The Contrarian: Can Jagr Play Into His 50s?

by Demetri Fragopoulos on December 25, 2016

 

Nick Bjugstad recently told TSN’s Frank Seravalli that Jaromir Jagr wants to buy him a monkey for Christmas.

In Bjugstad’s own words “He keeps telling me he is going to buy two monkeys, one for me and one for him. I keep trying to tell him it’s illegal to own a monkey, or something. I don’t know what we’d do when we go on the road.”

Jagr’s response?

“You know how on Christmas morning, some people get a ring at the doorbell and there’s a big package with a bow on the top? There’s going to be a monkey inside for Bjuggy. It’s going to be awesome” and you can envision that big mischievous grin on his face as he’s finishing his sentence.

That is Jagr being loose and having fun. We shall see if Bjuggy get his Christmas monkey or not soon enough.

This is the same Jagr who just passed Mark Messier for second place on the NHL’s all-time points list and believes that he can play into his fifties.

Seravalli writes “Jagr reiterated he wants to play until 50 — or beyond. If he isn’t breaking records here in the NHL, it will be in his native Czech Republic where he is the majority owner of HC Kladno. Only he will decide, true to himself until the end.”

Many people do not believe that Jagr will be capable of achieving this goal. He is not scoring like he used to. His skating is slowing down but Jagr does not buy into that.

He counters with “I understand people think the end is coming, that I’m crazy. The numbers (six points in the first 17 games), they’re just numbers. It doesn’t tell you actually how I felt and how I played. I feel better than last year” and “There are a lot of younger players with a lot worse numbers than me in the league. When it’s them, they say that they’re struggling. When it’s me, they say, ‘He’s old; it’s catching up to him.’ They are very wrong.”

His concluding argument is “It’s all in your head. Whatever you want, it’s going to happen. I’ve just got to keep the faith.”

Before I delve into the issue of if he can play effectively into his fifties I want to quickly explore how special he has been, fantasy wise.

My keeper league started the year after Jagr’s rookie season. We had ten owners and our rosters were 18 players deep. Jagr was drafted 41st overall.

Since the start of our league he has been traded four times, released six others, and has averaged 84 points a season in doing so. While there is no doubt, his totals are down he still remains a serviceable selection.

To provide you with some more context, he is the only player from that original draft (180 players) to remain playing in the NHL. He has also outlasted all but two guys selected in following five summer drafts between 1992 and 1996, those two players being Jarome Iginla and Shane Doan.

Jarome Iginla has accumulated eight points in 33 games. Doan has 10 in 34. Jagr has 21 points in 35 games. Like I mentioned earlier, he is still a productive player even though the owners in my league will not trust to have him beyond a year at a time.

 

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Back to the question, can he play five more seasons to that he in his fifties when he retires?

For that I immediately think of one player that he could be compared to, the only player he could compare to, Gordie Howe.

Mr. Hockey last played in the NHL when he was 52 years-old and his legs were a lot slower in comparison to the younger generation that was taking over the league in the eighties.

It is entirely possible a similar scenario, especially if the league were to expand yet again, that Jagr play just as long.

Both took some time to be away from the NHL. Howe briefly retired and then joined the World Hockey Association before returning for his final NHL season, Jagr played in the Kontinental Hockey League.

While it may be a stretch Jagr could also take a run at becoming the second best all time goal scorer too, he only needs 46 more goals to tie Howe.

Over three-and-a-half seasons he would need to average 13 goals to claim that record, and he would be 48 years-old.

The more likely record to be earned though is number of NHL games played. Howe is the all-time leader with 1767. Currently ranking fourth, Jagr is only 103 games shy of Howe’s mark. If Jagr were to finish this season and most of the next then he will surpass Ron Francis, Messier and Howe on his way to the record.

He would then have the opportunity to destroy the record for longevity in the NHL, even though he spent three years in the KHL. What would Don Cherry say if a non-Canadian ever earned this record?

It is good thing Jagr is so relaxed and not stressed about attaining such things. It allows him to give Cherry and others like him the business.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!