Jaromir Jagr

Jagr: ‘I want to play until 50’

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There’s only been one NHLer to play into his 50s: Gordie Howe, who retired following the 1979-80 season at the age of 51.

But if Jaromir Jagr has his way, he’ll eventually join Howe in the quinquagenarian group.

From NorthJersey.com:

“I love the game. What I want to tell you is I don’t know if it’s going to be the last year in the NHL. If I stay healthy, it’s not going to be my last year in hockey. I want to play until 50, maybe more. But I want to play in the NHL if I’m good enough. I don’t want to just be here just to be here.

“But the longer you play in the NHL, the better challenge you get for yourself. You’re facing the best players in the world. So, if I’m good enough to play in this league, I want to do it. If I’m not, I’m going to play somewhere else. But you have to stay healthy and you have to stay motivated and you have to love the game. So, that’s what I do. That’s what I love.”

Since returning to the NHL in 2011 following a three-year KHL stint, Jagr has reinvented himself and his passion for hockey. He speaks endlessly about how much he enjoys playing the game and his infamous workout regime became the stuff of legend in 2013 when, at the age of 41, he was fit enough to play 101 games in a single season (34 in Czech league during lockout, 45 regular season games with Dallas and Boston, then 22 Stanley Cup playoff games with the B’s.)

The future Hall of Famer is showing no signs of slowing down. He led the Devils in scoring last year, with 67 points, and appeared in all 82 games while averaging over 19 minutes a night. Essentially, he was the team’s most valuable player.

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Jagr: I’ll play until 70 to beat Gretzky

Jaromir Jagr: ‘I’ll play until I cannot walk’

Unsigned Salo says he’d like to play, but he’s not healthy

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From Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times:

Salo, 40, was the NHL’s sixth-oldest skater last season…

source:

…and of those six, only Jaromir Jagr and Sergei Gonchar are under contract for this season.

Still, Salo managed to appear in 71 regular-season games for the Lightning in 2013-14, plus he represented Finland at the Olympics.

Also, he’s a coveted right-shooting defensemen who can man the point on the power play. If he were healthy, we might wonder if the Red Wings ever had any interest. Heck, we might even wonder if his former Vancouver Canucks had any, given how much they’ve missed his smooth first pass on the breakout, as well as his bomb from the point with the man advantage.

Alas, he’s not healthy. Which has kind of been a problem for him, and may mean his NHL career is over.

Alfredsson stops skating after tweaking back

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From the Detroit Free Press:

The odds that Daniel Alfredsson goes to training camp without a contract have increased after a setback in his skating.

Alfredsson “felt a little bit of a tweak,” last week, Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland told the Free Press on Wednesday. Alfredsson has held off on re-signing with the Wings pending assessment of back pain that comes and goes. He’d been skating daily with the Wings for about a week until the reoccurrence of pain. A decision was made to stop skating until Alfredsson feels better.

This latest flare-up – coming after a long off-season tending to his back – doesn’t bode well for playing another season.

Alfredsson is 41 years old, so it’s more than possible he ends up retiring. Only three skaters were older than he was in 2013-14 — Teemu Selanne, Jaromir Jagr, and Ray Whitney. The first retired and the third is “at peace” with possibly hanging them up.

That being said, Alfredsson did manage to score 18 goals, with 31 assists, last season. Also, he’s never won a Stanley Cup, so the opportunity for one more shot at the crown could be a motivating factor.

Looking to make the leap: Reid Boucher

However you might feel about the New Jersey Devils’ 2013-14 campaign, there’s no denying that the team needs to score more goals and generally create more chances.

For the most part, the Devils seem like they’re counting on veteran players to produce. They’re hoping for more good things from the likes of Jaromir Jagr and Patrik Elias along with ideal outputs from additions Mike Cammalleri and Martin Havlat.

That said, hockey’s usually a young man’s game, so the Devils might at least want to ponder giving a key prospect like Reid Boucher a whirl.

Boucher, 20, turned heads in particular during his outstanding 2012-13 season with the OHL’s Sarnia Sting. He managed a 62-goal, 95-point season in 68 contests after only managing 50 in 67 the previous season. His AHL numbers were promising enough in 2013-14, as well, generating an impressive 22 goals and 38 points in 56 contests with the Albany Devils. Boucher even got his feet wet at the NHL level, collecting seven points in 23 games with Devils.

An early August NHL.com story implies that Devils head coach Peter DoBoer thinks he has a shot, at least if he emulates a former Devils forward.

“I’m looking for [Boucher] to come into [training camp] and be in good shape,” DeBoer said. “He’s a veteran and I’m looking for some leadership. He needs to have a workmanlike mentality. Whether he’s playing on a first line or fourth line, he has to bring that workmanlike mentality. I told him that the beauty about Zach Parise was that he was a first-line player with a fourth-line work ethic. I think Reid can take some notes from that.”

All of that said, doing so might mean making some waves. Cap Geek lists 14 forwards under contract in New Jersey, and that’s without counting Boucher or fellow up-and-coming prospect Stefan Matteau.

With everything in mind, the difference between becoming a full-time roster player and another season flipping between the AHL and NHL might come down to how Boucher performs in training camp (and early regular season games if he impresses in September).

Will Jagr finally show his age next season?

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During his prime years, Jaromir Jagr was often a polarizing figure, but at 42, he’s essentially in his “Teemu Forever” stage of being widely beloved.

Of course, he’ll turn 43 during his second season as a member of the New Jersey Devils, so the question must be uttered once again: will this finally be the year that he looks like an old man?

No signs of slowing down

His work in the 2013-14 season defies logic. While some bounces likely went his way, it’s not like he scored 24 goals and 67 points by accident. His shooting percentage was a modest 10.4, which only looks imposing compared to his bizarre playoff run with the Boston Bruins (zero goals on 58 shots in 22 games in the 2013 postseason).

The thing that might be most surprising is that he was stunningly dominant in possession stats, something that aging players rarely accomplish (Jarome Iginla was a nice asset for Boston last season, yet the underlying numbers argue that he was at least slightly propped up by Milan Lucic and David Krejci).

Devils blog In Lou We Trust captured his fanciful stats from last season while tabbing him as the clear team MVP:

Oh, what would this team be without Jaromir Jagr this season? He’s the team’s leader in points with 24 goals and 43 assists. He’s the team’s leader in shots on net with 231. He’s the team’s leader in both Corsi For% and relative Corsi For% in 5-on-5 play at 59.2% (!) and +7.1% (!!) among regulars per Extra Skater. The latter is important to note because being present for shooting attempts and generating them means that when he’s on the ice, the play is going forward. Even by the eye test, #68 has constantly picked on defensemen and forwards along the boards, in the corners, and even in open ice. The remarkable thing isn’t that he’s done all this at the age of 42. It’s that he’s done all this and made skeptics like me not only look foolish but seriously feel that bringing him back may be a good idea.

The fall can be dramatic

Jagr is a noted fitness buff, yet sports history is stacked with players who saw dramatic drops in a single season. Even gracefully aging icon Teemu Selanne dropped to healthy scratch status during the Anaheim Ducks’ turbulent 2014 postseason and that’s a rather mild example of how jarring the fall to mediocrity recall can be.

If motivation is a factor, the Devils must hope that Jagr really cares about milestones, then:

All-time points leaders:

4. Ron Francis – 1,798
5. Marcel Dionne – 1,771
6 tied. Jagr – 1,755 and Steve Yzerman 1,755

All-time goals leaders:

3. Brett Hull – 741
4. Dionne – 731
5. Phil Esposito – 717
6. Mike Gartner – 708
7. Jagr – 705

Even a limited-but-healthy Jagr could probably finish 2014-15 in the top five in both categories, but if he really wants to stick around for a while, why not flirt with fourth?

***

Ultimately, it’s been a great run for Jagr, and he doesn’t seem interested in ending it anytime soon. NHL teams have little reason to pull the plug, either … at least so far.