Milan Lucic was traded across province to the Calgary Flames earlier this summer following three seasons with the Edmonton Oilers – two of which were particular disappointing – and his new bench boss is rather excited about the addition.
“Looch gives us a dimension that we basically didn’t have,” Bill Peters told Sportsnet 960 on Wednesday.
“You always hear and you read articles in the summer, everyone’s got a chip on their shoulder. Anyone who’s gotten bought out or traded have a chip on their shoulder, and they’ve got something to prove and that’s true.”
Statistically speaking, 2018-19 was Lucic’s worst year as a pro. The meagre six goals and 14 assists he recorded in 79 games, plus the change-of-location swap for fellow veteran James Neal, no doubt left a chip on his shoulder.
“He looks great,” Peters said of Lucic’s off-season form.
“He’s in phenomenal shape. Very driven, very realistic about where he’s at and what he has to do. I like the fact he’s wearing 17 instead of 27. I think he had some good success when he was a Boston Bruin wearing 17. Looking forward to getting him in the lineup.”
Peters asked Lucic earlier this summer how many of Calgary’s eight exhibition games he’d want to suit up for this pre-season and the coach was chuffed with Lucic’s response.
“He threw out a number that was high and I go, ‘Holy geez that’s a pretty high number for a veteran guy to play that many games,’ and he goes ‘I want to play. I want you to tell me what I need to do, what I need to do better and go from there.’ So, real excited about that acquisition just to give us a different element.”
That different element Peters refers to is the physical presence Lucic brings to the ice. Since the six-foot-three, 230-pound Vancouver native debuted in 2007-08, his 1,072 penalty minutes (which includes 70 regular-season fighting majors) are 10th most in the entire NHL during that time.
Finding the right spot for Lucic’s quarrelsome playing style is something Peters is prepared to tinker with.
Lucic averaged only 13:14 in his final year with the Oilers, which was his lowest average ice-time since his rookie campaign. His best seasons in the NHL have seen him average between 16:21-17:23 minutes per game.
“I gotta keep the big guy involved,” Peters said. “He’s got to be involved so he needs some ice-time.”
Peters added that “his best seasons have always been with a right-handed centre,” which means the likeliest scenario is him skating with Derek Ryan on the team’s third line.
“Right now, in my mind, we’ll be moving somebody over, a left-handed shot over to the right side,” Peters said.
“I thought [Andrew] Mangiapane was real good. He’s a guy that could possibly play with Looch and give him some speed and some skill and some tenacity on the puck. So, we’ll see how it all goes but I see him playing in that middle six, I see him on that second unit PP net-front.”
And if Peters feels at any time his top line needs some muscle, well, he now has that option.
“I also see him playing some shifts with Johnny and Monny,” Peters added, referring to star forwards Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. “I think now we have that dimension that when Johnny’s getting the sticks broke across his hands that maybe’s there’s a guy that can play right wing that can put an end to that.”