44-Year-Old Scoring Machine Continues To Play Better Than Players 15-20 Years Younger And Panthers Look Legit

By Brian Monzo

I can’t get over the fact that Jaromir Jagr not only still plays in the NHL, but continues to perform at a high level, on a competitive team, while also playing a vital role.

That team, of course, is the Florida Panthers. Jagr, 44, recently notched career regular season goal 750.

He’s coming off a season where he helped lead the Panthers to the playoffs and had 66 points in 79 games. In an age where high-scoring forwards are not where they used to be, 66 points is very solid. This season, he has three points in six games and I fully expect his Panthers to not only be a playoff team, but to make a big splash once they get there.

I can’t help but wonder, if Jagr didn’t play in the KHL from 2008 to 2011, would he be in the mix to perhaps challenge Wayne Gretzky’s seemingly unbreakable record of 894 career regular season goals? Granted, “The Great One” only played until he was 38.

As for the rest of the goings-on around the NHL …

— I am not bullish on the Calgary Flames. I don’t love Brian Elliott as a goalie. He has a reasonable contract before becoming a unrestricted free agent, and the trade made sense at the time, but I don’t trust him in big spots. I do like their captain, Mark Giordano, and think he is one of the most underrated players in the league. It was also smart of the flames to lock up Johnny Gaudreau long term.

Johnny Gaudreau skates

Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau starts a rush during the second period against the Kings at Staples Center on March 31, 2016, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

And while I am not expecting a lot from the Flames this season, I can’t help but be impressed that they went to both Chicago and St. Louis this early in the season and came out with wins. They are still a ways away, but those are certainly eye-opening victories for a team that I don’t believe will make the playoffs.

— We all knew that the New Jersey Devils stole Taylor Hall from the Edmonton Oilers at the time, but the early returns have been much bigger than I expected. When the Devils sent young defenseman Adam Larsson to the Oilers for the Hall, the first reaction from almost everyone was “Larsson, and what else?” I expected a few draft picks and perhaps another prospect.

Taylor Hall

The New Jersey Devils’ Taylor Hall (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Larsson is a valuable asset, and a helpful player, but Hall is a game-changer. Hall, at some point this season, could be competing with the Islanders’ John Tavares as the best player in the New York area. The Oilers are off to a nice start, and I have no issue if they wanted to trade Hall to add a few players and prospects, but it certainly seems like they got the minimal return at most.

Last week I wrote about the Toronto Maple Leafs’ defense killing them. They’ve since given up 15 goals in three games. The offensive talent is there with Auston Matthews and William Nylander. It makes me wonder if they can dangle someone like James Van Riemsdyk in some sort of package for a defenseman. The Blues’ Kevin Shattenkirk is a pending UFA, but perhaps a one-for-one swap makes sense for these teams. Comparable salaries, and if the Leafs could lock up Shattenkirk, that would be a solid cornerstone on that blueline.

— So Sidney Crosby returned from his concussion. Great. The two-time Stanley Cup champion, and two-time Olympic gold medal winner managed to stick it to everyone again. This time he scored a goal and propelled his team to a two-goal comeback win over the Panthers. Awesome.

This week’s Top 5:

1. Connor McDavid — The young forward just seems to get better and better and has turned the Oilers into legit team. His speed turns defenseman inside-out. He has 59 points in 52 career NHL games.

2. Patrick Kane – The Blackhawks’ superstar has continued to produce at a point-per-game rate, and is on pace for 94 this season.

3. Steven Stamkos – The Lightning are one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, and Stamkos looks like he is back to being the best goal scorer in the league. I wouldn’t be shocked if he gets back to the 50-goal mark.

4. Taylor Hall – Welcome to New Jersey, Taylor. He has five goals, and it may not be long before he is the best player in the Tri-State Area.

5. Sidney Crosby – Fine.

Read more columns by Brian and follow him on Twitter at @BMonzoWFAN