The FAN 960 Flames Zone

The captain of the Calgary Flames can still score as his 32 goals this past season will speak to.  With 11 consecutive 30 goal seasons, Iginla is still very dangerous from the offensive blueline in.  But with his 35th birthday around the corner, there are things that can be done to make him even more of a threat going forward.

So many in this city adore the captain, and this post is not to suggest the Flames should trade him or not.  It’s a post written on the assumption Iginla will be a big part of the team next year, and a post written about how he can be used most effectively.

Iginla turns 35 on Canada Day which puts him a ways away from being in the prime of his career.  He’s no longer a player that can go head-to-head with the best players on the other side on a nightly basis and be successful on a regular basis.  He’s also not a player that is going to help the team all that much defensively and should be protected in terms of where he plays the majority of his minutes.

The Flames will have a new Head Coach for the 2012/2013 season, and I think that new bench boss will have the most success with Iginla if he plays to his strengths.  Here are my ideas as to how you can do that effectively.

Give Him the High Ground

Tracking where Jarome started his shifts during this past season, Iginla was actually deployed more defensively than he was offensively when it was all said and done.  Iginla started in the defensive zone 50.3% of the time last season, which doesn’t play into where he can help you most.

At this point in his career, Jarome isn’t a player you can expect to throw out there defensively and expect him to effect the play up ice regularly.  Iginla has never been the most adept defensive player, which was fine because he was such a factor with the puck, he’d just will it up the ice.  Now, opposition players have a less difficult time taking the puck from him, which makes starting him defensively a less attractive thing to do.

When I use the term “give him the high ground” I take examples from what other teams do with their top offensive players.  Knowing Iginla still has an elite level shot and high end finishing ability, a coach can use other players in defensive situations to keep Iginla fresh for offensive starts.  Vancouver is the most extreme example of this, as Alain Vigneault started his usual top offensive players in Daniel and Henrik Sedin more than 78% of the time.  Vigneault was able to do that by burying players like Manny Malhotra, Ryan Kesler, and Sami Pahlsson with defensive zone faceoffs; it’s a big reason why you saw the Sedin’s transform from 70-80 point players into 90-100 point players.

Doing this with Iginla gives the captain a great chance to extend his 30 goal streak to 12 straight seasons, and gives him the best opportunity to help your team.  Jarome best helps you when he’s scoring and he’s most engaged during that time as well, so put him in the best even strength spots to do so.

Protect Him

He didn’t play the toughest minutes on the team last year, but Iginla still saw the top players on the other side on a regular basis.  Curtis Glencross and Olli Jokinen saw the toughest minutes overall on the Flames last season, and it helped in keeping Iginla away from some pretty good players on the other side.

There’s no question that when you’re playing against players like Kesler, Backes, Datsyuk, and more on a regular basis, you’re not going to be as successful offensively.  These are some of the best even strength players in the league and they spend far more time in the offensive zone than not, regardless of where they start.  So where you can, give Iginla cushier minutes.

It’s very dependent on who else you have on your team, but there may be an opportunity to use certain players in tough matchup situations.  Blair Jones was utilized in a strict checking role for a good portion of his time with the Flames, which opened other lines up for easier minutes.  During that time, you saw guys like Iginla and Tanguay have a lot of success, as Jones was taking some of the tough matchups and the Jokinen-Glencross duo was handling the others.  Having a sniper like Jarome out against another team’s third line can’t always happen, but when you can do it, it’s an option you have to explore.

These things may or may not be possible for the coming year, as the roster may not allow it.  But Jarome Iginla can still score at a high level, and if he’s the captain of the Calgary Flames next season, I think it’s key you put him in that position to succeed.  An NHL coach can do that in a variety of ways, as my above examples are just things that are kicking around my head.

Follow along on Twitter @Fan960Steinberg

13 Responses to “Jarome Iginla: Playing to Strength”
  1. 1.

    I don’t disagree with your premise, but does that mean Jerome no longer gets to pad his totals with empty-net ice time? If he’s strictly an offensive player and defensive liability, how do you square it with the rest of the team that Jerome needs to be out there in the last 30 seconds so he can continue his personal streak, but they should get no reward for keeping the opposition off the scoreboard?

    - Wes
  2. 2.

    finally some sanity to the discussion. thanks pat.
    ————–
    on players wanting to come to calgary: i believe that the fact that the owners have committed to iggy, kipper etc. shows a stable owners group that puts the players first. respect all around the flames organization. does this not come into play when a player decides where he wants to play? not just “who has the best chance to win”. anyone can win from year to year.

    IMO if the team adds 2 top 6 players (svend +1) they are there with the rest of the pack and your blog on iggy is RITE ON !

    have no issues with the dfense or jbow in particular (watched lidstrom get walked around this week like he was 50 years old).

    best goalie in the league. and could easily have as good of a 3 and 4 line as anyone except maybe the penguins. comeau and stajan would be top quality 3rd liners.

    - bobsled cuch
  3. 3.

    Nice job Pat!
    i’ve been toying with how Calgary can keep Iggy and this helps in that direction.

    love the podcasts and keep up the good work!

    - r swanson
  4. 4.

    After the comments made by Brent this week, it was apparent that the issue within the organization is Iginla. Last month, Playfair indicated the tension that we had in the locker room with Iginla and how difficult it was to coach him. Its also apparent that the Iginla controls the team and coaches are having a hard time getting their strategy across. Iginla is an awesome player and will always produce but if he is only looking for best interest of himself, this organization will be lost from the glory days for a while. To tell me that a coach like Brent Sutter could not get this team in the playoffs within 3 seasons is crazy, yet true. He also mentioned how he would have rejected a contract extension if given so due a ‘very concerning issue’ which the panel tried to force out of him yet we still dont know….. is it iginla or not? He controls his team, the players, coaches, and most importantly the owners and fans. Its too bad if do decide the trade him this off season, the return would be less than what they could have gotten at the trade deadline….

    - Seb
  5. 5.

    How is a couple empty net goals per year ‘padding his stats’?

    If a player is getting empty netter’s, it means they are on the ice at a critical time, against motivated opposition. They are not gimme’s.

    He has about 25 ENG’s

    A goal is a goal.

    - metroneck
  6. 6.

    @Wes

    I see your point Wes, but I don’t think having Iginla on the ice was always about scoring into an empty net. Protecting a one goal lead, you typically want your best even strength players, and at one time Jarome Iginla was one of the very best in the game. He may still be one of your best ES guys, but we may start seeing names like Cammalleri and Glencross featured in those roles on a more regular basis.

    @metroneck

    I’m with you there for the most part on the empty net goals. He’s been on the ice and scoring those in the past because he was the best option to be out there in a crucial situation. I just don’t think that’s necessarily the case anymore, depending on the roster for next year.

    - Pat Steinberg
  7. 7.

    @bobsled cuch

    You’re welcome Richard, I appreciate the compliment. I’l be writing this for sometime next week, but I believe the Flames need to address the need of a tough minutes center for next year. Adding a top six player may not be realistic during the offseason, but a decent pivot who can play tough minutes is absolutely attainable in free agency. Jay McClement and Paul Gaustad come to mind. If you do that, utilzing Iginla as suggested would be very much possible.

    - Pat Steinberg
  8. 8.

    @r swanson

    Thanks man. Again, the post isn’t so much about whether Iginla should stay or not, because I think that’s a different debate. But I believe he will be the captain next year, and if he is, you can get some very good productivity out of him if he’s put in the best situations.

    - Pat Steinberg
  9. 9.

    @Seb

    Many have suggested maybe Iginla is “the problem” inside that locker room, and they may very well be right, we don’t know. But I don’t think there’s any question at this point that he does have a certain way he would like to play. Iginla likes to score and when he’s scoring and being put in spots to score, he plays his best, and I believe that’s because he’s enjoying himself. The Flames may not trade him this summer, and we can have that debate whether it’s the right move or not in another forum…but if he IS here next season, play to his strengths to get the most out of him.

    - Pat Steinberg
  10. 10.

    I’ll wait to see what FA’s Feaster brings in to judge whether or not Iggy is the cancer in the dressing room some people think he is.

    If they bring in some quality/character players and the team still isn’t in a playoff position come the trade deadline, then I’m hoping, no, COUNTING on him being traded.

    - Darren
  11. 11.

    @Darren

    That’s probably not a terrible way to judge whether these dressing room issues alluded to actually exist with the captain. Again, I’m not saying they don’t, but I also don’t believe “locker room issues” are something unique to the Calgary Flames.

    - Pat Steinberg
  12. 12.

    It would be nice to hear from Jerome what we just heard from Luongo. That is, he is willing to waive his no-trade clause if he thinks it will help the team. That’s a guy (Luongo) who isn’t thinking about himself, but trying to be more accommodating to a team that has paid and treated him well.

    Unfortunately, Jerome continues to put him own interests before the those of the Flames franchise.

    - Darren
  13. 13.

    @Darren

    In fact Darren, we did hear exactly that one year ago. Following the 2010-2011 season, Jarome was asked if he would waive his NMC if the Flames asked and he said yes.

    - Pat Steinberg
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