Jaromir Jagr will turn 45 before the 2016-17 season is through, but he doesn’t believe that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
Ahead of what will be his 23rd season in the NHL and 27th in professional hockey — wrap your head around that for a second — Jagr said he’s got his mind set on outdoing his performance from the 2015-16 season. Under normal circumstances, with a normal player, that might be hard to believe, but after Jagr posted 27 goals and 66 points to lead the Florida Panthers in scoring this past season, it’s easy to believe him when he says he feels he can improve.
According to NHL.com’s Alain Poupart, Jagr said he knew he needed to adjust to the speed of the game in order to get ready for the new season. When he debuted in the league, Jagr said, it was enough to get by on strength and skill alone, but with the ever-increasing speed of the game, it was clear Jagr needed to focus on keeping up with the younger talent.
“Twenty years ago, you didn't have to be very quick, you just had to be strong, so you work for that,” Jagr said, according to Poupart. “Twenty years later, now everything is a lot quicker and guys are in better shape, but they're not as big or as strong as 20 years ago, so you have to adjust that way.”
The amazing thing is that if Jagr does show an extra flash of speed and is able to maintain a steady scoring pace again this season, he’ll accomplish even more than he already has. In 2015-16, Jagr added to his already Hall of Fame-worthy resume by moving into third all-time in goals and third all-time in points, but this coming season sees him knocking on the door of even more milestones.
Here are the five most mind-blowing milestones Jagr could reach before the 2016-17 campaign concludes:
5. 80 Playoff Goals
This one is going to require some help from the rest of the Panthers insofar as the team has to at least make the post-season for Jagr to reach the milestone, but he’s nearing some incredible territory in the playoffs. While 80 goals may seem like a paltry total for one of the game’s icons, it would actually make Jagr only the 10th player in league history to score 80 times in the post-season.
As it stands, Jagr’s 78 goals rank 11th all-time behind Jean Beliveau’s 79, so Jagr would actually only need one goal to move into a tie for 10th all-time, but his 80th goal would put him into a tie with Claude Lemieux and make Jagr one of only 10 players to score 80 playoff goals.
4. 1,700 games played
In 2015-16, Jagr became one of only 10 players in the history of the league to suit up for 1,600 games. This season, he eyes up 1,700 games, which is a plateau that only Ron Francis, Mark Messier and Gordie Howe have reached.
For most players Jagr’s age, staying healthy throughout an entire campaign would be somewhat of a concern, but that’s not the case for the Czech legend. Over the past five season, Jagr has missed a grand total of 20 games. The most contests he has missed in one campaign over that span is nine games, and that came back during the 2011-12 season with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Reaching 1,700 games will require Jagr to suit up in 71 outings this season for the Panthers, and that shouldn’t be an issue for someone who takes care of his body as well as Jagr.
3. 750 goals
One of the more impressive milestones for Jagr will be arguably his easiest to reach. Jagr needs a single goal to hit 750 for his career, and he could realistically reach that plateau in his first game of the season. But hitting 750 is most interesting because it starts the potential chase for goal No. 802.
With his 20th goal in 2015-16, Jagr passed Brett Hull to move into sole possession of third all-time in goals. However, it wasn’t exactly unhallowed ground. There are seven players in the history of the game to reach 700 goals, and a handful that came less than a dozen goals shy of the mark. Jagr would be the third player in league history to reach 750 goals, though, and it would potentially put him two more productive seasons away from catching and passing Gordie Howe for second all-time.
Jagr would need two consecutive 26-goal seasons in order to tie Howe, and he’ll start that march this coming campaign. If he gets some puck luck, and some power play time, there’s a chance Jagr could be on his way.
2. 1,136 assists
Even if Jagr doesn’t have a great offensive season in terms of goals, he’s almost certain to land in the 35-50 point range simply by playing alongside two top-level young talents in Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. And if Jagr can get his young linemates the puck, he’s certain to find the score sheet with a few assists.
All told, Jagr has 1,119 assists, which means he needs only 17 assists to reach fifth all-time and surpass legendary defenseman Paul Coffey. And once he reaches 1,136, he has an outside shot — and this is an outside, outside shot that would require an almost unthinkable season — of catching Ray Bourque, who has 1,169 assists, on the all-time list.
1. 1,900 points
The list of players with 1,900 points is a short one, as it begins and ends with Wayne Gretzky. Jagr can add his name to that list this season, though. At 1,868 points, Jagr needs to produce at even half the rate he did this past season to reach 1,900 points and become only the second player in league history to reach the milestone. And not only is it well within the realm of possibility, but Jagr could also find himself second all-time in scoring in the process.
At his current point total, Jagr sits 19 points behind Mark Messier for second all-time. Messier, who himself played 25 seasons in the NHL, registered 1,887 points over his illustrious career, and that’s well within Jagr’s range.
No one would have predicted that Jagr would put up 60-plus points in 2015-16, but his production this past season makes it seem somewhat realistic that he could score 50 points before the end of the coming campaign. If that’s the case, Jagr could surpass Messier for second all-time by the holiday break.
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