Still the best picture out there of the Center and his expression sums up the Flames season, but what about this RFA should we pay the most attention to? By no means is Blair Jones going to dazzle fans with his offensive prowess ‘cuase that’s just not his game. What he did bring to the Flames a hard nosed effort night in and night out, and the opportunity to give his teammates a little more skating room.
Though he only managed to get in 21 games with Calgary before getting injured, Jones was able to make a lasting impression. No matter where you sat in the Saddledome, odds are you could hear the fans (*Cough* Book of Loob and Walk Invisible) changing the chants of “Go Flames Go” to the ever growing popular, “Go Blair Jones”. Plainly put? By doing what he does, he was able to let the others on the team, namely the offensive forwards, do what they needed to do.
In only 21 games Jones grew into a specific role with his new club, giving the Flames something they were lacking since Daymond Langkow and his salt and pepper goat-ee were shipped down to Arizona in exchange for Lee Stempniak. He was and remains a forward that would grind the opposition, both physically and verbally; the best part about it, he wasn’t half bad at it either. Injuries up the middle made it necessary to be able to slide the remaining pivots up and down the line-up on a constant basis. While Jones was never going to be looked upon to fill a goal scorers role, and he didn’t play on a line with them, he was looked upon to free up the ice for those guys like Iginla, Tanguay and Cammalleri.
It was tough enough for Brent Sutter to be able to utilize his goal scorers in primarily offensive situations this year. When Jones was healthy, he actually made it a bit easier because he wasn’t a liability in his own zone. He is not the kind of player where you have to crunch the numbers on his advanced stats to get a feel for his role on this, or any other team, but one number warrants honourable mention. His 44.1 offensive zone start was the second lowest amongst forwards, slightly ahead of Lance Bouma, which meant the lion’s share of his ice time was spent trying to get the puck out of the Calgary end. With the confidence from the coach to do his job, guys like Iginla and Tanguay could do theirs. During the 21 game span with Jones in the line-up Iginla recorded 7 goals and 17 points.
One of Jones best qualities on the ice is his work ethic. He is a high energy guy who can ignite the play of his teammates. He’ll be that guy that who through the end of the boards for you and probably try to take one or two of the opposition with him. If he’s not hitting someone, then he is usually beaking at guys that he’s going to hit them. The most entertaining part of that if you are sitting low enough in the bowl to hear him occasionally is that he does it all with a smile on his face. If this guy could score, he would definitely be challenging Glencross for the nickname “Scoreface”.
The expectation for Jones should be to be able to pick up where he left off prior to being injured. He could be a damn good fourth line center, assuming the top three are possibly Cammalleri, Backlund and the recently signed Cervenka (I’m not sure where Stajan slots in just yet). That is a good fit for Blair and assuming that there is some room there for offensive improvement if he picks up the odd garbage goal, then it’s going to be a good fit for the Flames as well.
There’s a lot to like about this guy and his RFA status. At 26, he doesn’t have blazing speed or flash of any kind, but is still young enough that he won’t be a boat anchor on the fourth line. He can also kill some penalties without the coach and the fans holding their collective breaths for two minutes or less.
Not a lot of people expect the offense from Jones, after all he only had a goal and three assists in his time with Calgary, so I don’t think there is any chance that he will be a disappointment per se even if he doesn’t improve that area. It would be nice to see him chip in the dirty ones now and again, but by no means should the Flames ever depend on it.
Rather, even though, not much stock is ever put into a stat like a player’s +/-, it’s encouraging towards his defensive modelled game that he finished last season only -1. In fact he was a +2 with Calgary.
Feaster has said that they already have in mind with their UFA’s and RFA’s who they will keep and who they won’t. Jones’ cap hit was a measly 525K for last season and it’s not going to take a whole lot more than that to get him under contract again. In keeping with my belief that Calgary should not be handing out any big dollar, long-term deals to any current player on the roster, Jones will be a bargain buy.
Not to suggest that he signs for the same money, but if they want to stick to a short term deal, they could most likely get Jones for four years at $4 Million per…. No wait, wrong Jones; that was the Avs. Blair Jones could most likely be signed for a max deal of two years, and a whopping $1.5 Million total (or less).
What say you FlamesNation? Should Jones stay, or be given a nice set of steak knives for his brief visit in Cowtown?