Can Jaromir Jagr catch Gordie Howe and what is his fantasy outlook?

Matt Cane and Rob Vollman have devised a system to project a player's future performance by finding players with common statistics historically (Vollman, on the left) and in the modern day (Cane, on the right). This article is part of a series to introduce readers to their system, and to demonstrate how it can give you an edge in fantasy hockey.

In the 22 seasons between Bryan Trottier in 1978-79 and Jarome Iginla in 2001-02, only three different players stood (alone) atop the NHL scoring leader board – Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Jaromir Jagr. Fast forward 15 years, and a 43-year-old Jagr is only 48 points back of Gordie Howe for third in all-time scoring. Can he catch him?

Obviously, there are not a lot of 43-year-old comparables throughout history with whom Jagr can be compared (on the left), and not many more in the more modern system (on the right), where the age restriction is relaxed.

Rob's Take: It's possible that Jagr can catch Howe this year. That is to say, there is historical precedent for a 43-year-old to score 40 points, and even the required 48 is within grasp if Jagr stays healthy, and everything falls into place.

Gordie Howe, Mark Messier, Mark Recchi, Teemu Selanne and Igor Larionov are all players who managed to score at or above the 40-point pace at age 42 or beyond. And, it's certainly fair to consider Jagr as the scoring equal or superior to absolutely anyone in history (whose name doesn't rhyme with Jet-ski).

Furthermore, Jagr should get a lot of time on the top scoring line and the first power play unit with young talents ready to break out, like Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov. After all, he did bag 18 points in 20 games after joining the Panthers at last year's trade deadline.

All that being said, there is obviously the tremendous potential of a complete collapse. For example, look at how quickly Teemu Selanne plunged from being a point-a-game player at age 40, to just 27 points in 64 games at age 43. Going back further in history, Russian legend Igor Larionov plunged to just 11 points in 49 games at age 43, after back-to-back 43-point seasons. Even the ageless Johnny Bucyk finally wore down at age 42, with 18 points in 53 games after a long career of roughly point-a-game seasons. So, it's a gamble.

Matt’s Take: It probably doesn’t need to be said, but picking any 43-year-old, even if he happens to be one of the top players of his generation, is a risky proposition. With seven of his 20 closest counterparts choosing to hang up their skates following their comparable year, a strong argument could be made that Jagr should be enjoying his retirement rather than lining up alongside players who are literally half his age. But the Czech scoring machine has chosen to lace them up for another year, and while the Panthers are certainly lucky to have him back, fantasy owners need to take a hard look at whether it’s worth taking a shot on the oldest player in the league.

Of his counterparts that did play the following season, consistency was a key theme – most players were around the 0.5-point-per-game mark, which would is just slightly below his baseline rate, but in line with his totals from last year. And really, the “if” is the key part here – of the 13 players who did suit up the following year, nine of them played more than 70 games, an impressive total for a group of skaters all above age 36. As long as Jagr can avoid injuries, playing time shouldn’t be much of a concern, and the estimates for his scoring ranges aren’t that wide either. A 40-point year seems like a given if he’s healthy, the question is if there’s any room to surprise above that.

Looking at the numbers though, there seems to be a pretty hard ceiling on Jagr’s performance at around the 55-60 point range in each system. In the historical set this comes from Daneil Alfredsson’s single year in Detroit, while in the Modern dataset his highest performing counterpart was Ray Whitney. Both players were still productive players towards the end of their careers, but neither was scoring at the same rate that they were in their prime years. Even if it seems as if Jagr might be different than the rest, don’t be fooled – all players eventually breakdown, and while he likely will play a key leadership role on a young Panthers club, his upside potential for the year to come is probably limited.

For complete projections on over 700 active NHL players, Vollman and Cane Historical Projections 2015 is available exclusively through the Dobber store for just $4.99 – or it's free if you bought the Fantasy Guide using the coupon code on page 151!