It feels like there’s a split opinion on Jaromir Jagr’s tenure with the Calgary Flames thus far. I feel like I get as much “they’re better without him” feedback as I do “they need him in the lineup”, so I thought I’d dig a little deeper. My opinion has always been the latter, and a closer look at Jagr’s impact makes me feel good about that stance.
Despite his limited action, I’m still convinced Calgary is better with Jagr in the fold than without.
While the sample size is smaller than we’d all like it to be, a glance at Jagr’s underlying numbers would suggest he’s been effective if not spectacular. Most notably, with a positive shot rate, it’s fair to say Jagr has spent more time in the offensive zone than not, which is what you’d expect with how he’s been deployed.
Upon acquiring Jagr, the Flames talked about one thing more than anything else: what he does in the offensive zone. Jagr has been effective inside the opposing blueline this season, which falls very much in line with what we’ve seen in recent years. Below is a look at Jagr’s possession work in all his different stops over the last five seasons.
Interestingly, you might think Jagr was seeing a heavy dose of offensive zone starts to help post impressive outputs like that, but that’s actually not the case. Only twice over the last five years did Jagr see a zone start ratio over 55%, while he was under 50% on three occasions. That lends even more evidence to just how effective Jagr has been in his 40s.
Spending so much time on the attack has allowed Jagr to remain productive, too. Again, because he’s missed as much time as he has this season, our sample size isn’t ideal, but his five-on-five scoring rates have him right near the top of the team’s list. As was this case with Jagr’s possession outputs, this puts him right on trend compared to recent years.
If you’re still not convinced Jagr has been largely effective, though, I’ve got one more trick up my sleeve. A look at Jagr’s regular linemates with and without him on the ice tells a pretty convincing story.
Jagr has played most with Sam Bennett and Mark Jankowski this season and both players have excelled far more with him on their right flank than not. Included below are five-on-five possession and high danger scoring chance rates for Bennett and Jankowksi with and without Jagr, courtesy NaturalStatTrick.
|Sam Bennett||Mark Jankowski|
As illustrated, not only do Bennett and Jankowski spend more time on the attack when playing with Jagr, they also generate far more high quality chances. While not all of that is thanks solely to Jagr, it’s also impossible to dismiss the impact he’s had.
There’s no doubt Jagr has played less than most were expecting him to (more on that shortly), but when he has been in the lineup, he’s been relatively effective. Averaging just over 13 minutes each night, Jagr has helped keep the puck at the right end of the ice and, more importantly, has positively impacted how Calgary creates offence.
It’s not all sunshine, though, because the fact Jagr has missed so much time is concerning. Overall, Jagr has missed 14 of the team’s 31 games this season, but three of those games were at the beginning of the season while he was getting up to speed. So, more accurately, Jagr has missed 11 games with the same lower body injury, which is already more than he’s missed in any season since returning to the NHL more than six years ago.
Since the 2011-12 season, Jagr missed a total of just 20 games until this year; he’s already more than halfway to that total this season and it’s not even Christmas. I won’t lie, I’m a little surprised by that, but perhaps I shouldn’t be.
After all, Jagr is the oldest player in the NHL and there’s a reason why most guys retire well before they’re 45. Apparently age catches up to everyone, even the most mythical and legendary of figures. Let’s also not forget Jagr didn’t train at the same level this summer as he has in the past, which has almost definitely contributed to the groin issues we’ve seen through the first two months.
And, whether due to that injury or not, there’s no doubt Jagr struggles to “get there” at times. Skating has been Jagr’s biggest issue since joining the Flames, and it has necessitated very careful deployment from the coaching staff. Right now, it isn’t realistic to use Jagr in a 200-foot role.
As such, we’ve seen Jagr used in a half-court role instead, which is a luxury head coach Glen Gulutzan has thanks to the effectiveness of his top two lines. Whenever he can, Gulutzan plays to Jagr’s strengths in the offensive zone and it has worked well. On the occasions when Jagr gets hemmed in his own zone, though, it can be a bit of an adventure.
I still firmly believe signing Jagr was the right move for Calgary. Yes, he hasn’t played enough. Yes, he needs to be sheltered more than other players. But when he’s in the lineup, Jagr makes the Flames a better team. For one year and $1 million, you can’t ask for much more than that.
It’s certainly in Calgary’s best interests to manage Jagr and his injury properly. If that means he has to miss a good number more games over the next month or so, so be it, especially if it pays off in the second half of the season. At this point, a healthy Jagr down the stretch and into the playoffs is what’s most important.