It means a living legend has signed in Calgary.
It also means that the Flames just got a whole lot better on the ice, with just a couple of days to go before the season opener.
With hockey a mere two days away, let’s go with the present implications first.
The Flames now have a top nine that should look like:
|Johnny Gaudreau||Sean Monahan||Micheal Ferland|
|Matthew Tkachuk||Mikael Backlund||Michael Frolik|
|Kris Versteeg||Sam Bennett||Jaromir Jagr|
Take a minute to just let it soak in. Just look at it for a moment. Because that, right there, is three solid lines that can all attack, that can all contribute, that can all play at a high level.
The biggest questions there are Micheal Ferland and Sam Bennett: Ferland because he has yet to play in such a high-level role for an extended period of time, and Bennett because he hasn’t quite shown what’s been expected of him since he was drafted fourth overall in 2014. Bennett has been a fine enough player in his own right, but there’s a reason he re-signed with a two-year bridge deal worth $1.95 million per, as opposed to a longer term contract akin to what Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan signed.
One of the things that has stymied Bennett has been his linemates. We’ve seen what he can do when paired with talent, but that frequently was not the case last season. While Kris Versteeg performed, Troy Brouwer simply was not a fit for his line – and had the Flames not signed Jagr, it’s likely we would have seen him there.
The other option was Mark Jankowski, and let’s be honest: as excited as one may be about Jankowski’s potential, he’s not Jaromir frickin’ Jagr.
Signing Jagr has done more than given Bennett another talented veteran to play with: it’s bumped everyone else down the rest of the lineup, too.
If Brouwer was playing on the third line, then that means someone else would be playing on the fourth line – someone who has now been bumped out of the lineup by Jagr’s presence. By making their third line stronger, they’ve made their fourth line stronger as well.
Jagr removes all questions from the Flames’ forward group, instead leaving an impressive collection of talent, top to bottom.
The top nine
Ferland has looked great in his limited showings alongside Gaudreau and Monahan – he showed potential back in 2015-16, even if his shooting percentage was so low no tangible impact was discerned; he was great to close out the 2016-17 season; and he’s looked like he’s belonged in this preseason – but that’s just it, the showings have been limited. But in 2015-16, that line had a CF of 52.83%, and this past season it was 51.13%. In preseason, at 56.52% Ferland has been one of the Flames’ stronger corsi players. This line has real potential.
Another point in favour of keeping Ferland on the top line is consistency. In speaking with Gaudreau about Ferland a few days ago, he seemed frustrated that he hasn’t had a consistent right wing since Jiri Hudler. And Ferland – 20 years younger than Jagr – is a better fit for a potential long-term line. If things don’t work out, they can be switched up later; in the meantime, Ferland has done absolutely everything in his power and then some to prove it’s his spot to start.
We already know what the 3M line can do: their 57.39% CF made them one of the best lines in the entire NHL in 2016-17, especially when you factor in their 34.93% offensive zone starts.
That just leaves the third line: one that, using last season’s numbers, scored 37, 26, and 46 points. We already know that Bennett and Versteeg work well together: not only were they two of the Flames’ better players in the playoffs, but they made each other better in the regular season, as well.
|CF% Together||Bennett CF% alone||Versteeg CF% alone|
Which brings us to Jagr.
In 2016-17, Jagr was a 54.85% CF player, falling right in line with the 53.95% he’s sported since returning to the NHL.
Not just that, but he has overwhelmingly improved the players he’s played with. Here are the forwards Jagr played alongside last season in Florida, minimum 100 5v5 minutes, in descending order of ice time:
|Player||CF% Together||Jagr CF% alone||Player CF% alone|
It’s fair to point out that in most cases, Jagr and his linemates had elevated offensive zone starts, but that’s what you do with scoring players. You put them in positions to score. Nobody is expecting Jagr to come in and be a Backlund-level shutdown forward: he’s here to bolster the Flames’ lineup and scoring, which is exactly what they need.
But wait, isn’t he old?
Well, yeah. He’s 45 years old: the third oldest player to ever play in the NHL, after Gordie Howe (who stopped at age 52) and Chris Chelios (48). Howe was from a different era, but in his 44-year-old season, Chelios scored 22 points. Jagr more than doubled that at the same age. He’s his own beast.
And age doesn’t take away from smarts or hands, both of which Jagr has in abundance. His game should be the exact same it was in Florida, and he had a pretty successful couple of seasons there, It’s also worth noting he’ll likely get less ice time here in Calgary. In 2016-17, Jagr averaged 17:00 of ice time; Versteeg, by comparison, averaged 14:44. The opportunity to keep Jagr’s legs fresh exists.
Jagr didn’t see an overwhelming benefit from racking up points on the powerplay, either. Of his 16 goals, eight were at even strength and eight were on the man advantage; of his 30 assists, 25 were at even strength and five were on the powerplay.
What we’re seeing here is a player who continues to drive play and put up points, all the while helping his teammates, and he’ll likely be in a third line role. Via Own The Puck:
The man, the myth, the legend
And then there’s this: Calgary will be the first Canadian team Jagr will ever play for. And if that isn’t an honour, I don’t know what is.
Jagr has played in the West before: 34 games for the Dallas Stars, back in the 2012-13 season, before he was traded to the Boston Bruins. He played under one coach Glen Gulutzan, which apparently was a deciding factor in coming to Calgary.
Can confirm @FriedgeHNIC report. Jagr is signing with CGY. Source said he felt comfortable playing under Gulutzan in DAL, which was key.
— Eric Engels (@EricEngels) October 2, 2017
Jagr has played 1,711 games in the NHL, the fourth most ever. He needs to play another 57 games to pass Howe to be number one all time, which seems pretty likely.
He has scored 765 goals: third most in the NHL. He’d need to score 37 to move into second all-time past Howe, which seems less likely.
He has registered 1,149 assists, fifth most in the NHL. Another 21 will move him into fourth place, passing Ray Bourque. If he has a really good year and puts up 45, he could move into third all time, past Mark Messier. Fourth place seems a little more probable.
He has scored 1,914 points, second most in the NHL. He needs 944 to pass Wayne Gretzky and move into first place. DREAM BIG.
Because Jaromir Jagr is a Calgary Flame, and everything is possible in this life.
The Flames are officially contenders.