When your favorite team acquires a 39-year-old during the season and asks him to be an immediate difference-maker, it helps to set some expectations. Jarome Iginla isn’t going to score ten goals, singlehandedly revive Anze Kopitar’s season, or become the Los Angeles Kings’ workhorse. What can he do, though? Let’s look at three areas where a lot of us have already set expectations for Jarome Iginla.
EXPECTATION: Iginla’s Penchant for Penalties Will Hurt the Kings
REALITY: Iginla’s PIM should go down, but even an improved Iginla might take more penalties than his teammates.
The Kings have been surprisingly good at staying out of the box this season. LA has taken 207 minor penalties, 9th-lowest in the league, after taking the 7th-most minors in the NHL last season. A big reason for that is that their forwards have largely stayed clean; before the acquisition of Iginla, Jeff Carter’s 13 minors were the most on the Kings, and that tied him for 89th in the NHL. Iginla’s PIM total is a little swollen due to an fighting/instigator/misconduct combo in the season’s third game, but his 19 minors are good for 22nd in the NHL (and first on the Kings).
The big concern for many fans was that his slow feet would result in typical slow feet penalties, but he’s spread the penalties across all categories; three roughs, three hooks, three trips, two interference penalties, etc. Against Vancouver, Iginla picked up an interference penalty (on a power play, ouch) and a boarding in 13:49 of ice time. It’s reasonable to expect Iginla’s penalty rate to come down a bit in Los Angeles thanks to the Kings’ defensive structure, but the odds are that the PK will be covering for Iginla a few times down the stretch.
EXPECTATION: The Kings Will Use Iginla on the Power Play, and He’ll Improve It
REALITY: He won’t get as much usage in LA, but he could bring a new dimension to the PP.
So far, we’ve gotten about four minutes of Official Jarome Iginla Power Play Time, and some of that was as the “center” in between Marian Gaborik and Tyler Toffoli. So it’s hard to tell what the plan is at this point. Colorado had a plan, though, as shown by a map of Iginla’s most frequent power play shot locations from hockeyviz.com.
Now, no forward on the Kings really shoots from this area on a regular basis; Kopitar, Carter, and Tanner Pearson take most of their shots in tight on the first unit, while Toffoli and Gaborik generally set up on the other side of the ice. The most comparable King in terms of shot location is actually Drew Doughty, who creeps in more often on the PP than Jake Muzzin or Alec Martinez. It seems like Iginla could slide into the role he occupied with Colorado fairly easily.
If you assume Iginla maintains his 5-on-4 shot rate in LA, he might get 20 shots on net on the power play for LA. If three of those go in, I’ll be happy. But given how little time is left, he won’t be able to make a Lecavalieresque impact on special teams this season, and there’s a good chance Iginla’s PP production will have little bearing on the playoff race. In that case we’ll be all over the last question...
EXPECTATION: Iginla Will Play With Kopitar and Generate Offense at 5-on-5
Reality: Iginla probably won’t increase the number of shots for that line, even if he can help increase the goals.
This is the biggest question, and the first two games were less than encouraging. In about 20 minutes together at 5-on-5, Iginla, Kopitar, and Gaborik were generating shot attempts at about 50% of the Kopitar-Gaborik duo’s usual rate. I’m willing to chalk up the first game to having never played together, but against Vancouver, that was the only line which couldn’t regularly put pucks toward Ryan Miller’s net. That makes it sting even more when your guy scores at the other end.
Even the Avalanche got fewer shots on net with Iginla on the ice than without Iginla on the ice, though Iginla’s 2016-17 actually compares pretty evenly with Dwight King’s in that department. The difference, of course, is that King usually helped stifle the other team. Iginla had been able to make up for this by scoring goals on a higher percentage of his shots in past seasons, but it hasn’t happened yet this season. If there’s no turnaround, it could be an unhappy month for Iginla.