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FlamesNation Mailbag: Jagr scoots, PP’s poop

I am pinch-hitting for the venerable Christian Tiberi this week, so I will do my best not to let him down. It’s the All-Star Break and I am sure we are all still basking in the glow of Johnny Gaudreau playing pretty well in the game itself (it’d be pretty nice to find Johnny a shooter like Brock Boeser, huh?) but, more importantly, winning the puck control relay against a pretty impressive cast, including John C. Reily‘s darkest-timeline nephew.

Let’s get to the questions:

That is a great question, Khalid. First of all, we should feel sad because the way this whole thing played out was just, well, sad. It’s sad that Jagr clearly had some serious health issues this season and couldn’t stay in the lineup. It’s sad that the Flames are saddled with options at right wing that have placed the coaching staff in awkward positions. It’s sad that, ultimately, this thing just didn’t really work. It’s sad that, when the opportunity presented itself at RW, thanks to an injury to Frolik, Jagr wasn’t healthy enough to warrant a 10-game look with Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk. It all sucks.

Did Jagr still have enough to contribute at the NHL level? I think he did and does. If Micheal Ferland wasn’t having the year he was perhaps it would have made more sense to give him a longer look on the top line. However, the fit just doesn’t seem to be there in Calgary any longer. I believe a Flames team with Jagr on it is better than one with Curtis Lazar as a regular RW option, especially if Jagr could have helped out a power-play that has brought me tangible, physical pain to watch over the last stretch of games.

The gap in the Flames forward group is still on the right side. A bona fide top six RW has been on the Flames’ wish list since the Jay Feaster days and without Jagr, the problem remains the same. A Kris Vertseeg return would help out a great deal (especially in the shootout, where the Flames seem completely hapless lately) but it might be foolish to imagine that he’ll be able to step right in and contribute after such a long absence.

This answer relies on a specific criteria definition of “work” with regards to Jagr’s signing. The fact that I got to see Jagr play at all is in some ways a success, but I know what Rob is getting at here. I will take “success” to mean something like: Jagr is a consistent offensive producer for a playoff-bound Flames team.

  1. Signing Jagr in July rather than October – This would have allowed Jagr a full offseason of preparation and conditioning, something that was an issue from the first week after his arrival.
  2. Consistent opportunities in the top six – For the most part, Jagr had a pretty good look with Sam Bennett and Mark Jankowski, with the 3M line and Sean Monahan, Gaudreau, and Ferland remaining a fixture of the top six. According to Natural Stat Trick, Jagr managed a CF of 52.63% with Bennett (the forward he spent the most TOI with) and 50% with Jankowski (the second-most TOI). This is pretty good and, at least anecdotally, I thought Jagr generally played quite well on that line. However, in terms of production, Jagr would need to be given a circumstance where skilled players could consistently find him in scoring opportunities. As positive as Jankowski’s development as a pivot this season has been, I don’t think playing with an NHL rookie and a shockingly snake-bit winger was going to produce the kind of results that most would have associated with a successful signing.
  3. Health – This one is obvious. The guy just wasn’t healthy enough for any of it to matter really and that’s a shame.

Great question, Jacob, because I tend to agree with your assessment of Hathaway’s play of late based on my observations. However, the math still tends to like their overall play as a line (from Natural Stat Trick again):

As you can see, the line is still looking pretty good and remarkably, Hathaway’s impact on Bennett’s play seems pretty dramatic, though you should view that as the product of his move to the wing. I suppose what that means is that some patience is probably warranted at this point and that line should be given a longer opportunity once Frolik returns. That being said, Hathaway just feels like an ideal fit for a future functional Flames fourth line, even if he currently isn’t there.

To answer your question, Eric Francis puff-portraitures notwithstanding, I don’t think there will be any hesitation to send Troy Brouwer back to the fourth line with some combination of Matt Stajan, Lazar (sigh), Marek Hrivik, Ryan Lomberg, or Andrew Mangiapane. The real question will come when Versteeg returns (if all parties are still healthy). Then, if Hathaway is still playing relatively well, Flames brass will have to make some uncomfortable decisions about which Flames RW will be sampling press box cuisine.

This one is so tough. There is no intelligent reason imaginable that the Flames should currently sport a worse PP% than the freaking Arizona Coyotes. You know, the team with a -54 goal differential? There are brighter minds than mine who can give you a more polished, intelligent answer about their power-play systems and where the breakdowns are occurring.

My wholly unscientific answer, based on the stomach acid that collects in my esophagus each time the Flames rim a puck around the glass after four or five unsuccessful zone entries, is that the Flames look over-coached and seriously bereft of confidence on the man advantage at the moment. Whatever is being preached by Dave Cameron isn’t working and has completely robbed the Flames’ most skilled players of their basic offensive instincts.

What is impossible to argue is the fact that the Flames desperately need the power-play to start consistently producing, rather than actively depleting their momentum during games.

Oh, that? As irrationally happy as Jarome returning to the organization in any capacity would make me, I think it’s time to acknowledge that the next time we will see Iggy, it will likely be for a one-day contr… to replace Dave Cameron as power-play coach, buy the team, build a new forehead-crease-shaped arena for the franchise, and lead the Flames to an NBA title over Golden State (the NHL just had Kid Rock at the All-Star Game).

  • Derzie

    Jagr is too old. Enough with the woulda shoulda coulda. His ego is stringing along his worshippers. HOF hands and brain with a beer league skating ability and health. He’s done.

  • Jessemadnote

    I’ve been pumping up Vanek’s tires lately. 10th highest in the NHL powerplay points per minute. Currently he’d be third on our team in scoring ahead of tkachuk, backlund, etc. RHS. Very low acquisition cost last year (3rd and B prospect) with similar numbers. Ticks a lot of boxes. Thoughts?

    • JoelOttosJock

      I think it would be worth looking into. Vanek is an offensive minded guy, and a right handed shot who still has speed. If the asking price isn’t outrageous i believe that it vould be a great fit. Wonder if he could fit in where Hathaway has been playing. Give that line some offensive jump. I just hope that if any moves are made that they make it sooner than later..

      • Jessemadnote

        I know Vanek is great offensively but I’m surprised to hear you say he has speed, I haven’t watched him a ton but another poster told me he’s slower than Jagr.

      • Trevy

        Vanek is very consistent but where does he fit on the Flames roster? Too many forwards, especially if/when Versteeg returns. GG will never sit Brouwer, so you have Lazar, Stajan, Mang, Hrivik all rotating for one spot or sitting if Versteeg is back. That 4th line is one area where I hope Tre solidifies next season as it’s a joke right now. Plus like some said, not convinced Hathaway is the answer for our 3rd line RW

        • Jessemadnote

          I can totally see your point. Vanek is very similar to Versteeg in many ways, but I’m worried about Versteeg not making it back/ getting injured/ not being 100% game shape.

          If everything shook out the way we’re looking at and the roster is 100% healthy here’s the lines I would run. Stajan, Hath, and Lazar take turns sampling popcorn, the kids head back to Stockton.

          Top six
          Bennett – Jank – Vanek
          Versteeg – Stajan/Lazar – Hathaway/Brouwer

          The other option is to try to offload Lazar to Vancouver in the deal if they have an appetite for that.

          That’s a good looking bottom six in my opinion despite the log jam.

        • Jessemadnote

          I’m not convinced at all that Hathaway is a 3RW. I love him and he’s the exact kind of presence we need on this team. But his ceiling is about 25 points in this league that’s pushing it. Depth scoring is key, especially in the playoffs.

        • deantheraven

          When Frolik returns, somebody already here will be sitting. And he’ll be back sooner rather than later if you listen to him. Hopefully he finds his touch soon after. He hasn’t provided the scoring this season he needs to remain untouchable at the deadline, IMHO.
          If Steeger makes it back we’ll be plenty deep, not elite, but competitive regardless of where he slots in and who sits.
          The only way another add happens at the deadline is if there’s a little subtraction too, and that’s hard to see right now. My guess is that if anyone on the roster moves it’ll be a D man, which would make space for Ras (great!) but the forward ranks would be static.
          I hope Hathaway gets his mojo back and Lazar gets some luck. A little scoring from those two would help a lot.
          The hope would be that the sum of its parts (with spares from Stockton) will be what carries this team into the playoffs.

        • Off the wall

          Vanek is really a one dimensional player. Great for points and PP usage, but along the same lines as Sam Gagner.

          Both are terrible defensively.
          We have a better player in Versteeg. I just hope he’s healthy for the playoffs.

      • deantheraven

        So, you’re saying he could replace Brouwer. What’s the cap hit difference there? Or what would it be if we had to send Brouwer down and eat his NHL salary, ’cause a trade seems highly unlikely.

  • buts

    Good answers to tough questions Taylor. I agree if Jagr had more top 6 time he would still be here and contributing when healthy…..our coach would drag down Crosby if he was a flame.

  • buts

    Off the subject….Don Braid in the herald said on jan 23rd that the CMLC could get private money to build a new arena then lease it to the flames. He said that a plan for vic park was going for review in april including the arena. Has anyone from the flames been asked if they would lease…..I’m not sure they would like that or maybe they would. Less profit I’m thinking is not what they want.

  • Cheeky

    Problem with Brouwer is he drags everyone down. Backs is off since Brouwer joined him, please don’t put him on 3rd line as that line has been in a slump and the last thing they need is him. The 4th line has been much better (and faster) since he was gone from it. Simple solution, pressbox until we can somehow convince another team they need him…

    • Chucky

      When Brouwer went to the second line the third line got stiffer competition. The third line with three young guys does not yet rise to the level of a second line so they lost a bit of their swagger. When Frolik returns the opposition will need to cope with the added speed and Hathaways life becomes a little easier.
      There is a temptation to evaluate everybody on the Monahan, Tkachuk, Gaudreau scale. Not every player can get to top six i their first few years in the league, it is likely that Hathaway may never get beyond third line but he still has less than a full season (currently 66 games) and he has a +6 plus/minus and seems to be fine with the other questionable statistics.

  • Glensgel

    It’s baffling to read the hate on for Jagr. Slow, beer league….etc. At 45 he had 7 points and was a plus 6. Compare this to Stajan. 39 gp with 2 points and -3. An unhealthy over aged injured jagr has better numbers at a lower price then Stajan. Say something negitive about Stajan and flamesnation loses it poop. Injured Jagr>Stajan

  • Honkydonk

    You mean the flames whom Gary Bettman flew out to see last year and the press never knew his actual reason for flying in and meeting with ownership was to tell them the NHL group has approved the flames for a move If need be? And the mayor who says a lot and again the media doesn’t cover the fact that Nenshi has in fact never attended any of the prior meetings that were so publicized. Lots behind the scenes and it’s looking more and more it might result in a move.

    On the powerplay Johnny is positioned incorrectly like most on the powerplay rotation.

  • Off the wall

    Anyone watch the All Star game yesterday? Did you see Jon Cooper encouraging his team to toss their helmets on the ice after Kucherov had his hat trick?
    That’s a great coach!

    Also, did you note that the Pacific won again? Yah, with Gerard Gallant at the helm.
    Another great coach!

    Imagine Gulutzan in the All Star game. He’d be playing for a tie.

    Smith was having a great time at the game. The fans loved him.
    His personality shined at the game. From the no goal signal on the breakaway , the stare down at the rookie trying to score on him, to the – I’m going to get an empty net goal at the end—it’s apparent, he loves the game. We are blessed to have him on our team.

    Johnny showed us how skilled he was in the relay. No one came close to beating him.
    Johnny can even score with another players threads attached to him.
    What’s up with that? The jerseys were nice, but coming apart has to be an embarrassment for Adidas. Quality control Adidas.

    Wes MacCauley, fit the All Star game perfectly. His offside— no goal theatrics was as fun to watch as the goal scored by Karlsson himself.

    I love the 3 on 3 format. It’s much superior to the boring 5 on 5 from years past.
    At least we can watch an All Star game now, with some fun and excitement to it. Good job NHL!

    • deantheraven

      GG at the ASG, playing for the tie- Golden, OTW!
      Johnny’s sweater probably got snagged when Marchand speared him. Did you happen to catch the Throwback game on SN? The first All Star game was a war. With Howie “By Golly” Meeker. Also golden!

  • Chucky

    The obvious answer regarding the Flames power play is PREDICTABLE. In the game against the Oilers I provided a running commentary to my wife (not a fan) and it was possible to call 90% of the passes and events at least a second before it happened. If a fan watching TV can predict what they will do next what is the chance that the other team with hours of video to watch are deceived. When the opponent knows what is going to happen they can defend very effectively.

  • Off the wall

    Good job on the mailbag McKee.
    I’m still sad over Jagr.

    It’s apparent to all of us fans that GG favours Brouwer. There’s no explanation for this other than his view of veteran’s are much superior than rookies. Unless you’re Jagr, then you can sit and rehab for an entire season. I think Jagr was tired of GG after the first 10 games. He probably saw and heard things that didn’t sit right with him.
    I really don’t blame him for his decision. I just hope it all works out well for him in the future.

    McKee, you’re the only writer who is brave enough to say, “replace Cameron .“ Thanks for your honesty.

    With our next game against the division leading Golden Knights, we better make some changes to our PP. It just isn’t working.
    Hamilton is one of our best offensive D, he’s earned his right to be on the PP regularly. 1st unit to boot. Enough of the same- same. Change it up, stop the stupid drop pass and carry the puck in efficiently. It’s not that hard. But what do I know, I only see everything going awry.
    GG has always been slow to adapt. Perhaps he needs some rest, can we place him on waivers and send him to Kladno instead?

  • ComeOn

    ‘overcoached’ – finally someone said it. Couldn’t agree more! And not just on the pp, these guys have been playing for more than 20 years, they’re the n the world to make the NHL – give them at least a littlerope to play with!

  • Off the wall

    It appears that negotiations with Backlund are starting to heat up.
    From sources I’ve read it looks like Backlund is looking for a five to six year deal between $5-6 M per year. Although I’m sure Backlund isn’t thrilled with mid -season negotiations, I think his ask is well within the parameters of what we hoped or expected.

    Pike wrote a great article about Backlund in Hockey writers a few days ago. It’s worth a read.

    Time to sign him Treliving. We need to put all the clamouring of Backlund’s value to rest..

    • deantheraven

      If that’s it, I like that ask, and Tre should, too. I think the chances of a guy like Backs being an effective player into his thirties. Many have argued the danger of his contract being an albatross in the last year or two of the deal but that’s n/a. In 3 years, the league average will closer to his dollar figure and unless he develops something chronic, he’ll still be seen as good value. Sign him, Tre.
      Can Someone please refresh my memory about bonus clauses and age/FA status? If it could be done, I’d like to see a deal where Backlund gets rewarded for points, playoffs and Selkes to round up the numbers on a deal with that kind of term.

  • deantheraven

    This may be the best case scenario for everyone. The team gains cap space and roster space- the latter being more important than the former right now. Jagr can rehab and train and hopefully make a return to the ice at home. The loan is best case for us fans. So it’s only a little sad… Sad that we don’t get to see Jagr, until the playoffs…

  • deantheraven

    It looks like Mange is going to get a fair look and I hope he makes the most of it (read: He scores!) because he’s the only guy between Hrivik and Klimchuk and a spot on a functional 4th line… Well, ok Stajan is in the way and some might argue even Lazar. Nobody would argue against any of them replacing Browuer. Lomberg is here to push Hathaway to be better. Until Frolik returns, I hope the forward units as they are now stay together. Of course, I’d be happy to see Lazar bump Brouwer, but you can’t argue with either player’s results relative to where they are right now. Brouwer hasn’t worked harder than Lazr but has had better scoring stats (possession-wise Lazr’s been a beast), so naturally GG won’t budge unless the wheels fall off early against VGK.

  • deantheraven

    Great read, Taylor. You are so right about the overcoaching and subsequent lack of confidence. The guys regularly sent out there on the PP (plus Dougie!) are all skilled enough to make plays at a +1 advantage If they weren’t handcuffed by Cameron’s “System”. may adapt-a-quote from a Canadian icon, it feels like being sentenced to twenty years of boredom unless someone tries to change the system from within.
    If they haven’t already, someone needs to pose the question, “What happens if we do it differently and we score?”