Oh, Chris Wagner -- we hardly knew ye. Claimed off waivers from the Anaheim Ducks on November 15th, you were thrust into the role of fourth-line center, where you hit some people and generally skated in the right direction. And just like that, you were gone -- like the warm wind whistling across the prairie.
Wait, hold up here. You played 26 games in an Avalanche uniform? You scored four goals? Yikes, that's like more than a quarter of the season! Perhaps the ephemeral tenure of Chris Wagner is worth exploring a little further.
MHH Survey Grade: 68.1%
To do so, we should first turn back the clock to that mid-November day. Why was it again that they needed Wagner? Well, the Avs, after breaking camp with Mikko Rantanen and Borna Rendulic, eventually figured out that was premature and sent both European youngsters back to the AHL for more seasoning. Then Alex Tanguay went down with a knee injury, as well as call-up Ben Street not much later, leaving the team rather thin at forward and no clear replacement options within the organization.
The final straw was when Gabriel Landeskog was suspended for trying to knock some sense into the Boston Bruins' Brad Marchand (spoiler: it didn't work). At that point, a move had to be made and Chris Wagner, who had just been put on waivers, was a somewhat logical move. Attrition necessitated John Mitchell playing a top-nine role and Chris Wagner at the time was thought of as a decent fourth-line center.
Our sister site, Anaheim Is Calling, had this to say after the transaction:
Chris Wagner is a player that many Ducks fans are upset to see the team losing via waivers. He projects as a solid lower line player; good speed, fearless in engaging in smart physicality, improved face off ability, and decent ability to turn play and generate shots. He is a value at his current price tag, and does enough things well to be a consistent positive contributor while likely not becoming overly expensive.
We all thought we were getting a steal, perhaps even a valuable contributor even when all the troops returned. In short time, though, we learned we were a bit overeager. Despite scoring three goals in his first five games, his performance would taper off considerably afterward, along with his playing time. Wagner eventually earned a spot in the reserve booth and was then placed on waivers later when the roster spot was needed (where he was picked up again by Anaheim).
Wagner was never going to carry Colorado's fourth line like John Mitchell could do every once in a while. As a complimentary piece on a checking line, he'd probably be somewhat effective. Always a good face-off guy (55% career average), he second on the team in that category among player with more than 100 attempts.
But ultimately, he wasn't a great possession player at Minus-6.4 CF% Rel (this is down in the Nate Guenin range, for those wondering). The puck just never seemed to leave the zone with that fourth line on the ice.
MHH Staff Grade: D
Not a lot of expectation here, but that's some considerable drag for a player getting only getting 8:10 even strength minutes per game.