Despite the fact that he will only be turning 45 in February 2017, there have been questions as to whether Jaromir Jagr will continue to produce for a surging Florida Panthers team this coming NHL season. Sarcasm aside, the realization that a player as great as Jagr could ever decline is a strange one for fans such as myself who have watched the veteran forward dominate hockey over several eras. Still, the question remains as to whether he can maintain his recently revived production as he approaches three decades in professional hockey.
A simplistic view of the situation would be to look at the 66 points he racked up last season and assume that everything is just fine with Jagr. Those 66 points were good for first on the Panthers and 22nd in the NHL overall, clearly establishing him as a first-line forward from a pure points perspective. He also, however, had an 18.9% shooting percentage — indicating that a regression in his offensive production could be on the horizon. So what will Florida see from the legendary Czech in the 2016-17 season?
I won’t bother making a fool of myself with a cocksure prediction about how many goals and points Jagr will record this season, but I will express optimism about his ability to contribute overall. He’s obviously far beyond his days of having good odds to be MVP, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t carry some important late-career value.
While it has already been established that his actual production levels are extremely impressive, taking note of his 59.42 GF% over the past three seasons is something I can’t keep from doing. That figure is 22nd amongst forwards with at least 1200 5v5 minutes played over that time period, again putting him in elite territory.
And while that number is incredibly impressive, it doesn’t do anything to show us how or why he got there. His 55.45% xGF% (as calculated by Corsica.hockey) indicates that he has done a good job of being on the ice for the better of the scoring chances exchanged between teams, and that he has done so with a relatively high frequency. This figure helps, but it still isn’t show the entire picture.
One figure that stood out to me when looking at Jagr’s numbers over the past three seasons, was the somewhat pedestrian 12.43 iCF60 that he posted in his 3,364 minutes of ice-time; it meant that Jagr wasn’t shooting as much as many of his more offensive-minded peers, especially considering that Jagr has a been known to possess a pretty dangerous shot over the course of his career. I also found it odd that he could be shooting so little, while still managing to control such a large percentage of the total shots (aka CF%) while on the ice. Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau have always been known as playmakers themselves as well, so where was this shot differential coming from?
Surprisingly, I found that it probably had more to do with Jagr’s defensive game than his ability to create individually on offense. With the same parameters I set before (the past three seasons, 1,200+ minutes played), I found that Jagr had the seventh best CA60 of all forwards in the NHL. He ranked ahead of some of the best defensive forwards in the game in that regard, including Patrice Bergeron.
So instead of making up for his surely declining skills by shooting more, he added balance to his game with continued excellence in passing and dominant defense that put him among the game’s elite. There is an intelligence to Jagr’s game that can sometimes fly under the radar compared to the other impressive skills he possesses, but this adaptation is something that really highlights his strategic game more than any other. It also means that his ability to contribute as a player is far from tied to his ability to repeat his inflated shooting percentage from 2015-16.
Overall, I highly doubt that Jagr will meet (let alone surpass) his shooting percentage, point, or goal totals from 2015-16 in this upcoming season. But that hardly means that he will stop being a productive or valuable player. His all-around game is far too strong for him to completely fall off this season, and the quality of Florida’s team means that he will have plenty of help in the scoring department. Yes, it seems that Jagr will keep on being Jagr.
(Thanks to Corsica.hockey for the numbers used in this article)