Flames season review - the players (part 2)


 

I had a fear heading into this season that the Flames would lack high value contracts (ie; outperformers). I saw the raises to Kiprusoff, Regehr and Phaneuf, as well as the departure of Huselius, and lamented. 

That fear, it seems, was overblown. Or perhaps, misdirected: the team did manage to get solid, above value contributions from many of the guys mentioned in the previous post, as well as Mark Giordano and Rene Bourque. Mike Cammalleri, whom I would argue was probably superior to Jarome Iginla this year, also belongs in this category.

With that in mind, I think the club suffered the inverse problem it went through last season, where the roster was almost a total black hole beyond the top end of the rotation. This season, the org's biggest underachievers were arguably it's biggest money players (resulting in a lot of inefficient investment of cap dollars):

No need to get into Mikka Kiprusoff here, I think. His issues have been well documented at this point. Aside from a run in February and his curiously decent PK SV%, Kipper was probably one of the club's primary chink in the armor. Price - $5.83M

Ditto Jarome Iginla, who by decline or by circumstance had one of his worst seasons in years. While none of his results were alarmingly below average (like Kipper), Iginla was the Flames version of the $5 shake: still quite good, but probably overpriced for what you get. Price - $7M

Daymond Langkow falls into this category for me, although to some degree unfairly -  Mr. consistent had a long year of babysitting the sore thumb and played the final quarter of the season with a buggered-up hand. He did manage the best corsi rate of any of the top 6 forwards (+14.4), so I don't think we have too much to worry about with Langkow going forward (assuming his hand heals and Bert isn't re-signed, of course.) Price - $4.5M

Dion Phaneuf fell well short of delivering on his big new contract, albeit apparently due to chronic injury concerns. His output rates at both ES and PP were the worst of his career thus far and he was also on the ice for the most goals against in the entire NHL this season. Now, that obviously has to do with his large amount of ice time, but it's not like he was seeing the big guns like, say, Bouwmeester or Chara (or Reggie). Also, playing in front of Kiprusoff obviously didn't help things. Price - $6.5M

Todd Bertuzzi (aka: sore thumb) wasn't a big money guy (thank god) but he was deployed by Keenan as if he was. Bert averaged 18 minutes a night during the regular season, including a full 4 minutes with the man advantage (only Iginla and Jokinen were in the same realm in terms of forwards). He played with some of the best players on the team, often against lesser lights, and he put up mediocre or worse results: 1.64 ESP/60, +5.9 corsi, 3.14 GAON/60. It will be addition by subtraction once Bertuzzi goes, because it's a good bet his minutes will be soaked up by a far more capable player (*cough* Moss *cough*) when he's gone. Price - $1.9M

Olli Jokinen wasn't around for the full season, but the Flames did bear a significant cost for acquiring his dollars at the deadline (resulting in the injury/cap fiasco to end the season). Jokinen burst out of the gates as a Flame and then stepped into an elevator shaft: he went goalless in his final 13 games and the PP fell into a pit of despair after his acquisition. He was also a minus player. 

His advanced stats are sullied by his days in Phoenix, so they can't necessarily be taken as truly indicative of his performance as a Flame. That said, they speak poorly of him: marginal ES production (1.84 ESP/60) plus a negative corsi rating (-3) aren't comensurate with his cap dollars, or what the club gave up to acquire him (Lombardi, Prust and a first round draft pick). Price (this season) - $1.129M, $5.3M (going forward).

All told, the Flames had three forwards in their top 6 that produced less than 2 ESP/60 (which I consider the a sort of "cut-off" point for forwards at the top of the rotation): Bertuzzi, Langkow and Jokinen. If not for Bourque's step forward and "touch of god" run of bounces (PDO = 103.9), I shudder to think how much worse the Flames top end could have been.

In addition, only Mike Cammalleri performed at a level that justified his special teams ice time (5.97 PPP/60): of the other regulars, only Iginla managed greater than 4 points/60 minutes of ice on the man advantage. To put the numbers in perspective, guys like Alex Semin, Pavel Datsyuk and Bobby Ryan scored more than 7 PPP/60 this year. Getzlaf, Thornton and Frolov were all above 6.

Basically, besides perhaps Cammalleri, none of the Flames players who were paid or played like elite players performed at an elite level this season. Some were pretty good (Iginla), some were merely average (Phaneuf, Langkow) while others were poor to abysmal (Bertuzzi, Kiprusoff). Total price of the parts listed = $24.959M.

Calgary's biggest weaknesses this season was it's defense (GA), it's special teams (more accurately, the PP) and it's inability to perform consistently against the stronger clubs in the league. I'd say all three deficiencies fall sqarely at the feet of the big money boys and is what kept the Flames firmly below the league's upper echelon.  

This issue will obviously be of vital importance to the club going forward and one I plan to address in the Sutter portion of my season review (upcoming...).

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