Jagr's Presence Missed in Philly; Returns Tuesday
PHILADELPHIA -- The Flyers found themselves in a tough position this past offseason, and that was whether to re-sign Jaromir Jagr or not.
The cons of bringing back the 41-year-old right winger out-weighed the pros for the Flyers front office at the time and the decided to part ways with the future Hall of Famer. They were concerned about his age and health during another long season, two factors the Flyers saw first-hand during the 2011-12 season.
Unfortunately for them, they made their decision before it was known there would be a 48-game season as opposed to the normal 82-game schedule due to a lockout and it may have cost the Flyers big time.
Jagr made his decision where to go in the off season, signing with the Dallas Stars for a one-year, $4.55 million back in July, well before it was even known what fate the 2012-2013 season would have.
“I’m not too sure why it happened and he went to Dallas,” captain Claude Giroux said. “He liked it here and the guys liked him, but I didn’t know if he would come back.”
It's safe to say the shortened season has benefited Jagr, who was traded to the Boston Bruins before the trade deadline because he was viewed as a valuable asset for a Boston team looking to win their second Stanley Cup in three years.
In 43 games this season, Jagr has 16 goals and 18 assists for 36 points, which would be third on the Flyers in points. Most of his games played this season (34) were with Dallas, which was in the bottom third in scoring for most of the season.
With Jagr originally signing with a west team, he didn't have to worry about playing against his former Eastern teams such as Pittsburgh, Washington, New York and Philadelphia. But now being a part of Boston, Jagr will make his first trip to Philadelphia, playing against a handful of teammates he made a lasting impression on last year.
The Flyers have obviously missed Jagr's presence, but none more than Giroux and Scott Hartnell.
Despite being the leaders in points for the Flyers this season, Giroux and Jakub Voracek have been called upon to be goal-scorers, something Jagr is known for and they simply are not. Hartnell has struggled all season, playing on all four lines after suffering a broken foot at the beginning of the season.
Last year, Hartnell, Giroux and Jagr created a dangerous top line that gave opposing teams nightmare's. The two younger players rejuvenated the 40-year-old Czech and he raised their games to new levels.
Giroux had a career year, scoring 28 goals and adding 65 assists to put him near the top of the league in points with 93.
“He was important for me and helped me a lot,” said Giroux on his break-out. “This summer, too in Czech, he was just such a great guy. I never saw anybody with a work ethic like that on or off the ice. It was work all the time. When you see a guy like that, a Hall of Famer, just the way he treats his audience, he works so hard to get where he has been.”
Hartnell scored a career-high 33 goals, leading the Flyers. Jagr had a respectable 19 goals and 35 assists in 73 games.
Having Jagr back this season would have allowed Voracek to shine on his own line with Wayne Simmonds, who is having another fantastic season in orange and black (15 goals, 16 assists). That spread-out scoring could have been beneficial to the Flyers, who went through dry spells and inconsistencies, leading to them missing the post season for the second time in the last 18 seasons.
“He was a real good influence in our room,” head coach Peter Laviolette said. “Our team is still young, but it was younger last year. He set a real good example. He was a nice addition and a good piece for us.”
Now, Jagr has elevated his game playing for Boston as he chases his first Stanley Cup since winning back-to-back with Pittsburgh two decades ago. He has two goals and six assists in the nine games since being traded to Boston, who find themselves as the current no. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and poised for a Stanley Cup run.
One could only imagine where the Flyers would be had they re-signed Jagr. But as the old cliche goes, hindsight is 20-20 and the Flyers found that out the hard way.
Photo of Jagr courtesy of Mike Ashmore (@mashmore98)
Quotes via Tim Panaccio.