A.J. Greer has been a pleasant surprise for the Calgary Flames lineup
Photo credit:Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
1 month ago
The Calgary Flames’ fourth line last season was a point of emphasis throughout the fanbase. Other than Walker Duehr, there wasn’t much to talk positively about. Trevor Lewis was capable defensively, but he was a black hole on offence, and Milan Lucic just wasn’t good enough to be on the NHL roster consistently. However, former head coach Darryl Sutter liked his physical veterans as much as the next guy.
This season, though, we have the chance to watch a revamped fourth line with players that are multi-faceted. Yegor Sharangovich, the main piece in the Tyler Toffoli trade with the New Jersey Devils, has shown some flashes on every line he has played on, but as he gets acclimated, it feels as if his lethal shot, decent puck control, and solid two-way ability can be very useful assets. Then, there’s Duehr, who remains a big ball of energy who loves to create high-danger offence with his physicality and isn’t a liability by any means on defence. The final piece to the puzzle is the newest addition to the roster, who has made his impact felt since the initial puck drop on the 2023-24 season: AJ Greer.
Greer has bounced around the NHL and AHL over the course of his career. He spent his first three seasons with the Colorado Avalanche, playing a total of 37 games. Then, he moved on to New Jersey, where he played only 10 (nine of which came in 2021-22). And finally, he found a home with the Boston Bruins, playing exponentially more games than he was used to at that point in his career with 61. He scored 5 goals and 7 assists for 12 points over that span. He arguably could have also had better offensive numbers, as his expected goal production was strong with a very potent Bruins offence. His defensive results were well above average too, which made him a prime target for general manager Craig Conroy when the Bruins put Greer on waivers.
Although Greer only has one point in six games that came on this assist on a Duehr goal (even though it appeared unintentional as the puck bounced off his skate), he has been a strong contributor for the Flames in other areas.
Greer’s expected goals for percentage (xGF%) is sitting just below 50 percent (49.24), and that’s mainly due to the fact that he hasn’t been able to grab the reins in one department of the game or another. His xGF/60 is 10th out of the 19 players on the roster, which, for a fourth-line player, isn’t too shabby. He’s behind his linemate Duehr but ahead of Sharangovich. Also, to add some more “fun” context, he’s 0.05 behind Jonathan Huberdeau.
His expected goals against per 60 (xGA/60) is where there are some problems. It’s the fourth-worst among Flames forwards and 13th out of the 19 players.
There are some things to take out of Greer’s numbers that could suggest some possible improvement. His Fenwick For percentage (FF%) at 5v5, a number that showcases the percentage of unblocked shots that Greer is on the ice for versus the total, is sixth overall on the Flames at a mark just above 60 percent, which is well above average. He’s also eighth in shots for percentage (SF%) at 5v5, which, again, showcases that the fourth line has been a strong group together even though they may not currently be getting the most consistent of high-danger chances.
To showcase with a visual, here is Greer’s impact in both zones (along with heat maps) as of October 23rd.
Greer being a waiver pickup was a smart, low-risk move for Conroy, and he’s helping to prove the new general manager right. The numbers as of now aren’t jaw-droppingly awesome, but there are plenty of reasons to be happy about his performance so far in the early part of this new season. Hopefully, he can continue to be a driver for the fourth line and keep impacting the bottom-six of a forward group that needs as much to work from as possible.
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