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Value in Jagr's work on, off ice for Dallas

by Adam Kimelman

When Jaromir Jagr returned to the NHL after playing three seasons in Russia, he had a lot to learn about how the game currently is played in North America.

Jaromir Jagr
Jaromir Jagr
Right Wing - DAL
GOALS: 19 | ASST: 35 | PTS: 54
SOG: 170 | +/-: 5
He certainly showed he was a quick learner, with 19 goals and 35 assists in 73 games with the Philadelphia Flyers last season, plus another eight points in 11 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Now he'll take that education to Dallas, where he'll try to do for burgeoning star forwards Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson what he did for Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell in their season as Jagr's linemates.

Can Jagr, now 40, still be productive?

"I don't think there's any question he has gas in the tank. He had a terrific season with Philadelphia," Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk said shortly after signing Jagr to a one-year, $4.55 million contract in July. "He's still a world-class player. … Even at 40, he's still a difficult guy to contain. He's still as good as anyone in the League at using that big body down low. He keeps himself in tremendous shape.

"I think he's going to be a really good fit with our group."

One of the items Jagr learned last season is how important it was to keep his weight up. He said slipping from 240 pounds at the start of the season to 228 by the time it ended in hope of getting quicker only sapped his strength and was a reason he had just three goals and nine assists in his last 20 regular-season games.

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"I started the season at 240 and I felt pretty good," he said. "Then I dropped to 228 and I didn't feel that good. I thought my shot wasn't the same way. … That's the experience I learned last year, if I lost the weight I would be quicker. But I wasn't necessarily quicker and I didn't feel that comfortable with my shot in the second half of the season because I lost some pounds."

As important as Jagr was on the ice, for the Flyers, his off-ice presence was just as big a factor in Philadelphia's success. Jagr's work ethic turned him into a role model for the team's young players.

Dallas hopes he can do the same for Benn and Eriksson, among others. Both already have played in an All-Star Game, but getting them near the same level as Giroux and Hartnell would go a long way toward getting the Stars back to the postseason for the first time in four years.

"The most important thing for the young guys is to learn to listen," Jagr said. "There's no secret to success. It's hard work. Talent is good, but without the work, you don't have a chance. You have to work harder than the other guys. You have to be willing to give up a lot. If it were easy, everybody would do it. It's not easy; only one guy can be the best. That's why you have to work the most."

Jagr can point to his resume for proof of hard work equaling success. He doesn't have to be the dominant force he was in the 1990s now, but the hope is he can help the next generation of Dallas players the way he helped the next generation in Philadelphia.

"Ten or 12 years ago, I felt I was the best player in the world," he said. "I knew how to get there. I just don't have the tools right now to do it. That way I can help the young guys."

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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