In a way, it’s hard not to wonder if the Philadelphia Flyers wish they could cross Jaromir Jagr and Jakub Voracek into a single, super-Czech forward.
The general feeling is that Jagr (39) is too old to get it done at the NHL level, although it might all come down to your expectations. Meanwhile, on the other hand, some believe that Columbus Blue Jackets castoff Voracek (22) is still a few years from hitting his prime.
Peter Laviolette: “Jagr’s still got it”
If you’re a fan of the game as a whole – i.e. not a jilted Pittsburgh Penguins or Washington Capitals fan – then you’re probably rooting for Jagr to at least make things interesting. He’s been better than interesting in three preseason games, scoring four goals and creating plenty of other dangerous chances. It’s dangerous to weigh exhibition results too heavily, but Jagr still managed to impress teammates and coaches.
“I don’t think anyone expected him to come back and be as good as he has shown so far in camp,” said Danny Briere, who spent some preseason time on the power play with Jagr. “It’s very exciting for everyone. It’s exciting for me to have the chance to skate with him and to play with him.”
“He’s clearly still got it,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said.
Many will struggle to keep expectations in check with Jagr. After all, he was arguably the most unstoppable offensive force of his era – he won five Art Ross Trophies and ranks ninth all-time with 1,599 points. Expecting him to rekindle his 90-100 point form of yore isn’t fair, but 25 goals isn’t an outrageous request (if he stays healthy).
Could Voracek be the next Ville Leino in Philly?
Speaking of notching 25 goals, CSNPhilly.com’s Tim Panaccio reports that some within the Flyers organization believe that Voracek has that kind of potential. In a way, he strikes me as a likely candidate to be the “next” Ville Leino for the Flyers – a player who came into an organization with high expectations, only to realize them once he entered The City of Brotherly Love.
Voracek has been just OK in Columbus, scoring 46 points in 2010-11 and 50 in 09-10. Those aren’t horrendous numbers for a developing forward, but they probably disappointed the Blue Jackets’ brass who drafted him seventh overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
If there’s one reversible trend from his first three seasons in the league – beyond the possibility of playing with better linemates – it’s that Voracek needs to get more trigger-happy. Each season, his shot totals continue to rise (from 101 in 2008-09 to 154 in 09-10 and 183 in 10-11). Voracek’s increased shot volume didn’t really generate the goals he was hoping for last season, but the good news is that he’s firing away nonetheless – even if the results haven’t been there yet.
The good news: Voracek led the Flyers with 14 shots in preseason.
The bad news: He didn’t score a goal.
That said, Voracek had a half-dozen shots that kissed the post or crossbar. He even had a point-blank open net shot in New Jersey get deflected off a defenseman.
“I mean, I felt very good all preseason,” Voracek said. “I felt awesome every game. I think I could have one goal and a few more. It’s just preseason.”
Panaccio’s report indicates that the Flyers are trying to imprint a message upon Voracek: shoot and shoot some more. That’s the best way for any skilled winger to make a bigger impact on the game, and it’s reasonable to assume that his shooting percentage will climb higher that last year’s career-low 7.7 rate.
The Flyers might hope that Jagr takes Voracek under his wing to whatever extent he can. Either way, Philly’s ceiling could change dramatically depending upon how well one aging Czech and one very young one play in 11-12.