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2018-19 Player Review: Robert Hagg, one-hit wonder

The 24-year-old did not take a step forward in his second NHL season.

Washington Capitals v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

One of the only Flyers to make any top-10 NHL statistics lists was one of their very worst players. The Flyers and irony, forever a perfect pair.

That’d be Robert Hagg, and his 258 hits checking in at eighth overall in the league this season. This isn’t new, either, as Hagg finished seventh in hits during his rookie season a year ago.

The thing is that while Hagg hits everything on the ice, that’s just about the only thing that the 24-year-old does well in his game. The Flyers have generally gotten massacred possession-wise when he’s been on the ice, and that’s showed up in the goal differential department as well.

We’ll get into more of that in a bit, but generally Robert Hagg just isn’t very good and will likely soon be replaced as a regular presence in the lineup.


By The Numbers

Basic Stats

Games played Goals Assists Points Pims Shots on goal Shooting percentage
Games played Goals Assists Points Pims Shots on goal Shooting percentage
82 5 15 20 63 86 5.8

Often times availability is one of the best attributes a player in any sport can have, because you’re simply no good to any team in any sport no matter how good you are if you can’t suit up consistently. The thing with Hagg is that he’s always ready to play, it’s just that you really wish he wouldn’t end up playing.

The Swede played in all 82 games this season and did contribute a modest five goals on just 86 shots on net. Hagg doesn’t rack up the weak point shots quite as much as former teammate Radko Gudas did, but he sure gets his fare share of dribblers on net to pump up some of his metrics.

5v5 Individual Stats

Points/60 Primary Points/60 Shot Attempts/60 Expected Goals/60
Points/60 Primary Points/60 Shot Attempts/60 Expected Goals/60
0.86 0.65 4.13 0.21

5v5 On-Ice Stats

Score-Adjusted Corsi For % SA-Corsi Relative Score Adjusted-Expected Goals For SA-Expected Goals Relative Goals For % PDO
Score-Adjusted Corsi For % SA-Corsi Relative Score Adjusted-Expected Goals For SA-Expected Goals Relative Goals For % PDO
43.67% -5.82% 44.67 -6.16 47.12% 100.77

As you can see, Hagg just doesn’t provide much in terms of possession of quality of play. He lags far behind his teammates and pretty consistently gets out chanced and outscored when he’s on the ice.

Hagg’s second NHL season wasn’t a fluke, either, as he posted a -6.9% Corsi For Relative in his first season. So that’s now two years and over 150 games of data to suggest that Hagg just isn’t good, and that’s without the eye test of physically watching him play hockey each night.

In his defense, the man starts 58% of the shifts in his career in the defensive zone, but so does Sean Couturier (57.8%) and he hasn’t posted a Corsi For Relative lower than 2.1% in his last four seasons. Sure Couturier is much better than Hagg, but it shows that players can turn a defensive shift into something other than getting hemmed in their own zone.

So while the hits are fun with Hagg, and sometimes they’re really fun; he’s just not an effective NHL defenseman and his shortcomings far outweigh the physical aspect he brings to the table.


Three Burning Questions

Did this player live up to our expectations for this season?

With 70 games under his belt during his rookie season and what appeared to be some valuable playoff experience we expected Robert Hagg to take a step forward in 2018-19 and that simply did not happen.

Perhaps it was the two game disaster he was during the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Penguins that catapulted him into a poor 2018-19, or just the emerging fact that he’s just not good enough at the NHL level and his weaknesses are easily exposed. On any given night it could be his lack of above average puck handling, his poor situational awareness, or even just his foot speed, but he gets exposed one way or another.

Rookie mistakes happen and most players grow from them, but Hagg was still doing the same things he did as a rookie during his sophomore campaign. The worst part is that some of his mistakes were so glaring it left you wondering if perhaps we took a step backwards and as the season wore on it was pretty clear that he had and that was super disappointing.

What do we expect from this player next season?

Thankfully Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher has overhauled the defense —for better or worse— and that could mean Hagg getting squeezed out of the regular lineup. Thought the Gudas/Matt Niskanen swap doesn’t necessarily fill a hole, the acquisition of Justin Braun from San Jose for a pair of draft picks sure does. Buying out Andrew MacDonald doesn’t really do much either considering he played in 47 games a year ago and was mostly just being played because he was still around.

Flyers defense

LD RD Extra
LD RD Extra
Provorov Niskanen Hagg
Gostisbehere Braun Morin
Sanheim Myers Friedman

Now that is subject to change but as you can see that would squeeze Hagg out of a starting spot, which would be ideal. Not only that, but Samuel Morin and Mark Friedman are also around as viable options to supplant Hagg now that Morin is finally healthy. Morin could easily play third pair minutes and help out on the penalty kill while Friedman might already be better than Hagg even after an uneventful season in Lehigh Valley.

I’d realistically be fine with Hagg as an extra defenseman, which is what he projects as in a scenario where Fletcher doesn’t trade another defenseman (Chuck do not read this: Shayne Gostisbehere). Ideally you wouldn’t have to see much of Hagg next season, and the Flyers would be better or without him playing significant games in 2019-20.

What would we like to see this player improve on?

Hagg has the tools to be a passable third pair NHL defender, but has far too many preventable mistakes in his game that prop up too often. One of the most glaring issues in his game is exiting his own zone. Whether it be passing or just straight clears, Hagg struggles to get the puck out of his own zone and then has to spend too much time defending and it ends up killing both him and the teammates who are unlucky enough to be out there with him.

Data and statistics courtesy of Corsica.hockey, hockey reference and NHL.com

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