The FAN 960 Flames Zone

I got a few responses on Twitter last week after there was some discussion surrounding possible Calgary Flames trades or offseason moves.  My contention was that I hope Daymond Langkow is on this team next year, because he’s very important to what they want to accomplish.  Some didn’t agree with that sentiment, so I figured I should frame my argument.

I get it…on the surface, it all makes sense, and Langkow is dead weight.  He’s counting $4.5 million against the cap on an annual basis, and his points don’t seem to go hand-in-hand with that dollar figure.  Since his career-high 77 point season in 2006-07, it’s been a downward trend in terms of goals and points.  On the goals side, starting with that season, the totals have gone 33, 30, 21 and 14.  Points-wise, it’s been 77 followed by seasons of 65, 49, and 37.  Easy to say he’s expendable and needs to be moved, especially with his age (33) and that contract.  Well, I say wrong.  And that’s why we look deeper.

My boy Kent over at FlamesNation wrote a similar column during the season, and he was bang on.  The fact of the matter is, Langkow is one of Calgary’s most important forwards in terms of impacting the game.  That impact may not come in the form of counting points, but it comes in the subtle, yet extremely, important aspects of the team.

Let’s start with Langkow from the defensive blueline in, where I believe he is one of Calgary’s most crucial players.  It seems Brent Sutter and Ryan McGill would agree, as Langkow was one of the most extensively used forwards in a defensive role last season.  Among players who played 60 or more games, Langkow was number one in terms of defensive starts…he was on the ice for defensive-zone faceoffs 52.3% of the time.  That’s more than any other forward, and also more than each and every blueliner on the team (Regehr and Bouwmeester included).  The coaching staff had faith in him defensively, and he rewarded them.

The easiest counting stat to look at is +/-, which was fairly decent for Langkow.  His +2 rating was fifth among Flames forwards this past season, with Curtis Glencross’s +11 leading the way for the frontmen (Langkow was tied for 8th overall on the team; Mark Giordano lead the team at +17).  But I find +/- to be an extremely overrated indicator…it only counts goals when players are on the ice and does not do nearly good enough of a job of tracking shifts and impact. 

So, instead, lets look at scoring chances.  Calgary’s scoring chances were tracked for almost every game last season, with fairly specific criteria.  In those 70+ games tracked, Langkow’s numbers were solid, on the ice for 202 even strength scoring chances for as opposed to 160 scoring chances against.  That becomes even more impressive when you take into account he was matched against quality competition each and every game.  To compare, Jarome Iginla was on the ice for 291 scoring chances for and 309 against while playing 5-on-5.  And Iginla was used in MUCH more offensive situations, starting in the other teams end 53.2% of the time (as opposed to 47.7% for Langkow).  I think we’re starting to paint a picture of how Langkow can impact the game.

But, this is where it really becomes interesting.  Remember those offensive zone start numbers…47.7% for Langkow and 53.2% for Iginla.  Now let’s analyze what type of offensive action they were able to produce.  A rating exists, using NHL tracked stats, comparing all even strength shots directed towards the net (shots on net, blocked shots, missed shots), for and against.  A rating in the plus means you’re on the ice for more for than against and vice versa.  Now, sometimes, this rating is extremely misleading, because it can be a proxy for offensive zone time (Mikael Backlund’s rating is 14.44, but he started offensively 58.0% of the time). 

Langkow’s rating is 7.65, sixth on the team among regular players and third among forwards.  Iginla’s number? 0.45.  What does that tell you?  Plain and simple…Langkow does more with his ice time than Iginla does.  He drives the play from the defensive zone, where he starts a lot of his shifts, and is still able to generate scoring opportunities and shots toward the net.  He becomes extremely important because of this fact.

Langkow’s ability to be sound and solid defensively while not sacrificing forward play gives you an immense amount of flexibility as a coach.  You can put him and his linemates out against top flight competition, and won’t have to worry about being scored upon on a regular basis.  It also allows you to get your top offensive players away from other top competition, which is needed on this team, especially with the captain.  Iginla was straight thrashed against top flight competition at times last season, because his two-way game was nowhere near at the level of Langkow’s.  That forces you to manage Iginla’s minutes, and if you are going to do that, you NEED a reliable player/line to throw out against names like Kane, Toews, Heatley and the Sedin’s. 

Iginla didn’t do much with his time last year, so in my estimation, you’re going to need to continue managing his minutes.  His linemates from last year weren’t all that much better in that respect.  This is not a condemnation of the captain, I love Iginla and believe he still has a place on this team, and an extremely important one at that.  But if you want him, and others, to have bounce back years offensively, your case is going to be helped in a large way by keeping Langkow on this team, high cap hit be damned.

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6 Responses to “Langkow’s Value”
  1. 1.

    nope you both are right pat. im a huge lanks supporter i wish we could get some top line help without losing him. we will see in the next couple days. wicked article man. go lanks

    PS: I know his cap hit seems a little high for the points, but he has a ton of value on this team right now, especially if they want to be a playoff contender next year.

    - marty
  2. 2.

    It’s not that Langkow isn’t a big contributor, but unfortunately his salary makes him expendable. We wouldn’t be able to acquire a top line player with his contract on the books.

    PS: Why not? The contracts of Sarich, Staios, or Stajan are all more expendable than Langkow’s. 3.6 of Sarich could free up plenty of space to bring in a guy in the category you’re talking about.

    - Tom
  3. 3.

    Pat i have a question, why did Calgary add to their already formidable defense when they picked up Staois for the 2nd round pick this year?

    PS: I don’t think anyone has been able to really wrap their heads around the Staios deal. I mean, you’re bringing in a cap hit that carries over to next season, and isn’t just a minor one…you’re looking at 2.7 million on the cap this coming season. The trade of Phaneuf left Calgary with Regehr, Bouwmeester, Giordano, White, Sarich, Johnson and Pardy as the blueliners…I don’t know if Staios was really that much of an upgrade. Maybe he comes in for help inside the room, because apparently he’s good in there.

    - Jay
  4. 4.

    I somewhat agree with you but you didn’t factor in the faceoffs. Yes he was on the ice for 53% of defensive zone faceoffs but he lost most of those faceoffs. Lanks has always struggled in the dot. That being said 4.5 million for a defensive forward is brutal. I’m sure a cheaper forward could be found to dig the puck out of the defensive zone. If he could win faceoffs as well he wouldn’t have to work so hard to dig the puck out from behind the net as they would already have it and be moving up the ice. There is no question that Lanks is a gritty forward who “can” score. I do beelieve that Stajan has made him expendable in the regard that his defensive play is almost if not as strong as lanks and he actually wins faceoffs. There is still a requirement for a first line center and Stajan can take over the second for Lanks. Do you want to pay a third line center 4.5 million to dig the puck out of the zone?

    PS: I’ll agree and disagree with you here. On faceoffs, you’re right, and that’s something he needs to improve upon…and at this point in his career, that may not just happen at a noticeable clip. However, I’ll disagree on two points. First, I think Langkow is more than just a defensive forward who can score. Second, I am not on board with Stajan. He hasn’t shown any type of proficiency in his own zone and I’m not close to being convinced he can matchup with top forwards. I don’t think he’s ready to be a second line centre.

    - Brad
  5. 5.

    Langkow isn’t attractive enough to trade and ya, he’s got great defensive prowess. Always a good thing to have. But, speaking of Stajan, can we please move him (or redo that deal his was given)?? That was one contract that I wasn’t impressed with.

    PS: I think Langkow could be an attractive trade commodity for a team that feels they’re close. I’m not a huge fan of the Stajan contract either, I don’t know if he’s done enough to warrant that hefty of a pay hike. But we all may be proven wrong, which would be good news.

    - Darren
  6. 6.

    I just read the entire article and I have to say that the stats you have thrown out there mean nothing. Big deal if he took a bunch of defensive zone faceoffs,what was his faceoff percentage on them 42%? Also how can you say he is playing the minutes again better d-man and lines than iginla is. Last time I checked Iginla was the premier player on the flames and has the best defensive line and pairing against him. Next, what kind of stat is chances. I don’t care if the line he played on had a thousand chances, the league is based on results. I would rather the line only have 100 chances and actually produce. Langkow is a poor man’s scott nichol except with more scoring touch and is worse at faceoffs. Langkow was paid 4.5 mill to produce offensively and play strong d and is doing neither. How can you boast about a plus 2 player? Not to mention he had to battle to even keep that above even. If any team will take that contract off the flames they should jump on it no matter what the return is.

    PS: You’re right, faceoff percentage is poor. But I completely disagree with everything else you’ve said. Everything. I wasn’t saying he was playing against better d-men, I said he was out against better forwards, which he was. I’m not throwing stats out there as gospel, but it doesn’t mean they mean nothing my friend. On scoring chances, I wasn’t heralding how many chances he created…I was talking about how sound he was in his own end. Spin however you want, Langkow helps this team.

    - Stews
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