July 6, 2011

Welcome, Jaromir Jagr.

Adam Oates. Tony Amonte. Paul Coffey. Petr Nedved. John Vanbiesbrouck.

What do they have in common? All were very skilled NHL players; Coffey's already a Hall of Famer, and 1079 career assists lead me to believe that Oates will probably join him in the near future.

They were all also, at one point, Philadelphia Flyers. You might not know that, though, because their hockey careers in Philly were tainted by awfulness. For whatever reason, the Flyers have spent a portion of the last 15 years acquiring aged stars and watching their careers end in shame.

But Jaromir Jagr? I think he's different.

Sure, he hasn't played NHL hockey in three seasons. And some people will always hate Jagr no matter what; certain morons are already insisting that what he did to Pittsburgh this offseason was Montreal Screwjob-esque.

And his contract? That might have sparked the biggest debate, as no one really thought Jagr was worth $3.3 million. But look at what other wingers signed for: Ville Leino got six years and $27 million, while Erik Cole snagged four years and $18 million. Would you rather invest heavily in those guys or take the chance on a fun year of Jagr?

Jagr's purely an offensive player at this point, but he'll help on a power play that suffered mightily at the end of last season. He's expressed interest in playing with the right-handed Claude Giroux and Danny Briere, and reports from the recent World Championships indicate that Jaromir was one of the best players on the ice.

Has the 39-year-old learned how to maximize his remaining strengths? Can he buy into Laviolette's system more than, say, Nikolay Zherdev did? Will he contribute positively to a locker room that grew stagnant as the team started to fall apart in February?

We won't know until the season begins, but I think it's a risk worth taking. And the lines are already shaping out a bit better than they did last year:

James van Riemsdyk, Giroux and Wayne Simmonds. Scott Hartnell, Briere and Jaromir Jagr. Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn and Andreas Nodl.

Not as sexy as ones featuring featuring Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, but (relatively) younger and (possibly) better. Different, that's for sure, and after the total meltdown we all witnessed earlier this year, I think some changes are a good thing.

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