Jaromir Jagr is a Philadelphia Flyer. It almost does not make sense. For years he was seen as the antithesis to what made a suitable candidate to wear orange and black.
Jagr has always been supremely talented, no doubt, but the curly mullet, his graceful effortlessness and generally aloof personality prompted barbs from Flyers fans across the city.
Having won back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins before finishing his career with the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers did not do much to endear Jagr to the City of Brotherly Love, either.
It is now 2011. The fresh-faced, long-haired kid whose image on the scoreboard would prompt Aerosmith's "Dude Looks Like a Lady" to play throughout the old Spectrum is now a 39-year-old grizzled veteran returning to the National Hockey League after a three year hiatus.
Jagr's return was long-rumored, and the Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens were all reportedly attempting to add Jagr's services, which include 1599 points in 1273 career NHL regular season games.
But it was the "mystery team" that won the Jagr sweepstakes, very similar to the way the Philadelphia Phillies signed Cliff Lee and the Eagles signed Nnmadi Asomugha.
Now, much like the other teams in the city, the expectations for the Flyers and their newly signed superstar are beyond high.
Jagr has spoken on being in great shape and not wanting to let anybody down. The former Art Ross and Hart Memorial Trophy winner is motivated to elevate this revamped Flyers team to Stanley Cup Champion for the first time in 36 LONG seasons.
That is my prediction, at least, and here is why I believe Jagr is the man to make it happen.
As always, comments are welcomed and appreciated, so let me know what you think. Thanks for reading and enjoy!
Jagr has lit the lamp regularly so far in the preseason.
In my very first Bleacher Report article I predicted Jagr would score 15 power play goals for the Flyers in 2011-12.
Everybody remembers the disappointing numbers the man-advantage crew put together last season, despite a roster chock full of career power play producers.
The abysmal man-up performance haunted the Flyers into the postseason. Their 16.6 percent conversion rate fell to 14.3 percent, scoring on only seven of their 49 chances in 11 playoff games.
So far, The Czech-born former first round pick already has three goals and two assists in three preseason games, putting in two on the power play against the New York Rangers on September 26th.
As Jagr and his line mates continue to find that oh-so-valuable chemistry in their half-ice sets, their production will increase.
The Flyers were the number one team in the Eastern Conference for most of 2010-11 despite their inconsistent goalie play, never ending injury report and disappointing Power Play.
If Jagr can keep himself on the ice (he played in all 82 games in each of his final three NHL seasons, most recently 2007-08) he will be able to fix an ailing power play and push what was a good team to serious Stanley Cup contender.
Jagr has been a captain and knows what it takes to win a Cup
Including Jagr, who turns 40-years old in February, the average age of the 12 forwards I expect to see October 6th against the Boston Bruins is a tad over 25 1/2 years.
On a team that has become quite a bit younger despite losing a plethora of relatively young veterans in the offseason, Jagr's leadership could be a key.
While Briere is the lone forward wearing a letter, Jagr has been there before.
Jagr wore the "C" under the spotlight of Madison Square Garden for the New York Rangers.
He also captained the Pittsburgh Penguins from 1998-2001, before leaving for the Washington Capitals via free agency.
The Philadelphia Flyers have no shortage of former first round picks with high expectations, including Claude Giroux, James van Riemsdyk, Jake Voracek, Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier.
Jagr knows what it is to deal with such superstar expectations while developing under the spotlight of a team expected to win now.
The wisdom Jagr can hand down to this young crop of budding stars could prove to have value beyond his one-year, $3.3 million deal.
Jagr won back-to-back cups with Pittsburgh in 1991 & 1992
There are not many current Flyers who have lifted Lord Stanley's Cup.
Beyond Jagr, who drank from the cup in back-to-back seasons in 1990-91 and 1991-92 as a member of the Penguins.
Beyond Jagr, only Chris Pronger and Max Talbot know the glory of winning it all.
Jagr also averages over one point per game in the playoffs, having accumulated 77 goals and 104 assists (181 points) in 169 career NHL playoff games.
Adding a player with such a prolific playing scoring resume` to a lineup that already boasts Mr. Clutch, Danny Briere, could be a frightening dynamic for the rest of the league.
Knowing the grind of the regular season, mentoring the young players through the ups-and-downs and stepping up when the games matter most is a skill that cannot be undersold.
Jagr's experience and leadership may prove even more important than his production in the development of this young and talented team.
Despite a cast of stars Jagr stands out as the celebrity of the Philadelphia hockey club
Jaromir Jagr is a Philadelphia Flyer. It just sounds cool, doesn't it?
The nine-time All-Star has been a premiere name since I (and most of you) started watching hockey.
His 646 career goals are good enough for 12th all-time, and his point total of 1599 is ninth most in NHL history.
Jagr's 112 game-winning goals are second to only Phil Esposito's 118 on the league's all-time list.
The Flyers have acquired players well past their prime before.
Jeremy Roenick, Tony Amonte, Adam Oates, John Vanbiesbrouck, Ron Hextall (part deux) and Paul Coffey are a few names that come to mind without doing any further research.
But none of those players listed have a resume' close to Jagr's.
Most of the roster grew up watching and idolizing Jagr, as he was a rock star during the boom on 1990s hockey.
His experience, success and superstardom bring an element to the dressing room that has not existed in Philadelphia for quite a while.
Furthermore, Jagr's status as an elite-name player may deflect and alleviate some of the pressure on up and coming stars such as Clude Giroux and JvR.
Jagr's willingness to accept his role as a veteran leader and a go-to-guy on and off the ice will contribute to the team's success in 2011-12 as well as the future of the franchise.
The two young linemates will benefit and grow exponentially playing alongside #68
Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk are the future of hockey in Philadelphia.
Both have already progressed nicely in their ascents to the top lines of the Flyers' depth charts.
They are expected to stay in Philadelphia for the foreseeable future.
Jaromir Jagr's presence will only aid and speed the progression of the two superstars in waiting.
If Jagr plays on a line with Giroux and JvR for a majority of the season Giroux will be among the top-5 in NHL assist leaders.
Giroux can make any pass and Jagr has an unmatched ability to find open ice in high-scoring chance areas and put the puck into the net.
Giroux and Jagr could make a scoring duo for the Flyers comparable to Petr Forsberg and Simon Gagne coming out of the lockout.
Jagr's effect on JvR could be even greater.
The only promising memory of the 2011 playoffs was the performance of James van Riemsdyk. JvR was rewarded for his efforts and potential future production with a six-year, $25.5 million contract extension.
The 2007 second overall draft pick came under fire for not developing as quickly as fans had hoped.
He caught further flack considering the quick ascent of Patrick Kane, the only player picked ahead of JvR the year the Flyers were 22-60 but lost the first overall pick in a lottery to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Van Riemsdyk has point totals of 35 and 40 in his first two full NHL seasons.
He has shown flashes, especially in the playoffs, of an ability to take over a game and tally scoring chance after scoring chance.
JvR has hybrid skills of both a power forward and touch-scorer. He also recorded the hardest slap shot amongst last year's Flyers during a skills competition, having blasted a puck 101.5 miles per hour.
The potential is clearly there.
JvR has a 6-foot, 3-inch, 211 pound frame.
Jagr, who is listed at 6'3" and 242 pounds, could help mentor van Riemsdyk and hone his skills as he finds the balance that will make him a legitimate top six forward and dependable produce for the Flyers.
The combination of Giroux, JvR and Jagr has the potential to be one of the franchise's all-time great lines. As I predicted the Giroux and JvR tandem could be the next Legion of Doom, and the inclusion of Jagr could legitimize that claim.
Giroux already has 5 preseason assists, including the helpers on two of Jagr's three goals. As these three gain confidence in and chemistry with each other the offensive numbers could explode.
Unlike last year's team that fell asleep after 2010 turned into 2011, the post Christmas Flyers could just be rounding into form as all the new faces begin to gel with what's left of 2010's core.
Jagr's success as a Flyer will ultimately be judged by the success of the team this year.
It seems his acquisition has at least added an important element missing in years passed. It gives the team the right mix of savvy veterans and young future stars.
It also gives the Flyers their greatest chance at winning now while still developing a young team capable of carrying the Broad Street Bullies for the next decade.