Welcome to the newest edition of “Point/Counterpoint,” where a pair of Flyers Faithful scribes present both sides of one particular issue with their own unique view and flair.
This week, Nick D. and Bob H. renew hostilities on the topic of whether or not Jaromir Jagr should be back in Orange and Black next season.
Point, from Nick: The Philadelphia Flyers stunned most of the National Hockey League and its fans when they lured a willing Jagr away from the KHL and signed him to a one-year, $3.3 million dollar contract.
Not only was it surprising because Jagr was despised in Philadelphia for the entirety of his career in the NHL to date, it was also a bit of a shock because people didn’t know where or how the team planned to use the 39-turning-40-year-old, 6-foot-3, 240-pound winger with a rapidly-approaching expiration date. Jagr also had a history of being a bit of a prima donna, and with all the youth on the team, certain media members were quick to point that out as a looming problem if things didn’t go well this year.
How did he respond? By putting up solid numbers (19 goals, 35 assists in 73 regular-season games), working hard on and off the ice, and through his consummate professionalism and discipline, he was even able to garner the Flyers’ nomination for the Masterton Trophy for his dedication to the sport. Honestly, what more could the guy have done to win over both the fans and media?
Counterpoint, from Bob: Nothing, but like Sarah Baicker said last week in her CSN Philly day-after-the-loss-to-New Jersey piece, Jagr had almost 10 minutes during locker room interviews to say he would come back to the Flyers next year. But he didn’t. That’s Clue #1.
Clue #2 is the fact that he said he loved it here BUT what ultimately happens will be left up to his agent, Petr Svoboda. You know, the same guy who pitted Philly, the Penguins and Detroit in a bit of a bidding war for his client’s services last Summer.
Clue #3 is the near blubbering he engaged in while telling the media exactly how much fun he had and how this was the happiest season of his life so far, yada yada yada. Sounds to me like a guy who was fortunate to have one great final ride without a care in the world on the merry-go-round but who just started paving his way out of North American professional hockey at the very least.
Nick: Jagr was absolutely non-committal about staying in Philadelphia, he did say: “this was probably my most enjoyable year I ever had. I won some cups, I won some trophies, but I love this year. From the organization to the last player on the team, and the fans, they were so nice to me…I hate to finish it right now…”.
To me, that sounds like a guy who wasn’t ready for the year to be over, not like a guy who wants out of the game, which all goes back to why he came back to the NHL and signed with the Flyers in the first place. Jagr’s a skilled guy who wants to play big minutes in big situations. It’s the reason he didn’t sign in Pittsburgh or Detroit: both Paul Holmgren and Peter Laviolette assured Jaromir that he was going to play a significant role because there were so many young players, so many new players, pieces that everyone was just unsure of how they would all fit together, and he could help be a steadying and guiding force.
Jagr fit really well on the line with Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell as they were the top scoring line for the Flyers, but more than that, he helped form the team’s identity into one that could score at will and not get rattled, as well as one that would outwork teams on a nightly basis over the course of a game. Despite wearing down over the course of the year, Jagr’s approach and hard work kept him in the lineup on most nights and certainly helped the younger guys see what it takes to stay in professional hockey as long as he has.
Bob: Almost forgot Clue #4: reports that Jagr was unhappy with his playing time during the postseason, particularly on the power play.
In one of Filip Strych’s translated interviews from earlier this season, Jagr made it clear that he’s getting older and wants to think more about a life beyond hockey, that life which we presume includes returning to his country, active ownership of his hometown club in the Czech Extraliga and settling down to have children with his current partner.
I can’t imagine a guy staring down the barrel of being 41 years old at the middle of next season, in the wake of his groin issues in both the regular season AND playoffs, and the possibility of having surgery to correct whatever is wrong with him.
And if he wasn’t lying about this past season being his most enjoyable in a career spanning over 20 years, why would he want to test the waters, here or anywhere else, for any kind of money, to try and duplicate it?
Nick: Bob, you ignorant slut.
Everyone who was on the team this year will be on the team next year. If this season was Jagr’s most enjoyable, and he cited the city, his teammates, and the organization as the reasons, why wouldn’t he want to return? On top of that, if he did re-sign, he would only be helping the youth movement in their development by showing them on and off the ice what players need to do to remain competitive, as well as provide a calming and reassuring veteran presence that would have been sorely missed if Chris Pronger cannot play hockey anymore.
Jagr may not be able to eat the minutes he could as a younger player, but he could certainly help show young skilled forwards like James van Riemsdyk and Jake Voracek, how to play the game the right way as well as provide some much needed depth if one of them ends up passing him on the depth chart or injured for any length of time.
Bob: Jagr is simply not needed anymore as a “veteran presence” and one year imparting his vast experience to the gaggle of sophomores on the roster is enough. Let’s get another vet, for the same price but a few years younger, to add some spice to the mixture. He’s done and seen everything there is to do as a player: Stanley Cups, Art Ross Trophies, MVPs, playing with Mario Lemieux, served as Penguins captain, participated in the Olympics and won Gold. Played in New York, played in Russia, eliminated his former team.
Thanks a lot for time served, but here’s the door. We’ll even hold it open for you.
It reminds me of Alan Rickman’s quote as Hans Gruber in the first “Die Hard:” “When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.”