Jaromir Jagr has been placed on injured reserve, expected to be out for a week with a lower body injury. Mark Jankowski has been recalled in his stead, expected to start by centring Sam Bennett and Curtis Lazar.
Let’s talk possibilities.
The Flames play three games this week: a back-to-back set in Nashville and St. Louis, and then at home, hosting Dallas. If all goes well, Jagr will be back in time to play Washington on Oct. 29 (and, if you were worried about the whole breaking-Gordie-Howe’s-record thing, he’ll still have 20 games of leeway for this season).
In the meantime, Jankowski is present, and the lines look as such:
Freddie Hamilton and Tanner Glass sit as extras.
From that group, it’s difficult to tell which line, exactly, is the fourth one. I would suggest the Matt Stajan one, if only because they may want Jankowski to get some meaningful minutes in; however, both he and Lazar have been healthy scratches so far this season, so it’s all rather up in the air – especially as these lines could change within like, one shift, so.
(Side note: that Stajan line would have been one of the Flames’ top lines a couple of years ago. Look at how things change!)
Right now, Micheal Ferland is getting another shot at the top line. He’s had promise in that role over some games the past couple of seasons, but hasn’t been able to make it stick. And so far, Jagr has looked like the better option. He will not, however, be the long-term option – well, probably not, but everything is possible in this life – and Ferland has a better shot at it.
Alternatively, maybe the possibility of a Gaudreau – Monahan – Bennett line will come about. It’s a combination that has never been used meaningfully, but has been theorized on a fair bit, especially amid questions of whether Bennett really should be playing down the middle or on the wing.
Remember: even with the disappointment surrounding Bennett’s career to date, he’s still been more productive offensively than Ferland has.
There are a ton of other potential swaps – Ferland to Stajan’s line, where he’s had success; Kris Versteeg for Lazar, which could give Jankowski a skilled veteran boost – but the future of who will be the top line right wing after Jagr is a little more intriguing than that.
Then, there’s the matter of what happens once Jagr returns. Somebody will have to go down – and, if Jankowski impresses, it may not be him. That would likely be the optimal scenario, but it would also be the hardest one.
The player demoted in Jankowski’s place would almost certainly be Hamilton or Glass. Following that, I could see Lazar and Stajan taking turns centring the fourth line, while Jankowski claims the third line spot and Bennett continues to bolster the wing position. Down the stretch the Flames could end up using a lineup something like:
Allowing for other interpretations, maybe Bennett and Jagr switch spots, or Ferland and Versteeg, or both, but there are a number of options that make sense.
Which, you know – if Jankowski makes it impossible for the Flames to send him back down, and if Bennett finds his game on the wing, then the lineup that much better. Jagr’s injury could be a blessing in disguise if it’s what gets a deserving Jankowski in the NHL full time.
And if it does, those are 13 forwards who can all handle a regular shift.
So here’s to a smooth Jagr recovery. Here’s to Jankowski showing what he’s made of. Here’s to Bennett finding the right situation here. Because if all three of those things happen, then the lineup just got that much better.