Success in the salary cap era is all about getting value for the dollar. The successful teams find bargains while the non-contenders are paying premiums for every goal scored or prevented. As the season winds down, let’s see where the Calgary Flames have value, and where they don’t.
There are only two simple concepts we need, a way of measuring a player’s total value, and a way to compare that against what they’re paid. For the former we’ll use GVT (Goals Versus Threshold), a catch-all statistic invented by Tom Awad about 7-8 years ago that uses basic statistics to measure all of a player’s contributions (defensive, offensive, shoot-out, etc) in terms of goals relative to what you’d get from an AHL replacement-level player. As we discussed in the Babchuk/Regehr articles earlier this season it doesn’t always correctly capture a player’s defensive value, but it’s close enough for today’s purposes.
To measure that same value against the player’s cap space we’ll use GVS, which was first introduced back in 2009. Already in modest use in the mainstream media and NHL front offices, it uses hockey’s 3-1-1 rule to calculate a player’s value, which states that you should get 3 goals, or 1 point in the standings, for every 1 million dollars you spend. Let’s see which Flames have contributed more goals than they’ve been paid for.
Good Value Players
It’s no surprise to see Curtis Glencross at the top of the list, a classic example of someone playing at a discount to remain with his preferred team. Scott Hannan was another player willing to temporarily play at a discount for the opportunity to revive his career, much like Alex Tanguay in 2010-11.
Player CapHit GVT GVS Curtis Glencross $2.55M 10.4 5.7 Olli Jokinen $3.0M 10.6 4.6 Miikka Kiprusoff $5.83M 17.0 3.4 Scott Hannan $1.0M 3.2 2.1 T.J. Brodie $0.74M 2.3 1.9 Derek Smith $0.7M 2.1 1.8 Blair Jones $0.5M 1.4 1.5 Alex Tanguay $3.5M 9.1 1.4 Paul Byron $0.55M 1.3 1.3
Olli Jokinen, Miikka Kiprusoff and Alex Tanguay all earned value for the dollar, but the former is up for a new deal, and the latter two are signed until age 37 – what are the odds they’ll keep this up? Still, they should all be applauded for their 2011-12 seasons.
Otherwise Calgary has found its value in entry-level and replacement-level players finding ways to chip in 1-3 goals of value apiece.
Most of the team understandably finished within a goal of breaking even, like Chris Butler, Lee Stempniak, Roman Horak, Pierre-Luc Leblond, Guiillaume Desbiens, David Moss, Raitis Ivanans, Brett Carson, Leland Irving, Krys Kolanos and Lance Bouma. In most cases these players were paid so little that they really needn’t do much to earn their keep.
Now let’s look at some players that should go for a horseback ride with Ken King next time.
Poor Value Players
The theory is that the majority of a team’s top-paid players (generally their top three) need to out-perform their contracts for a team to make the play-offs. Miikka Kiprusoff will earn his dough, but Jarome Iginla and Jay Bouwmeester will not.
Player CapHit GVT GVS Jay Bouwmeester $6.68M 4.4 -13.5 Mike Cammalleri $6.0M 4.2 -11.7 Cory Sarich $3.6M 0.8 -8.4 Matt Stajan $3.5M 1.4 -7.4 Jarome Iginla $7.0M 12.3 -5.5 Anton Babchuk $2.5M 0.8 -5.1 Blake Comeau $2.5M 0.9 -5.0 Tim Jackman $0.55M -3.3 -3.9 Henrik Karlsson $0.86M -2.4 -3.8 Mikael Backlund $1.27M -1.3 -3.8 Mark Giordano $4.0M 6.6 -3.0 Tom Kostopoulos $0.92M -1.5 -3.0 Greg Nemisz $1.05M -0.3 -2.0 Note: Cammalleri and Comeau include time with other teams
While Jay Bouwmeester is a solid defenseman who does all the heavy lifting for the Flames, he was given the type of contract usually reserved for a two-way Norris finalists like Shea Weber, Zdeno Chara, Nicklas Lidstrom or Drew Doughty – not a 25-point shut-down defenseman. Comparable players like Dan Girardi and Dan Hamhuis, for example, have cap hits between $3.5M and $4.5M. Even if the Flames had another heavy lifter to unleash Bouwmeester’s full potential, it’s doubtful his contract could ever be classified as a bargain – and they dealt Jordan Leopold and a 3rd rounder for the few days of lead time to negotiate that wonderful deal.
Bouwmeester is unfortunately just the first of several defensemen on the list, including Cory Sarich, who was signed to a 5-year, 18-million dollar deal after back-to-back 15-point seasons in Tampa Bay, where he played just 18 minutes a game – same as Shane O’Brien. Anton Babchuk was just given a 2-year, $5 million dollar deal despite his inability to be safely used at even-strength, and Mark Giordano’s unfortunate injury will leave him a few goals short of earning his keep this year.
Up front that veteran fourth line of Matt Stajan, Tim Jackman and Tom Kostopoulos was paid almost five million bucks, but played 3-4 goals worse than an AHL-calibre line. For that same money they could have gotten 14.3 more goals in value, which equates to over 4 points in the standings, so this is one of those cases where your depth line could make you or break you.
Finally, “the Calgary Tower” Henrik Karlsson (is it wise to be nicknamed after something that doesn’t move?) negates the edge Miikka Kiprusoff gave them in nets. Calgary’s back-ups are a combined 1-7-4 in 12 starts, thanks mostly to Karlsson’s horrible 20% Quality Start percentage. A solid back-up would get at least double those 6 points in 12 starts, enough for them to be sitting comfortably in 6th, spooning the Blackhawks.
The bottom line is Calgary has 9 over-achievers and 13 under-achievers this year, including 2 of their top 3 most highly paid players (3 of 4 if you include Cammalleri) – not very good.
The Flames have so far generated 87 goals more than a team of replacement-level AHL players would theoretically have managed, and you typically need 120 to make the playoffs. That actually might be an average return on the investment if they had a payroll like the Islanders, Avalanche or Stars, but for a team with the 5th highest cap hit in the league, it’s quite poor – they should have a GVT of 133 given their budget.
Even if you give the Flames credit for losing Ales Kotalik, at a team-level they’re right near the bottom of the league in cap management, barely above clubs like Toronto, Buffalo and Montreal.