What the Jaromir Jagr signing means for the Flames

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.

Upgraded lineup

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
48.83 48.54 45.96

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
Aleksander Barkov 57.08 51.40 40.23
Jonathan Huberdeau 55.61 46.96 47.06
Jonathan Marchessault 57.52 52.92 48.65
Vincent Trocheck 56.00 54.83 54.00
Seth Griffith 58.63 53.93 45.35
Jared McCann 52.61 53.59 50.29
Jussi Jokinen 57.56 54.85 52.72

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.

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.

  • Greg

    At some point this year, Brouwer will get a chance to fill in for a top 9 injury. He’ll either take it and run with it, or be playing in the AHL by season end and bought out.

    • Stockton's Finest

      Why are you trying to send “The Burden” to Stockton? We already have one of those…the Bearded Stork (H. Smith). Can you imagine that boat anchor line, Brouwer and Smith? Holy crap that would suck. My grandmother could beat both of them on the ice….and she is in a walker and can’t skate!
      Try to send Brouwer down, he clears waivers but refuses to report, and poof! (I can have a wish or two in life).

  • idbr

    I’d really like to see Bennett with Tkachuk. I also think Versteeg would fit in well with Backlund and Frolik. Of the players left I’d like to see something like:
    Gaudreau Monahan Ferland
    Versteeg Backlund Frolik
    Tkachuk Bennett Jagr
    Stajan Jankowski One of (Hamilton/Lazar/Brouwer)

  • Sven

    Gaudreau Monahan Ferland
    Tkachuk Backlund Frolik
    Versteeg Bennett Jagr
    Stajan Jankowski Brouwer

    There’s a whole lot to like there-

    and how awesome that he was drafted back in 1990 14 spots ahead of Keith Tkachuk?

    • Chris Prongers Rake

      I’m not trolling, It’s my opinion the Flames wont be as good everyone in Calgary thinks they will be and singing an aged, and over the hill Hall of Famer, isn’t going to help. I think the Flames will have to decide if they have a shot at the playoffs or if they need to trade Jagr instead of losing him at the trade deadline, and if you don’t like my opinion than tough!

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        Wow great insight… thanks for letting us know that you aren’t trolling… We had our doubt. I still can’t figure out the difference between a troll and someone who lacks hockey knowledge but you could be our first hybrid…..congrats. Based on your eloquent and poignant argument, “if you don’t like my opinion than (then) tough” you have a great future in public speaking or public defending.

  • oilcanboyd

    Jags told Czech media that the reason he signed with Calgary was the Flames showed interest right from the beginning. St Louis just showed interest at the last minute – likely after the injury to …(forgot who! lol)

  • Doh!!!

    I like the depth that Janko and Jagr bring to the forwards this year. If one of the top six go down, it won’t impact the team as much as last year. But I’m really worried about the lack of grit. Stajan – Janko – Brouwer is not what I would call an “energy” line. I’d honestly rather see Hathaway – Janko – Glass. What you lose in skill, you more than make up for in enthusiasm to crash, forecheck and drop the mitts.

  • madjam

    Why only one year ? Will he produce to age 51 like Gordie Howe did , even if it was basically done in the WHA Let’s see : Howe at 45 with Houston Aeroes – in70 games – 31G, 69A =100 points plus 34 playoff points . At 46 and 75 games – 34G ,65A=99 points plus 20 playoff points , At 47 : in 78 games 32G,70 =102 points and 31 playoff points . At 48 in 62 games , 24G, 44A = 68 points plus 11 playoff points . At 49 and 50 with N.E.Whalers , in 49th year in 76 games , 34G, 62A =96 points plus 15 playoff points . At 50 in 58 games 19 G, 24 A =43 points plus 4 playoff points . Significant drop off at 51 with Hartford : In 80 games -15G,26A = 41 points plus 2 playoff points . That is quite an accomplishment even at WHA level . Maybe a longer contract might have been warranted if Howe any indication of productivity beyond 45 ?

      • madjam

        They had for T.Selanne (retired @44) and JJagr . Chara likely to break into that category next year showing little of being washed up as yet . A few others at 39 still playing . Most call it a career at 40 like Niewendyk , Lidstom , Chelios and about 50 others .

    • oilcanboyd

      A team that signs a player over 35 to a multi-year contract is on the hook for his full cap hit even if he retires prior to the duration of the contract.

    • Atomic Clown

      The fourth line looks to be any combination of 4 players: Jankowski, Stajan, Brouwer, Lazar. Of the lot, Brouwer looks to play the most games, probably 70+. Stajan is also looking at 60+. Jankowski and Lazar will play a rotational game. That gives us two centers on that line at all times. Hopefully Brouwer can play a truculent game, and put up 30 points. Thats not wroth the $4.5 million hes getting paid, but better than nothing

  • Backburner

    I guess GG has some pull… Grossman, Glass, Cramarosa, Jagr… these are all players he’s coached before. I wonder if he has been throwing names out there to BT. Must be a lot of trust there.

        • Skylardog

          Vegas could have taken Brouwer in the Expansion Draft, instead chose to pick and sign Engelland despite being able to just sign him after July 1. Based on their goals, a boatload of draft picks, there is no way Vegas is looking at trading for Brouwer.

    • Newbietwo

      NOT sure about that one although it would be amazing if that truly is the case

      Look TRE really screwed the pooch with Brouwer and the timing of it wasn’t great when most NHL teams were transitioning to a speed and younger game.. even thinking back then to what Brouwer said about the Flames saying who they wanted to pair him with he was shocked..

      Now we are almost in a situation where it would cost you to get rid of him because no one sees his value beyond $2 million a year.

  • dontcryWOLF

    Fi ding spaces for talented players is one of those good kind of problens to have.

    4th line positions will be a battle to keep..not like other years when you have to play guys you’d rather not.

  • RKD

    I think it still cool Jagr is choosing to end his career in Canada specifically here in Calgary, that was more of a decision to come here over St. Louis and even Gultuzan. He also stated it’s almost 100% his last season and he’s ending his career as a Flame!