It is simply amazing how Jaromír Jágr remains such a formidable player after 21 seasons in the NHL. In this player spotlight, we’ll take a look at Jágr’s 2014-15 campaign, which featured two teams, several milestones, and a profound impact on a young group of players.
After signing a one-year contract worth $3.5 million on April 30th, 2014, Jágr began the 2014-15 season with the New Jersey Devils as their 1st-line right wing, and played alongside Mike Cammallieri and Travis Zajac. The Devils initially acquired Jágr through free agency on July 22nd, 2013, and he would go on to put up 67 points, as the Devils leading scorer, while playing in all 82 games, the most games he had played and points he had produced since the 2007-08 season with the Rangers.
In the Devils’ first game of the season, which was in Philadelphia, Jágr notched two assists, both of which were on goals scored by Mike Cammallieri. He would go pointless for the next 4 games, including against the Panthers in their home opener on the 11th of October. Jágr would score his first goal of the season against the Rangers on October 21st after a rebound off the end-board found his stick just above the blue paint. After scoring the game-winning goal in overtime two games later against Ottawa, he would go without a goal for the following 6 games before scoring against Boston on November 10th. The goal would subsequently move Jágr into 6th place on the all-time list for goals scored with 708. He would have yet another 2-assist night one game later against Minnesota, with the first coming once again on a Mike Cammallieri goal and the second courtesy of a Travis Zajac empty-netter.
Jaromír Jágr played in his 1,500th NHL game on December 8th against Carolina, and on that same night, he tied and then moved ahead of Marcel Dionne for 5th place on the all-time points list with 1,772. He had a goal and an assist that night, with the goal being a one-timer from the slot and the assist being a beautiful wrap-around, back-door feed to assistant captain Adam Henrique. Jágr had his third 2-assist game of the season on December 15th, and he became the oldest player in NHL history to score a hat-trick at the age of 42 years, 322 days on January 3rd, 2015 against the Flyers.
Following the hat-trick, Jágr had just 4 points in 17 games leading up to the trade deadline, and he often had 16 minutes of ice-time or less, including two games with ice-time under 13 minutes. Having been used to playing at least 18 minutes on most nights, Jágr began expressing his frustrations throughout the month of February, and he noted to the media how he’d be interested in playing for an Eastern Conference contender with the Devils playoff chances all but gone at that point. On February 26th, the Panthers acquired Jaromír Jágr from the Devils in exchange for a 2nd-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft and a 3rd-round in next year’s draft. Following the acquisition, Panthers’ GM Dale Tallon mentioned in an interview that he saw the reports stating how Jágr was unhappy with his situation and that he had some “brainstorming ideas” with Devils GM Lou Lamoriello regarding possible trade scenarios. When the trade occurred, Jágr was in New Jersey as he had just played in a game on the 25th, and he was unable to make it to Sunrise in time for the Panthers’ game against the Blackhawks on February 26th.
Jágr would make his Panthers debut on February 28th at home against the Buffalo Sabres, and he formed instant chemistry on the Panthers’ top line with 21-year-old Jonathan Huberdeau and 19-year-old Aleksander Barkov. He tallied his first goal and assist as a Panthers in the next game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The goal came as wrist shot after a 2-on-1 past by Huberdeau that deflected off the Lightning defender and was left sitting in the middle of the slot for Jágr, while the assist was a shot on goal which resulted in a rebound that Aleksander Barkov was able to tap in. It soon became clear that Jágr was having a huge impact on Huberdeau and Barkov.
From Jágr’s first game with the Panthers on February 28th through the end of the season on April 11th, Huberdeau posted a three-point game, 4 two-point games, a five-game point streak during which he put up 8 points, and he went more than a game without a point just once. After putting up 33 points in 59 games prior to Jágr’s arrival, Huberdeau tallied 21 points in 20 games with Jágr. He was also shooting more and had a season-high 8 shots during the Panthers’ March 24th game in Tampa. In the same time span, Aleksander Barkov also improved offensively due to Jágr, putting together 3 two-point games, a three-game point streak, the first two-goal game of his career, and he also never went more than two games without registering a point. Overall, the line thoroughly dominated the opposition on a nightly basis when they were on the ice, and you would often find them in the offensive zone for a minute or two at a time. The three were winning board battle after board battle, pinning the opposition in their own zone, and Jágr was impressive at being able to protect the puck, create space for his line-mates, and use his long reach to break up plays and steal the puck.
Fancy stat-wise, when Barkov and Huberdeau were on the ice without Jágr, their 5-on-5 CF% (Corsi For percentage) was 51%, meaning 51% of all 5-on-5 shot attempts made while they were on the ice were by the Panthers. When they were with Jágr, that percentage rose to about 55%, which may seem like a small change, but it can make a difference over time. Huberdeau and Barkov had a 5-on-5 GF60 (Goals For per 60 minutes of ice time) average of 1.84 and 2.70 goals respectively without Jágr, and those values rose dramatically with Jágr to about 3.28 goals while holding the opposition to under 2 goals per 60 minutes, which is impressive.
Jágr scored his 718th career goal against Detroit on March 19th and passed Phil Esposito for 5th place on the all-time goals scored list. Ten days later, he propelled the Panthers to a 4-2 win over the Ottawa Senators in a pivotal game with a two-goal night, one of which came off a wrist shot after cutting into the slot, and the other was a fake slapshot which fooled Craig Anderson and allowed him to slide in a wraparound. On April 9th against Boston, he added two more assists, giving him 1,800 career points in the NHL and moving him into 4th place on the all-time points list above Ron Francis. A goal and assist on April 11th, the final game of the season, gave him 2,000 total points in the NHL (including playoff points) and 800 total goals scored (including playoff goals). With the goal coming on the powerplay, he tied Wayne Gretzky for 14th on the all-time powerplay goals scored list with 204, and he solidified his first place position by picking up his 129th game-winning goal. Jágr finished the season with 47 points (17g, 30a) in 77 games played, with 18 of those points coming in his 20 games played as a Panther.
He signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract extension with the Panthers on April 12th, 2015 and became the oldest player to score a goal at the World Championships on May 1st.