And with Jagr having made history, we’re left to wonder a couple of things. Such as, if not for two seasons that were truncated or wiped out by lockouts or his three years in the KHL, how close could Jagr have come to approaching Wayne Gretzky’s all-time mark of 2,857. Not very close, we reckon, but it’s fun to ponder. (By the way, we didn’t include the lockout that shortened the 1994-95 season because they were both playing.) Who know whether Jagr would have returned to the NHL with the same vigor and love for the game had he not taken a three-year hiatus in Russia? Perhaps he would have been ground down by the rodeo that is the NHL and retired sooner.
"It hit my ass" pic.twitter.com/Pg5kSFaQNz
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 23, 2016
Speaking of the rodeo that is the NHL, we’re also left to wonder whether anyone will approach Jagr’s point total, anytime soon or ever. Consider that Joe Thornton is the next highest-scoring active player on the NHL’s points list and he’s more than 500 points behind Jagr at the moment and you realize how daunting this is going to be for anyone. Sidney Crosby is 29 years old and playing in his 12th NHL season and he’s more than 900 points behind Jagr. Alex Ovechkin? Not a chance with his low assist totals.
So it will now be up to a cohort of arguably the most talented players the game has ever seen to make a run at Jagr. Consider the fact that, with 40 points in 35 games so far this season, Connor McDavid leads the league in scoring. That would put him on pace for 94 points. If he reaches that total this season, McDavid will have scored 142 points in his first two seasons, compared to 136 for Jagr. So all McDavid will have to do is play at a superhuman level for the first half of his 23-year career and he’ll be right there. But if you’ve watched some of the muggings McDavid and other young and talented players have had to endure this season, there is no indication the NHL has an interest in allowing its stars put up big numbers. It seems the league’s mindset these days is that if someone scores too many points, that will make his team too good and destroy the everyone-gets-a-trophy sense of parity over which the NHL take every opportunity to puff out its chest.
Auston Matthews will be a puck possession beast throughout his career, but likely won’t put up the eye-popping numbers he’d need to catch Jagr because of his commitment to a two-way game. Plus, he’s going to spend a good number of the first years of his career on a struggling team. Jack Eichel has a fantastic offensive upside, but he too has been plagued by injury and the bad-team syndrome. Don’t forget, Jagr joined a Pittsburgh Penguins team in 1990 that was on the verge of winning two straight Stanley Cups and was poised to be an offensive juggernaut for years to come.
Jagr also entered the league at a time when goals were much more plentiful. The Dead Puck Era™ essentially started in 1994-95 when the New Jersey Devils trapped their way to a Stanley Cup, but teams still scored an average of 6.29 goals per game that year. Prior to that, the league had averaged more than six goals a game in three of Jagr’s first four years in the league, including 7.25 goals per game in his second year in the league. The league has reached six goals per game only once since then, the 2005-06 season when it renewed its commitment to calling obstruction penalties. Going into tonight’s games, teams are scoring 5.33 goals per game.
But here too Jagr deserves and enormous amount of credit. He actually had his best offensive seasons during the Dead Puck Era, scoring at least 100 points four times. So really Jagr wasn’t a product a high-flying era at all. In fact, he only had 389 career points in his first 359 games before the Dead Puck Era took effect. It was in Years 6 through 11 that he really made his hay.
So perhaps it’s still too early to tell for players such as McDavid, Matthews and Eichel. But we know this much. They’re going to be have to be every bit as good as advertised for a long, long time if they have any hope of catching Jagr.