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Jaromir Jagr, for better or worse

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.

For better

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.

CF% Rank OZS% Rank
 54.0 8th 66.7 1st

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.

Season Team GP CF% Rank
2012-13 Dallas 34 54.6 1st
2012-13 Boston 11 48.8 20th
2013-14 New Jersey 82 59.2 1st
2014-15 New Jersey 57 51.7 1st
2014-15 Florida 20 55.5 2nd
2015-16 Florida 79 50.3 7th
2016-17 Florida 82 55.1 2nd

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.

Season Team G60 Rank P60 Rank
2015-16 Florida 1.13 3rd 2.82 1st
2016-17 Florida 0.43 9th 1.76 5th
2017-18 Calgary  0.32 10th 1.91 5th

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
CF% with 56.8 49.8
CF% without 39.0 44.9
HDCF% with 61.5 65.2
HDCF% without 42.3 46.7

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.

For worse

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.

Season Teams GP GM
2011-12 Philadelphia 73 9
2012-13 Dallas/Boston 45 3
2013-14 New Jersey 82 0
2014-15 New Jersey/Florida 77 5
2015-16 Florida 79 3
2016-17 Florida 82 0

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.

Conclusion

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.

  • supra steve

    It appears that Jagr’s team mates enjoy having this legend on the team as well. If Jagr is even remotely responsible for Gaudreau’s impressive start, then he’s worth having on the roster. Now if we can just get Bennett to stop running over Jags, he can finish out the season (and his career?) on the active roster after a long playoff run.

    • BringtheFire 2.0

      Well, since people in the comments always make random connections, maybe Jagr is responsible for Bennett’s improved play.

      I’d believe that. I also think he’s good in the lineup but with the emergence of Benney and Janko he’s not essential.

      Frankly, I look at him as an ace in the sleeve in a situation where we’re all in.

  • VOLTRON

    Jagr is great but I would roll with the 3rd line how it is with Hathy.
    I love the grinding from that line and Hathy can get the loose pucks or tie it up on the boards till support comes.
    Jagr slows the whole line down and awful in the defensive zone.

  • icedawg_42

    He as much as said he did not train in the offseason as he would if he knew he was going to play. It’s really a shame. I don’t think Jagr is going to be at his best all season – I would have loved to see that.

  • Lets Get Something Clear

    Although Hathaway has been effective on the third line, you would have to be crazy to keep a guy who has two goals in a 48 game career in that spot over Jaromir-freaking-Jagr.

  • Derzie

    Measure wins and goals with Jagr before CF. My take is Jagr is good on the bench, not good on the ice. His main skillset at his age is he is good at keepaway but the goals have not matched the possession.

  • TGIF

    It’s been a gamble that hasn’t hurt the team but it certainly hasn’t helped in any way. This has to be his last year. A couple years ago I thought he had a shot at Gretzky’s goal total. Not so much anymore.

  • Burnward

    Seems like the lines are getting a little stale too. Would like to see some movement when Jagr gets back, but it’s a weird team to try to do this given personnel down the middle.
    Janko needs easier competition still as it’s his first year. Monahan has Johnny and they really aren’t a matchup for other top lines defensively. Backlund excels against tough lines, but isn’t the greatest offensive creator. Even if he is rock solid. Fourth line might be able to pull a little harder against top competition…but you can’t have them playing a bunch of minutes.

    • Burnward

      With that in mind…

      Gaudreau-Monahan-Ferland – undisputed top line
      Bennett-Jankowski-Tkachuk – second scoring, easy zone starts
      Frolik-Backlund-Hathaway – hard minutes, d-zone starts
      Brouwer/Stajan-Lazar-Jagr – fourth minutes

      PP1: Johny-Mony- Ferly
      Gio-Hamilton
      PP2: Jagr-Bennett-Tkachuk
      Brodie- ??? (Backlund?)

  • MontanaMan

    He has looked good – not great – at times, but has also looked slow and out of place at times. With no training over the summer, joining the Flames late, he was at a severe disadvantage. He should be hitting full stride right now, but with two injuries since he’s arrived, he’s in no better shape now than he was in September. So he will return out of shape and unable to keep up or compete. Are we overly optimistic regarding his value at this point?

    • KKisTHEproblem

      I think you are dead on and its why I am really hoping they don’t rush him back. Be patient, let him really heal and get into better shape. That also would allow a longer test of whether Hathaway really might be the answer for the 3rd line RW

  • BendingCorners

    I’m glad Jagr is a Flame; it buys a season for one of the RHS prospects to develop, or for BT to find a young two-way RHS via trade.
    Mostly I wish we had one more defensive defenseman and better coaches. Christmas present?

  • Rockmorton65

    Hate to admit it, but I’m not overly excited at the return of Jagr. Any time I’ve seen him, he looks to be behind the play. I think the team is better off with him on the sidelines. I think he could make just as much of an “intangible” impact as a coach, without taking up a roster spot.

  • Justthateasy

    Nothing to see here no argument at all. What Jagr has done for this team is immeasurable. We need to let him continue the apprenticeship of Duddy and Kravitz. The past 2 months is only the beginning. We need to let it evolve as he is playing coach while he is still ‘young’.

  • RKD

    Jagr would be doing better if he was healthy, he missed training camp and didn’t play any preseason games given he signed so late. He only had a few practices, didn’t dress for a few games then was thrown in to live game action. He needed way more time, he should be good and ready before coming back. His speed his way off because he even said he would take a full month had he gone back to the KHL to play. No point in him coming back for a few games and then missing 5 or 10. Let’s have him ready for the second half give him some back to back games off.

  • oddclod

    Seeing 68 score a playoff GWG is greater with 68 in the lineup so leave him in there. Hathaway ain’t Daniel Cleary, and he’s not Jaromir Jagr. I don’t care what age. He’s fricken baby Mario, second highest scorer all time. It’s a dressing room boon and he was starting to fly in his old ways of stretching the offensive zone wider with his wide swooping lateral agility while having the puck 6ft away from sticks. It will come. One more year. It’s they go deep into the playoffs, forget Nenshi.