JFJ Jacques Comp

This is Yvon Lambert. He was a very good depth player for the Montreal Canadiens during their glory years of the 1970s.

They got him for free.

The official transaction was the Montreal Canadiens claiming Lambert from Port Huron (IHL) in the Reverse Draft, but it was really Detroit sleeping at the switch (as they did a lot in those days).

He was drafted 40th overall in 1970, which was a very good draft year (8 guys over 200 NHL goals) but the Red Wings sent him to the IHL (a good league but not the top minor, which was the AHL) and he did not stand out (23 goals, 41 points) until the playoffs when he scored 8 goals in 14 games.

Montreal sent him to the AHL, where he looked to be the third best LW on a very good team (Randy Rota was a speedster, Germain Gagnon was a 7 year pro who did get some NHL time) and looked like a longtime minor leaguer.

The following season he blossomed on a very famous minor league line (Tony Featherstone was the RW, Morris Stefaniw the C) that scored over 130 goals. Lambert popped 52 of them, and when he arrived at camp in the fall of 1973 he found himself in the company of possibly the finest LW prospect cluster in the game’s history. Steve Shutt was entering his second NHL season, Chuck Lefley was just establishing himself at the NHL level, Murray Wilson was being called the next Frank Mahovlich and Bob Gainey was freshly drafted.

Yvon Lambert made the team. He scored 6 goals that first year in part time play (on an energy line, I remember him best with Mario Tremblay, but that Mario didn’t come along until the following year).

Yvon Lambert lost opportunities because of his lack of footspeed (that’s putting it nicely, you could time him from end to end by sundial) and he got opportunities because he had size and good hands. His numbers at the NHL level are certainly inflated by the team he played on, but he wasn’t just along for the ride.

The Yvon Lambert family is a fairly large group of players who were drafted outside the first round, took some (but not a lot) of time to develop, and then had everything break right in terms of team need (size, skill) and outlasted many of the higher rated players ranked above them (Chuck Lefley, Murray Wilson). If we’re looking for a comp in terms of career development (not player-type, Jacques is a fast and crazy Lambert) in the Oilers system, JF Jacques is probably the guy to pick.

The men he needs to beat out for playing time (some or all of Nilsson, Stortini, Brodziak, Pouliot, Thoresen, Sanderson, Reasoner) are a mixed bag of prospects with a variety of skills and the veterans Sanderson and Reasoner (I’ve listed Reasoner because Brodziak and Pouliot are in competition at center) who are more likely to break with the team in a top 12 role.

Last fall, the Oilers cut their forwards in this order:

  1. September 14: Fredrik Johansson.
  2. September 18: Patrick Murphy, Riley Merkley, Brett Morrison.
  3. September 19: Mike Duco.
  4. September 23: JJ Hunter, Slava Trukhno, Zack Stortini, Brock Radunske, Stephane Goulet, Tim Sestito, Liam Reddox, Kyle Brodziak.
  5. September 25: Troy Bodie
  6. September 27: Jonas Almtorp, Fredrik Pettersson.
  7. September 30: Tyler Spurgeon, Toby Petersen, Rob Schremp
  8. October 3: Marc Pouliot.

Jacques didn’t see the minor leagues until November 19th, as he had played only 4 games.

A couple of years ago I did a “JFJ as an NHL player” item at HF and came up with Brad Isbister as a comp. I didn’t like it then, don’t like it now, I think he’s better than that but he sure needs to prove it.

His Desjardins’ numbers say he can score on a par with any of the Oilers AHL prospects last season:

  1. Robert Nilsson 82gp, 10-27-37
  2. Marc Pouliot 82gp, 16-20-36
  3. Jean Francois Jacques 82gp, 13-23-36
  4. Kyle Brodziak 82gp, 15-20-35
  5. Rob Schremp 82gp, 10-21-31

but the Oilers seem more attached to Nilsson (from what we read), Pouliot and Brodziak is a guy who gets mentioned more and more. Plus Schremp is a somewhat unique player on that list and would have to be considered a wildcard as the season wears on. I think (at this point) that those of us who like JFJ plenty as a prospect should probably begin thinking about him as trade bait.

As early as training camp.

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15 Responses to "JFJ Jacques Comp"

  1. godot10 says:

    I wouldn’t trade JFJ yet. He has NHL skills. It is all mental with him. One day the switch will click, and he will be an NHL player.

    He is the anti-Winchester, where Winchester was a microscopically slow-but-steady progressor, until the slow progress became impossible to bear.

    With JFJ, it is binary…0 or 1…right now he is stuck on zero, but I give him at least one more season to flip to 1.

    Off course, I would listen to trade offers.

  2. Ribs says:

    With a lineup lacking in the “banger” area, I suspect JFJ will be sticking around for more than a good portion of the season.

    Like it or not.

  3. Black Dog says:

    Problem is ahead of him on the depth chart at LW are Penner, Torres and Moreau. Can JFJ get much done playing 5 or 6 minutes a game or is he one of these guys who needs plenty of icetime to get his confidence and show what he can do?

    Lambert – I remember when he killed the Bruins after the Lafleur goal. He scored some big ones. And he had a terrific moustache.

  4. Jonathan says:

    I’m not high on JFJ as a prospect, especially after 44 games and zero points at the NHL level, but I don’t see him as trade bait, mostly for the same reason. Is Jacques trade value higher than Stortini? Maybe, but not by much, and his NHL ceiling is considerably better. Maybe a better candidate is Ryan O’Marra, a player whose NHL ceiling is probably slightly higher than JFJ, but whose trade value should be considerably better, and who is playing at a position of strength for the Oilers (Gagner, Cogliano, Hockey Jesus, Brodziak, Pouliot, etc.)

  5. Lowetide says:

    jonathan: This post is actually a bookend to one written this week called “Approximate Trade Value” where I brought up exactly that point.

    The more I think about it, the more I believe that Jacques may be next summer’s Winchester (not offered a contract, signing elsewhere as a ufa).

    LOTS about him says he’s a keeper, but when push comes to shove there needs to be a better foundation.

  6. Rob says:

    JFJ has the tools, but can he bring it together. I agree, this year is HUGE for him. If he doesn’t start to show something, maybe 10-15-35 with some good solid physical play he could be looking for employment elsewhere as Lowe, Mactavish and the fans will grow impatient with him.

    And that could be a very bad thing.

  7. Jonathan says:

    I really have trouble seeing Jacques as this years Winchester. Looking at career paths, they aren’t even similar. For starters, Winchester didn’t hit a point per game in the AHL until his 24/25 yr old season, whereas Jacques hit it last season at 21/22. Even though Winchester got off to a later start because of going the college root, there’s no reason to believe he would have put up those kind of numbers if he’d jumped to the AHL earlier. Winchester had been with the Oilers organization for seven years when he was allowed to sign with Dallas, and at 26 he isn’t likely to get much better. Jacques, on the other hand, has only been with the organization 3 years, and was a relatively high draft pick to boot. He should have a couple more chances before being tossed aside. Additionally, his maturation has been faster, and as we’ve seen with big power forward types, it generally takes a bit longer to come into their own. Pouliot, Nilsson, Broziak, Stortini and Jacques are all from the same draft year, and (aside from Stortini) are all at the ppg pace in the AHL. Given the type of player that Jacques is, I don’t think his development to date has been terribly slow.

  8. Lowetide says:

    jonathan: JFJ’s entry level contract expires at the end of this season, which means all kinds of things kick into gear. His salary this season is $650k and player salaries rarely go backwards.

    Next season Slava Trukhno will have one year’s pro experience, be making 660k (that’s his cap number according th NHLSCAP.com) and be under contract for two more seasons.

    Guys like O’Marra and Cogliano will be a year older, too. The window of opportunity for Jacques is closing, now so much due to age as the number of similar-level talents in the system.

    I think you could make a case that the dollars the Oilers might spend on a JFJ extension (800k per year?) would be better spent on a better player.

    It kills me to say it, because I like the guy a ton. But he needs to show better results.

  9. Jonathan says:

    On the other hand, do you think the Oilers would have let Winchester go if they didn’t have something like 49 out of 50 guys on their NHL contract list? I’m not neccessarily disagreeing, but if that number is down next year I’d say Jacques’ chances of getting resigned are much better, simply because he’s so much younger than Winchester. On the other hand, it could turn out to be a non-issue if he gets called up at midseason and shows what he can do, something that shouldn’t be ruled out. On the other hand, maybe I’m rationalizing because I don’t like the idea of this guy leaving for nothing.

  10. namflashback says:

    He ran himself nearly out of opportunity with his strange no-hitter last season. Then they acquired Penner.

    Now, he is behind Penner, Torres, Moreau, and Sanderson as options on that LW side. Brodziak who could play in C and either W. Thoreson who can play C and either W. Trukhno coming behind him with all of Cogliano, O’Marra and other who could also play W.

    Unless he comes into camp, dominates, and never looks back — I would worry that his mindset won’t be able to endure any slumps or setbacks.

    He will be a victim of numbers. His mental miss has to be of very great concern.

  11. Big T says:

    Good points all. Jonathan, I have to think that the lack of room on the contract list had to have factored at least slightly into letting Winchester go. There were certianly other factors but that made a difference.

    LT; Typically contracts don’t go down but the new CBA has really put a wrench in things. It’s possible that the market for plumbers (JFJ and the like) keeps his salary at $650K or even lower. Perhaps guys on the fringe would be willing to sign at a lower rate if they could get a one-way contract and a chance to prove themselves at the big league level?

    As for other players of similar skills in th esystem, not many have passed the PPG threshhold in the AHL yet. That could have changed after this year but only time will tell. JFJ may be the best option.


  12. Bank Shot says:

    What does Jacques realistically have to do though to keep a roster place nailed down?

    I’d say not much. If he can put up between 10-20 points a season and play with some intensity then I don’t think there is any reason to move on to the next project.

    At the very least he is going to become a tougher man to best in the “squared circle” which has definite value in the fourth line role.

    Mactavish played JFJ quite often early last season despite having other options at the time so it seems like he values having that player type in the bottom six.

    The trip from almost totally useless to decent 4th line option isn’t so big that it is out of Jacques’ reach, and if he does reach it I don’t think there are really any other prospects that are pushing to take his role.

    If Jacques does take that step into the “decent” category then I feel it’s Thoresen that is in more danger of losing his place as there are a number of potentially NHL calibre two-way prospects in the fold (Brodziak, Cogliano, O’Marra, Trukhno, Pouliot). None of these guys can fill the role that Jacques can.

    Only Stortini, and if Jacques gets his act together that is no competition at all.

  13. Devin says:

    I can’t see where Thor would be in any danger. Even if there are a bunch of prospects that “could” be 2-way players, Thoresen now has proven that he is one in the NHL. Big difference. Also, his cap hit is near minimum. Thoresen is pure gold, afaic. He also abused the AHL in his brief stint last yr.

  14. Bank Shot says:

    If Jacques manages to become a decent 4th line option, and guys like Cogliano, O’Marra, or Trukhno hit the ball out of the park in the AHL or in call-ups then Thoresen’s spot could very well be in danger a year from now.

    Guys like Brodziak, Thoresen, Pouliot, Cogliano, O’Marra, Trukhno, Nash will probably have to make the most of their chances as they all seem to possess pretty comparable abilities and roles.

    I think Jacques will have a longer leash based on his unique attributes. It’s a big if at this point, but if he does show NHL ability then his place on the team is more solid then Thor’s.

    He and Stortini were both pushed onto the big team last year when there were other players who had outplayed them availible for duty in the bigs.

    I don’t think the organization will be in a hurry to bin JFJ when they favour having at least one bruiser type on the fourth line. He’ll have another full year at least to show his worth.

  15. Dennis says:

    Unless he has some really important boosters in the org, I’m thinking that JFJ gets farmed out early if he doesn’t really turn some heads and then I’m with LT that he’s walking after his third year in the A which by all indicators should be another successful minor league campaign.

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