What went wrong for Jaromir Jagr and the Calgary Flames

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/players/35/" data-ylk="slk:Jaromir Jagr">Jaromir Jagr</a> has reportedly played his last game with the <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/teams/cgy/" data-ylk="slk:Calgary Flames">Calgary Flames</a>. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Jaromir Jagr has reportedly played his last game with the Calgary Flames. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

The legend wasn’t supposed to go out like this.

Future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr was pegged to be a possession-driving, experienced piece who would be thrust into a youthful and supremely skilled Flames lineup. The crafty veteran was supposed to march Calgary towards the playoffs while ending his illustrious NHL career with one final postseason run before flying off into the sunset on his fire-breathing minotaur with his ‘2018 Stanley Cup Champions’ hat entrenched upon his flowing, reinvigorated salt-and-pepper mullet.

But unfortunately, that’s not how this story ends. The 45-year-old was placed on waivers Sunday and is reportedly considering a return to Europe if this is the end of his NHL journey.



After a summer of hoping and waiting and finally inking a one-year, $1-million deal with the Flames in early October, Jagr was behind the proverbial eight-ball off the hop, and never found his footing — scoring just once and adding six assists over his first (and likely only) 22 contests with the Flames. He’s also been anchored by a lower-body injury the past several months, missing 21 games up to this point in the season. Jagr stayed home for the Flames’ recent four-game road swing, and was a scratch the last two contests prior to the trip.

Now, the legend has, at the very least, played his last game for the Calgary Flames. So how did a relationship that started with so much promise end so abruptly? There’s no one answer, but rather a few driving factors that have led to Jagr’s imminent departure from Calgary.

As a slow-footed ‘old guy’ in a speed-emphasized, young man’s NHL, production trumps everything. Unfortunately for Jagr and the Flames, his offensive-output has dropped dramatically just one season removed from a 46-point (0.56 PPG) campaign with the Panthers. Through 22 games with Calgary, Jagr’s point-per-game pace of 0.31 is the worst of his career, as is his minuscule 3.1 shooting percentage. His primary point production has dropped off mightily, too, with his primary-points-per-60 (all situations) falling over 30 percent to 1.05 this season from 1.55 in 2016-17.

There are reasons for this monumental drop in offensive production that extend far beyond Jagr’s dwindling skillset. A decline in ice time and a lack of opportunities in choice situations has certainly effected Jagr’s output, as has an unusual run-in with the injury bug, which the soon-to-be 46-year-old has avoided for the majority of his 24-season NHL career.

 

Since arriving on youth-laden Flames club, Jagr has seen his overall ice time lessened by almost 25 percent. His 13:03 TOI this season is over four minutes less than the 17:06 he averaged the past three seasons, with the majority of that coming at even strength, and while skating on the Flames’ third and fourth lines. Jagr has played just 34:51 on the power play through 22 games this season, an average of just over a minute-and-a-half per game. Last season with the Panthers, Jagr averaged just under three minutes TOI per contest with his team a man up.

Offensive output along with opportunities to produce are down big time, and maybe the biggest reason for that is Jagr’s inability to stay healthy as he has his entire career. Though he was just a young-buck at the tender age of 44-45, Jagr dressed in all 82 games for Florida last season, the sixth time in his career that he’s suited up for every single one of his team’s contests. The eight-time All Star has dressed in at least 75 games an astonishing 16 campaigns during his career, and has missed just 20 of 458 games (4.4%) since his 39-year-old season in 2012-13. This season alone, Jagr has been sidelined for a whopping 49% of Calgary’s game, missing 21 contests with a lingering lower-body injury which has plagued the two-time Stanley Cup champion for the better part of four months.

If this indeed the end for Jagr in the NHL, it was a career well-worth celebrating. He’ll finish second only behind Wayne Gretzky in all-time points (1921), third in goals (766) and games played (1733) while capturing five scoring titles and astonishingly contributing 268 points from his 40-year-old season onward.

Though Jagr outran him for longer than all but a select handful of NHLers ever have,  Father Time eventually dethrones everybody in this business — even someone as seemingly invincible as the great No. 68.

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