Flyers Prospect Robert Hagg Making an Impact for Phantoms
ALLENTOWN, Pa. — It started with a heart-to-heart conversation as it almost always does.
The sanctuary of a hockey coach’s office leads to that eureka moment for a player and defenseman Robert Hagg’s came at about this time last year with a quarter of the season to go.
He took a seat in the grey mesh, wheeled office chair with orange trim in front of Scott Gordon’s desk. The Flyers’ 2013 second-round pick wasn’t playing up to the hype. In fact, he was getting worse.
“I figured that I had to do something, otherwise I wasn’t going to last long in this organization,” said Hagg, a native of Uppsala, Sweden. “Then we talked about just simplifying the game, play hard, play physical, take care of the D zone and I think I did that the last two and a half months last year and this year as well.”
It almost seemed counterintuitive. Play simple? How does that lead to offense? It sounds like more of a cliché than a real solution.
Well, it’s working. Plus-minus is a flawed stat, but Hagg went from minus-11 last year in 65 games to plus-10 in his first 43 games this season. That’s a big jump. Something is clearly going right and it’s more than Hagg’s self-deprecating humor that this year’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms team is just better than last year’s.
“You look at his game and part of it is where a player comes from,” said Gordon, his second season as the Phantoms’ bench boss. “Him playing in Sweden, the big rinks, there’s a lot of opportunity for him to make long passes. The lanes are bigger, the success rate is greater and a lot of his game was still in that mode last year.”
Hagg admits that he was trying too many of those home-run plays, those long passes meant to spring a forward on a breakaway but too often resulted in a turnover.