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FlamesNation former player evaluation: Jaromir Jagr

The Flames signed Jaromir Jagr. It was so, so special.

It may not have gone as planned, but it’s worth remembering what an experience it was.

Jagr to the Flames made so, so much sense. He was a right-winger coming off a 46-point season – 66 points the year before that – and the Flames needed forward depth, particularly on the right side. As a free agent, he was free to acquire; another bonus for he Flames, since they had been trading a lot of draft picks away at that time.

We’ll never know how things really would have turned out, but perhaps the biggest regret is that he was signed in October, not July.

Take a moment to put aside all the negativity from the 2017-18 season. The disappointment surrounding the team was all-consuming, and Jagr’s health was a part of that. But before things went sideways, just recall, strictly from the perspective of someone who likes hockey, how incredible it was to get him at all, to have legitimate Flames jerseys with the name “Jagr” and a #68 across the back.

This was a living legend, one of the greatest players of all time, still going at it, and going north of the border for the first time. He was a healthy scratch for the home opener, and when he was announced as he stepped on the bench, he got probably the loudest cheers of the night. The Saddledome lost it when he was announced in the starting lineup for the first time. The entire building held its breath every single scoring chance he got.

That time a two-on-one for the Flames developed, Johnny Gaudreau and Jagr skating down the ice, and watching it in slow motion as everyone realized that was actually Jagr, and there was no way he was going to miss that – and I swear, watching his only goal of the season from the pressbox, it shook. The building was literally vibrating. It was as loud as a game from the 2004 playoffs. The angst was to come, but in that moment, we got something really, truly, honestly special, and however things may have turned out, that can never, ever be taken away.

And then there are all of the other little moments: assisting on Mark Jankowski’s first NHL goal, saying that Gaudreau had Art Ross potential, the little lessons you could see him giving throughout morning skates as teammates half his age (and younger!) stared at him, enraptured, absorbing every single word. His stall was in the far corner of the locker room, but he was a Presence.

When Jagr signed with his first Canadian team, he remarked that “you cannot bullshit the fans,” and that’s true – but so is the reverse. Every single thing he did got extremely loud appreciation, because those same fans knew just how remarkable it was to have this guy playing in Calgary to begin with. With the bad comes the good, and the good gave us all a chance to appreciate this.

There are ultimately inconsequential moments from pretty much every season worth looking back on fondly, and Jagr’s time in a Flames jersey will be one of them.

2017-18 season summary

Jagr sat out the first couple of games of the season, taking the time to get back up to speed. Maybe he should have been training harder in the offseason, or maybe he should have taken a few more games off to get prepared, but he made his Flames debut in a 4-3 win over Los Angeles, playing 13:38. His first point came two games later, a primary assist on a Gaudreau powerplay goal in a 5-2 win over the Canucks in Vancouver, and a little light went off, like, okay, here we go.

A week later, his first injury struck, and he missed six games – ironically four of which were the Jagr tour, as he’d played for the Stars, Capitals, Penguins, and Devils, who all visited during that stretch – before returning to action. A game later, he scored his first goal as a Flame and assisted on Jankowski’s first goal, period, helping kickstart a line also consisting of Sam Bennett: two players substantially younger and in need of some veteran guidance.

But again, it wasn’t to be. Jagr was bumped up the lineup for lack of any better possible option when Michael Frolik was injured, and he simply physically could not keep up. He continued to miss games, and on Dec. 31, he played 11:49 in what may be the final game of his NHL career: a 4-3 overtime win over the Blackhawks. Jagr stuck around Calgary a little after that, but eventually departed for his own Rytiri Kladno in the Czech tier 2 league, and re-signed with them on May 15.

Games played Goals Assists Points TOI/GP 5v5 CF% 5v5 CF% rel OZS% PDO
22 1 6 7 13:03 52.27 +0.81 62.68 1.044

The worst part is seriously what could have been. The Flames needed forward depth, bringing Jagr into the fold when none of their prospects could win a spot out of camp. If he had been able to play at the level he did in Florida, he would have fit the bill admirably, giving the Flames that extra punch to their lineup. Yes, he was sheltered, and yes, his minutes plummeted – just over 13 minutes a game is the lowest he’s averaged in ice time since the stat has been tracked, and he was averaging 17:00 the year before in Florida – but a healthy Jagr would have been a major boon.

There were three lines it’s easiest to remember him playing on. With Sean Monahan (38:03) and Gaudreau (37:15), he took over on the top line when Micheal Ferland was floundering early in the year, and maybe the foot speed wasn’t there, but the ability to cycle in the offensive zone, and the hands – they were. That isn’t counting the powerplay time he got with them as well, but all three players benefited from one another, and a healthy Jagr could have been the stuff of dreams for the first line.

Then, the rookies: Bennett (136:46) and Jankowski (125:15). When Jagr went down, Garnet Hathaway ended up filling in his spot more often than not, and aside from a brief surge when first joining the line, he was a lesser option. This was another line with potential, and though not as offensively-powered as the top line, probably would have been better in a reduced role; alas, injuries prevented it from being a regular feature.

There was one last line, with Matthew Tkachuk (38:25) and Mikael Backlund (38:19), in which Frolik’s jaw was broken and there really was no better option as long as Jagr was physically able to play. It was his least-sheltered line, near the end of his NHL season, and he visibly could not keep up; playing on that line was his weakest performance of the year.

From top line potential, to helping out the rookies, to slowly bowing out. It’s a shame how it ended – but damn, was it cool to have.


#5 – Mark Giordano #7 – TJ Brodie
#8 – Chris Stewart #10 – Kris Versteeg
#11 – Mikael Backlund #13 – Johnny Gaudreau
#15 – Tanner Glass #18 – Matt Stajan
#19 – Matthew Tkachuk #20 – Curtis Lazar
#21 – Garnet Hathaway #23 – Sean Monahan
#24 – Travis Hamonic #25 – Nick Shore
#26 – Michael Stone #27 – Dougie Hamilton
#33 – David Rittich #36 – Troy Brouwer
#41 – Mike Smith #44 – Matt Bartkowski
#61 – Brett Kulak #67 – Michael Frolik
#77 – Mark Jankowski #79 – Micheal Ferland
#93 – Sam Bennett

 

  • Off the wall

    It was quite a thrill for me to see #68 wearing a Flames jersey.
    I’ll never forget that 1st goal as a Flame. It was pure smarts that Gaudreau shifted to the right side so Jagr could get the puck on his forehand.

    Jagr’s cycling in the corner was fun to watch as was his desire to help out our young guys.

    I’ll never be disappointed that he donned a Flames jersey and became a loved Canadian player for the first time..

  • Honkydonk

    Don’t tell me it wasn’t a complete and utter idiot shot in the darkness dark hope for all glory useless judgment move.

    Not only do you sign the guy but you sign him during training camp without the guy admittedly not training during summer and after every single NHL team said no thank you all off season.

    Give me a break.

    • Trevy

      What makes it an idiot shot in the dark? The only reason he didn’t sign with another team earlier was because he was asking for term and way more money. As it got closer to training camp, he still had offers but more on a reasonable level. He chose Calgary and despite him not being in the best shape, he still provided us real fans a glimpse of a future HOF. What was the worse thing that happened anyways, he was a mentor to the young players, he cost a million bucks, which probably was recouped and then some in jersey sales, he didn’t hurt the team and we are the first and only team he’s ever played for in Canada. He knew his body couldn’t compete at this level anymore, which resulted in a mutual parting of the ways.

      So where’s the harm….you do need a break, try ON, they love misery there

    • Mickey O

      The Jagr signing was a panic move by Treliving, but you can hardly blame him. Coming out of camp, the team was looking at Ferland, Frolik, Brouwer, and Lazar as the options on RW.

      It was a decent enough roll of the dice at the time for what Jagr cost, but it was unlikely to work out for the entire season. In the end the Flames got what they paid for.

  • Off the wall

    I remember my first car like it was yesterday. It was old, rugged, but didn’t have the ‘get up and go’ like it did when it was new. But it was a classic and I loved it.

    All my friends were buying newer, faster cars because they wanted something modern and shinier.

    I never raced my friends, what was the point, I’d be left behind easily.

    Who would they call when they needed a boost or a push from my tankmobile? Yup, you guessed it. The guy with the old classic.

    Jagr reminds me of my old classic. She was slower, but had a tank like frame and was always available to help out my friends. The pristine wore off on it and sometimes it would need a little attention for maintenance, but the engine in it wouldn’t quit.

    Some might say that Jagr’s time was a waste. I struggle with that statement.

    It was for a intents and purposes ( Cfan I’m learning) an opportunity for Jagr to help out our team. His numbers weren’t all that bad considering and he deserves some respect for the way he handled himself with class. Ask Gaudreau or Bennett if he gave them a boost?

    While others may appreciate the new and shiniest versions of today’s player, there always appreciation for the classic players who although slower and the sheen has worn off a bit,
    is always a thing of beauty to the discerning eye!

  • JMK

    Off topic but thought Craig Conroy’s comments about Valimaki were interesting:

    “You hear what Bill Peters wants on defence and that’s Juuso Valimaki,” assistant general manager Craig Conroy told CalgaryFlames.com. “It really is.”
    “I expect him to come in here and really make a push, soon, to make the big club.”

  • Captain Ron

    My son and I put on our Flames Jersey’s and wore Jagr mullets to one of the early games last year. I took a picture of the two of us sitting in our seats and texted it to my Wife for a laugh. Unbeknownst to us she entered the picture in the Global News win a Jagr Jersey contest and won the damn thing! We took turns wearing it to games for the rest of the season and had lots of laughs with it and the mullet wigs. Too bad he didn’t last for a full season but his presence brought a lot of excitement to the team and the fans.
    Sometimes it’s just about having fun!

  • Fat Tony

    To have the Calgary Flames involved in part of Jaromir Jagr’s legacy is a complete honor. It didn’t turn out how we expected or hoped for but it’s something that no other Canadian team can relate to. Loved every minute of it.

  • freethe flames

    The whole Jagr thing came about because of a miscalculation by BT and his staff about the quality of our forward depth; they had higher expectations of guys than they were able to attain. In the off season they used the limited resources they had to trade for a number 4 defender and not an upgrade at forward. If they had accessed the forwards accurately they would have had Jagr in camp and then maybe things would have been better. Hind sight is always 20/20; hopefully they realize they have real needs upfront and are able to make a deal or two meet these needs. The other hope is that some of the younger guys make some significant progress this off season.

  • StajansFinalPaycheck 3.5

    Even if it did not work out, it was cool to see him in a flames uniform. 7 points in 22 games is not horrible for 1 million. Heck Stajan only had 12 points in 68 games at 3.5 million. Jagr had double the production at a third of the cost lol.

  • RKD

    They signed Jagr way too late when they couldn’t land/sign/trade for a RW and he was the last option. He missed all of training camp, he was nowhere close to being ready. If he had been healthy he would have been here the whole season. Anyways it was awesome to see him sign in Calgary, assist on Janko’s 1st NHL goal, score a goal as Calgary Flame and see 68 and Jagr on the back of a Flames jersey.

    • kirby

      I wish they didn’t rush him into the lineup just a couple weeks into the season. Would have rather they let him take a month or two if necessary to get into full game shape. Would have been better to have him fresher and in better shape down the stretch than trying to get him into the lineup at 60% as early as possible.

  • HOCKEY83

    This is all nonsense talk and anyone who actually knows hockey knows it was just a dog and pony show move. It should always and forever be considered a loser move to sign him at 45 years old when there where prospects more than ready and better for less…ready willing and able for less money.