After all the fuss I made about Jagr before, wanting him to come back to the NHL, tracking his teams’ successes overseas, finally going to Omsk to see him play again… well, he did get me back into this craziness. How can this not be an earthshaking event in my little universe? How can I not be over the moon about him being a Flyer?
I’m not really sure. Maybe it’s because the news came while I was all in a tiff at Holmgren. Maybe I’m irritated that Jagr will not be on the same Flyers team I loved. Instead, he will be on this revised version of the Flyers. Maybe I’m just impossible to please.
Maybe I’m trapped between “you can’t always get what you want…” and “be careful what you wish for.”
So, what is the situation, really?
They lost Richards, Carter, and Leino (who may or may not be taking some of Briere’s mojo away with him). They added Simmonds, Talbot, Voracek, Jagr and Bryzgalov. The maybe almost ready for prime-time additions include Schenn and…? Without a doubt they have lost reliable scoring. They have also increased their defensive capabilities significantly, unless Bryzgalov has a complete meltdown.
Team chemistry has been radically altered by any measure, even I can see that. You don’t just dump all your goalies, three of your top forwards and a host of familiar lower liners without causing an upheaval.
In such times of upheaval, a new player has an opening, especially a veteran. When everyone is a little off balance, the new guy isn’t at such a disadvantage.
He’s been out of the NHL for a while but he was here long enough to still know how things work. If he has it in him, he could very well become instant glue in the group. That would run counter to the popular notion that Jagr still has a mullet and ego issues:
…with production on the table, the biggest problem for the Flyers and Jagr is chemistry and off-ice assimilation. If both sides can handle each other and keep egos in check, Holmgren may have grabbed the steal of free agency. -Ryan Bright, Philadelphia Sports Daily
Jagr has played with several teams over the years, and he’s played a lot of international tournaments- teams that didn’t have much time to get to know each other. He’s an elite version of “been there, done that.” He has a lot in common with another high profile player on the team, but to avoid displaying an excess of zeal, I won’t name that “surly” Libra.
What about the grueling NHL schedule? How long has it been since he played anywhere near so many games? Let’s have a look:
- 2005-06: 82 regular season games, 3/4 playoff games.
- 2006-07 & 2007-08: 82 regular season games, 10/10 playoff games each.
- 2008-09: 55/56 regular season games, 9/9 playoff games, 7 IIHF WC games.
- 2009-10: 51/56 regular season games, 3/3 playoff games, 5 games in the Olympics, 9 IIHF WC games.
- 2010-11: 49/54 regular season games, 14/14 playoff games, 9 IIHF WC games.
What I find interesting is that before his last three seasons in the NHL, he hardly ever played 82 games in a season. He didn’t usually miss a lot of games but three seasons in a row playing all 82 games, I don’t care how many minutes he played, it’s impressive. It was also a while ago.
In the last three seasons with the KHL, he didn’t miss a lot of games. Even in 2009-10, when he was banged up pretty well during the Olympics, he only missed five regular season games. It is said that he plays very short shifts, isn’t all that fast anymore, has all the usual limitations of an older player.
It is hard to tell how he will handle the rigors of an NHL season. He hasn’t played so many games for three years, but then neither has he been asked to. On the one hand, not being used to it, an 82 game season may pose a problem. On the other hand, not having played any 82 game seasons for a long time may have extended his longevity. He may be in much better shape than most NHL players of his age.
I can’t remember where, but I read some story from his time in Omsk. What sticks in my head is how he was a role model for the younger players on the team, particularly when it came to conditioning and practice. You don’t get very far as a professional athlete without being pretty good at that. You certainly don’t keep playing as long as he has without being really dedicated about it. Obviously, conditioning in principle will not be an issue for Jagr. The only question will be how he holds up.
When people hit their 30s, no matter how well they take care of themselves, their bodies start to decline. To maintain, they have to increase care and conditioning. This can take a few years to sort out, but it can be sorted out, so that what appears to be a rebound may happen in our mid- to late 30s. It doesn’t mean you get younger, it just means you’ve figured out how to maintain the newly old body. That is the key. I would guess that since Jagr is still playing after 35, he is either superhuman or he sorted it out.
Luckily, the Flyers have access to a highly qualified expert on the subject of how fit and able Jaromir Jagr really is, someone who will know exactly how much he can do and how to maximize his potential. That would be Jagr.
Welcome to the team, pan Jágr.