is off to the best start of his young career. Scott Hartnell
is redefining his role as a power forward. Jakub Voracek
's dream of playing with his boyhood idol is coming true. Peter Laviolette is thrilled to have a veteran with Jagr's status to point to as an example of how a strong work ethic can pay off in goals and wins.
Jagr has 6 goals and 9 assists through 14 games, including 11 points over his current seven-game point-scoring streak. He's serving as the right wing on the Flyers' top line with Giroux and Hartnell. They quickly have formed one of the NHL's most dominant lines this season.
"He's an elite player, he really is," Laviolette said of Jagr.
"He was the only one that knew (what teams) I was talking to beside my agent. And he knew I was talking to probably five or six teams, coaches and GMs, but the Flyers were not involved. Every time I talked to the GM, what they told me I told my friend. Then two days before free agency I was talking to the Flyers. After that I talked to my friend, and he said, 'That's it.' I don't know what he knew, but he said, 'You're talking to me about them differently than other teams.'" - Jaromir Jagr
But according to Jagr, the only reason he brought his elite talent to Philadelphia is because his closest friend of more than 30 years told him that's what he should do.
He wouldn't divulge any information about his friend other than to say he lives in the Czech Republic, but Jagr credits his friend with convincing him to accept the Flyers' one-year, $3.3 million contract offer.
"He was the only one that knew (what teams) I was talking to beside my agent. And he knew I was talking to probably five or six teams, coaches and GMs, but the Flyers were not involved," Jagr told NHL.com Tuesday. "Every time I talked to the GM, what they told me I told my friend. Then two days before free agency I was talking to the Flyers. After that I talked to my friend, and he said, 'That's it.' I don't know what he knew, but he said, 'You're talking to me about them differently than other teams.'
"I cannot tell you what, but he sensed in me it was a different feeling. I've spent about 30 years with him and he knew because he knows me and he saw the difference, could tell the difference."
Jagr, though, still came to Philadelphia without any preconceived expectations or thoughts about what he might be able to accomplish as a 39-year-old who hadn't played in the NHL since 2008.
He just wanted to see if he could make it work at this level again after spending three seasons in the KHL.
"Good or bad, I was going to play through it," Jagr said. "That's why I didn't expect anything. No matter if it was bad or good, I wanted to play."
So far it's been all good for Jagr, who is playing well and cementing opinions of himself to others.
For instance, Laviolette had no idea that Jagr was such a preparation nut.
"The way he trains, the time he puts in to prepare himself to play, I don't think you get to see that when you're on the opposing bench," he said.
That work ethic has rubbed off on the Flyers' younger players like Giroux and James van Riemsdyk
"When he came here I didn't know what to expect," Giroux said. "But when he came here he was the one that worked the hardest and gave the young players like me and van Riemsdyk a wake-up call to see that if we wanted to be one of the best we had to work at it, that it wasn't just going to come."
Voracek is happy to report that the image he had of Jagr when he was a child who used to hang posters of No. 68 on his bedroom walls matches what he now sees from his favorite player and teammate.
"I think we click pretty well," Voracek told NHL.com. "We live pretty close to each other so we keep in touch every day off the ice, as well. It's very cool to be with him."
Hartnell commented after a recent game that he still finds it surreal that Jagr is even on his team.
"That hasn't worn off yet," he said. "It's fun."
Jagr himself looks to be having a blast, as well. That much was obvious Tuesday after the Flyers came off the ice after practice.
Jagr and Voracek were laughing and telling jokes in their native tongue. Jagr was smiling and having fun with the Flyers' equipment managers. He even joked about the upcoming Flyers-Rangers Alumni Game that will be played Dec. 31 at Citizens Bank Park.
"They probably thought I was going to play in that game," Jagr said, laughing at his own joke. "I surprised everybody. Obviously I wasn't invited for that game. So I chose to play in the NHL game."
Not without the help from his anonymous friend.
"Sometimes you cannot listen to yourself," Jagr said. "You need the people around you to help you make a decision like this."
The Flyers are ready to write a thank-you letter.
"His smile when he plays the game is almost infectious," Laviolette said. "He's happy to be here. He's happy to be a Flyer. He's having a terrific start to the season. And he shows by the way he smiles."