Coming over in “The Trade” from the Toronto in late January of last season, Niklas Hagman was considered to be the most highly skilled player that took the westbound trip to Calgary.
A six foot tall, quick, Finnish forward with loads of unused potential was bound to help the Calgary offence going forward.
The following 27 games didn’t exactly yield the projected returns that so many fans had hoped for; only five goals and six assists.
Is it tough for new players to fit into a new team mid-season? Of course it is, and that’s why I’m willing to cut Hagman a bit of slack for the end of last season. Face it, nobody in a Flames jersey outside of Kiprusoff, had a March to remember.
So what can Flames fans expect from a full season of the “New” Number 10?
First off, it looks as if he will be playing left wing on the second line. As many eluded to yesterday, including myself, with the injury to Matt Stajan (the first option 2nd line center) going down with a separated shoulder, it looks as if Hagman will have either Mikael Backlund or David Moss as his center to enter the season. Hopefully Backlund wins the job as Moss would be better suited for third line duty or no duty at all.
With Backlund, a pass first player, in between Hagman and Bourque, both shoot first players, the first two lines of the Flames look eerily similar in style with a passer and two snipers on both lines. Much better than the three shooter strategy they were trying last year.
Hagman has put up modest numbers throughout his career, but many thought he was capable of much more. His career high in goals is 27, in 2007-08 with Dallas. He came two shy of the mark last year and if he had stayed in the T-Dot he may have surpassed 30. However, he did record 44 points last year which is a career high, leading many in Calgary to believe that his stock is on the rise.
Secondary scoring was a problem for the Flames last season. Hold on, let me re-phrase that: Scoring, in general, was a MAJOR problem for the Flames. Despite what Darryl Sutter says about this team having a certain amount of career 20 goal scorers on the roster, the comment means ‘diddly squat’ if those players do not ACTUALLY score 20 in the current season.
For his part, Hagman has scored 20 or more goals in the last three seasons with totals of 27, 22, and 25.
I like what Hagman can bring to the table in that he doesn’t embody the traditional Flames player; a Western Canadian farm boy who likes baling hay and fore-checking more so than scoring goals. Hagman has creativity, he has touch, and he has a willingness to shoot the puck which is evident by his 216 shots on net last season. He also helps bring a little bit of respect to the second power play unit, and along with Bourque and Backlund should be able to increase the pathetic goal totals the prior unit put up.
Niklas Hagman needs to forget about the last 27 games and continue to work on what he was doing in Toronto, and in doing so will help fill out a very respectable second line for the Calgary Flames.
SIDE NOTE: In watching the Flames experiment on the power play during both the pre-season and the Red v White game this past week, I can’t help but think why it took so long to try some new things? Players were moving in and out, Bouw was in front of the net, Tangs and Olli were manning the points with White and Iggy on the half boards. The possibilities are endless and if the Flames do execute this strategy then teams will have a much harder time guarding against it as they will not know what’s coming. Ipso facto the Flames will score more goals and win more games. Also if Ales Kotalik is going to play on this team, why not take advantage of his strengths, like using his shot on the point of the PP? He was used primarily as such in Buffalo and NY, so why not in Calgary? They are paying the guy $3 million to not score right now, so why don’t the Flames get a little somethin’ somethin’ in return?