break them apart.

    I’d be able to accept higher scoring and worse play if it was resulting in wins but it isn’t.

    I’d also argue that Iggy has impinged Olli and GlenX’s EVS performance. Iggy either can’t or won’t play the system well. Line up that analysis on Olli and GlenX and watch the numbers pop without Iggy on their line.

  • flamesburn89

    I agree with VF. Put Backlund with Tangs and Iggy on the top line and shelter the crap outta them. More offensive zone starts and softer competition. Throw Jokinen, GlenX, and Comeau to the wolves and pray for the best. At the very least you can still get some production out of Bourque, Stempniak, and Morrison (even tho Horaks a better option, at least in my estimation). Also, Whe Mosser gets back, put him with Joker and Glennie, and move Comeau to the 3rd line.

    Btw, good stuff Kent.

  • Mitch2

    It seems to me like they gave up on the Tanguay- Backlund- Iginla trio too easily. Although they were not lighting up the goalsheet, they were driving possession, and I think if I remember correctly that Iginla and Tanguay’s advanced stats (corsi, fenwick, etc) were improved by playing with Backlund. Mainly their lack of goal production was due more because of bad luck rather than bad play. But I guess ultimately all that matters in the game is if you put the puck in the back of the net. That is why, no matter what we think, I believe that Sutter will keep the Glencross- Jokinen- Iginla trio together. They are putting up the points, albeit on the PP, but still, the points are there. Maybe we should get Feaster, Sutter and Co. to come visit FlamesNation. Then they can see what works and what doesn’t! 🙂

  • SmellOfVictory

    While Joker and Iggy are still terrible on 66% of the ice together, they’ve become okay in the offensive zone together; this is a major improvement. When Jokinen was first brought in to play with Iginla, the two of them together killed so many plays I started to wonder if they hated scoring chances. A little over 2 years later, and look at them go! I heartily believe if we keep them together for another 2-3 years they will become a serviceable pair around which to form a line.

    Re: Backlund w/ Tanguay and Iginla: there were two reasons that line was torn up. The first was simply bad luck. Backlund is getting crapped on by the dice (and so was Iginla at the time). The second was that the wingers were dragging Backlund down harder than a ten ton anchor. Iginla was playing what was possibly the worst hockey of his professional career, and Tanguay was mediocre at best.