The Flyers have had more changes than Philadelphia International Airport with all of their arrivals and departures this offseason. While former leaders were traded away and young prospects were acquired to eventually fill the void, the organization reminded everyone that they’re always in a “win-now” mode when they grabbed Jaromir Jagr on the open market. The biggest question mark was Jagr himself: which version of the former superstar was going to show up in the City of Brotherly love?
If the Czech’s first preseason game is a hint of things to come, Flyers fans should be positively giddy. And Penguins fans should start throwing things.
Jagr exceeded just about all expectations in his first game on NHL ice since the 2007-08 season. He had a goal and an assist in his first period as a member of the Flyers as Philadelphia beat the Red Wings 3-1 in Detroit. Actually, he scored two points within a 52-second span in his first period in the orange and black. The scary part? He wasn’t happy with his performance. From CSNPhilly.com:
“It was worse than I expected – the game is too quick for me; I have to get better,” Jagr said, laughing. “It’s different, the skating. We still have two weeks to learn.”
“We had some shifts with a little cycle. That’s the way I wanted to play. That’s my game. But still, it’s first time we play together and we need to get used to each other.”
Jagr was probably the only one who wasn’t impressed by his performance.
Before the game, Jagr had explained that his biggest concern was finding his timing on the different ice surface with NHL players. In theory, it’s a logical concern for a player who has spent the last three seasons in Europe where the ice is bigger, the players aren’t quite as good, and the systems are much different. In practice, Jagr showed that the NHL game for him is just like riding a bike—all he had to do was hop on and the rest would come back to him.
Early on in training camp, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette has put Jagr on the same line with Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk. The pair of Flyers youngsters proved in the playoffs last season they have chemistry and are on the verge of becoming one of the breakout duos in the entire league. On Friday night, Jagr proved that the dangerous duo may in fact turn into a terrific trio. Even without Giroux, Jagr repeatedly created chances for van Riemsdyk throughout the game.
So much for it taking time to remember the North American game.
The 82-game season is more a marathon than a sprint. Jagr will have ample opportunity to prove that he still has what it takes at the NHL level. If anything, he’ll have to prove that he’s up to the physical (and mental) rigors of the seven-month regular season. Rangers and Capitals fans will tell you that he mailed it in more than a few times in his last handful of seasons in North America. But when he’s motivated, he’s proven throughout his career than he’s one of the all-time greats.
On Friday, he showed that he still has a little bit in the tank. Both skill—and motivation.