BOSTON – Jaromir Jagr’s skills have diminished since he scored at least 30 goals in 15 consecutive seasons.
He’s content with what he has left, though, and so are the Boston Bruins.
“The game has changed, so I changed,” the five-time NHL scoring champion said at Thursday’s morning skate before his debut with Boston against the New Jersey Devils. “I’m not the guy who wanted to score the most goals in the league or most points in the league.
“Don’t take it wrong, I like to score. But there’s more important things, the whole picture of a team and to win as a team. I think in that kind of way I’ve changed a lot.”
His initial role may be bigger than anticipated when the Bruins obtained him from the Dallas Stars on Tuesday, the day before the NHL trade deadline.
That night, first-line centre Patrice Bergeron suffered a moderate concussion. He was hurt in the second period of the Bruins 3-2 win over Ottawa when the right elbow of the Senators’ Colin Greenberg struck the left side of Bergeron’s head while they were racing for the puck.
The Bruins gave no timetable for Bergeron’s return from the fourth concussion of his NHL career.
“He sounded positive,” coach Claude Julien said. “You never know with those things. … Some guys have progressed quicker than others. It’s really a tough thing to predict.”
At the morning skate, right wing Tyler Seguin moved to centre between left wing Brad Marchand and Jagr. Julien wouldn’t commit to sticking with that alignment.
“I don’t think what you see is necessarily what we’re going to get,” Julien said. “We’re going to look and see what fits in best, not just for Jaromir Jagr, but for everybody else. It’s not just about him. I think it’s about fitting guys in areas where they can be good for us.”
Wherever he plays, Jagr should boost the Bruins’ mediocre offence that scored just 20 goals in nine games before the meeting with New Jersey. He scored 54 goals in 2005-06 and 30 in 2006-07, the last time he had at least 30.
His impact could be especially significant on the power play. Boston ranks 24th in the NHL in scoring with an extra skater, and none of their players had more than three power-play goals. With Dallas, six of Jagr’s 14 goals were on power plays.
“He’s a big guy,” Julien said. “He protects the puck so well, strong on his stick, heavy stick. As you know, the power play is another area that he can certainly fit in. There’s so much I think he can bring and, with our club, the way we play, there’s no doubt he will blend in very well.”
Julien stresses puck possession in the offensive zone, and the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Jagr can use his body to shield it from opponents.
But first Jagr, 41, must get used to his new teammates on his third team in two seasons after signing with Dallas following one season with the Philadelphia Flyers.
“It’s not easy, but, obviously, I’m coming to a great team,” Jagr said. “I’ve played for 22 years for a professional (team) and I played with so many great players and I learned so much stuff. And we can always learn. No matter how old you are, you can always learn.
“And if somebody thinks he knows everything when he’s 25, he’s lying to you or he’s dumb. You can always learn and I’m here to teach the guys and tell what I had to go through and make their hockey life easier.”
Jagr joined the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1990 and they won the Stanley Cup in his first two seasons. He’s still looking for his third championship and he wasn’t likely to get it with the Stars, who are near the bottom of the Western Conference.
The Bruins won the Cup in 2011 and were in fourth place in the Eastern Conference before Thursday night’s game.
“I’m not 25 anymore,” said Jagr, who scored 47 goals during the season he turned that age. “I don’t think this team really needs it. They won the Cup two years ago and when you look at the top guys, they’re still here. So they know they can do it. And for me, personally, I wish I can somehow help the team to produce better.”
Jagr is unsigned after this season but wants to keep playing. He could stay with the Bruins.
But he and the team aren’t thinking much about that. They’re focusing on making a long playoff run.
“I didn’t come here hopefully to play any one game. I came here to play many more games,” he said. “So I think it’s going to take time to find out what’s the best for us.”