At 44 years old, Jaromir Jagr has been and will continue to be the oldest player to do a lot of things in the NHL. No one has ever had a season like he's had at his age and the Florida Panthers forward just keeps making history.
In the first period of Florida's 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday, Jagr scored his 25th goal of the season. He became the oldest player to hit the 25-goal mark in NHL history by just over two full years, according to Elias (via NHL communications). Gordie Howe did it right before his 42nd birthday.
Here's a look at goal No. 25:
He still finds the scoring areas with such ease and when he's got the open look, the release is as good as many of the players that still have many 25-goal seasons ahead of them. Jagr's not missing from there.
It's been eight years since Jagr last hit the 25-goal mark. He put up 25 goals in 82 games for the New York Rangers as part of a 71-point campaign in 2007-08. That was his last year in the NHL before his three-year sojourn through the KHL. He turned 36 that season and it was at that point where we all started wondering if that was the last we'd see of Jagr in the NHL.
It of course wasn't and now we're not sure when he'll be done.
The future Hall of Famer has 58 points in 72 games. He is tied with Jussi Jokinen for the team points lead and has matched 22-year-old teammate Vincent Trocheck for the goal scoring lead with 25. Additionally, Jagr hit the 25-goal mark for the 18th time in his career, which moved him past Mike Gartner for the second most all-time. Gordie Howe is the leader with 20 25-goal seasons.
It seems like every time you turn around, Jagr is making history in one way or another. If he can do this at 44, how long can he keep playing? It's the question that everyone keeps asking Jagr, much to his annoyance.
In a recent interview with GQ.com, Jagr mentioned that he's getting really tired of all the “when will you retire” questions. He explained why he told reporters in a recent scrum thathe'd play until he was 60 years old:
“Why I said that is because, for whatever reason, they always have to put my age and ask if I'm going to retire next year, so I was kind of mad about it. I was kind of joking and told them I was going to play until 60, but it's not reasonable. I was just sarcastic to answer their questions that they gave me.”
Maybe it's not reasonable for a mere mortal, but this is Jaromir Jagr we're talking about. He is playing some of the best hockey of the latter half of his career as a 44-year-old man in a league where youth is highly valued and scoring is down across the board. Yeah, 60 is a reach, but is it completely unreasonable to believe Jagr could make it to 50? Sure doesn't seem so. After all, this is a guy who still will do workouts after a game until 2 a.m. just because he has the energy for it.
How does one get such energy? Jagr recently admitted that he had a pretty substantial coffee habit, drinking up to 10 cups a day. That might give a little boost, right? Well, he gave that up for Lent. Now that it's Easter Sunday, he can get back to drinking coffee again, but if what he did over the last 40 days is any indication, the caffeine intake may not have played any sort of role in the 44-year-old's energy level previously. In fact, he was better without it. Jagr had 20 points in the 21 games since Lent began, a pace of 0.95 points per game – fairly ahead of his 0.80 season average.
He told GQ that he was still going to try it and see how he feels and if he still likes the taste as much because when you're his age and still playing the game at a high level, you can do whatever the heck you want.
We're running out of ways to describe this season for Jagr, but beyond what he has accomplished on an individual level, you have to look at what the Panthers are doing on the team level to get a full appreciation for Jagr's impact.
Florida is one win away from tying the franchise record for wins in a season, set in 1999-2000. They are in first place in the Atlantic Division after beating Tampa Bay Saturday night. That was their fourth win in five games against the defending Eastern Conference Champion this season. Jagr's young linemates, Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov are having career years despite missing significant time with injuries this season. Attendance, while still among the bottom teams in the league in that category, has made substantial gains from last year to this year. It's not all because of Jagr, but he's got a heck of a lot to do with this team's success.
What happens next remains unclear, though. The Panthers still have a playoff run to look forward to, perhaps even a lengthy one. After that, Jagr becomes an unrestricted free agent. Per reports, he will not discuss his contract with the Panthers during the season, but team executives have already expressed publicly that they want him back. With how he's played and with how the young players on the team have progressed, it might be a good fit for the remaining years of Jagr's career. Just don't expect him to sign anything for more than one year. That will be more his choice than the team's though.
Even at his age, Jagr is playing the game at a level that makes retirement seem distant. He is expected to play next season, but where he'll play is the only remaining mystery. It at least looks like both he and the Panthers have an incentive to keep their partnership going. It's working out really, really well.
Since Jagr was traded to the Panthers last season, he has 76 points in 92 games, a pace of 0.83 per game. That scoring rate puts him among the top 25 in the league among players that appeared in at least 90 games over the last two seasons.
It's been 26 years since Jagr first graced the ice in the NHL. He had 57 points as a fresh-faced 18-year-old out of the Czech Republic in 1990-91. Now at 44, with 58 points in one of the toughest scoring eras in the league's history, we may be even more in awe of him now than we were when he was piling up scoring titles and personal accolades. And he's not done yet.