The New Jersey Devils went through a hectic offseason. They lost two of their three highest scoring players (Patrik Elias was the one who decided to stick around), and they were still recovering from the loss of Zach Parise the year before.
They made a few moves to try to stop the bleeding. Signing Michael Ryder was a big one, because he showed he had the ability to score 30 goals in a season before. The Ryane Clowe signing seemed like it was a clear attempt to replace the departing David Clarkson. They resigned Andrei Loktionov after bringing him in through a mid-season trade with the Los Angeles Kings. They made a draft day trade to find Martin Brodeur‘s replacement when he finally retires, which may be a long time from now, in Cory Schneider. They even brought in Damien Brunner on a tryout, which turned into a two year contract. They brought back Elias and Dainius Zubrus on three-year contracts. They re-signed Marek Zidlicky and sent Henrik Tallinder to the Buffalo Sabres to try to fix their abundance of defensemen.
So, with all those moves, how is signing a 40-year-old right winger the biggest move of the offseason? Jaromir Jagr has been the Devils’ best player, bar none. He currently leads the team in points with 18, which is five more than the first person behind him, who is a defenseman. He leads them in goals with nine, and he has shown that he can still play with anyone in this league. It isn’t even like the goals he scores are chip ins, they are usually ones he gets from patience and faking out the goaltender. He has done a good job of getting others involved on the powerplay with four assists with the man advantage. He leads the team in plus/minus with a +10. Again, this man is 40-years-old. He has shown that he came to play and isn’t just here to collect a paycheck. He is the reason why the Devils are back in this race.
The fact that his play rose when Elias went down with injury shows the type of guy he is; he revels when his back is against the wall. People said he was done when a stroke of bad luck caused him to go scoreless throughout the playoffs. However, he did record 10 assists, which many have failed to mention.
He is this team’s most valuable player, no doubt, but could he be the league MVP? Obviously Sidney Crosby and Alexander Steen are the front runners at the moment, but Jagr is a clear darkhorse candidate. What a story that would make.
His stats will not jump out at you like a Crosby, a Steen or an Alex Ovechkin, but is there any denying that needs to be in this conversation with his season’s work? He is scoring goals on a team that ranks 25th in the NHL in scoring, he is providing a calming influence in the locker room, motivating his teammates to get the best out of everyone, and he is a marvel that he can play this well at his age.
The stat that sticks out the most is his game winning goals, as he already has three on the season. When his team needs a goal, he makes sure he gets it for them. His goal in overtime was just a beautiful play; he came out of the box and skated to the defensive zone just to see Zidlicky get the puck. He rushed back and got open in front of the net. He didn’t just take a shot though, he waited until Ben Scrivens made a move and sniped it where he wasn’t to give the Devils a win. That makes three GWG on the season.
He seems like he is just getting revved up. This looks like it could be a special season for Jagr and the Devils. Is MVP a possibility? If he continues to play at this level, I think there is no doubt that he could become the Devils’ first ever MVP. Did I mention this guy is going to be 41 at the end of the season?
Nick Villano is the New Jersey Devils writer for Rant Sports. He also adds to their MLB and NFL content. You can follow him on Twitter for more sports talk and banter.