Well, what a difference two games makes. After another frustrating opening game, things came up Milhouse for the Flames against the Jets, with Curtis Lazar looking like a player definitely worth trading for and T.J. Brodie looking like a Paul Coffey/Dr. Manhattan lovechild.
Then, in that cursed hellscape, our heroes prevailed for the first time since Friends was still on the air. It turns out they only needed to: trade for a 35-year-old stevedore and put Troy Brouwer on the fourth line! Oh, and, most predictably, erect a shrine to a voodoo god complete with full team attire and alcohol sacrifice. Like, I’ve been saying for years: if your team isn’t actively experimenting with religious relics, witch doctors, seances, and smoking peyote with Phil Jackson, then are they really serious about winning?
But wait, we haven’t even talked about where Jaromir Jagr is going to play for the Flames yet. It’s been a fun 10 days in Flamesland to be sure.
Since Jagr’s signing was announced, it has been pretty much assumed that the third line would consist of Kris Versteeg, Sam Bennett, and Jagr, with the question of which winger playing where left open to discussion. Based on recent line rushes, it would appear as though Glen Gulutzan agrees with this idea and Jagr will debut on this third line.
However, whatever line Jagr appears on in his first game isn’t necessarily the one that he will stay on for the whole season. In fact, Gulutzan has already shown a willingness to tinker with lines thought to be sacrosanct in switching up Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, Micheal Ferland, and Sam Bennett in the game against the Jets and to start the game against the Ducks.
So, it is definitely possible that we could see Jagr on a lot of different combinations this season, especially if he doesn’t find success quickly with Bennett and Versteeg. Today, we are here to mix things up. Let’s try and imagine all the possible line combos with Jagr because, frankly, it’s a helluva lot of fun and sports are meant to be fun. There are no bad ideas. Well, except any combination of Jagr and Tanner Glass. I will personally email you a dead fish if you suggest that.
Let’s start with problematizing the initial line suggested for Jagr. First of all, it features two primary right wingers in Versteeg and Jagr. I understand that it is certainly possible for Versteeg to play LW or Jagr to play on his left (especially given that Jagr is a natural left shot) but the fit might not be as easy as we are imagining. Also, while it seems that Versteeg and Bennett would be a good centre-winger pairing, maybe it just isn’t working?
While the trio of Versteeg – Bennett – Brouwer has been widely discussed here as a bad idea (in 217 minutes of ice time they sport a miserable 44 CF%) and it is probable that the cause of their misery is poor right-wing play, another line that seems like a good fit doesn’t have great numbers either. A line of Ferland – Bennett – Versteeg, which may be a pretty solid trio at first blush, has only managed a CF% of 41.6% (albeit in only 51 minutes of ice time). Now it is worth noting that when Bennett and Versteeg played with Alex Chiasson, they put together a CF% of 57.98 so that really suggests that RW play was submarining them.
But, for argument’s sake, let’s suggest that Versteeg and Bennett just isn’t working. What other options are available for Jagr? Perhaps a line of Ferland – Bennett – Jagr might be a nice mixture of speed, size, and skill, allowing Ferland and Bennett to forecheck and Jagr to be a trigger man, with Ferland slotted on his natural LW side. This leaves Versteeg to play with Johnny and Monahan and the 3M line intact. As for the fourth line? Well, really, as it is presently constituted is just fine with me until they find a way to inject some skill into it. Perhaps with a lanky, much-heralded 2012 first rounder.
Another option is to play Jagr on the top line with Johnny and Monahan and this one didn’t feel right to me at first, but it’ll grow on you. Let’s cut the crap, anyone playing with Johnny is going to get some pretty good looks. Tim Jackman and Jonas Hoglund could start there tonight in L.A and they’d be fine. So, if the Flames are looking for a soft spot for Jagr to begin, perhaps that’s the spot. Johnny would be able to get him the puck in dangerous areas and Monahan would have another option for puck distribution. Jagr would attract a great deal of attention on the right side, which would make Johnny’s life a great deal easier as well.
— Jermain Franklin (@TSNJFranklin) October 4, 2017
Let’s get a little crazier now and consider something that most won’t even touch: breaking up the 3M line. I know it seems stupid, especially given Backlund’s absolutely divine goal from Monday’s fumigation of Bieksatown, but let’s explore that possibility. A line of Tkachuk – Monahan -Jagr is especially intriguing, leaving Ferland to join Backlund and Michael Frolik and Bennett to play with Johnny and Versteeg.
Or perhaps you’d prefer a speedy, skilled line of Gaudreau – Bennett – Jagr, with Bennett supplying the forecheck, Gaudreau the hands, and Jagr the finish. Or! Ferland – Backlund – Jagr with Ferland supplying the … look every combination of Jagr and a Flames centreman is starting to sound cool to me. Just listing out every single combination is a poor use of electricity. You get the idea.
If the 3M line (all glory to it) was ever to be tinkered with, the possibilities for Jagr’s usage begin to really expand. However, the utility in breaking up one of the league’s best lines is unclear and for the time being, it’s probably best for us to imagine the 3M line sticking together.
But that shouldn’t stop you from dreaming, FN readers! How would you deploy Jagr? Let me know in the comments, and I am dead serious about the dead fish thing if someone suggests Tanner Glass.