Jaromir Jagr was released by the Calgary Flames yesterday. He could be exactly what the Anaheim Ducks need to take their young players to new heights.
Anaheim Ducks General Manager Bob Murray is executing one of the toughest management tasks in all of professional sports, rebuilding on the fly. Veteran stars Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler are coming into the “back nine” of their respective careers. A young core consisting of players such as Rickard Rakell, Cam Fowler, Brandon Montour, and John Gibson are rising to prominence in the veterans wake.
Getzlaf and Perry had Hall of Famers like Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens, and Teemu Selanne to learn from when they were starting their careers. In Kesler’s case, he had the Sedin twins and Trevor Linden as tutors. The current group of young Ducks could use similar mentoring.
Taking nothing away from the current veteran leadership, Jaromir Jagr is on a different level. He isn’t the same player he was in his prime, or even five years ago. Frankly, he is slow on the ice and appears to be a step behind at times. What he brings to the table at this point in his career, is exactly what the Ducks need.
Any success guru will tell you that all champions, in any endeavor, are constantly learning and adjusting. NHL great Jaromir Jagr is the poster child for those traits in hockey. It would be easy to think after 24 years in the pros, the native of Kladno, Czech Republic would have a been there, done that mentality. Easy? Yes. Correct? Far From it.
Here is an excerpt from a story about Jaromir Jagr, written by Ben Shpigel, that appeared in the New York Times on April 7, 2016:
“… consider this episode from a practice this season. Jagr, embarrassed that Aaron Ekblad had stolen the puck by elevating Jagr’s stick, barged into the weight room afterward and declared, “Nobody will ever take the puck off my stick again.” So he and Powers grabbed one of Barkov’s sticks and attached it to a resistance machine, fashioning a contraption that allowed Jagr to fend off that lifting motion.”
Picture that for a second. Arguably, one of the top 10 players in NHL history, is working on his puck possession. After all his success in the game over more than 23 years and he still hones the little things to make him better.
Jagr’s work ethic and determination are undeniable. Here is another example, in Jagr’s own words, from an article Paul Stewart (one of the greatest referees in NHL history) wrote for the Huffington Post a year before the Times article:
“It’s 11:15 p.m. Most people are asleep and I’m just finishing my last exercise with my 30-pound vest. I sit on the bench to have some rest. I look at myself in the mirror. After a while, I ask myself a question: “Is it really still worth it?” Unfortunately, I don’t think I can answer this question. I really can’t. I keep thinking, “You are alone, no family, you work like a horse, there is no one waiting for you at home.” This doesn’t sound too great, I think. But then another question pops up: “Then why do you keep doing it?” I know the answer to this question without hesitation. “Because I love it.”
Jagr’s quality of play is still better than many NHL forwards. Even if he’s only able to go 12 minutes or so a night and chip in a few goals down the stretch, its worth it for the Anaheim Ducks to have him on the team. The team not only needs his on-ice talent, but also his dedication. Both would leave a lasting legacy.
In two or three years Getzlaf and Perry won’t be standard bearers of the team anymore. Rakell, Lindholm, Sam Steel, and Ondrej Kase will be the ones carrying the load. One way to be great is to learn from the great.