Jaromir Jagr was placed on waivers by the Calgary Flames on Sunday. If the 45-year-old future Hall of Famer clears, it could spell the end of his illustrious NHL career. Our writers weigh in on his most lasting legacy.
What’s the most impressive stat of Jagr’s illustrious NHL career?
Greg Wyshynski, senior writer: The most impressive stat of Jagr’s career? Sorry, but I have to go with the obvious: 1,921 points in 1,733 games, second-best in NHL history to Wayne Gretzky (2,857).
It’s a humbling stat, a tribute both to Jagr’s unparalleled offensive abilities as well as his longevity. Consider that from 2011, when he was 39, through this season, when he was 45, Jagr had the same points per game average as Matt Duchene and Jonathan Huberdeau (0.7) and a higher one than James van Riemsdyk‘s (0.69) and Ryan Johansen‘s (0.66).
It’s also a stat that reminds us that — unlike Gretzky, who scored 1,700 of his points in the offense-friendly 1980s, mostly with the Edmonton Oilers — Jagr’s point totals were compiled during several seismic stylistic shifts in the NHL: from the tail end of the 1980s goal boom through the “dead puck” era through the post-lockout offensive recovery of NHL 2.0. It reminds us that the young right winger, who used to blaze down the ice like a comet before unleashing some unstoppable move for a goal, grew up to become the crafty pro with the low center of gravity who would back up defenders like an NBA power forward.
But the stat I’ve been thinking about all weekend is this one: 216 different players have an assist on one of Jagr’s goals in the NHL. That includes Flames left winger Johnny Gaudreau, who proudly told ESPN at the NHL All-Star Game that he may have assisted on Jagr’s final NHL goal.
Gaudreau was born on Aug. 13, 1993. Jagr had already notched 220 career points by then.
What a remarkable career.
Emily Kaplan, national NHL reporter: Jagr has reportedly been doing 1,000 squats per day since he was 7 years old. That means he has done nearly 14 million squats. I’m kidding — not about the validity of the stat (according to ESPN Stats & Information, it’s true!) but that it’s my favorite Jagr stat. The truth is, no matter how folksy we build Jagr up to be, or how many colorful anecdotes we can collect, the most noteworthy thing about Jaromir Jagr is his longevity. It’s impressive among athletes across all sports.
Consider: Jagr was drafted in 1990. No other active player in the four major North American pro sports leagues was drafted before 1994. There’s also this: Jagr was drafted two months after Emmitt Smith was picked by the Dallas Cowboys. Smith retired as the NFL’s all-time rushing leader 13 years ago. And one more while we’re at it: The oldest active player in the NBA is Vince Carter (41 years old). Jagr already had 322 goals and 807 points in his NHL career when Carter made his NBA debut.
Jagr was largely immune to the kryptonyte that typically foils stars: injuries, feuds, ego, the game changing around him, hirings, firings. (He did, after all, play for 22 different head coaches). None of it seemed to faze Jagr. He was as sturdy — and ubiquitous — as they come. It’s a shame that it appears he’s hanging up his skates just 34 games shy of Gordie Howe’s record for games played. But it’s better to marvel at the good. Jagr is a treasure. How he lasted this long is beyond me — though maybe we should stop asking for the secret and realize it’s probably simple. Start squatting, everyone.
Chris Peters, NHL Insider: There are so many amazing stats from Jagr’s career, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget his performance during the 2015-16 season with the Florida Panthers. He put up 66 points in 79 games to lead that team in scoring en route to 47 wins and a first-place finish in the Atlantic Division. Over the course of his career, Jagr did so many things that wowed us, but this is the season that made me wonder whether the man was human at all. He finished seventh in Hart Trophy voting that year — and it really wasn’t a stretch to see him in the top 10.
That was by far the best season by anyone age 43 or older in NHL history in terms of point production. Mark Messier had 43 points in his final season, at age 43 in 2003-04. In a much faster NHL, Jagr bested that by 23 points in just three more games played. He also helped energize and maximize two exciting young forwards in Aleksander Barkov and Huberdeau, with whom the living legend spent most of the season playing alongside. To just contribute for the Panthers would have been impressive. Jagr was a driving force and leading scorer for a team that finished atop its division. Unfortunately, the run of good fortune and age-defying good vibes ran out in the first round of the playoffs against the New York Islanders, but that season will go down as one of my favorites of Jagr’s career.
Beyond the insanity of his performance at that age, it was special for so many of us because Jagr is (or was) one of the last remaining threads to our childhood fandom. I was 6 years old when Jagr entered the NHL. I still have his rookie card tucked away in a box somewhere in my parents’ house. I still recall proudly showing the card to my dad and announcing that I had a “Jeremiah Jagger” in the pack. During his throwback season in Florida a few years ago, Jagr was a living, skating and scoring reminder of those times, when that passion for the game was just budding for so many fans around my age. It was way too much fun and will stand out far more than the way things are winding down for Jagr now.