Random Thoughts – Iggy’s Demotion, Brodie’s Emergence



The big story after the Flames win was – by many accounts – Jarome Iginla "responding" to Rhett Warrener’s public criticisms of the captain. I can’t tell you whether Iginla was in fact fired up by Warrener’s words or not – I’m not in the room or his head. Nor can I say whether it would overly matter if Iginla was angry or not. Jarome’s known for having another gear whenever he’s "engaged" emotionally, but he’s not the hulk either. Otherwise the Flames could simply employee someone to punch Iggy in the face and insult his mother before every game and watch the cups roll in.

No, the real story was Iggy’s usage by Bob Hartley. Wednesday night was the first time in a decade or more Jarome was deployed, from start to finish, as a third line winger. Skating primarily with Byron/Jones and Curtis Glencross, Iginla spent almost half of his even strength ice time against the Stars unit of Fiddler, Garbutt and Nystrom. He also only played 11:02 at evens – a total somewhat reduced by a mid-game fight, but still representative of his general role.

It’s been forever since a Flames coach gave Iginla any kind of shelter. The last guy to do it – kinda – was Mike Keenan, if only because he still had Daymond Langkow and Craig Conroy in the line-up. Even then, Iginla’s ice time usually crested 20 minutes a night.

Which was defensible that year. And many years in his storied past. But under Brent Sutter, Iggy was mercilessly rolled out, night after night, against the best of the best and that assignment has increasingly proved to be overwhelming for him as time has passed. In the summer I took a close look at how Iginla fared against other top line players last season and aside from a few folks on the Minnesota Wild, he took it on the chin.

That’s not an indictment of Iginla’s character nor does it undermine his many accomplishments as a Calgary Flame. It’s a simple assessment of the player he is now, honest and unblinking even as we respect the player he was once.

I can’t say whether Hartley will continue to play Iggy as a third line/PP role player, but the fact he was willing to do it for a whole game (even in the face of significant injuries and depth issues up front) and the team won is perhaps a real step towards the franchise finally starting to its way in (a rapidly approaching) post-Iginla era.

From decline to emergence. I’ve been effusive in my praise of the young sophomore, but it bears repeating: TJ Brodie’s start to the season hasn’t merely been good. It’s been remarkably good. The kid has the 6th best possession rate amongst regular defenders in the league and everyone else ahead of him in the ranks has a zone start ratio of at least 58% (for the record, Brodie’s at 47%…third toughest on the Flames).

Of course, it’s still very early in the year. One or two great games or 5 or 6 strong shifts could be skewing things for the kid. With that caveat applied, the fact Brodie has stepped into the Flames top-4, looked extremely comfortable and posted some of the best underlying numbers in the league is, to put it mildly, encouraging. I strongly suspect a big part of the reason the Flames outshooting and transition game looks so much better this season is a vastly superior top-4 rotation compared to the Gio-Hannan, Bouwmeester-Butler quartet we all suffered through last year. Brodie’s a part of that, both by the numbers and by eye.

– Wideman certainly helps as well. I was critical of the contract when it was signed – and I still consider it a significant risk over the long-term – but there’s no question the former Capital has stepped in and been a far superior option to Scott Hannan. Wideman gets plenty of starts in the o-zone and a ton of PP time, but that’s what he was signed for. It’s been a nice partnership with Brodie as well.

Full value so far, so I’m happy to forget the long-term implications of his deal and enjoy the fruits in the short-term.

– The Ryan O’Reilly situation is endlessly fascinating to me, even outside of his potential availability for the Flames. On Thursday night Avs beat write Adrian Dater tweeted this: 

Laughable. I understand the typical "team player" hockey player ethos can clash with the cold reality that these guys are pros and do this as their living, but the organization playing the "character" card in this feud is transparently self-serving. Not only because ROR choosing to "prove his worth" by acquiescing to the club’s low-ball offer obviously benefits them exclusively, but also because Duchene and O’Reilly’s situations aren’t even comparable.

You see, Duchene had a lousy 2011-12 season. He scored just 14 goals and 28 points in 54 games. He spent a lot of time bouncing around the roster and in and out of the coach’s dog house. He averaged just over 16 minutes a night, good for 5th on the team.

In contrast, O’Reilly led all Avs forwards in ice time per game (19:31), he faced the toughest competition, played in all situations, started more often in his own zone and led the club in scoring to boot. And he was 20 years old for half the year.

So one guy had significant leverage and the other didn’t. That’s why Duchene settled for $3.5M/year and capitulated to the club’s demand he "prove himself" –  not because he’s more committed to the Avalanche or a better person. His agent simply had less ammunition.

O’Reilly had a big year. He’s considered a premier two-way forward in this league. And the Avs are cheap. That’s all there is to this. Its therefore hilarious the team is trying to torpedo the kid on his way out of town, no doubt while they try to extract a King’s ransom from every potential trade partner.

  • NateBaldwin

    What surprises me is that it sounds like a difference of about $500, 000 when it came to the negotiations with ROR. That’s brutal.

    Apparently the Aves are only talking to Eastern Conference teams.. what a shame.

    I honestly don’t now why Iggy would want to play here any longer. The media and most fans are on him now.. I could see how he would want to finish his career here, but honestly, if I were him I would say ‘good riddance’ trade me to Pittsburgh, St.Louis or Chicago where I have a real chance to win a cup.

  • seve927

    Kent, what do you think Brodie’s max potential actually is? He has looked close to perfect to me. Daley walking around him in the Dallas game is maybe the second time this year I have noticed him for a negative reason. How good can he be?

  • Stockley

    The Ryan O’Reilly situation has gotten ugly and ridiculous. It’s making the organization look cheap and Mickey Mouse; it’s making the player look petulant and like he feels a sense of entitlement. If the rumors that he’s upset he wasn’t given the captaincy are true doesn’t that call his character into question? He wants top dollars for one good offensive season. The Avs refuse to pay him as a quality asset, then turn around and demand the sorts of assets in a trade that only come back for a quality asset. So he’s not good enough for them to pay, but he’s good enough that they can try to hold other teams for ransom when in truth they’re caught with their pants down and an angry player who will never play for them again?

    Teams never win when they trade away an unhappy player. They’re like a diseased limb, you just have to cut it off and hope whatever you get back is better than nothing at all. Addition through subtraction.

    We’ll probably never get the truth on what exactly is going on in Denver. It does amuse me to see a division rival developing a reputation for being cheap and treating their players like crap. They’ll never sign players better than Parrenteau if they keep behaving like this. All that said I hope the Flames stay away from ROR. I doubt the Avs will trade in-division unless the return is amazing. Calgary quite simply lacks the quality assets. I for one would rather stay away from the offer sheet route as well. He’s three years into his career and coming off a foot injury serious enough that his KHL team terminated his contract. His character looks a little questionable since I doubt this fight with the Avs is 100% coming from the team. So a potential top 10 pick and whatever Feaster and his team draft with a 3rd sound much better to me than a player that brings some question marks with him.

  • SmellOfVictory

    Another excellent article, Kent. Regarding Iggy’s future, I do believe he has to decide one thing. He needs to figure out if he REALLY wants/needs to win the only team prize he doesn’t have…the Stanley Cup. I think few would argue that he’s already cemented himself as a hall-of-famer whenever he decides to retire, whether his name is on the mug or not. He has a real sense of security, almost what seems like a security blanket, here. If he leaves, things change overnite. For starters, the “C” will leave his jersey and will likely never return. Any team he went to before the trade deadline are pretty set for captains, thinking of Crosby, Giroux, Chara, Toews, etc. On top of that, he would become a member under them, as opposed to the way it is here, whereby it is HIS team. From all accounts, Jarome seems to be able, these last years, to participate in training camps, and even practices, at his discretion. That would also, more than likely, come to an end. Obviously, and I’m sure this weighs heavy, he would be up-rooting a young family that has known only one place to call home. I realize players’ families get moved around all the time, but in this case, it would be Jarome that is making it necessary. So it is a big decision for him. He will not win a Stanley Cup if he decides to stay and finish his Hall of Fame career here. There is also no guarantee he gets one going elsewhere, but if he does want it, he will have to make some sacrifices to go get it. He has been a wonderful Calgary Flame.

  • RedMan

    I like the idea of the team sheltering Iggy a bit – he’s carried the mail forever, and it’s time to recognize that he will be most effective for the flames when his role shifts to reflect the changes that occur over time. Iggy is still a massive threat, but more so at 12-14 minutes then at 20+ minutes. While he isn’t 27 anymore, he is still the heart and soul leader of the team, and this type of deployment allows him to respectfully embrace new roles…

    great move

  • $500,000? Remember when we lost Gilmour over $100,000 and Risebrough’s ego? Now, O’Reilly is not nearly as establsihed, but talk about launching a torpedo at your own boat.

    I think Brodie could play top 2 by next season. By far, Calgary’s brightest light.

    Iginla would be ideal to move down the rotation in order to maximize his ability – if the team had someone to replace him on the 1st line. They don’t, so he should still be trade because the draft is the only way to gain not only top line talent, but to stockpile the depth we so sorely lack.

    Overpaying for UFAs (before the contract eventually catches up to the team) will only work for so long and even then, we’re not exactly talking about glowing results, just enough to stop from imploding.

    An impossible scenario, but if we did get O’Reilly and if eventually Reinhart pans out as a 3rd liner at the NHL level, we’d have one heck of a trio of possession centers: O’Reilly, Backlund, Reinhart. Not sure the other team would ever have the puck.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    The ROR offer sheet option is really intriguing. I was initially against the idea, because this years draft is so strong. I’ve come around and now really believe that a quality center like O’Reily is worth lost opportunities in 2013 picks. ROR is a close to the real deal as their is, and after 2 decades without a true #1 centre, I am ready.

    Now, I’m struggling with the fall out, that is likely to occur after the Flames attempt a move like this. I wonder if it’s GM suicide in the long run.

    • SmellOfVictory

      ROR is as close to the real deal as Langkow was, so if you think the Flames have been without a ‘true #1 centre” for two decades, they won’t be any closer with ROR.

        • SmellOfVictory

          I would, but not at the expense of someone like Barkov or MacKinnon. I know it’s established player vs potential, but I highly doubt ROR ever crests 65 points, and an offer sheet would risk losing a pick that would end up with a very high-level first line centre.

          re: Iggy, allegedly Dreger (on Insider Trading) said that Iggy, for the first time, has stated a willingness to waive his NMC this season.

          • RKD

            I have heard from people that know people that the Flames have sent out wish lists to teams that have groups of players that they are looking for.

            I think that the best thing for Iginla and the organization is to make a move this year and let Iginla experience a different organization and see if the grass is in fact greener or not. Then in the summer he can make an informed decision about where to sign for the next three years.

            Best thing for the organization right now is Kiprusoff getting hurt. Forcing the team to recognize that they cannot leave it to the goaltender to bail them out, and that they need to play a team game and stick with the game plan. Second, for the organization to be forced to see what the future looks like and to re-evaluate its misconceptions about the reliance on certain players. Hopefully they are able to take this knowledge and project it to what it would be like to be without Iginla. Of course it helps when Hudler has stepped up to be the star of the show most nights.

      • SmellOfVictory

        SmellOfVictory wrote:

        “ROR is as close to the real deal as Langkow was, so if you think the Flames have been without a ‘true #1 centre” for two decades, they won’t be any closer with ROR.”

        I think this is exactly right. And the younger Langlow was a terrific player: ideally suited to being the #2 centre on a great team. Just like O’Reilly.

        Then again, I’m guessing ROR ends up in Toronto, who will be hoping he turns out to be Doug Gilmour. Which isn’t out of the realm of possibility; I mean, once upon a time Doug Gilmour was the #2 centre on a great team.

    • SmellOfVictory

      Send an offer sheet. Lose the picks. Replace them with a strong trade to a true contender (read:Iggy+ for picks and +)… Gawd I can make this job look so easy!

  • T&A4Flames

    Re: ROR

    Is it not possible that someone has already tried to offer sheet him and he and his agent declined? As with Turris last year, maybe the contract demands are there simply to force a trade. Not signing an OS may be ROR assuring that the Avs don’t match; he just may not want to be there anymore due to percieved disfunctionality within the organization. Just a thought.

  • Kent. Both Brodie and Backlund are RFA’s next year. This concerns me unless the Flames are in motion to sign these guys to long term deals. Perhaps a bit early to worry but these guys are a big part of Flames future and as a fan I feel a bit uncomfortable.

    What are your thoughts?

  • seve927

    “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” Sounds like this is what iggys situation has come to with certain fans. With ROR, could it be possible to trade our first, but have it protected if it turns out to be a lottery pick?

  • With all the talk about ROR and Backlund’s absence, I’d love to see an analysis of Alex Tanguay’s work at centre this year: point-a-game guy, playing against excellent competition, decent defensively, able to play with different linemates effectively, not the best faceoff guy, OK, but not the worst…

    A legitimate 1A centreman?

  • Scary Gary

    As much as I think O’Reilly is a, excellent young center I’m not a fan of offer sheets. You could be giving up too much in draft picks and as Primo touched on we could get a taste of our own medicine next year with Brodie and Backlund.

    I think it’s moot though, Colorado will find a partner a trade partner in the East.

    Great article. As for Iggy, this is exactly how he needs to be utilized in the future in order to succeed; this is how a contender would use him as well so it’s a good idea to showcase that.

    • T&A4Flames

      Not that I’m on the offer sheet train, but our situation is different. Unlike a cheap organization like the Avs, I’m pretty sure we would match any offer given to these guys. Hell, it may even force Feaster to trade some of the high priced under-achieving contracts we have.

  • seve927

    Things could be so bad between Avs & ROR that for sure he doesnt want to sign an offer sheet so he doesnt risk the AV’s matching, because they just might. A team rebuilding for as long as they have will want a premium roster player & they will only get that via trade & I’m sure they are getting a taste of what that return is from Eastern teams. Avs have shown they are tired of rebuilding by what they gave up to get Varmalov.

  • RKD

    I hope it doesn’t take former teammates to get Iggy motivated, that would be a big problem but it could be true.

    Iggy is a proud guy and when someone calls his character into question he takes it personally. Iggy also said to reporter point blank “I haven’t lost a step.” He showed a lot passion in the Dallas game which is what Rhett was referring to. He doesn’t need to fight but he needs to be a leader.

    I think we should applaud Iggy for playing on the third line, he said last season he would not accept a lesser role nor would he be part of a rebuilding team. I can’t see him staying on the third line, maybe second.

    As for O’Reilly, I’ve heard he will be traded to an Eastern Conference team which would eliminate the Flames unless Feaster signs him to an offer sheet.

  • RKD

    The big question is that if we had O’Reilly in the line up for the rest of the season would we still finish bottom 10? I am beginning to think that we might not and that the 10th place in the west is probably where we end up.

    I think that we make an offer sheet for O’Reilly and give up the first and third round picks. Add O’Reilly to the top six makes the Flames much stronger. If you decide to make a move regarding Iginla then you are bringing in some future to replace what you are giving up. Net-net in terms of assets but the team gets more assets that are closer to entering their prime as opposed to waiting for prospects to develop or Iginla to retire.

    My opinion is that the only chance Calgary has to remain competitive and avoid an ugly rebuild is to trade their next 2-3 first round picks for young players and prospects (20-24)that are ready for the NHL right now. Replenish the cupboards by moving out players like Iginla, Kiprusoff, and Cammalleri.

  • McRib

    The odd thing about the Avs looking at trading Ryan O’Reilly to an Eastern Conference team, is don’t they realize they stand no chance of competing for the playoffs over the next couple of seasons without him??? And wouldn’t Western Conference teams be willing to give you better return having seen him much more frequently. Although personally I believe he is never going to be much more than what he is and has already peaked (55-65 point second line centre). He is an early bloomer like Patrice Bergeron.

    This just looks like a major pissing match and according to O’Reilly’s father who went off on Twitter, they are asking a ridiculous return for him. It just doesn’t look like a trade is going to happen and Colorado won’t re-up with the 500,000 difference and would rather wait him out.

    Honestly it looks like Colorado is well on its way to replacing Columbus as the perennially basement dweller that handles young players horribly.

    • Scary Gary

      Columbus may be in the eastern conference next year, they’ve got three first rounders, might be a good fit if they can get him to agree to a deal.

      Barkov or some other blue ribbon prospect would be great for the flames.

  • RKD

    I bet O’Reilly is looking for north of $5 million, which is what I am sure PK Subban was looking for. But P.K. wised up, knew he wasn’t going to get a long term deal with Bergevin at the helm.