When Jaromir Jagr packed his gear bag at the end of the 2008 NHL season, many speculated the then 36 year old had returned to Europe to spend his remaining, presumably short-lived playing days in the KHL as a big fish in a small pond, a la Alexi Yashin and Sergei Zubov. At the time, he was considered one of the NHL’s all-time scoring greats; he was ranked #12 all-time in goals with 646, and #9 all-time in points with 1599. At the conclusion of his brief stint in Europe, he was to be a shoe-in into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Fast Forward three years. Rumor was Jagr had been training above and beyond what was necessary for the 50-odd games played per season in the KHL. Said rumors were confirmed after several weeks of speculation; the high-flying winger was returning stateside. Following a brief bidding-war for his services, Jagr signed a one-year, $3.3 million contract to play a supporting role for the Philadelphia Flyers.
If the first month of this season is indicative of what Jagr is still capable of at the NHL level, well, let’s just say Philadelphia got one heck of a bargain. He’s a seasoned veteran come playoff time, the hardware he has is enough to make Lowe’s jealous, and, even though he will be turning 40 years old during this season, he is still on track to be a point-per-game player; through 13 games he has 5 goals and 8 assists for 13 points. Some may say he’s just been lucky of late. I calmly say ‘no,’ and then reference how, for example, last Saturday Jagr made a defender and then the 27 year old, first-overall selection of the 2011 NHL All-Star Game (Netminder Cam Ward) look utterly foolish as both watched him skate, stick-handle and maneuver his way to a goal, and one of what will be many salutes.