DeBoer: Devils ‘overplaying’ Jagr


By all accounts, 41-year-old Jaromir Jagr is having a great season — he’s leading the Devils in scoring with 22 points through 28 games.

But his head coach thinks it might be too much.

“I didn’t expect he’d be able to take the kind of workload we’ve given him so far,” Peter DeBoer said, as per NorthJersey.com. “Frankly, in my mind we’re playing him too much. We’re overplaying him.”

Jagr is averaging 18:43 per game this season, his highest total since returning to the NHL in 2011-12. As DeBoer mentioned, the Devils have been forced to rely on Jagr due to a number of injuries at forward — Patrik Elias and Ryane Clowe have both missed extensive time — and the fact that Jagr has been his most consistent scorer throughout the season.

After a relatively slow start — just three points in his first seven games — Jagr has caught fire, notching 19 points in his last 21. This includes a notable uptick in goals (six in his last eight, 11 all told), something that’s put him on pace to score 30-plus this year… meaning he could register his first 30-goal season since doing it with the Rangers in 2006-07.

Despite Jagr’s great play, DeBoer insists he needs to cut the veteran’s minutes.

“I look at the fact that this is an Olympic year, [Jagr’s] probably a guy that’s going to go to the Olympics, we’re in a condensed schedule,” he explained. “The minutes have just been a little bit high, that’s all.

“He’s earned them and he’s been key in getting some of the of wins in some of those games, but for me the bigger issues is I shouldn’t have to play him that much.”

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

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When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado