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Whether it triggers a miraculous run into the playoffs or causes the free fall in the standings to resume, Jaromir Jagr’s departure will be felt on this New Jersey Devils team. It’s a privilege to say Jagr was a Devil for the 139 games he was here, during which he continued to defy his age and add more milestones to his remarkable career. Like I said previously, it’s a shame that more couldn’t come out of Jagr’s time in New Jersey, but he definitely left his mark and gave us a reason to watch the Devils during these times of struggle.
Signs of an upcoming trade became apparent in the midst of the Devil’s recently halted four-game winning streak. Along with having no points over his last eight games, Jagr’s ice time was noticeably diminishing over this stretch of time. He was averaging just below 15 minutes a night in his last 8 games and averaged over 16 minutes in the 8 games preceding his current point drought. In four of the 8 games leading to his slump, Jagr played around or under 16 minutes a night and only registered two points.
Now that the dust has settled, you could justify Jagr’s declined playing time as the Devils trying to reduce his risk of injury while showcasing him to a certain degree. The point drought that’s ensued as Jagr’s ice time declined is actually part of a correlation the 43-year old has with his nightly ice time and point production. In 57 games, he’s played in 18 where he had around or below 16 minutes of ice time, during which he registered one goal and six points. The Devils went 8-8-2 in these games.
Since Jagr was sidelined with an illness from January 9th-28th, the Devils have since gone 10-6-1. He’s had two goals and four points in 14 games since returning from that stretch of missed time. While the Devils averaged just 2.29 goals since then, it appears that Jagr ultimately had no impact since he returned to the lineup. Throughout the season however, games in which Jagr scored have mostly translated into success for the Devils. In the nine games Jagr scored his 11 goals this season, the Devils went 6-1-2. Eight of his goals (and 16 of his 29 points) came in home games. Eight goals were scored in the first two periods of the game that tied or helped reduce a deficit.
Although the Devils are among the better power play teams, Jagr’s had a minimal effect with two goals and seven points to show for it this season. While games missed due to injury/illness factor in, Jagr has been held pointless against western conference teams this season. The Devils are 7-15-1 against the west with six more matchups against central and pacific division opponents. Each of these games could have more significance than the last if the Devils divulge beyond their current stance in the outer edges of the thicket of the playoff race. Another place Jagr’s absence will be felt is the penalty box, where he’s sat for 42 minutes (all minors). He was one of the Devil’s most-penalized players, which has contributed immensely towards the team currently being one of the most penalized in the league. If he doesn’t produce points, his play will definitely factor in other ways for a Florida team who hasn’t fared any better than the Devils on the penalty kill (Devils 79.5%, Florida 79.4%).
Jagr has insinuated for some time that he wanted to move on. While everyone expected he would go to an established contender like Montreal or Pittsburgh, the move to Florida still gives Jagr a chance at the playoffs (although they’re considered a bubble team) where anything can happen once you make it. The move also suffices a bigger need of Jagr’s: playing time. Florida has averaged 2.28 goals a game and has no matured star-caliber talent up front, which makes Jagr an ideal candidate to log top-six ice time. This is why Florida winning the Jagr sweeps came as a shock. When you put the circumstances of the deal into perspective, they offer the best compromise of playoff eligibility and regular playing time that Jagr desires, which he won’t get on other contenders with higher caliber offensive fire power (that can accommodate Jagr’s cap hit).
Entering tonight, the Panthers are two points behind Boston for the final wildcard spot and are hoping the gamble they take on Jagr pays dividends beyond the conclusion of the regular season. The Devils play the Panthers on their last game of the season, a game worth circling on your calendar.