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As we’ve discussed before, it wasn’t the best season overall for the Bruins’ fourth line — whether it was the three regulars or one of the guys who rotated through from time to time.
Chris Wagner wasn’t immune from those struggles, putting up his least productive season since joining the Bruins.
Wagner missed a few games due to injury and had a few healthy scratches sprinkled in as well.
When he was in the lineup, you certainly couldn’t fault Wagner for his determination: the effort was certainly there, whether it was throwing hits or killing penalties.
However, one of the more pleasant surprises in Wagner’s game during his time with the Bruins has been his ability to chip in with goals relatively regularly.
In his first season, Wagner averaged a goal around every six games; the following season, that pace slowed to a goal every 11 games.
Last season, however, that pace really dried up, with Wagner averaging a goal every 20 games.
There are certainly reasons for Wagner’s slump: he shot just 3.5%, by far the lowest rate of his career.
Like Sean Kuraly, Wagner was handed some pretty tough sledding in terms of ice time, as you can see from starting nearly 75% of his shifts in his own zone.
He also was asked to do some major work on the PK as well, as nearly 10% of his total ice time (on average) was spent killing penalties.
I guess the point of all that is given how he was used and what he was asked to do, maybe we were a little harsh on Wagner. After all, it’s kind of hard to blame him for an anomaly of a shooting percentage.
Had a couple more of those shots gone in, we’d likely be singing a different tune.
The problem for Wagner is the same problem we’ve mentioned with a whole bunch of other bottom-six guys: where does he fit next season?
Along with newcomers like Tomas Nosek and Erik Haula, Curtis Lazar remains in the mix and younger guys like Trent Frederic and Anton Blidh may be pushing for fourth-line ice time as well.
Given the reliability of his effort and his off-ice presence, I’d have a hard time believing Wagner will be immediately relegated to Level 9 this season.
But with the glut of options at his end of the lineup, Wagner will face pretty stiff competition for significant ice time if his struggles continue.