There aren’t a lot of players who are good enough to play in the NHL at the age of 40. The number capable of being difference-makers is smaller still. That Jaromir Jagr is not only still in the majors, but is actually leading his team in scoring at the age of 42 is, frankly, incredible.
Jagr’s 60-point campaign marks only the 10th time in NHL history that a player aged 40 or older has managed to record that many points. Only Gordie Howe and Teemu Selanne have managed the feat at the age of 41. But rarefied air is nothing new for Jagr, legitimately one of the very best players in league history, and his continued strong play gives him a chance to leapfrog some of the great names in NHL history on the all-time league scoring list.
Already, Jagr ranks seventh on the NHL’s all-time chart:
He passed former teammate Mario Lemieux earlier this season and might be able to climb one more spot before the end of this campaign. Steve Yzerman sits seven points ahead of Jagr, who has 10 games left to play with the Devils. If Jagr keeps scoring at the pace he has this year, he will tie but not surpass the Detroit Red Wings legend.
If he plays another year, Jagr will certainly move ahead of Yzerman and challenge other players on this list.
There seems to be little doubt that he’s interested in continuing his NHL career. Jagr’s agent, Petr Svoboda, was quoted on the subject by Randy Miller of NJ.com and left the answer open-ended:
Who knows how long he'll play? He really is one of the top players who's ever played the game – look at the numbers - but I have never seen anyone have the love of the game that he does.
I think Jags takes a great approach. He takes it one year at a time. I think his body and his mind will know when it's time to retire, but from talking to him and watching him play, I don't think it's happening next year.
For his part, Jagr made it clear Sunday that he wasn’t just interested in continuing to play, but that he wanted to compete for the Stanley Cup. He told The Star-Ledger’s Rick Chere that whether or not the Devils make the playoffs might be a deciding factor on whether he re-signs with the club:
Of course it will matter to me. I haven’t many years left. I don’t know how many playoffs I have left. I don’ t want to waste the years I have left sitting around. That’s the worst to me, watching other guys in the playoffs and not being in it.
How many years Jagr has left is likely to dictate how high he ultimately finishes on the NHL’s scoring list.
If he plays one more year, he’ll certainly pass Yzerman, and he’ll have a good shot at moving ahead of both Marcel Dionne (23 points ahead) and Ron Francis (50 points ahead). Where it gets interesting is if he plays two more seasons. If he does, then Gordie Howe (102 points ahead) comes within reach. Mark Messier (139 points ahead) is likely only attainable in the unlikely event that Jagr plays three more years.
The real shame is that if things had gone a little bit differently, he’d already be ahead of Messier.
Jagr’s career has seen three lockouts, costing him 150 games played. He played at the height of the Dead Puck Era too, rather than during the high-scoring 1980s. Finally, he spent three seasons in the late-2000s over in the KHL. Altogether, Jagr could have 400 more games under his belt, and it’s hard to imagine that he wouldn’t sit behind only Wayne Gretzky on the all-time list if he had played in those games.
As it is, he still might pass Howe.