Mired in a mind-boggling slump, Calgary has been a hotbed of trade activity. GM Darryl Sutter has shuffled the deck by dealing Dion Phaneuf, Fredrik Sjostrom and prospect Keith Aulie to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Niklas Hagman, Matt Stajan, Ian White and Jamal Mayers, and then promptly dealt forwards Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust to the New York Rangers in exchange for Chris Higgins and Ales Kotalik.
Details of the first trade were discussed largely from Toronto's perspective earlier, today we'll statistically examine these trades from the perspective of the Calgary Flames.
The Flames dealt 4 players for 6, meaning that when 2 of the 3 Flames currently on Injured Reserved return (Craig Conroy, David Moss and Nigel Dawes), 2 Flames forwards will find themselves out of a job. This could be a real advantage for the Flames, giving them the depth to select the best players when healthy, and to still field four competitive lines when they're not.
SAL: 2009-10 Salary
NEXT: 2010-11 Salary
Age Player POS SAL NEXT
30 Olli Jokinen C 5.5 UFA
24 Dion Phaneuf D 6.5 7.0
25 Brandon Prust C 0.5 RFA
26 Fredrik Sjostrom RW 0.8 0.8
Departing Flames: 12.3 7.8 + Prust
29 Niklas Hagman LW 3.0 3.0
25 Matt Stajan C 1.8 UFA
25 Ian White D 1.0 RFA
34 Jamal Mayers RW 1.4 UFA
26 Chris Higgins C 2.3 UFA
30 Ales Kotalik RW 3.0 3.0
Arriving Flames: 12.5 6.0 + White
While the Flames have the edge of extra time to negotiate contracts for Matt Stajan, Jamal Mayers and Chris Higgins, come July they'll only have Niklas Hagman, Ian White and Ales Kotalik to show for giving up Dion Phaneuf, Brandon Prust, Fredrik Sjostrom and Keith Aulie. In this scenario the Flames will have actually gotten older, having traded 3 players aged 24-26 for two 30-year-olds and Ian White (25). We therefore have to interpret these moves as a "win now" approach.
The moves were primarily intended to provide a jolt to the Flames anemic offense, which has been shut out 3 times in their last 5 home games, and managed 4 goals or more only twice in 2010. Will it succeed?
OGVT: Offensive GVT
ESP60: Even-Strength Points per 60 minutes
PCO: The Offensive Component of Alan Ryder's Player Contributions
2009-10 2008-09 2007-08
Player OGVT ESP60 OGVT ESP60 PCO OGVT ESP60 PCO
Olli Jokinen 2.1 1.8 6.8 1.9 40.5 9.5 1.7 68.4
Dion Phaneuf 1.6 0.6 3.9 1.1 45.2 10.0 1.0 60.2
Fredrik Sjostrom -1.0 0.9 -2.9 0.8 3.6 1.3 1.3 15.7
Brandon Prust -1.1 1.1 -1.6 0.7 -2.4
Departing Flames: 1.6 1.1 6.2 1.1 86.9 20.8 1.3 144.3
Matt Stajan 4.4 2.0 5.1 2.5 30.0 0.1 1.3 13.5
Ian White 4.4 1.1 3.0 1.0 26.0 1.4 0.9 11.5
Niklas Hagman 4.1 2.2 5.9 2.0 35.4 5.1 2.0 40.2
Ales Kotalik 0.9 0.8 3.9 1.4 37.8 5.5 1.2 32.5
Jamal Mayers -0.3 1.3 -0.3 1.5 1.6
Chris Higgins -1.2 1.1 1.0 1.4 9.4 7.5 1.4 38.4
Arriving Flames: 12.3 1.4 18.6 1.6 140.2 19.6 1.4 136.1
The Flames added players that provided 10.7 GVT value this season more than the players given up, which is right in line with the extra 12.4 that same group provided last season in excess of the departing Flames. Most of this offensive improvement comes from the Toronto trade; the Flames actually lost value in their deal with the Rangers.
Even-strength scoring per 60 minutes (ESP60) is a statistic that quickly establishes a player's scoring level, and the arriving Flames have consistently provided more even-strength scoring per minute. The established cut-off point for a top-6 forward is 1.8, and the Flames gave up only one player that fits that description -- Jokinen, and just barely! -- and in Niklas Hagman and Matt Stajan have added two players that have done so consistently.
While Higgins and Kotalik have struggled this season and even at their best couldn't score at a clip worthy of the top two lines, they have historically proved capable of providing secondary scoring on the nights where the top lines are getting shut down.
On the blue line, moving Dion Phaneuf for Ian White is currently an improvement, but Phaneuf's enormous potential means that goals will likely be harder to come by for White in the long run (witness Dion's amazing 2007-08 season).
For greater insight into each player's offensive level I've included Alan Ryder's Player Contributions, which are available for prior seasons. Through all of this please bear in mind that GVT and PC are both dependent on ice-time. The players involved will not contribute to the same extent if they're not given the same opportunities with their new clubs.
One final observation is that most of the players involved in this trade have been on a slow and steady decline for years, and stand to benefit greatly from a change in scenery. Ian White is the only player involved to show consistent improvement, and joins Matt Stajan as the only player to currently match or exceed their 2007-08 performance.
While the main purpose of these trades was to generate more offense, Sutter was trying to engineer the trades in such a way that no undue sacrifice was made defensively. If anything the Flames wanted to add the tough defensive depth that is invaluable in the playoffs. Did they succeed?
DGVT: Defensive GVT
ESGAA: Even-Strength Goals-Against Average (Goals per 60 minutes)/
QComp: Gabriel Desjardins' Quality of Competition
PCD: The defensive component of Alan Ryder's Player Contributions
2009-10 2008-09 2007-08
Player DGVT ESGAA QComp DGVT ESGAA PCD QComp DGVT ESGAA PCD QComp
Dion Phaneuf 3.6 2.64 0.05 2.2 4.03 22.5 -0.03 6.6 2.44 33.1 0.00
Olli Jokinen 1.8 2.56 0.09 0.9 3.21 5.7 0.02 -1.7 3.07 2.6 0.05
Fredrik Sjostrom 1.1 1.22 -0.07 1.3 2.60 20.5 -0.02 1.0 1.98 10.2 -0.01
Brandon Prust 1.0 1.30 -0.20 -1.0 2.95 -1.5 -0.17
Departing Flames: 7.5 1.93 -0.03 3.4 3.20 47.2 -0.05 5.9 2.50 45.9 0.01
Ian White 3.3 2.77 0.03 5.6 2.93 34.6 0.01 0.7 2.94 32.2 -0.01
Matt Stajan 1.9 3.19 0.03 2.4 3.78 6.6 0.01 0.4 2.75 22.2 0.05
Niklas Hagman 1.8 3.35 0.00 1.3 2.89 23.5 -0.02 2.7 2.52 20.0 0.00
Chris Higgins 1.4 2.56 0.03 1.1 2.73 14.8 0.02 1.0 2.27 19.3 0.06
Jamal Mayers 0.1 2.33 -0.02 0.2 2.65 6.9 -0.03
Ales Kotalik -0.5 3.42 -0.11 0.6 2.80 7.9 -0.06 0.6 1.83 5.3 -0.06
Arriving Flames: 8.0 2.94 -0.01 11.2 2.96 94.3 -0.01 5.4 2.46 99.0 0.01
At first glance it appears to be a wash, with the Flames adding 0.5 defensive GVT, but requiring two extra spots. A closer look at 2008-09 reveals a big 7.8 GVT advantage that the arriving Flames have over the departed. Based on Player Contributions, the defensive advantage the arriving Flames have over the departing appears to be roughly double, and quite consistent. For more on the differences between DGVT and PCD, please review November 6th's Howe and Why.
Just as GVT and PC are ice-time dependent, ESGAA is team-dependent. ESGAA can be used to identify trends, like Ales Kotalik's quick collapse from 1.83 to 3.42 despite being sheltered from skilled opponents, and in conjunction with Gabriel Desjardins' QComp, ESGAA can also identify roles, like Fredrik Sjostrom, Jamal Mayers and Brandon Prust having been used almost exclusively on the 4th line.
On the blue line Dion Phaneuf has been challenged by being played against the Flames' top opponents for the first time in his NHL career, and he has responded by reducing goals against from a horrible 4.03 to a respectable 2.64. Perhaps it would be an overstatement to claim that Ian White is no longer superior defensively, but at the very least the gap between them can't be considered very wide.
Up front, and despite his terrible performance defensively, Olli Jokinen has not been sheltered from top opponents, so the Flames should enjoy at least a marginal improvement using Matt Stajan or Christopher Higgins in that capacity instead. As for Niklas Hagman, the veteran Finn should continue to provide reliable defense if used on the middle lines.
The bottom line is good news for the Flames; at worst the trades were a wash defensively, at best there's the potential of actually creating a noticeable defensive improvement.
The Flames have the 6th-worst power play in the league, and dropping fast during their recent slump. Giving up two players on their top-4 (Phaneuf and Jokinen) meant that Sutter was looking for some serious firepower to reverse their misfortunes with the man advantage.
TOI60: Power-Play Time on the Ice per game
PPP60: Power-Play Points per 60 minutes
PPGFA: Power-Play Goals-For Average (5-on-4 goals scored while on the ice, per 60 minutes)
This Season 2008-09 2007-08
Player TOI60 PPP60 PPGFA TOI60 PPP60 PPGFA TOI60 PPP60 PPGFA
Dion Phaneuf 3.62 3.0 5.42 5.34 2.7 6.75 4.77 4.5 6.91
Olli Jokinen 2.81 2.7 4.58 3.82 3.9 5.79 3.60 4.9 6.91
Departing Flames: 6.43 2.9 5.05 9.16 3.2 6.35 8.37 4.7 6.91
Ales Kotalik 3.52 4.2 6.44 2.61 4.3 6.14 2.90 3.9 6.28
Matt Stajan 2.47 4.3 6.52 2.22 3.6 7.10 1.77 3.3 5.78
Niklas Hagman 2.02 2.7 4.77 2.22 4.6 6.65 2.27 1.9 4.52
Ian White 1.92 3.3 4.38 2.19 2.0 4.25 1.37 0.5 3.24
Chris Higgins 1.74 0.0 1.25 2.14 2.0 3.94 3.10 5.0 7.32
Arriving Flames: 11.67 3.2 5.06 11.38 3.3 5.65 11.41 3.3 5.77
Olli Jokinen and Dion Phaneuf were both truly potent with the man advantage in 2007-08. It's not likely that, from what the Flames are receiving in this deal, that any of the return players will be able to match Jokinen or Phaneuf on the man advantage from two years ago in any given future seasons. Unfortunately both players seem to have gradually lost their scoring touch, meaning that these trades not only afford the Flames more depth, but also three forwards in Ales Kotalik, Matt Stajan and Niklas Hagman who are currently playing more effectively on the power play than Jokinen.
Replacing Phaneuf will be more difficult for Ian White (and Mark Giordano), but hopefully the significant additions up front will more than compensate for Dion's potentially lethal presence on the blue line. Notice the weighted averages for PPP60 and PPGFA both this season and last, and how the Flames dealt away for the same total firepower, but just more of it.
The Flames already have one of the top ten penalty killing units in the league, and didn't give up any of their talented penalty killers in these deals, but still managed to pick up a handful of depth options.
TOI60: Short-handed Time on the Ice per game
SHGAA: Short-Handed Goals-For Average (4-on-5 goals scored against while on the ice, per 60 minutes)
SA60: Shots-Against per 60 minutes, while playing 4-on-5
This Season 2008-09 2007-08
Player TOI60 SHGAA SA60 TOI60 SHGAA SA60 TOI60 SHGAA SA60
Dion Phaneuf 1.28 6.82 49.5 2.61 7.20 54.1 2.66 7.15 37.7
Fredrik Sjostrom 0.90 10.17 45.0 2.70 3.66 42.0 1.18 5.90 32.4
Ian White 2.02 6.27 44.4 2.32 9.83 45.9 1.19 6.25 36.3
Matt Stajan 1.43 8.26 47.3 1.60 8.39 36.5 2.89 7.84 39.7
Chris Higgins 2.00 4.37 38.8 2.10 6.03 46.2 1.47 4.48 41.8
Niklas Hagman 0.89 8.45 37.4 1.03 8.09 39.6 2.18 3.36 42.0
The Flames have such a wealth of penalty-killing talent already that they didn't even take advantage of Fredrik Sjostrom, who was a very useful depth option for the Rangers for the past two seasons, so it remains to be seen if they'll turn to any of their newly acquired forwards or stick with what they've got.
On the point, it would make sense to cycle Ian White into the mix. He's an average penalty-killer at best, but that's good enough to have been an upgrade on Phaneuf any of the past three seasons.
Calgary GM Darryl Sutter is known for having a real eye for the intangibles, so it comes as no surprise that one of the league's most talented shootout artists is included in the package. Ales Kotalik was 8 for 13 last season for Edmonton and Buffalo, and the Rangers will replace him with Olli Jokinen, who is 5 for 9 this season as a Flame.
Sutter also added a faceoff specialist in Jamal Mayers, who won 57.3% of draws last season and 56.8% with Toronto so far in 2009-10. Ian White was 2nd on the Leafs and 39th overall with 91 blocked shots, but of course Sutter had to give up his biggest hitter in Dion Phaneuf, whose 125 hits have him ranked 33rd in the league.
How do the Flames of February 2nd compare to the Flames of January 31st?
- More experience
- More depth at even-strength, on the power play and on the penalty kill
- More offense, thanks to the Toronto trade
- Upgraded intangibles: shootout and faceoffs
- Virtually no change defensively, with the potential for improvement, and no change in cap space
It's clear that, on paper, the Flames are a better team today than they were two days ago, more so because of the deal with Toronto than the deal with New York. The real question is whether they can leverage this advantage to end their slide, climb back into the playoffs and possibly claim the Northwest Division title, and advance past the 1st round for only the 2nd time since winning the Cup in 1989.
Robert Vollman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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