For whatever reason, Josh Jooris has not been used much this post-season. The 24-year-old rookie turned heads when he had a surprise training camp, and ended up establishing himself as a second line centre for quite some time while injuries decimated the rest of the Flames’ pivots.
But towards the end of the season, his ice time dipped, and come the playoffs, he found himself on the fourth line.
Or at least he did until Game 4 against the Anaheim Ducks, when he found himself in the pressbox: a place he should not have been.
Lance Bouma returning to the lineup was awesome. Micheal Ferland, even more so.
The two of them returning at the expense of Jooris was the opposite of awesome.
Bouma and Ferland are both hard-hitting guys with size, and yes, that’s something the Flames have generally been missing this series. (Ignore the part where they looked awesome in Game 3 without either present.) But when you throw Brandon Bollig into the mix, you have three physical left wingers.
(This is also the part where we ignore that over the nine preceding playoff games, Jooris had more hits and blocked shots than Bollig, if you were concerned about gritty stats.)
Ferland is better than Bouma, Bouma is better than Bollig, and Bollig hilariously somehow has two playoff goals, so okay. But fact is, all three together in the lineup were redundant, and Jooris offered a handful of things none of the three could.
- An entire season’s worth of greater overall possession stats.
- A right-handed shooter.
- Penalty kill time.
Scratching a good possession player is generally not the best idea, but when you look at player usage throughout these playoffs so far, willingly dropping Jooris really doesn’t fit.
Why scratch your top PKer?
Over nine playoff games, Josh Jooris led the entire Flames team with 20:11 minutes of shorthanded ice time. More than any defenceman, and more than any of the other centres, Jooris was the skater most entrusted with keeping the puck out of the net when down a man.
He was pretty good at it, too. Of the five powerplay goals the Flames had given up over nine playoff games, Jooris was on the ice for only one of them: the Corey Perry goal that made it 5-0 for the Ducks back in Game 1, a goal that came when the game was pretty much already over (though it was just one more nail in the coffin).
Meanwhile, just last game, we saw Jooris tie up Hampus Lindholm, giving Joe Colborne additional time and space to work with on his shorthanded goal:
Jooris knows what he’s doing on the penalty kill. That’s why Bob Hartley has trusted him more than anyone else with it.
Which is why his scratching was such a bizarre move.
And it showed. The Flames only killed half of the penalties they took, and it was one of the things that cost them the game. After all, the Ducks only managed to score one 5v5 goal in Game 4. Their powerplay was crucial to their win, allowing them to open the scoring and take the lead early in the third.
Do the Ducks score with the man advantage if the Flames have their main penalty killer out against them? That’s something we’ll never know. But we do know that among the redundancy of physical left wingers, only Bouma played on the kill.
While Bouma did have the occasional big shot block, he was also present for the game winning goal, just a touch too far back to clear the puck from rebounding right onto Matt Beleskey’s stick. (Though that’s more on Deryk Engelland than Bouma, since Engelland should have been the first guy to be able to grab the rebound.)
After a month of not playing, he took what would have presumably been the minutes of the guy most used to killing penalties, and maybe that hurt them.
The right side was a desolate wasteland
Via War on Ice, here’s where the Flames’ shot attempts came from in Game 4:
Lots of tries from the left side, two of which went in (with respective thanks to Johnny Gaudreau’s ridiculous dangling, and Frederik Andersen finally doing something awful this series). Not a whole lot of drive down the middle.
And a painfully empty other side of the ice.
It’s not that the Flames don’t have many right wingers; they also don’t have many right shooters. This wasn’t so much a concern when Jarome Iginla played for Calgary, but it’s been pretty dry since he left.
The only forward who shoots right who was dressed for Game 4 was David Jones, and he plays on the third line.
Jooris and Drew Shore, two centres who are also righties, were both healthy scratches, despite not really doing anything to deserve sitting out.
It’s a problem the Flames will have to address, but in the meantime, their right hand side has been pretty empty all season long, despite having a couple of guys who can fill in that spot right now.
The Flames have three right-handed defencemen paired with three left-handed guys. This includes keeping Engelland in the top four. Why is it so important to correctly match up the defence, only to leave your forward lineup completely desolate when two additional, fully capable options are at your disposal?
(For the record, Jooris should probably actually be playing on the second line’s right wing alongside Sam Bennett and Mikael Backlund, bumping Colborne down to the fourth line, but that – and the re-emergence of a Bouma who does not belong in the top six, not to mention bumping Bennett down to the fourth line – is a whole other story. Although for the record, the Flames also looked significantly better when Bennett was on Backlund’s wing, not Bouma, so…)
What does Bollig do Jooris cannot?
Okay, yes: the two playoff goals have been great, and the result of Bollig finding himself in the right place at the right time to redirect a setup from Mason Raymond.
But that aside, what else is there?
Jooris is entrusted with more ice time than Bollig, and that’s without going into the part where Jooris actually plays big shorthanded minutes while Bollig is deployed solely in even strength situations.
In nine games, Jooris had 16 hits to Bollig’s 15: just one more, but enough for an automatic dismissal of Bollig being more “physical” than the rookie. (To further prove redundancy: Bollig had three hits in Game 4 to Bouma and Ferland’s four apiece, and it was Ferland getting in Tim Jackman’s face after Gaudreau was targeted.)
Jooris and the returning players can provide the physicality Bollig can… Jooris is deemed the more responsible player by his coach… Jooris gets scratched.
Maybe they still don’t win with Jooris in the lineup; maybe he doesn’t prevent the powerplay goals against, maybe he causes more, maybe the Ducks go ahead and take even more liberties than the very large amount they already got away with.
But recent history does not tell us that’s the case.
Maybe Jooris being in the lineup doesn’t make the Flames win, but they’ve got a far better shot with him than without.
Scratching him was a mistake, and he needs to play in Game 5, and any potential games thereafter.