By all accounts, Jaromir Jagr ended up having a wildly successful return to the NHL.
You’ll recall, however, that back in the summer of 2011, when the hockey world learned he intended to come back after three years in the KHL, at age 39, plenty of teams were skeptical.
Jagr had always been a bit of an odd duck.
Who knew what he would bring to a new organization in the twilight of his career?
As it turned out, quite a lot.
Jagr scored 19 goals and 54 points for the Philadelphia Flyers this season, meshing well almost from the beginning on an interesting line with Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell and helping those two to career years.
Jagr, meanwhile, earned a reputation as a workout fiend, often staying long after games -- both times I was in Philadelphia this season, security guards were stuck staying past midnight waiting for him to leave the gym -- and as a mentor to the Flyers many youngsters.
In other words, for $3.3-million, he was a bargain.
So it would seem to be a natural fit for Jagr to return to Philadelphia again next season, but in his final meeting with the media on Thursday, he didn’t offer much off an opinion one way or the other.
“Well I want to play in the NHL,” Jagr said. “I want to play somewhere when I know teams will want me to. Hopefully we are going to find some team where I can play. I still love the game, and I think I am going to be better than I was this year.
“I have learned some stuff, and the NHL has changed. You have to change with the NHL. You have to adjust some practising and some little things to make you better. I learned a lot this year and I know what kind of direction I want to go to get better. If I come back, I know I am going to be better than I was last year.
“I don't know what kind of direction Philadelphia is going to go. What is my situation going to be? I don't think they know right now. We have a long summer to think about it and talk about it.”
Contrast that with when the Flyers were eliminated by the New Jersey Devils earlier this week, and Jagr spoke quite poignantly about how much he enjoyed his time in Philadelphia.
He said it had been “probably the most enjoyable year I’ve ever had.”
By Thursday, there was the hint that Jagr felt he could have been used differently and played more in key situations -- although he insisted it wasn’t a big deal.
“Sometimes I wanted to play a little bit more, but it is fine with me,” he said. “Sometimes I feel like I can be better and play a little bit more than I played. I think everyone feels that way. If I don't feel that way, I shouldn't be in the NHL. I have never been upset. Upset is not the right word. If I don't play good, I am not going to go and I am going to work harder to prove I am still a good player.”
Jagr is one of those players where trying to get in his headspace is pretty well impossible. No one in the game is wired quite like he is, and I’m not even sure if he knows where he wants to play next season.
But it sounds like we can rule out retirement, despite the fact he hit 40 back in February, and you can also rule out him playing for a non-contender.
He’ll also want a prominent role, maybe even with more than the 16:20 a game he played under Flyers coach Peter Laviolette (which marked a career low).
He’ll probably stay in the Eastern Conference, as he always has, but beyond that, who knows?
Even with the three years in Russia, Jagr’s career numbers are such that he’ll go into the Hall of Fame three years after he hangs up the skates -- which could be a while given he intends to play back in the Czech Republic for the HC Kladno team he owns with his father (also named Jaromir).
In the NHL record books, Jagr is 11th all time in goals scored, 12th in assists, eighth in points, 32nd in plus-minus, fourth in even strength goals, 19th in power play goals, second in game winning goals, eighth in shots and 12th in points per game.
Another two 54 point seasons like this one and he will pass long-time friend Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman to move into sixth in all-time scoring.
Had Jagr stuck around the past three years, he could have easily snuck past everyone but Wayne Gretzky sometime in 2012-13.
Any way you look at it, that’s quite a career.
And with Jaromir Jagr, Jr., you never know where the next chapter will take you.
On a related note, if you haven’t read Frank Seravalli’s excellent profile of Jagr from earlier in the playoffs, it’s well worth a read.