Kris Versteeg

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Do it, Flames: Put Jagr with Gaudreau, Monahan

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After an agonizing wait, the Calgary Flames bit the bullet and signed Jaromir Jagr.

To little surprise, skipping the preseason and not having an answer about the future has made for a bit of a stilted integration for the 45-year-old, who is still something of a possession monster when the puck gets on his stick.

Jagr finally collected his first point (an assist) with the Flames on Saturday, during their 5-2 win against the Vancouver Canucks. It came, fittingly, on the power play.

If assisting on a Johnny Gaudreau goal wasn’t enticing enough, take a look at the Flames’ offensive lines on Tuesday, a tempting tease with their next game coming Thursday:

Circumstance could play a role in Jagr getting at least a look with Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. As Sportsnet’s Pat Steinberg noted, Kris Versteeg wasn’t around, so Glen Gulutzan might have been adjusting to Versteeg – Sam Bennett – Jagr not being an option.

(Micheal Ferland also has been a little banged up lately, although you can see that he at least suited up.)

Still, it’s fun to cross one’s fingers and hope that Jagr gets an extended look with the dynamic duo, especially since he enjoyed so much success in a similar situation with Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau during his time with the Florida Panthers.

So far, the Flames have already experimented with Jagr in such a situation. From an even-strength perspective, he’s spent about two-thirds of his time with Bennett/Versteeg and one-third with Gaudreau/Monahan, according to Natural Stat Trick’s numbers.

Flames Nation’s Ari Yanover provides a fascinating perspective: maybe the experimenting should continue, with Jagr being used in a variety of attacking zone situations.

Perhaps the focus is a little less on “who should Jagr be playing with” and more on “whoever is getting the most offensive zone starts, that’s Jagr’s line”. And typically, it’s Gaudreau’s line getting the offensive zone starts. So maybe, once Jagr is ready, that should be his line after all. We know he has it in him – not just because he’s, well, Jaromir Jagr, but also because that’s exactly what he was doing in Florida half a year ago.

Interesting.

Selfishly, as fans of the aging wonder, many of us simply want more Jagr.

Being selective with how he’s deployed might just be the ticket for the Flames. It’s sensible that Jagr’s getting 13 minutes of ice time per game (with almost exactly three of them coming on the power play), especially as he eases in. Greedily, we still want more, but it’s up to Calgary to decide if that’s actually the best way to optimize what they have.

As the season goes along, it will be fun to see how Jagr is used. There aren’t many weapons like him in the NHL, and that’s assuming that he can still get it done.

(So far, the answer seems to be “mostly yes.”)

For another look at how Jagr could fit into the Flames’ lines, check out this bit from before the season.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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Blood feud between Doughty, Tkachuk overshadows Jagr’s Flames debut

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BREAKING: Drew Doughty and the Los Angeles Kings really, really don’t like Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk.

As great of a story as Jaromir Jagr’s Calgary Flames debut was, the building blood feud between Doughty and Tkachuk (or, really, Los Angeles vs. Tkachuk) provided the greatest fireworks.

You could argue that Tkachuk got the upper hand, although that might come down to how much weight you place on the havoc he helped create. Either way, the Flames were able to snag a dramatic 4-3 overtime win after Sean Monahan scored the clincher.

Tkachuk scored two goals and came close to notching the clincher in regulation after he exited the penalty box, but it was the jawing he did with Doughty in the penalty box that captivated. (Or, in the case of the Kings, enraged.)

It was so entertaining, it’s worth putting up GIFs from multiple angles.

And:

Allow me to suggest a theme song for the occasion.

As a reminder, this disdain goes back to 2016-17, Tkachuk’s bombastic, impressive, and abrasive rookie season.

Back in March, Tkachuk received a two-game suspension for a hit on Doughty. Not long after, Tkachuk seemed to get one over on Doughty as the Kings sought revenge. At the bottom of this post, witness Mike Milbury criticizing the response while Tkachuk threw his body around:

Now, cut to this game.

Tkachuk likely already frustrated the Kings by opening the scoring with a power-play goal, but sending the game to overtime was only part of the late-game carnage. Check the video above this post’s headline for a taste of the bad blood between the two teams.

Again, it’s not just Doughty vs. Tkachuk … but that growing animosity certainly feels like a catalyst between these two teams.

The bile may only build further if these two franchises continue to vie for positioning – or just a single playoff spot – in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. This marks a third straight win for the Flames while the Kings suffered their first loss.

The only bummer is that this is the last time in this calendar year for these two teams to clash; their next game comes in Calgary on Jan. 4.

A quick look at Jagr’s debut

As anticipated, Jaromir Jagr debuted on a line with Sam Bennett and Kris Versteeg.

Jagr was unable to generate a point while finishing with a -1 rating. He received 13:38 of ice time, with 2:23 coming on the power play. He didn’t fire a shot on goal, but that might not be a big deal; Jagr’s greatest strengths may come down to keeping the puck in the attacking zone and dishing to teammates, wherever the Flames ultimately decide to use him.

The best grade for Jagr is probably an “Incomplete” after one game.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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Jaromir Jagr set to make Flames debut vs. Kings

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Jaromir Jagr’s 24th season in the National Hockey League will begin Wednesday night when the Calgary Flames visit the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center.

After Wednesday’s morning skate, Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan confirmed that the 45-year-old Jagr would debut with his new team one week after inking a one-year deal.

“He’s practiced on that line. He’s been here a week, so there’s no need to make it any bigger than it is,” Gulutzan said. “We had those chats already. Now they’ve just got to go out and play. Jags had been in on all the meetings and knows the systems; ust make sure he gets the right amount of minutes and see how it goes with the chemistry.”

Gulutzan added that Jagr will skate on a line with Sam Bennett and Kris Versteeg. (Jagr had 441 NHL games under his belt and won two Stanley Cups by the time Bennett was born in June 1996.)

In just a short time as a Flame Jagr has already made an impression with fans. During the first intermission of Saturday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets, he surprised the Calgary-based Travelling Jagrs.

Despite his age, Jagr has shown he can still be a productive player in this league. Playing all 82 games last season, he posted 16 goals and 46 points while skating 17 minutes a night. As Kent Wilson of The Athletic showed last week, his output was that of a top-liner.

It’s a one-year, $1 million deal, so it’s a good risk to take for general manager Brad Treliving. While Jagr will hit more milestones this season if he’s healthy and producing, he’ll also be a valuable asset to Calgary’s younger players with the education he can provide them.

“It might be different but I always want to perform on a high level,” Jagr said Wednesday. “But it’s not about me, it’s about the team and my teammates. I want to help them. I don’t want to be there just to be there. I want to make them better.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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Jaromir Jagr’s Flames debut will have to wait another day

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Calgary Flames coach Glen Gulutzan said on Friday that it will be entirely up to Jaromir Jagr to decide when he is ready to make his debut for the team.

It seems he is not quite ready as Gulutzan confirmed on Saturday morning that Jagr will not be in the lineup when the team plays its home opener against the Winnipeg Jets.

Gulutzan announced on Saturday morning that Jagr will not play on Saturday night and that Curtis Lazar will join the lineup, playing alongside Sam Bennett and Kris Versteeg.

Jagr, who turns 46 later this season, remained unsigned as a free agent until the week before the start of the regular season until finally signing a one-year, $1 million deal with the Flames.

Jagr played in all 82 games for the Panthers last season, finishing with 16 goals and 30 assists. While his production was still good enough for a top-six player in the NHL he did show some signs significantly slowing down and wasn’t always as dominant as he was even in recent seasons. But he can still work on the power play and he can still be impossible to get the puck away from. It probably would serve him — and the Flames — well to pace him a bit this season, limiting his regular season minutes and perhaps even giving him some strategic nights off to save him for the playoffs. Whether or not Jagr would be open to that is another question entirely.

The Flames lost their season opener on Thursday night, 3-0, to the Edmonton Oilers. The Jets are looking to rebound following a 7-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

How should Flames use Jaromir Jagr?

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After an anxious summer where Jaromir Jagr got kind of weird about not getting a deal on Twitter, the Calgary Flames provided the hockey world with relief in signing the living legend.

It’s something we should all cherish, too, as Jagr admitted that there’s a “99.9 percent chance” that this will be his last season, according to Sportsnet’s Roger Millions.

Even at 45, Jagr still could conceivably benefit the Flames. As GM Brad Treliving said, Jagr still has the ability to snag the puck beyond the blueline, and he can still make plays.

Let’s have a little fun with this, then, and ponder the scenarios where the Flames can get the most out of Jagr (and vice versa).

Jagr with Sam Bennett and Kris Versteeg

So far, every indication is that Jagr will begin with the unfinished product of a prospect in Bennett and the journeyman winger in Versteeg. As this great Flames Nation piece by Ari Yanover states, this scenario would allow Calgary to roll out three potentially productive lines in the top-nine.

This scenario makes lot of sense, yet Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan should keep an open mind about how productive Jagr could be.

Jiri Jagr?

At the moment, the Flames’ top scoring line stands as Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Micheal Ferland.

Ferland, 25, has shown some promise in top-line situations. He’s also been able to do something with limited opportunities: he managed 15 goals and 25 points last season, which is more impressive when you consider that his time-on-ice average was a skimpy 11:34 per night.

Even so, the sample size with higher-end players isn’t huge, particularly with key catalyst Gaudreau. If Ferland struggles against top defensemen and checkers, Gulutzan shouldn’t be afraid to give Jagr a shot.

Really, Jagr might just be able to fit in with Gaudreau and Monahan like fellow veteran Czech winger Jiri Hudler once did. Hudler managed almost a point-per-contest (76 in 78) with those two young forwards as recently as 2014-15. It’s unfortunate that Hudler’s reportedly dealing with some personal struggles now, but it isn’t outrageous to claim that he was the best fit for those two so far. Maybe Jagr can emulate some of that, even at an advanced age?

Jagr and Hudler share at least one similar trait beyond nationality: they both have been splendid playmakers. In fact, their impact on shooting percentage was nearly identical in this intriguing study by TSN’s Travis Yost.

Sometimes it makes sense to try to spread the wealth. There’s not necessarily just one way to succeed in hockey, and maybe it would benefit Monahan and Gaudreau to have a puck possession genius who still possesses a blistering hockey IQ?

It could bring them up the first-line power rankings, for all we know.

Puck possession Voltron?

Look, on its face, it almost feels sacrilegious to break up “The 3M Line”* of Matthew Tkachuk, Michael Frolik, and Mikael Backlund.

On the other hand, injuries happen and coaches love to shake things up.

Imagine, for a second, that already potent puck-possession partnership becoming nuclear-level with a still-fancy-stats-friendly Jagr plugged in one spot? It’s fun to think about.

But, yeah, not the best idea.

Fourth line duty?

What, do you have a heart of coal? Never speak of that again.

***

Really, the Flames could experiment with a variety of alignments. If Jagr’s late-career journeyman status shows us anything, it’s that the icon can adapt and help his team in a variety of scenarios.

Just, seriously, don’t bury him in the lineup. That’s unacceptable.

* – Still a little bitter that my soup-inspired “MMM Line” nickname never caught on. Is that what this is all about, actually? Uh oh.