Jaromir Jagr became the NHL’s fifth highest scorer of all-time last night with a goal and an assist. If he hadn’t left the NHL for the KHL, Jagr wouldn’t have only accomplished the feat sooner, he could have become the second member of a very exclusive club.
When Jaromir Jagr scored with just over five minutes left in the second period on Monday night he moved into a tie for fifth all-time in NHL scoring. Four minutes later, with an assist on what would prove to be the game-winning goal, he was in sole possession of the spot with 1,772 points.
So it goes for the ageless wonder. Now with the New Jersey Devils, Jagr, one of the greatest characters the game has ever seen, continues doing what he does best and moves up the scoring ladder, eking ever closer to the second spot on the all-time list. Mark Messier currently owns the spot, but in due time, it will be Jagr’s. Matter of fact, the case could be made it should be already.
Before he left the NHL for what he then believed to be the greener pastures of the KHL, Jagr was the 10th highest scorer in league history. With 1,599 points, he sat alone in the 10 spot and was on the right trajectory to chase down second behind Wayne Gretzky. The great Czech winger was two seasons removed from a 123-point season, he had averaged over 88 points in the last five campaigns, and there was no sign he was slowing down.
But then he left. He left and, with that, there was no certainty he would ever come back. It seemed an unjust end, really, that at 36 with so much good hockey ahead of him the league was losing one of the greatest stars it had ever seen.
Fast forward three seasons and there began to be whispers that a 39-year-old Jagr wanted to come back. Then came a deal with the Philadelphia Flyers, the rival of the same Pittsburgh Penguins Jagr had begun his career with, and the chase officially began again. There were questions about whether or not he could keep up as he neared 40, but he silenced those with voices with 54-point season, and two seasons later racked up 67 as a member of the Devils.
If Jagr keeps his pace, he should reach 1,806 points by the end of 2014-15. It would vault him into fourth spot, and he would trail only Gordie Howe (1,850), Mark Messier (1,887), and the unattainable mark of 2,857 set by Gretzky. Even though Jagr has moved into fifth all-time, and even though second place is still in sight, he could have – and maybe should have – been here much sooner.
In 2007-08, the year before Jagr left, he posted 71 points. The year he came back, he registered 54. If we make the safe assumption that his point totals would have steadily declined as he entered his forties, that’s a drop off of just over five per season. Sure, Jagr missed some games upon his return, which accounts for part of the drop, but, again, he’s 40 years old. I think we can safely assume he’d miss a few here and there as he aged.
With those drops, Jagr would have tallied an assumed 66 points in 2008-09, followed by seasons of 61 and 56 in 2009-10 and 2010-11, respectively. That’s a total of 183 points that were left on the table during his absence, which would have put him at a grand sum of 1,782. He would have been far and away in fifth place, and his totals since he’s come back (173 points in 227 games) would put him at 1,955 points.
His current pace would have him staring down 2,000 points had he stayed, making him only the second player in league history to reach the milestone. But now, with Jagr playing on a year-to-year basis, it calls into question if he can even reach the second spot. Jagr would need to keep his current pace, plus play until at least 2016-17, a season in which he would lace up his skates as a 44-year-old. Somehow, that doesn’t seem so far-fetched.
Whether he sticks around long enough is to be seen, but in the history of league scoring, Jagr deserves to be sitting number two.