Monday, June 23, 2008

 

That is one big hole in the depth chart

So if the headline is "Tanguay Traded", what's the subhed? Mine is something like, "Flames depart draft without second line".

Tyler's piece on Tanguay Out, Cammallieri In is a good place to start; he demonstrates pretty clearly that Mike C is a replacement for Huselius (who was never going to be returning, and still isn't), not for Tanguay. Which isn't a disaster in and of itself, far from it. A need has been addressed -- a skilled LW to play with Iginla on the #1 line and the #1 PP unit who doesn't cost the moon.

But it was a bad trade, and I have (I think) three things to say about apart from my previous take.

1) The Flames no longer have a second line. The three players who made it up are either traded (Tanguay) or unlikely to return as UFAs (Conroy, Nolan), and there is very little reason to believe that this hole can be filled internally. For starters, Conroy and Nolan were/are barely Top 6 forwards as it is, and the line worked (against the toughest lines on the opposition, lest we forget) because of Tanguay.

Let's review one last time: last season the Flames had one line that consistently outscored whoever they played against (Iginla's), one line who kept their heads above water even against the best opp (generally anchored by Tanguay or Langkow), and two lines that pretty much got torched by all comers.

At the moment (pending July UFA activity, obviously), the Flames aren't going be 1+1+2 like that again next season, they'll be 1+0+3. That will hurt.

2) Yes, it's nice, and just about crucial, that the Flames have a bit of extra cap space now. Now, besides Langkow, they have room to sign a mid-level contributor to a multi-year deal (the forward version of Sarich) instead of being limited to shopping in the $1M/yr-and-under aisle. But context is everything, folks. They could have gained $7M in space by dealing Jarome to (say) the Thrashers for the #3 pick on Friday, but I hope we can all agree that wouldn't have been the wisest way to create that space.

Sutter gained $1.9M by trading away a valuable forward whose trade value was lower than it has ever been. He could have gained $1.5M by buying out Warrener, or $1.4M by sending Primeau to the minors, either of which would have cost the Flames nothing in terms of on-ice performance (and in Primeau's case, would probably improve it).

3) In almost every debriefing of the deal I've read, there has been mention of the idea that "Tanguay never meshed with Mike Keenan", or thereabouts.

Not that it matters now -- and you didn't have to listen too carefully to some of Tanguay's in-season comments to glean that he'd rather be playing with Iginla every shift and piling up points -- but there is absolutely no evidence from on the ice that Keenan disliked Tanguay. (I suppose Keenan can't win; whichever of Tanguay or Huselius wasn't playing with Iginla at the time was deemed to be "in the doghouse".)

Tanguay was 3rd amongst Flames forwards in Time-on-Ice per game, 4 seconds less than Langkow. 3rd in EV TOI/Gm. 4th in PP TOI/Gm. You are welcome to scroll through Tanguay's game log to find the games, or even game, where he rode the end of the pine most of the way, but you will be wasting your time because it didn't happen.

Keenan settled after a while on Huselius with Iginla and Tanguay with Others for a very simple and sensible reason: every line the Flames put together this season (for more than a game or so) with neither Iginla nor Tanguay on it got their asses kicked. And furthermore, with Huselius being (objectively) the better PP option and Tanguay being the better PK option, that also meant that there was less line shuffling on account of special teams, which seemed to work pretty well.

Kipper might rebound next season; Phaneuf might make a further leap; all sorts of things can happen that would lead to the Flames being as good or better than last season in '08/09. But Alex Tanguay is a terrific player who is not easily replaceable, and I am certain that he will be missed. I was glad to get to know him as a hockey player, and hope he does well in Montreal -- I couldn't agree more that he's just what the doctor ordered for those guys.

Comments:

Well if Keenan didn't cut back his ice, why did Alex want to leave? It couldn't be a simple as 'hey, I could go back home, play for a better team in a worse conference, get a pile of PP points, travel less and do it all en francais' could it?
 


"why did Alex want to leave?"

I'll take a guess. Although Tanguay was incredibly good, highly useful, and adept at his new role as a checker with offensive upside, he still wasn't comfortable playing that kind of role?

Just guessing?

That and hockey players have egos too, although he was a good soldier and didn't show it often.

I've changed my perception on Tanguay.

He's much more balanced and well rounded than I ever thought and he'll be incredibly useful no matter the team he is on, if he can learn to accept it.
 


Matt, I notice you didn't mention the saved cap space will probably be lost at the end of next season when Cammalleri gets his raise...
 


You said it.

At the start of the off-season, I figured the Flames would be lucky to cobble together a line-up that would tread water next year. With the departure of Tanguay I don't really see how that's possible now.
 


Cammalleri played most of last season on the right wing. He's not a center anymore (if he ever truly was), although he can take the face-off and move over. You're right about him taking easy minutes.

I always liked Cammalleri and he is fantastic on the power play (get used to seeing him go to his knee when he takes his shot), but he sucks defensively so I imagine Keenan is going to yell at him a lot. He's not fast like you'd expect a little guy like him to be, but he's not soft either. Hopefully he'll improve his movement without the puck and turn himself into a sniper; he tries to carry the puck up too much and loses it easily. I don't know, we'll see how he does. Good luck.
 


The analogy of the idea of trading Iginla for a #3 pick is erroneous because the Hart Trophy finalist actually earned his $7 million salary.

I like Tanguay, and I agree that the guy was under-appreciated by many, but the fact is, he wasn't pulling his weight. If he was doing what was initially expected of him, he would have been a consistent line-mate to the best right-winger in the world. He had the ability to top 100 points during each of the past two seasons, but he didn't. He was over-paid, and by that logic I'm happy to see him go in exchange for a younger, more versatile player with more upside.

I understand that you might consider Tanguay's trade value to be low, but when during the past two years was his value any higher?

If Lombardi reaches his potential this year on the second line, if Cammallieri gets back to 30-goal form by playing to the left of Lombo, if Sutter signs a respectable left-winger for under $2.5 million, if Backlund makes the jump and centres a productive energy unit between Boyd and Moss, then all of a sudden, the Flames start looking much better.

There is a lot of 'ifs' there, but that's the beauty of the game, isn't it?
 


Keenan is the problem.

The guy has always traded talented players for more "gritty" players that fit his supposed style. The problem is this: We are not playing in 1994. You can trade Tanguay, etc all day in this league, but in the end you MUST have talent. Keenan thinks this team is going to bang its way to the playoffs. Not likely. Further, Camilleri isnt that good. He is really soft on D and gets shoved off the puck A LOT. His speed is overrated. Why not trade Tanguay for younger depth players. Addition by subtraction.
 


I'm happy to see him go in exchange for a younger, more versatile player with more upside.

More Versartile? Eh...Cammalleri can play wing or center, but he can't take on the toughest competition and he can't play on the PK. And it's not like he's overly physical or bruiser of any sort either.

As for more upside - Purely speculative. Heck, Cammalleri has a ways to go before he can even match Tanguay's contributions at ES anyways.
 


"More Versartile? Eh...Cammalleri can play wing or center, but he can't take on the toughest competition and he can't play on the PK. And it's not like he's overly physical or bruiser of any sort either."

Well, Tanguay only played left wing while Camma plays all three forward positions, which allows for more versatile line combinations, so yeah, I stand by what I wrote. I don't know anything about him "not taking on the tough competition" or that he "can't play the PK." I'm not convinced that any decent NHLer cannot develop these skills, especially as he gains more experience with a different system.

Don't get me wrong; I never said I would rather have him than Tanguay, all else being equal. However, he's cheaper, he shoots more, and is about to enter his fourth full season in the league.

The latter point is significant as many NHL forwards hit the next level of development after three seasons, just before they enter their prime. That's not to say that Camma is guaranteed to explode out of the gate; he might just as well fizzle. However, he is at the opportune point in his career where he might take his play up significantly, while time's running short for Tanguay to hit and stick the Top 10 in the scoring race.

If Tanguay was signed for $1.5 million less, I would have no problem with him in Calgary. What his own feelings are about that scenario is another matter.
 


Again, I've never seen Cammy play left wing. Not saying that he can't, I just haven't seen it. When he played with Brown and Kopitar, Brown moved to left. He also played with Armstrong and Frolov on the right side. And yeah, players can learn the penalty kill, but I seriously doubt you'll see Cammalleri take a shift out there.
 


I don't know anything about him "not taking on the tough competition" or that he "can't play the PK." I'm not convinced that any decent NHLer cannot develop these skills, especially as he gains more experience with a different system.

Okay, but now you're blue-skying things. Going by what we currently know about these players, Tanguay is a more effective ES option in terms of GD and playing against tough competition: he can play against anybody and do well. That can't be said of Cammalleri (although he may develop into that kind of player as you say). So maybe you can put Cammalleri on the wing or at center - but, unless he takes a nice leap forward this year, you also have manage his level of competition.
 


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