"If he's put in the right position he can still (be a force). … He's got a good shot. He'll play smart."
That's Patrik Elias of the New Jersey Devils, chatting up 39-year-old Jaromir Jagr's game after the Philadelphia Flyers winger was a difference-maker in the preseason contest between the two teams. Sure, there's a little Czech Lovefest aspect to the endorsement, but the reviews are in for Jagr in the exhibition season: Dude's still got something significant left in the tank.
Headed into weekend play, Jaromir Jagr had four goals in three preseason games with the Flyers. Back in the NHL after a three-year KHL tour with Omsk Avangard, the 39-year-old winger keeps cautioning everyone not to expect too much. But he still flashes those sublime talents. And he is a horse at 6 feet 2 inches and nearly 250 pounds.
If he stays healthy and doesn't tire out, the ex-Penguins superstar could still produce 30 goals and 60-80 points. If so, that will make his $3.3 million among the top bargains of the summer signings. Jagr loves being fed passes by Claude Giroux, whom he calls "a little genius," similar to Mario Lemieux with some of his moves.
An 80-point season for Jaromir Jagr?
Is the preseason promising too much or is Jaromir Jagr primed for an All-Star campaign?
Three reasons to believe it's possible:
The Power Play. Jagr had 70 power-play points in his last two seasons with the New York Rangers, before leaving for the KHL in 2008. His role as a force around the crease, and as a backdoor option for set plays, had Pittsburgh Penguins Coach Dan Bylsma salivating when the Pens were courting Jagr. You can see why on this power-play tally from Jagr against the Devils (via The 700 Level):
You think that could happen at least 15 times in the regular season?
The Role. It's probably been over 15 years since we've seen Jagr play a complementary role in the NHL. He's been 'the man' on every team he's played for since 1997; even towards the end with the Rangers, when they'd still have him playing well over 20 minutes a night.
The Flyers don't necessarily need significant ice time from Jagr. Sure, they'll take it if they get it, but if he can't play first-line minutes you get the sense that (a) there are other options for him in the lineup and (b) they're deep enough up front to sustain a reduction in role for Jagr. Besides, if he can give them a significant boost on the power play, that'll more than make up for it.
"When he was (in the NHL) before he was the go-to guy all the time. He's just part of that team now."
Yeah, About That Talent. When he was with the Rangers, Jagr struggled at times with line chemistry. His pairing with Scott Gomez proved problematic, because Gomez wanted to feed him in certain spots in the zone and Jagr preferred to freelance.
The great thing about Jagr on the Flyers is that he's not there to play with a specific center or on a specific line. The Hockey Guys broke down several Jagr-centric line combos including the James van Riemsdyk-Giroux-Jagr group that's been seen in the preseason:
This has been acknowledged as the most likely first unit. It's a line that presents matchup problems for opponents in terms of the sheer size of the wings.
Combine Jagr's ability to barrel in from the half wall with JvR's howitzer shot, it's a frightening combination. The concern for this unit will be their two way play. Jagr is not known for his defensive prowess and van Riemsdyk is a work in progress.
So 80 points for Jagr? Thirty goals? The folks at Dobber Hockey can't in good faith see him as a point-per-game player (in a great comparison with Teemu Selanne) and he wasn't one in his last season with the New York Rangers (0.87).
He had 71 points in 82 games that season, with 25 goals. Only seven of those 25 goals came on the power play; that'll change dramatically with the Flyers.
Do you see Jagr as a 70-point player? A 65-point player? Higher? Lower?
Is the preseason a tease or a test passed for Jagr?