(Long Island, NY) Jaromir Jagr has gone through his illustrious career as a superstar. Throughout his tenure with the Pittsburgh Penguins, he even had times when he shined as bright as the great Mario Lemieux. So to be more of a set-up man instead of a sniper is not something totally familiar with him.
On Thursday, he informed a group of journalists that he has to be “the guy” if the Rangers are to do well. He acknowledged the fact that being the team captain and the team’s top player; he has to step up his game.
Jagr has not been the same player since injuring his left shoulder in Game 1 of the first round playoff sweep at the hands of the New Jersey Devils last year. Even though he has recovered and began the season on the ice, his shot has not been the same and he has adjusted his playing style to be more of a complete player. (Jagr stated during the beginning of the season that his shoulder was not at 100 percent.) He has played tougher defensively and looks for assists instead of only goals. Considering that he scored 54 goals and had 69 assists a year ago, his numbers in the current season seem to be a drop off from that. Including his second period tally in Saturday’s 2-1 win at Philadelphia, Jagr has 19 goals and 42 assists. His linemates, Martin Straka and Michael Nylander, are both having nice season, with 24 and 15 goals respectively. In 2005-06, Straka had only 22 goals total, playing in all 82 games. Nylander had 23 a year ago. So the new Jagr is definitely helping his team in other ways, evident by the top line’s plus 32 +/- ratio.
Opposing teams are still giving Jagr the respect he deserves, often double-teaming him in the offensive zone. This has given him the opportunity to dump off to an open man and create scoring chances for his team. His slap shot has suffered due to the injury and it’s after effects, and Jagr has adjusted his game accordingly. He still has his wrist shot, and has used that and a keen passing ability to make things happen on the ice. Jagr also has become more of a ‘rover’ instead of camping out on the right side by the circle. He has moved around much more than in the past, and frequently is in front of the net. All of this has left chances for Straka and Nylander, which they have taken advantage of. The three have played together more than a year now, and the familiarity is definitely a positive.
Rangers’ General Manager Glen Sather suggested that Jagr sit out the NHL All-Star game, which took place this past Wednesday in Dallas. Jagr agreed, and it makes more sense for him to rest than play in a meaningless game. Any time off can only help him get back to where he once was. But even the ‘new’ Jagr is still a weapon on the ice.