Jagr Fever

On July 1, 2011, the Flyers announced that they had signed former enemy of the state, Jaromir Jagr, to a one-year contract.

Still fresh off of the shock, anger, and disappointment of the Mike Richards and Jeff Carter trades, I couldn’t bring myself to think of what that signing could do for the team. What could a 39-year-old who hadn’t played in the NHL for three years really bring to the table? As far as I was concerned, it was a pointless move, just like the ones they’d made only eight days prior.

Jagr, Schmagr.

All right, he racked up four points in his first five games, so what? So he found chemistry pretty quickly with Claude Giroux, big whoop! The start of the season was good to the Flyers, so of course it was good to him. He was having beginner’s luck, and that was it.

After those first five, he went two straight games without points, and there it was! Cynical me was prepping my best smug face to wear whenever I told anyone that I was right, Jagr was a flop!

Imagine my surprise when he went on a 7-game point streak, including three multiple-point games, just as I’d perfected that smug face. Imagine my even bigger surprise when I started referring to him as “Jags” and making comments on a sick pass he made or an unbelievable breakaway goal he scored.

Jags?! What was that?! My world had been turned upside down! Before I’d even realized it, Jagrmania was runnin’ wild in my brain.

It wasn’t just the numbers he was putting up. It wasn’t just the awesome way that Hartnell-Giroux-Jagr line came together. It was the fact that, despite his long tenure with the Pittsburgh Penguins and his three-year absence from the NHL, he was fitting in ridiculously well in Philadelphia.

He was a veteran leader on and off the ice, something much-needed for a team that consisted of a lot of young guys. He and Claude Giroux formed this awesome “bromance” that still has me scratching my head. And he’s always lighthearted when dealing with the media. His line about being the only available Czech to play in a recent game was one of my favorites.

And how about that work ethic, eh? Holding workouts with the rookies after every game, skating on his own at midnight every night. He’s a great player, but he never stops trying to improve. That’s something that Philadelphia fans always love to see in their guys.

But the best part about Jagr is just watching him play, and I’m not talking about the skills he possesses on the ice. I’m talking about how much fun he has out there. You can see how much he loves the game, just by the way he plays it. It’s almost like watching a little kid living out his dreams. Well, a 40-year-old little kid.

Though his production has dropped off quite a bit since suffering a groin strain (he’s only scored 16 points since January 8th), it’s still such a blast to watch him whenever he takes the ice. You never know when he’s going to bust out with an insane saucer pass, or have another ridiculous breakaway. He was always an exciting player to watch in the past, and it’s even more exciting to watch him now – because now, he’s one of us.