Amidst the turmoil that came with the roster turnover, the Philadelphia Flyers looked like a team destined to struggle. Over the summer, I wrote an article saying how Chris Pronger was the key to the orange and black's chances.
Boy, did I underestimate what Jaromir Jagr could bring to the table.
Despite being in exile for three years and Father Time breathing down his neck, Jaromir Jagr has become the unofficial leader for the Philadelphia Flyers.
I understand that there are other veteran leaders who definitely make their mark, but let's face it, they were there when Pronger went down last year, too.
Fast forwarding from last year's Pronger-less debacle to October 24, 2011, Pronger goes down again in a game where the Flyers faced the second-seeded Toronto Maple Leafs.
In the previous seven games this season, Jagr failed to score a goal. With team captain Pronger out of the game after a gut-wrenching eye injury, the NHL's active all-time leading scorer put the team on his back, scoring his first two goals of the season en route to a win. A much-needed win after a two-game skid.
Prior to that, Jaromir Jagr was observed taking younger players such as Matt Read aside and staying with them after practice to work on their game. Such leadership attributes were fairly extinct in the Flyers' locker room, especially under last year's regime.
Last season, the Flyers struggled to stay above .500 without Pronger, often looking disinterested, even allowing themselves to get shut out at home by the bottom-feeding Atlanta Thrashers.
This year without Pronger, they are 4-2-1. That is not to say they are a better team without Chris Pronger, either. I am merely highlighting that prior to this season, I felt without him they would struggle.
This year, the offense has found itself shouldered by the top line in times of strife, just as a top line should.
Yes, Claude Giroux is quickly becoming an NHL superstar, but without Jaromir Jagr by his side, one is left to wonder what might happen without Jagr there. Certainly Giroux is a capable scorer, but having the NHL's all-time active leading scorer on your line helps.
Not only is Jaromir Jagr second in team scoring, but he's finding a dimension to his game by helping on the backcheck. He is currently a plus-six, making him third on the team behind—get this—Sean Couturier (plus-nine) and Scott Hartnell (plus-seven).
Through his on-ice and off-ice contributions, Jaromir Jagr has been the saving grace of a team with a captain injured, a goalie "lost in the woods...without confidence" and that had to endure the critisims that they were supposed to stink because of the roster overhaul. All that after he was in exile for three years and about to turn 40 years old by season's end.
Will Jaromir Jagr win the Hart trophy? Probably not, but if he continues to contribute the way he has so far, then he definitely needs to be a candidate.