Two of the hottest NHL stories of the summer were tracking down Jaromir Jagr’s plane and the Philadelphia Flyers making significant changes to their roster. Those two stories collided on July 1st when Jaromir Jagr signed with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Has anyone even seen Jaromir since the whole “Jagr Watch” situation went down? Sure, he’s made some token “I wouldn’t play as well with Crosby or Datsyuk” comments to rile up the fans, but he hasn’t said much more. We’re not even sure if he’s put on a Flyers jersey yet.
Of course, that doesn’t matter. What does matter is how he performs on the ice once he is wearing orange. The Flyers gave Jagr fistfulls of cash this summer and soon it will be his turn to earn it.
Jaromir Jagr played for the Czech Republic in the 2011 IIHF World Championships, winning a bronze medal. He was definitely very impressive at times and he finished sixth in tournament scoring with five goals and four assists in nine games. It was a strong showing for a 39-year-old and certainly good enough to get several NHL teams interested in acquiring Jagr’s services for the upcoming season.
He also put on a strong performance playing against some of the NHL’s best in the 2010 Olympics. He picked up two goals and one assist in five games at the 2010 Olympic tournament. At times he looked like the Jagr of old and it seemed possible that he could still take over a game if he wanted to.
However, it was also at the 2010 Olympics where Jagr got a taste of what it might be like to play in the NHL on a regular basis.
Ignoring the debate about the legality of the hit, Jagr’s Olympic impact wasn’t quite the same after feeling the wrath of Alex Ovechkin. Unfortunately for Jaromir, crushing hits and incredible speed are a part of the modern NHL. Can Jagr keep up? For 82 games?
Jagr picked up 145 points in 155 games over three seasons in the KHL. He was eighth in KHL scoring last season. Sure, the level of play in the KHL isn’t quite what it is in the NHL, but it’s still a professional hockey league. A 38-year-old who is able to score at that pace in Russia will at least be an effective 39-year-old in North America. He won’t be eighth in NHL scoring, but is anyone really expecting him to be?
The problem could be with Jagr’s contract and the Flyers current situation. When you pay someone $3.3 million, you expect that player to make an impact on your team. This is especially true now that Mike Richards and Jeff Carter are no longer with the organization. Jagr is the fourth highest paid forward on the team, but will he be the fourth best forward on the team? He may be. The Flyers still have good depth up front, but they sacrificed a lot of it to sign Ilya Bryzgalov this summer (whether or not Bryzgalov is worth that gamble is a whole other discussion that was broken down by Jonathan Willis in this post.) Can Jagr fill the void in the Flyers line-up?
Unfortunately, you never know when age is going to catch up to a player. We’ve all witnessed big, sudden declines from one season to the next once players get past their mid-30s.
The last time Jagr played in the NHL was during the 2007-2008 season. He scored 71 points in 82 games with the Rangers. He’s a few years older now, but if Teemu Selanne can score 80 points in 73 games at age 40, who says that Jagr can’t do the same?
Jaromir Jagr is one of the most talented forwards in recent NHL history. Even if he’s a shell of his former self, he could still be pretty good. However, handling the grind of an NHL schedule is something Jagr hasn’t done in years. That could be the biggest obstacle in front of him this season.
No one is doubting his ability, but how he handles the travel and how his body deals with the punishment will determine how well he performs. Will the weight of his contract, the loss of some offensive firepower in Philadelphia and his age slow him down or will he prove a lot of people wrong this season?