This season has been full of milestones for Jaromir Jagr as he climbs the NHL's all-time leaderboard in goals and points.
He added another slightly more obscure one Tuesday when his goal for the New Jersey Devils in a 7-1 rout of the St. Louis Blues gave him 40 points this season. Jagr became the 15th member of the NHL's "40/40 club," reaching 40 points in his age-40 season or later.
It is a feat that has happened 26 times in League history. Gordie Howe did it four times, while Igor Larionov, Mark Messier and Mark Recchi reached 40 after 40 three times each. The 41-year-old Jagr was close last season with 35 points in 45 games. His birthday is Feb. 15, so he missed the Feb. 1 cutoff for this exercise two seasons ago when he had 54 points.
Ten players have joined the club since 2000-01, while no one gained entry for two decades prior to that. Jagr is not alone among 40-somethings producing in the NHL this season, as the Detroit Red Wings' Daniel Alfredsson, the Dallas Stars' Ray Whitney and the Anaheim Ducks' Teemu Selanne all are regulars for their teams.
Alfredsson has 30 points in 38 games and will join the club provided he can stay healthy to play enough games. Whitney, who has 20 points in 43 games, could be a first-time member. Selanne, who has been the League's second-greatest point producer of all-time after his 40th birthday behind Howe, has 17 points in 40 games and would need a late-season surge to collect his third "40/40" campaign.
The accompanying chart has the total points scored by players in their age-40 seasons or later by NHL season since the turn of the century. This season could prove to be the second-best for grizzled veterans in that time span.
While a wave of new, young players and teams adjusting to the salary cap era might partially explain the dip in the middle of the last decade, it is most likely just a cyclical thing and randomness for which seasons have had productive NHL players into their 40s.
Were it not for a combination of a three-year hiatus in Russia, work stoppages and even Jagr's immaturity at times when he was younger, he could have challenged Messier for the second-most points of all-time. As it stands, Jagr has a strong case to be known as the third-best forward in League history, behind Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.
Jagr's team has also made a case to creep into the bottom of the Super 16 this week as the Devils are in the middle of the muddle for the final Stanley Cup Playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
DISCLAIMER: While the Super 16 is NHL.com's weekly power rankings, the new-look version is going to focus more on the "power" than the "rankings" when determining the order. It's not always going to look like the League standings and likely will take more of a long view than a short one. If two teams are close, the tiebreaker is almost always this: If the two teams started a seven-game series tonight, who would prevail? Stop by to see where your favorite team ranks but stay for the information. Also, statistics and team records are through the games Wednesday night.
1. Chicago Blackhawks (32-8-12) LW: 2
The Blackhawks continue to have the fewest regulation losses in the League, and back-to-back wins against the Anaheim Ducks and Boston Bruins made for a nice weekend after dealing with a "slump" that stemmed mostly from losing some shootouts.
One player who stood out in both games was second-year forward Brandon Saad. When the Blackhawks lost in a shootout Wednesday to the Detroit Red Wings, Saad also had some standout moments. This isn't a mirage. He has taken a step forward this season and is a big reason why the Blackhawks could defend their title.
Saad was a Calder Trophy candidate last season but spent most of his time playing with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa on the team's top line. This season he has spent a lot of time on the second line with Patrick Kane but also some on the third unit as well. He's producing (15 goals, 35 points), and he's earning a reputation as another strong two-way wing on a team that already possesses two of the League's best in Hossa and Patrick Sharp.
One of the other defining characteristics of his young NHL career is Saad has proven he was an absolute steal in the 2011 NHL Draft when 42 other players heard their name called before him. Even the Blackhawks drafted three players before Saad (and they've combined to play zero NHL games).
It is far too early to make any sweeping judgments, but Saad clearly is among the best players in his draft class at this point in their careers. While Andrew Shaw was the first steal from the class for the Blackhawks, Saad may prove to be a more valuable one in the long term.
Saad nearly made the United States team for the 2014 Sochi Olympics (and still might as an injury replacement), and for good reason. He can do a little bit of everything on the ice, not unlike Hossa and Sharp. For now he's one of the best fifth bananas up front in the NHL and he could grow into a starring role for the club in the coming seasons.
|*Stats for 2013-14|
|Key: CF% = Corsi for percentage at 5v5; QOC = Quality of competition; QOT = Quality of teammates|
Check out the table above. Saad and Shaw have played some together this season on the second and third lines and they've been strong possession players in both roles. The last two categories come from ExtraSkater.com's version of quality of competition and quality of teammates.
The number is a percentage of ice time either their on-ice opponents or teammates consume for their respective teams. The logic is players who earn the most ice time are a team's best, so playing against players who consume more ice time means tougher competition. Saad is by no means getting away with facing easier competition or just riding the coattails of his teammates compared to the other top forwards from his draft class.
That group doesn't include defensemen like the Minnesota Wild's Jonas Brodin or Dougie Hamilton of the Boston Bruins, and goaltender John Gibson of the Anaheim Ducks looks like he could nudge his way into the "best player in the Class of 2011" discussion someday, but at this point in their NHL careers how many players would go ahead of Saad in a re-draft? Probably no more than four or five, possibly six, depending on a team's opinion of the recent spike in play/long-term potential of the Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele.
MUST READ: Jennifer Lute Costella of Second City Hockey writes about the Blackhawks' defense pairings (Hint: They are good at helping the team keep the puck).
2. St. Louis Blues (33-11-5) LW: 1
The Blues got embarrassed in New Jersey on Tuesday but consider this a reminder that it was the second of back-to-back road games that also included severe weather and a nearly-empty arena. They hooked one into the trees but could be given a mulligan. Unless goaltender Jaroslav Halak is going to continue to give up goals from center ice on deflected dump-ins, then they might really be in trouble.
MUST READ: Doug Armstrong is not interested in panicking after four losses in six games, writes Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
3. Anaheim Ducks (37-10-5) LW: 3
The Ducks had one of their best and their worst possession games of the season this past week and lost both. More games like the one against the Winnipeg Jets, win or lose, would help. They also won again in St. Louis, but the Blues have dominated their two games this season at even strength (Corsis were a combined 106-66). It is plausible to win a playoff series while attempting less than 40 percent of the shots at even strength, but it doesn't happen all that often.
MUST READ: Curtis Zupke writes about how hockey has grown roots in California.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (35-13-2) LW: 4
Olli Maatta is tied for the lead among rookie defensemen with 15 even-strength points. He also is fourth in Corsi-for percentage (50.1 percent) and Fenwick-for percentage (52.7 percent) and shots on goal (81). There was a time in training camp when it was speculated that Maatta, Matt Niskanen or both would not be on the Penguins' roster this season (Maatta could have been returned to his junior team, the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League; Niskanen was a potential trade chip because of salary cap concerns). Instead they've just been the team’s most consistent (and healthy) defensemen.
5. San Jose Sharks (32-12-6) LW: 6
After months of ridicule the Eastern Conference actually has had a bounce-back month in January. The East was 34-17-6 against teams from the Western Conference in 2014 after Detroit's win against Chicago on Wednesday. That trend hasn't bothered the Sharks. They are 4-1-0 against the East this month and carried the play against the Boston Bruins in a 1-0 loss.
6. Boston Bruins (31-15-3) LW: 7
Injuries haven't helped the Bruins, but Brad Marchand's slump to start the season didn't either. He now has 11 goals in his past 15 games, including six in the past four. That's the best four-game stretch of his career, though he'd probably cite the five goals in the final five games of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final as his best hockey at this level. He did upset some people in Vancouver just before this hot streak began. Messing with the Sedins is his can of spinach, apparently.
7. Los Angeles Kings (29-16-6) LW: 5
The Kings have won just four of 14 games since Dec. 23 (4-8-2) after dropping 12 of the first 37 games of the season. Los Angeles also has defeated Boston, St. Louis, Vancouver and Minnesota during this rough patch and there are no truly bad losses in there. It is a tough part of the schedule and it doesn't lighten up until after the Olympic break.
8. Colorado Avalanche (31-13-5) LW: 9
Semyon Varlamov was 7-0-1 in January before getting pulled Tuesday in a 5-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Varlamov is 21-1-4 when he posts a save percentage above the League average (.914) and 3-8-1 when he doesn't. Halak and Brian Elliott have won nine times with a sub-.914 save percentage this season for the Blues.
9. Tampa Bay Lightning (29-16-5) LW: 8
The Lightning went 6-4-1 to start the month and that included a four-game Western Canada swing and a three-game trip through the suddenly improving Metropolitan Division. Whether they can hang with Boston or Pittsburgh in a playoff series remains to be seen, but the Lightning have separated from the rest of the East and are firmly the third-best team in the conference.
10. Vancouver Canucks (26-16-9) LW: 10
It has been a weird 10 days or so for the Canucks. Henrik Sedin wasn't able to play for the first time since Nathan MacKinnon was in, like, third grade. There was a lot of other stuff that happened too, but the Canucks won a couple of games to end a slump and haven't really lost any breathing room because the Phoenix Coyotes and Dallas Stars also have scuffled.
MUST READ: Cam Charron of Canucks Army writes about the inevitable (eventually) decline of the Sedin twins.
11. Minnesota Wild (27-20-5) LW: 11
Josh Harding has not played in January and Zach Parise just made his return Thursday night, but the Wild have shrugged off a six-game skid to end December to win seven of 10. Ryan Suter has four goals in January, and five in his past 11 games. He had four goals in three of his previous four seasons.
12. Detroit Red Wings (22-18-10) LW: 12
There is a pretty sizable gap between Vancouver/Minnesota and the final five teams on this list. The Red Wings have struggled to string together wins but they do have two victories against Los Angeles (one obviously was controversial) and one against Chicago in the past two weeks. Health continues to be a problem and goalie Jimmy Howard is back on the not-available list. The Wings were outside the top eight with four games to play last season and still kept their Stanley Cup Playoff streak alive. However, they have ground to make up just to be in a "one winning streak away" position.
MUST READ: Helene St. James of the Detroit Red Wings writes about a surprising development from the organization's January scouting meetings.
13. Phoenix Coyotes (23-18-9) LW: 15
The wins are not coming in the desert and the points for reaching overtime have dried up as well. A 5-3-5 month has been followed by a 3-8-0 one, and combined that is a long time of not playing well enough to make the playoffs in the West.
14. Montreal Canadiens (27-18-5) LW: 13
Take a few minutes to peruse some of the top blogs that focus on the Canadiens. Guy Boucher's picture sure seems to be featured more prominently than it should for someone who is not employed by the organization. It is safe to say the level of unrest is high in La Belle Province.
15. Columbus Blue Jackets (25-20-4) LW: NR
In the preseason edition of the Super 16 the final spot belonged to five teams. This was intended to show how close the teams in the Metropolitan Division were expected to be. The Washington Capitals and New York Rangers have not met expectations, so that group of five has swelled to seven.
The gap between second and eighth is eight points, though every team but the Rangers has games in hand on the New York Islanders. This division has earned its fair share of ridicule this season, but every team except for the Capitals is playing well of late.
That development, combined with the troubles in Montreal and Detroit, has expanded the number of available playoff spots in the East and the group competing for them. Currently there are 10 teams behind Pittsburgh, Boston and Tampa Bay in the conference that have between 50 and 59 percent of the available points, and there are five playoff invitations for the taking.
|*includes two games at Yankee Stadium
^includes one game at Yankee Stadium
|Key: Pts% = points percentage ROW = regulation/overtime wins; GR = games remaining; Top 15 = games against the top 15 in points percentage|
The table breaks down the remaining schedule for those 10 clubs. Clearly the teams with the toughest paths are the Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers. Considering that the Flyers are 16th in points percentage, Washington's first 14 games after the Olympic break are against top 16 sides. The Capitals either need to snap out of their funk in the next two weeks or they might be out of the playoff picture by St. Patrick's Day.
The two teams with the most favorable schedules are Columbus and New Jersey. Will that be enough to help them grab two of the playoff spots?
MUST READ: Andy Newman of The Cannon writes about prospective candidates to be the team’s next captain and offers a (possibly) surprising solution.
16. New Jersey Devils (21-19-11) LW: NR
One thing the Blue Jackets and Devils have going for them is goaltending. Cory Schneider has been great for New Jersey, but will the Devils let him start enough games with Martin Brodeur still around? Sergei Bobrovsky has looked like a Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender since returning from injury.
Columbus is two points from a top-three seed with games in hand. New Jersey has been a strong possession team for the past three seasons but the goaltending was a problem last season. Considering the injuries Columbus has dealt with and the loss of superstar players in consecutive offseasons for New Jersey, it would be relatively surprising to see both clubs in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, the bottom of the East bracket is wide open.
MUST READ: Sean McIndoe broke down NHLPA '93 vs. NHL '94 for Grantland. Get him all of the awards, please.