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.
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.