After being held out of the back half of the Philadelphia Flyers 2017-2018 after suffering a lower-body injury in March, Robert Hägg deserved better.
Robert Hägg was a mainstay in the Philadelphia Flyers lineup for the first 70 games of the 2017-18 last season. Hägg, then, suffered a lower-body injury that kept him out for two weeks in March of 2018, and once he returned, he never saw a minute of ice-time in the regular season.
The 6-foot-2, 205 pounds defenseman did play two games during the Flyers playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins but logged a mere 11:50 and 11:49 minutes in Time-On-Ice (TOI) those games. Hagg averaged 18:08 TOI throughout the 2017-18 season, so was obvious that head coach Dave Hakstol didn’t fully trust his 23-year-old Swedish defenseman.
Hägg’s stats weren’t overly impressive last season. He posted only nine points (three goals, six assists) in 72 regular season and playoff games. There are reasons behind this, one being that Hägg was used as more of a defensive defenseman last year. Hakstol started him in the defensive zone at even-strength 59.0 percent of the time compared to 41 percent in the offensive zone. The only defenseman on the team who had a higher defensive zone start percentage was Andrew MacDonald at 60.4 percent.
This would also explain why Hägg’s possession metrics were so poor last year, as well.
Hägg posted a 44.7 Corsi-For Percentage (CF%) and a -6.9 Corsi-For Percentage relative to his teammates (CF% Rel). What this means is the team wasn’t controlling play with Hagg and were more likely than not in the defensive zone with him on the ice. With the zone starts suggesting Hakstol wanted Hägg to defend their own zone more, these stats line up.
It is slightly concerning, though, that Andrew MacDonald had a higher CF% and CF% Rel than Hägg with starting in the defensive zone more. MacDonald had a 45.7 percent CF% and a -4.5 CF% Rel last season, a full one and 2.5 percent better than Hägg. One might look at this and immediately worry since MacDonald hasn’t played the best during his tenure as a Flyer, but it’s worth noting that Hägg was a rookie last year. He played in one game in the 2016-17 season, but it was meaningless and nobody can learn the ins-and-outs of the NHL in one game. Hägg still hasn’t played a full NHL season yet, either, with just 73 games under his belt.
I’m not saying Hägg is a top-pair defenseman by any means. He’s a solid third pair defenseman with second pair upside, but that second pair upside will only be reached if Hagg is given more time in the offensive zone.
Whether it’s in a Flyers jersey or not remains to be seen.
I can’t say for certain why Dave Hakstol wouldn’t play Hägg once he returned from injury. It’s possible he wanted more veteran experience during a very tight playoff race down-the-stretch and in the playoffs. It’s also possible Hägg wasn’t 100 percent back from his injury, which would explain the low ice time he was given in the playoffs. Either way, higher-ups in the organization clearly like something about him, given that general manager Ron Hextall signed him to a two-year extension earlier this month.
Hägg deserved a spot in the lineup during the end of last year and I can say the same thing coming into this year. Simply put: Robert Hägg deserves more playing time.