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Why Mark Jankowski should stay in the NHL

Mark Jankowski’s immediate NHL future seems to be the biggest conversation topic among Calgary Flames fans right now. I certainly believe keeping Jankowski in the NHL is the best move for all parties involved, but I can’t tell you I’m overly confident that’ll end up happening. For a variety of different reasons, though, keeping Jankowski with the Flames is the team’s best play here.

This is a somewhat pressing issue thanks to the pending return of Jaromir Jagr. Eligible to come off IR at anytime, all signs seem to point to a Thursday return for Jagr, and if not then at some point during this seven-game home stand. For that to happen, Calgary will have to make room for him on the active roster. In analyzing why Jankowski shouldn’t be the odd man out, despite his waiver exempt status, I came at it from a few different angles.

Outputs

Through four games of his most recent recall, Jankowski is still looking for his first NHL point. With most of his time spent with Sam Bennett and Curtis Lazar on a line, Jankowski has looked decent but not remarkable at the highest level. The most important thing here is that, unlike plenty of other AHL call-ups, Jankowski hasn’t looked out of place playing in the NHL.

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Head coach Glen Gulutzan has certainly tailored Jankowski’s minutes so as not to throw him to the wolves. He’s mostly been matched against opposing third and fourth lines and fed a steady dose of offensive zone starts. In saying that, though, at least Jankowski has done a passable with what he’s been given to work with.

From a possession standpoint, Janowski has been average in relation to how many offensive starts he’s seen. On the bright side, though, it’s not like he’s getting eaten for lunch, either. Matched up against the likes of Lars Eller, Kyle Brodziak, and Frederick Gaudreau, Jankowski has won the on-ice shot attempt battle more often than not. That’s to be expected relative to his usage, but at least he’s not underwater. At five-on-five, Jankowski’s high danger scoring chance for and against ratio is 6-2, which also gets the job done.

Competition

While it’s true Jankowski hasn’t been spectacular in his four games this season, a little context is needed when evaluating his place on the Flames. Specifically, it’s important to compare Jankowski to the other candidates Calgary would consider sending to the American League to make room for Jagr.

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Realistically, those candidates would be Freddie Hamilton, Tanner Glass, Curtis Lazar, and Matt Stajan. You can yell “Troy Brouwer” all you want at your screen, but it’s not going to happen; his $4.5 million cap hit ensures that. The same is true for Bennett, as his waiver status and 2014 draft position render an AHL assignment totally unrealistic. We’re left, then, with a group of four.

I’ll be honest, I don’t think Stajan is a realistic possibility, either. His cap hit isn’t that much lower than Brouwer’s, so the financial/business component still likely plays a part. On top of that, Stajan hasn’t been anywhere near as ineffective as many have suggested. He’s still a useful fourth line centre and carries a lot of weight in the locker room, so don’t expect to see his name on waivers anytime soon.

On merit, I think you can make a strong argument Jankowski deserves to be in Calgary over Hamilton, Glass, and Lazar, though. The Flames have played 12 games this season and Hamilton has played in just two of them, meaning Jankowski has already played more than he has. As such, it seems hard to understand how Hamilton would be prioritized in this situation, even if he is a decent 13th/14th forward.

I know we all love Lazar’s smile, attitude, and work ethic, but he’s just not an effective player right now. Lazar’s two-way game hasn’t been good, he’s not producing, and Gulutzan has used him up and down the depth chart without finding a fit. I know Calgary gave up a second round pick to acquire Lazar in March and there’s a small risk of losing him on waivers, but that shouldn’t be a determining factor.

And then there’s Glass who truly is what he is, despite how much I despise that saying. He’s a negative possession player who, at 33, has no upside. In saying that, though, he hasn’t been terrible for what he’s been asked to do. The Flames signed him to add to the physical side of their game and he’s done that in a fourth line role, and the team hasn’t been crushed with him on the ice.

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Development

From a strict development standpoint, I honestly think Jankowski is just as well served playing in the NHL as he is in Stockton. Yes, he’s going to play more, and in more situations, with the Heat, but there’s also the matter of whether Jankowski has outgrown the AHL. To me, he’s proven everything he needs to in the minors: he excels there and scores at a high rate.

At the same time, though, I’ve had more than one NHL executive tell me the league can “ruin as many young players as it helps”. In Jankowski’s case, though, we’re not talking about a 19- or 20-year-old player coming out of the CHL. He’s 23, has four years of NCAA hockey and a full year of pro under his belt, so I don’t think playing bottom six minutes in the NHL is going to stunt him.

Conclusion

If you believe everything we’ve heard from the Flames this year, this is a team wanting to win now. If that’s the case, shouldn’t the number one priority be icing the best possible lineup on a nightly basis? And, if the answer to that question is yes, then Jankowski belongs on the NHL roster even after Jagr returns.

Even pushing the development conversation to the side, Jankowski is an upgrade on players like Hamilton and Lazar right now. For a team looking to win, that should be enough to make this an easy decision. The fact it’s likely the best thing for Jankowski just makes his argument to stay even more convincing.

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  • Puckhead

    If the Flames want to win now then Janko should stay and get comfortable in preparation for the playoffs. He’s the best 3C option available at the moment (sorry Bennett).

    I get that guys like Stajan, Glass etc are adequate and doing what has been asked of them (the bare minimum) but having ok players on an ok line will neuter the team in the playoffs when better 4th lines carve them up. It’s time for management to put on their big boy pants and build 4 capable lines.

    • Off the wall

      I agree Puck.
      I’m not trying to be a pessimist, but if don’t start icing the best players available, we aren’t making the playoffs.(insert sad face)

      If we play hockey like we did against the Capitals we’ll stand a good chance. 4 lines were rolling out effectively.

      Brouwer must come off the PP.
      Ferland should be on 1st line.
      Jagr can play 3rd line, his game will progress with more manageable minutes.
      He can be used on PP. Don’t want to fatigue Jagr.

      For gawd sakes, keep Jankowski here!

      • FlamesFanOtherCity

        It’s important to note that Janko and Bennett together made a struggling Lazar’s stats look better. If they can do that with a struggling player, then a stong possession player like Jagr could only help.

        I find it odd that in a game where Ferland was deflecting pucks (one in the net, the other near miss) that we couldn’t have used that on the power play. Saying that, this is one game where Ferland has played like the real Ferland. If we saw this Ferland every game, he would be a bonafide top 3 player. He has the skills, but isn’t able to bring them every night.

        The obvious thing is Janko is the 3rd best center on this team. Stajan is getting tossed almost every time he tries to take a faceoff. Versteeg is more consistent there. Janko being here keeps Bennett on LW, where he should be able to grow a bit and find his game.

          • Willi P

            I noticed Backlund getting waived more so than Stajan. Luckily Frolik seems to win most when Backlund is waived. Not a knock on MB due to his play, but he needs to figure out the new rules, just like Stajan.

  • cjc

    First off, yeah, Jankowski should stay in the NHL given the other options the Flames have.

    However, I am not sure he is the saviour some people think he is, and his career to date bears that out. If you look at his comparables as age-23 forwards playing in the AHL, it’s a mixed bag. For every diamond in the rough (e.g. Conor Sheary) there are two guys who killed it in the AHL but couldn’t translate that to the NHL (e.g. Martin St. Pierre, Jeff Tambellini). Basically, if you haven’t made an impact in the NHL by the time you are 24, you probably never will. The team needs to give Jankowski a run-out to see if he can translate his AHL performances, but people also need to set realistic expectations about what he can achieve; his ceiling more likely than not is that of 3C. Sure, there are a few late bloomers mixed in (PA Parenteau) but they are the exception and not the rule.

    • oilcanboyd

      Nobody said Janko is a saviour. He is a good third line centre which allows the Flames to play Bennett on the wing. He has NHL upside, while the other options to send packing have none, including Lazar.

      As for the age restriction you put on him: he was in college, man! A 3C on the flames is good as long as Mony and Backs are on the team.

    • Kevin R

      Don’t think anyone is saying he should be 1st or 2nd line centre. More of hoping he will transition his NHL game to being one. But he looks to be the best #3C we have. I also think Brouwer & Versteeg looked solid on that 4th line. So the question here is, to keep Janko at 3C, Bennett at wing, Versteeg & Brouwer on the 4th line, I would prefer Lazar at centre on that line, then Hamilton & then Stajan as a 3rd option. Stajan will be press boxing many nights, I agree with Pat, we aren’t going to waive him. We’ll trade him before doing that. Glass is fine in the press box with spot duty depending on the opponent. It should come down to Lazar or Hamilton, of which Janko is an upgrade over either. Doubtful either get plucked on waivers, look at Reinhart on Vegas, I think he cleared waivers & he has way higher pedigree than Lazar.
      Now a real ballsy move would be waive & send big Bart down & commit to Kulak & keep all the forwards. Lazar would probably play better on the blue line than Bart anyway….I kid… :-{

      • Puckhead

        Not to be a wiener but does Stajan have any trade value? There are so few trades nowadays with more and more guys seeming to clear waivers all the time. This year has to be his final curtain, no?

        • HOCKEY83

          Agree. Stajan is a throw in at best. I don’t see the problem in waiving him as he won’t be back next season once his contract is up and we’ll get nothing for him at that time.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      Jankowski is the epitome of a late bloomer so I would not expect him light it up right off the bat. GG is in his head and he is afraid to make a mistake. He is also playing with a scoring sinkhole in Bennett…right now. He has not been taking many shots whereas in preseason and in the AHL… That is not the case. My guess is that as soon as the club makes a commitment to him by sending Glass or Hamilton down we will see a different player. The roller coaster will continue with Janko being a bubble player getting 7 minutes to playing on a line with Jagr.

  • Parallex

    I think the more interesting question (more interesting then who hits the waiver wire and goes to Stockton… Glass the answer is Tanner Glass) is who get’s bumped from the line-up and who goes to the 4th line?

    • Avalain

      I’m fairly sure that if they are smart enough to keep Jankowski, Lazar will head to the 4th line and will rotate with Stajan. Maybe even rotate with Glass.

      • Parallex

        So who are you sitting Ferland? Versteeg? 3M + Sean + Johnny + Jagr + Bennett + Jankowski is 8 spots of the top 9… someone has to join Stajan and Brouwer on the 4th line if they keep Janko and someone else has to exit the line-up.

  • Squishin

    Yes of course Jankowski should stay up! It really shouldn’t be up for debate at all, but then this coaching staff and management seem very reluctant to give Jankowski full-time work in this league.
    I’m honestly not sure that Glen Gulutzan knows how to handle young players. He seems to be far more comfortable with older vets who have glaring holes in their games. On a relatively young team, that’s a problem. Developing a young player’s potential at this level is a primary facet of coaching.

    • UpTkachuk

      Agreed!
      Send Glass down. He’s not getting plucked off waivers and can be a serviceable call up, if necessary. Besides, his one-way contract (gift) will keep paying. Janko gets 10 more games (minimum) to establish himself.
      10 games into the future could mean having to replace someone on IR, maintain the same hot lineup because of several wins or try to figure out who would be best on the third and fourth lines (who knows!)
      Keep moving forward Flames!

  • JMK

    Lines at practice today:

    Gaudreau-Monahan-Ferland
    Tkachuk-Backlund-Frolik
    Bennett-Jankowski-Jagr
    Versteeg-Stajan-Brouwer
    Glass-Lazar-Hamilton

    A good sign, I hope

  • Fan the Flames

    We are pretty sure we won’t see Stajen next year and it sounds like Jagr is planning to finally retire at the end of the year . We need Jankowski to be at a much higher level next year and we need to see if Lazar can find his game . Bennett also needs some consistency in line mates . Glass needs to go down and Stajen and Hamilton need to be the extras. It would be nice if we get to see Mangepane get some games on emergency callup.

  • SydScout

    I love Patty’s articles but this one is confounding. Janko hasn’t been spectacular … the team hasn’t been crushed with Glass on the ice.

    Sure, he’s not been spectacular, but for a kid in first few NHL games, I’d call that as good as. And boy, what does crushes have to mean when you look at Glass’s output and corsi? That looks completely crushed to me