Line shuffle perfect for Flames

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 6:57 PM ET

They’re like Jon and Kate on Skates — unproductive and, quite frankly, painful to watch these days.

They’re better off apart.

Enough with the Jarolli Experiment.

The Igininen Follies must come to an end.

Call it what you will, the forced pairing of Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen simply isn’t working.

It appears Brent Sutter has finally realized.

Despite Mike Keenan’s hard-headed insistence on keeping the duo together, it didn’t work last year, and it hasn’t clicked this year either.

It’s time Sutter start experimenting with different line combos at the top, which is exactly what he appears ready to do starting Friday against Vancouver.

At Thursday’s practice the Flames coach had Iginla reunited with Craig Conroy and Curtis Glencross.

With Daymond Langkow centering a second line with Rene Bourque and Nigel Dawes, Jokinen was relegated to the third unit with Eric Nystrom and Fredric Sjostrom.

Perfect.

Others who’ve been beating the drum to have the club’s two highest-paid forwards separated were likely elated to see Sutter mercifully split them up midway through Tuesday’s loss in Columbus when Iginla played the second period with Langkow and Dawes.

But quicker than the Flames can blow a lead Sutter’s celebrated line shuffle was reversed in the third.

Of course, in theory we understand the logic behind Darryl and Brent Sutter’s desire to have Jokinen centre Iginla on the top trio.

Both are the best at their positions on the team and, as such, should play top line minutes.

However, the reality is they’re not compatible.

Both are shooters. Natural scorers. And while they both possess playmaking abilities, it’s clear those disappear — or simply don’t mesh — when playing with each other.

Take away the eight goals he scored in his first six games after being traded to the Flames last spring and Jokinen is now on a slide that has seen him score just three goals in his last 26 outings. That stretch includes the stunningly fluky long bomb from outside the blueline in Chicago and a two-goal effort against the Hawks in the playoffs.

Not exactly the $5.5 million worth the Flames were hoping for when they traded for the four-time 30-goal scorer.

In the same stretch, Iginla has scored nine times in 26 outings, putting him at a pace that would see him score 28 in a year. Subpar.

Of more concern is the fact he simply isn’t getting as many scoring chances as he grew accustomed to when Langkow or a much younger Conroy centred his line.

Iginla directed just one shot on goal in each of the last two games and has 18 in seven outings so far this year — a pace that puts him at significantly less than the almost four shots a game he’s averaged the last five years.

Jokinen has only mustered up 11 shots — embarrassing for a man who has long shot the puck even more than Iginla.

When asked if he was keen on trying to find steady line combos or would switch it up every period like Keenan, Sutter said his focus is on finding “good pairs.”

The pairing that makes the most sense for Iginla is obviously with Langkow with whom he combined to score 50 goals and a career-high 98 points two years back.

Perhaps the worst indictment of the Jarolli Duo is the fact that not have they not been scoring the way first-line units should, they’ve actually become liabilities, racking up a combined minus 19 (Iginla minus 11, Jokinen minus 8) in those 26 games.

Truth be told, they’ve made up two-thirds of the team’s worst line all season to date.

Yes, it’s early. Yes, the two are good enough to pick up their play and contribute more offensively while taking care of their own end too.

They just shouldn’t be doing it together anymore.


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