Continuing in the theme of former Flames players who are still playing into mid-May, today we look at a guy who didn’t have much more than a cup of coffee in Calgary. Much like Ian White in San Jose, Vancouver’s Chris Higgins has been a much traveled man over the past two seasons, with stints in New York and Florida to go along with his Canadian stops. Now a conference finalist with the Canucks, Higgins has proved to be a very important addition, something those who watched him here shouldn’t be surprised at.
This article is not to bemoan a poor Flames decision to not bring Higgins back, because to be honest, in talking with him on last years green garbage bag day, I got the impressions returning to Calgary was not high on his priority list. So, I don’t believe Darryl Sutter dropped the ball on that one, because short of a stupid contract, Higgins wasn’t long for a Flames jersey. But he is certainly proving to be valuable in Vancouver.
In signing a one year deal with the Florida Panthers in the offseason, Higgins almost guaranteed a good return in comparison to his $1.6 million cap hit. While only posting three points in 12 games with the Flames before injury finished off his 2009-10 campaign, watching Higgins play in person showed why he’s been a 20 goal scorer on three seperate occasions. With decent speed and a large frame, he was able to form a nice compliment on Daymond Langkow’s flank, providing another option in the two-way game.
Unfortunately, some bad luck and cruel percentages have seen his goal and point totals go way down, which is why Florida was able to snag him at a bargain basement price. Looking at his body of work in 48 games with the Panthers, you can’t argue he was a good signing. But a team going in a different direction was going to make some changes at the deadline, which is exactly what Florida did, dealing Higgins to Vancouver for Evan Oberg and a 2013 third rounder.
Analyzing Chris’s regular season is pretty impressive however, as both Peter DeBoer and Alain Vigneault had no problem deploying him defensively; he finished his 62 game season with a 46.3% offensive zone start, with 48 games spent in Florida. Seeing his Corsi number up above 11 is extremely impressive, and it’s further proof that Higgins is a guy that can give you solid setup minutes on the second or third line.
Playing much of his time with Ryan Kesler helps even more, but he’s also a very good foil for the likely Selke winner. Again, it’s unfair to say the Flames made a mistake by not bringing him back, because Higgins wanted to move on as a UFA forward coming off a dreadful season in terms of counting numbers. But he’s a good player, and he’s been an important addition in Vancouver.