All Aboard the Crazy Train

The fascinating possibilities of one Jean Francois Jacques were on display last night in Anaheim. Jacques played a paltry 2:42 and took a 4-minute high sticking penalty that could have hurt the team in a big way. He also answered the call of street fighting man George Parros a couple of minutes into the game, and his aggressive forechecking contributed to Kyle Brodziak’s goal. 8 shifts, +1.

I’ve always been a fan, mostly because his size and speed are not easily found in any era. Of all of the “Coke Machines” this organization drafted in the early part of the decade, Jacques’ progress through junior and into pro showed the most growth and promise (even more than Zack Stortini, who has had a much better career).

I suggested Jacques would make the team during the summer (found here) but he was injured and his season took a completely different route.

When Jacques finally completed his rehab and emerged healthy again, the Oilers brought him up and he’s played in 4 games. Scored a goal. Made some big hits, has a shooting percentage of 1.000 and despite retaining most of what got him the nickname Crazy Train he seems to be a little more mature in terms of positioning and doing the little things on the ice that get you another shift from the coach (call them the Reddox points).

The Oilers need big men up front. The new, smaller NHL is slowly giving way to something resembling the older style league and a guy like Jacques is extremely useful as an enforcer who can actually play.

Look at the Oilers roster: lots of 5.10′s and 5.11′s and 7 men under 200 pounds. Many of their bigger man (Penner, Brodziak) are not physical forces and still others (MacIntyre, Stortini) have too few dimensions to their game.

Jacques could be a different story. His AHL scoring rates were “in the range” with Nilsson and Pouliot, and while that is well shy of impact scorer, it indicates exceptional possibilities when added to the other things JF Jacques brings to the rink. He is signed to a beauty $700,000 contract for next season, and if he can combine size, speed, grit and enforcer roles to making the right plays away from the puck (the Reddox points) you might be looking at an extremely valuable young hockey player.

JF Jacques, like Marc Pouliot, has had injury troubles that have had an impact on progress. Like Pouliot, the organization clearly has a role he can play on the big club. If he’s healthy, Jacques could be on the team in the fall of 2009.

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