VANCOUVER – Even if Jaromir Jagr had retired 10 years ago, he’d still rank among the all-time NHL legends. But the 41-year-old Czech winger just keeps going, and that’s opened the door for him to reach some special milestones this season.
Some of them are tied to longevity. When Jagr suited up for the New Jersey Devils on October 8 against the Vancouver Canucks, he became the Czechoslovakia-born player with the most all-time NHL games (1395). He passed Stan Mikita (1394) and tied Roman Hamrlik (1395). Since Hamrlik remains an unsigned free agent, every game Jagr plays will consolidate his sole possession of that record.
Other milestones relate to scoring numbers. If the Kladno native can pot just one winning goal this season, he’ll stand alone atop the NHL’s all-time list in that department. Currently, he’s tied with Phil Esposito (118).
And if that winner happens to be in overtime, Jagr will tighten his grip on the record for most regular season OT goals. He’s already the all-time leader (17). His closest competition among active players comes from teammate Patrik Elias (15), who’s tied with Mats Sundin and Sergei Fyodorov. Olli Jokinen (13) and Alexander Ovechkin (12) are next in line.
Barring illness or injury, Jagr is sure to surpass the 1,700-point mark this year. Currently the eighth-highest scorer in NHL history, he will likely overtake his friend and mentor with the Stanley Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins of 1991 and 1992, Mario Lemieux (1,723). If things go well, he could even catch Steve Yzerman (1,755).
He began the season with 681 goals, and has a real shot at becoming just the seventh player ever to join the “700 Club.” Wayne Gretzky (894), Gordie Howe (801), Brett Hull (741), Marcel Dionne (731), Phil Esposito (717), and Mike Gartner (708) are the current members.
Even more stupefyingly, if Jagr participates in the NHL playoffs this year, he could become just the fifth player in NHL history with 200 or more post-season points. He currently sits at 199. Ahead of him are some familiar 1980s Edmonton Oilers: Gretzky (382), Mark Messier (295), Jari Kurri (233), and Glenn Anderson (214).
Apart from Jagr, no other active NHLer is even close to cracking 200 points. Elias is second among active players at 125, while Henrik Zetterberg sits at 114. Age-wise, the Pittsburgh duo of Sidney Crosby (105) and Yevgeni Malkin (97) might have a shot, but they’d need a lot of deep, productive playoff runs.
Of course, Jagr would likely have hit all of these marks already if he hadn’t been through three NHL work stoppages and if he hadn’t left the NHL for the KHL’s Avangard Omsk from 2008 to 2011.
He could also accomplish something special internationally if he takes part in his fifth Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia in February.
Jagr could join Vyacheslav Fetisov, Igor Larionov and Peter Forsberg in the “double Triple Gold Club”. Those three are the only players who have won two or more Stanley Cups, two or more Olympic golds, and two or more World Championships.
Jagr currently has two Cups and two World Championships (2005, 2010), but just one Olympic gold from the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan.
The Czechs were underdogs that year, and they’ll be underdogs again in Sochi. But it’s never wise to underestimate the big man with the big legs and big wrist shot.
“I’ve never played the game because I wanted to be one of the greats,” Jagr told the Star-Ledger newspaper recently. “I play because I love the game.” Ironically, it’s that very attitude that’s propelled him to hockey greatness.