A few items in my head today. First up is yet another defense of Mikael Backlund. Well, sort of –
Backlund’s season was pretty poor when you look at the statsline of course – 11 points. When the brain notes "11 points" and "season", it’s easy to forget that the kid only appeared in 41 games rather than 82. In addition, "game" is also a somewhat misleading unit of measure – some guys play a lot at both ES and the PP and with better players than others. As a result, a player like Jarome Iginla will get a lot more opportunities – more "iterations" – to work himself out of a dry spell than the Backlund’s and the Jackman’s of the world.
To illustrate…last year, Iginla was on the ice for more than 1329 even strength shots on goal for and against (not including blocks and missed shots…just pucks that reached the goalie). Backlund was on the ice for 520, or just 39% of Jarome’s total.
Five hundred and twenty doesn’t sound like a small number, but in grand scheme of things, it is. Iginla surpassed that total by the middle of December. And because the number is small, it’s a lot easier for randomness to skew things in either direction – in Backlund’s case, the bad one.
This can happen to any quality of player. Let’s take Iginla again. between the end of 2009-10 and the start of 2010-11, he had a 35 game segment where he managed just 10 even strength points. His on-ice shot totals were 258 for, 273 against over that period…or 531, marginally more than Backlund saw all of last year (who managed 8 ES points, by the way).
The impact of Jarome’s struggles over that period were somewhat dulled by the fact that he managed a few PP and empty-net points, but the issue is even the Flames leading goal scorer, playing with the best line mates the club could afford, managed just 10 ES markers in a 500+ shot sample.
Just something to keep in mind.
Trading JayBo = Starting the Rebuild
– I see by the poll that most fans are expecting the team to do something else before the season starts. Aside from somehow getting rid of Babchuk or Stajan, I’m much more in the "this is the team we have" camp.
The Jay Bouwmeester trade rumors won’t go away for whatever reason though. I submit that if the team trades Bouwmeester without acquiring a legit top-2 defender to replace him somehow that they aren’t terribly serious about competing this season, regardless of the other moves this summer. He’s overpaid, he should score a lot more points, but nobody on the Flames current blueline could fill Bouwmeester’s shoes if he was to leave given the difficulty of his assignment.
If the organization wants to delete a burdensome contract and receive some healthy futures in a deal with JayBo, I’m okay with it…as long as they pursue that strategy consistently and start shopping the likes of Iginla and Kiprusoff as well.
New Transition Metrics
– If you haven’t caught Eric T’s articles on the apparent importance of neutral zone play, make sure to head over to NHLNumbers today and read them both. The conclusions are based on just a seasons worth of data from just one team so we have to be careful about extrapolating too far, but if the findings hold up they have wide implications for player evaluation and team strategy.
Short version: carrying the puck in is worth a lot more vs dumping it in than expecting in terms of generating possession, scoring chances and, of course, goals.
If there is any interest round these parts, we could try to track scoring chances AND zone entries for the Flames here at FN this year.