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:
Avs mgmt impressed by Duchene putting "I’ll prove my worth" attitude over money. That’s why they’ll invest more in him. ROR? Nope
— adater (@adater) February 15, 2013
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.