Philadelphia Flyers: 5 Signs of Jaromir Jagr's Man-Crush on Claude Giroux
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It all started when he signed.
The Flyers' front-office made a stealthy, Cliff Lee-esque play for the two-time Stanley Cup Champion, who spurred the Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings to sign a one-year, $3.3 million deal to don orange and black in 2011-12.
Jagr gave a plethora of reasons for signing in Philly, but it has become clear the now 40-year-old future Hall of Famer came to the City of Brotherly Love for one reason: Claude Giroux.
At first, Jagr's interest in the 24-year-old budding star seemed like a mentorship, like Jagr was re-paying the hockey gods for pairing No. 68 with Mario Lemieux when he was breaking into the league.
But in the half a year since joining Giroux and the Flyers it is apparent Jagr's relationship with "G" borders on infatuation.
Questioning my logic? Read on to see the signs of Jagr's over-the-top man crush on the Flyers' best player.
Fans need to look no further than Jaromir Jagr's recent comments about his goal scoring prowess than to see the depths of his love for No. 28.
Sure, Jagr has never had a season with more goals than assists, and his career assist total (979) is quite a bit higher than his career goal total (659), but for Jagr to call himself a corner-digging winger, and actually mean it, displays the extent of his unconditional feelings for Claude.
I have been surprised by Jagr's hustle in the corners and back-checking, more so in the beginning of the season prior to his groin/lower body injuries, but Jagr was brought here to put the puck in the net, especially on the power play.
Jagr's five power play goals are a bit disappointing at this point in the season (has averaged 11 per season over previous 17 NHL seasons), but his 14 total power play points rank him behind Kimmo Timonen (16), Scott Hartnell (18) and Giroux (28).
Categorized as a bit of a puck-hogging diva earlier in his career, Jagr's man-love for the linemate he nearly doubles in age has allowed him to defer his personal accomplishments and become more of a decoy, allowing the younger stars to lead the Flyers to the league's sixth-ranked power play.
"What's Yours Is Ours"
Well, for some reason I was not able to share just the clip of Claude Giroux's empty net goal, as handed to him by Jaromir Jagr, but if you missed the game feel free watch the whole video.
What's important, however, were Jagr's comments just a few days before helping his buddy score his first goal, at the time, in about a month.
Jagr, a five-time Art Ross Trophy winner, said his goal after returning to the lineup from lower body maintenance issues, was to "help (Giroux) win the scoring title," a feat no Philadelphia Flyers has ever accomplished.
Notice JJ did not say help the Flyguys win the Atlantic Division or make a Cup run, but push his linemate towards an individual award.
Sure, that's just talk, but when Jagr passed to Giroux on Feb. 2 to set up G for an empty net goal, Jagr had actually been in more of a slump, not having scored since Dec. 29—now that's devotion!
(Jagr broke his slump the following game, logging a goal and an assist against New Jersey on Feb. 4)
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Jagr had his choice of pursuers over the summer.
The Penguins, supposedly his first choice, are loaded with young talent to play around the aging star, and as the team that brought Jagr into the league as a baby-faced teenager and won two Stanley Cups during his tenure were perceived to be the front-runners.
The Detroit Red Wings are a perennial Cup contender and have a long history of signing aging stars and taking them on one last run.
But Jagr chose the Flyers, a team in the midst of an all-out overhaul, with more new players than returning veterans and no real idea of what to expect as the season's outcome.
But Jagr saw something, or someone, rather, who made the risk worth the reward.
In the end the legend chose Philly because he knew his chemistry with Giroux would make his return successful:
"If I were playing in Pittsburgh, Crosby and Malkin are both left handed,” Jagr said. “I don’t think I could play there. I don’t think I would have a chance to play there.”
Jagr had "studied" his potential linemates to the point of being able to reason his surprise signing behind the right-handedness of center Claude Giroux (and Danny Briere).
It seems Jagr took the time to get to know Giroux before G even knew the then 39-year-old was on the Bullies' radar.
Just get it over with, already
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Before this season, the image of Jaromir Jagr in orange and black would have been a dream or a photo-shopped image accompanied by a ridiculous caption capturing the irony.
For years, Jagr was Public Enemy Number One in Philly.
His image on the scoreboard screen in the Spectrum would arouse hearty boos and refrains of Aerosmith's "Dude Looks Like a Lady" throughout the arena.
And does anybody reading this think Chris Therien would have played nearly 11 seasons in this city had it not been for the need of an ogre to maul the large-bodied playmaker during his tenure with Pittsburgh, Washington and New York?
Jagr coming to Philly is comparable to Romeo and Juliet's fling, except hopefully with a less depressing ending.
Jaromir turned his back on the cities who loved him to be with the one for whom he felt a true, deep connection: Claude Giroux.
IT'S GUY LOVE!
Jagr has said he is happy playing for the Flyers and hopes to re-sign and stay in Philly and not move to another NHL team in 2012-13, and I think it is obvious why.
Jagr's signing has been successful so far, as he has provided point-production, leadership and mentorship to the group of young forwards on the Flyers roster.
His work ethic has already become legend, and his keeping young players after practice for personal attention shows he understands what his presence on this team means, especially in the absence of captain Chris Pronger.
But if the Flyers do not choose to extend the contract of a player who will turn 41 during next season and fought lingering injuries (Jagr will miss Thursday's game vs. Buffalo) for stretches of 2011-12, Giroux could be in a bit of a bunny-boiler situation.
If Giroux, who is currently tied for third in the NHL with 62 points, moves on and finds a chemistry with, say, JvR or Wayne Simmonds or Jake Voracek, do not expect Jagr to return to Russia rather than play for another NHL team, which he has stated would be his preference if an extension in Philly does not work out.
No, Jagr's man-crush runs so deep that if the Flyers let him walk I foresee No. 68 signing with Pittsburgh or New York just to show Giroux what he could have had.