Amato takes a look at 41-year-old Jaromir Jagr's strong season

When Jaromir Jagr signed with the Dallas Stars last summer it probably raised quite a few eyebrows. The Stars haven’t made the playoffs since the 2007-08 season, and if they aren’t in a full rebuild mode with their roster, they are certainly retooling. You wouldn’t think that would be the ideal destination for a veteran player trying to end his career on a high note. Then again, Jagr has been anything but conventional during his playing days and has always marched to the beat of his own drum. Taking a three-year hiatus to play in the KHL was clearly evidence of that.


Jagr returned to the NHL last year with the Philadelphia Flyers, and if nothing else, proved he could still play. In 2013 with the Stars he has proven he can do more than just that. Jagr, who just picked up assist number 1,000 last week, currently leads Dallas in goals, points, power play goals, and shots. He is also on a 65 point pace if this were an 82-game season, which would far exceed his totals from last year. Did I mention he is 41 years old?

Even though he has changed teams, Dallas has done a good job of putting Jagr in a similar position when it comes to line-mates. In 2011-12 Jagr played most often with Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell, while this season it has been Jamie Benn and Brenden Morrow. Although no two players are exactly alike, there are similarities between each grouping. Both Benn and Giroux are very creative and have elite skill sets, while Morrow and Hartnell are physical players who can retrieve the puck and take up real estate in front of the net. Having one person on your line that can get you the puck in a scoring position and another who can occupy defenders is a great compliment to anyone’s game, especially someone as skilled as Jagr.

Morrow has now been traded to Pittsburgh and it remains to be seen how that will alter Jagr’s numbers, but the good news is Benn is still around. The two have built a great chemistry in their brief time together in Dallas, and they have combined to find the score sheet 17 times in 2013. In fact, Benn leads the Stars with 12 primary assists and had just 15 all of last season. No doubt playing with Jagr and his 14 goals are a major reason for the upswing in that area.

Jagr’s presence has also helped the Stars as a whole this season. In 2011-12 Dallas had the league’s worst power play, but this year with Jagr’s six power play goals he has them up to a ranking of 12th. It’s nothing to brag about, but it’s still a significant improvement from last year. Jagr only had eight goals with the man advantage all of last season, and to put in perspective just what he means to the Stars in that area, nobody else on Dallas currently has more than three power play goals.

Dallas has also improved its goal totals for this season with the aid of Jagr. Last year they were just 22nd in goals per game, but in 2013 they have bettered that slightly to move up to 15th. Getting more scoring should lead to a few extra wins which the Stars desperately need if they hope to return to the post-season. The past two seasons they have finished 10th and 9th respectively in the Western Conference standings and just missed out on playoff hockey. Jagr’s ability to find the back of the net may just help Dallas get over the hump.

Jagr was accompanied to Dallas this summer with the equally puzzling signing of 40-year-old Ray Whitney. Some may have felt that general manager Joe Nieuwendyk was steering the organization in the wrong direction by spending over $9M on two players over 40, but consider it from the angle of a shrewd investment on Nieuwendyk’s part. Jagr and Whitney have provided some veteran leadership to Dallas’ younger players, while still owning an above average skill set. And if Nieuwendyk wants, he could dangle them as assets to contending teams at the trade deadline. He could turn them both into a bunch of draft picks and prospects to build for the future, much like he did with the Morrow deal.

Jagr’s play this season should have reminded hockey fans just how good he really is. Not necessarily right at this very moment, but how he stacks up when compared to the best ever. A quick scan of the all-time NHL scoring leaders shows Jagr sitting in eighth spot. However, that in itself may be a little deceiving. Although Jagr is in eighth, he sits just 208 points behind Mark Messier who owns the second position. Had Jagr not headed to the KHL for three seasons, he would be much closer to occupying second place behind Wayne Gretzky. All Jagr would have had to do was average 69 points during those three seasons and he would be there right now. Considering he would have been several years younger back then and he’s on pace for 65 points this year, that’s not exactly that far fetched.

With the recent retirement of Niklas Lidstrom, players like Jagr, Martin Brodeur, and Teemu Selanne represent the final sense of nostalgia from a fading hockey era. We should appreciate that while it lasts, since how much longer Jagr remains in Dallas, or the NHL for that matter, is anyone’s guess. If he decides to join a contender and pursue the Stanley Cup one last time, or remain with a younger team and help them grow, it will be his choice. And Jagr has always done things his way. 

Feel free to follow me on Twitter at @amato_mike


Recent Wild West columns:

Bobbing for a Playoff Spot 
The New and Improved Sam Gagner 
Jimmy The Great 
What's Up With Drew Doughty? 



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Anthony L said:

Dukla I disagree strongly that Jagr has a negative impact on the Dallas Stars.

Amato makes a great point above, "In 2011-12 Dallas had the league’s worst power play, but this year with Jagr’s six power play goals he has them up to a ranking of 12th".

It's certainly no fluke seeing how Jagr is one of the best powerplay performers in history. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a Jagr homer, as Mark Messier is my favourite player of all time and I also wish for him to stay 2nd to Gretz on the all-time list. But I also believe along with Teemu and Gordie Howe, that Jaromir is among the best ever 40+ year old producers this game has ever seen. This trio very well may be THE top 3 smilies/grin.gifsmilies/grin.gif Although St.Nick will state his claim as well.smilies/wink.gif
April 02, 2013
Votes: +0

DuklaNation said:

... Jagr was a great player but right now he is in resume building mode. I would argue he might have a negative overall impact on the team. A decent fit on Philly, not on Dallas.
April 02, 2013
Votes: +0

RizzeeDizzee said:

... Nice piece as always Michael.

While Jagr is at a 60+ point pace right now (26 points in 34 games), keep in mind that he actually had 26 points in his first 26 games last season, and then fell off a cliff to finish at 54 points in 73 games. And he's also the same player who had seen his point total decrease in each of his last 4 full NHL seasons (123, 96, 71, 54).

I see him as a compiler at this point, and his lack of any measurable secondary stats (he has a grand total of 6 hits and 6 blocked shots in 34 games this season) make him about as one-dimensional as they come. Personally, I'm glad he'll most likely never end up passing a true NHL great like Messier.
April 02, 2013
Votes: +1

Anthony Lancione said:

Jagr catching The Moose I've written about this pretty extensively in my Ageless Wonders Piece.


.....and I agree with you totally in that in his 3 years in the K, he should have been good for 200 or so NHL points, given his production rates at the time.

However, then consider the time lost in the 94-94 lockout. Yes, Messier lost out on this half season as well. But Jagr was racking upwards of 135 to pushing 150 points per season in the mid-90's, producing at a far higher rate than Messier was at the time(despite his playoff heroics the year before for New York). Thus Jaromir would have nicked away at Mess a little more that half year had there been a full season.

Then fast forward a decade to the 04-05 lockout, where he lost a full season still in his prime, when Mess was finished. Jagr dominated the first season in the cap era after that lockout, with 54 goals and 123 points. So one would think, a year younger he may have been good for at least that, if not more.

Therefore, already with the 3 KHL years, the 94-95 lockout lost advantage over Messier & the 2004-2005 lockout, Jagr, absent a major injury, would have passed Messier for 2nd all time already......Then factor in the half season lost this year, where according to the rate he's producing at now, or scaled back for the most pessimistic view, he'd have chalked about another 30-40 points. Then finally consider that he will surely play at least 1 more year, possibly more. He would have been well over 2,000 points IMO.
April 02, 2013
Votes: +0

pittshamblyuins said:

... The Pens should pick up Jagr for one last tour of duty in Pittsburgh...and one last run at a Cup!
April 01, 2013
Votes: +0
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