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:
How sad should we feel that Jagr is on waivers (other than his phenomenal playing history)? Does he leave a gap in the flames forward group? Is the team better with or without him at this point in his career?
— Khalid Keshavjee (@KMKeshavjee) January 28, 2018
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.
What three things would have made the Jagr signing work?
— Rob Jaques (@CaliCanuck007) January 28, 2018
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Health – This one is obvious. The guy just wasn’t healthy enough for any of it to matter really and that’s a shame.
When Frolik returns, and hopefully resumes his spot on 3m, what should lines 3/4 look like? Not a fan of Brouwer on anything above the 4th, but Hathaway has looked slightly stale on that line lately. What realistic options are there?
— Jib (@jacobwils0n) January 28, 2018
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.
Yeah. Why is the Flames PP so pathetic?
— chillidog (@IanIdeaman7) January 28, 2018
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.
Now that Jagr is waived! When will Iginla make his appearance for the stretch run?
— CraftMatic4.0 (@kc0681) January 28, 2018
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).