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Jagr Eager To Hit Ground Running With Stars

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Jaromir Jagr admitted that the Dallas Stars weren’t the biggest blip on his radar when free agency opened on Sunday, but that a phone call from Dallas changed the picture.

“All of a sudden, I got a call from Joe Nieuwendyk that the Dallas Stars were interested and I was very, very happy for many reasons,” Jagr said during a media conference call on Thursday. “For one thing, they feel I can help them. That’s the most important thing for me. I think I can play on the first two lines, which is important to me. I just don’t want to be in the NHL to sit around; I want to be a big part of a new team.”

Jagr, who signed a one-year, $4.55 million contract on Tuesday, is looking forward to the next challenge in his illustrious career, and the Stars are excited to have him aboard.

The acquisitions of Jagr, who ranks eighth all-time in the NHL with 1,653 points; left wing Ray Whitney and center Derek Roy have revamped the Stars’ set of top six forwards and should give a boost to the team’s power play, which ranked last in the league last season.

Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk said he sees Jagr playing right wing on a line with center Jamie Benn and left wing Loui Eriksson. And the hope is that Jagr can do for Dallas’s young players what he did for young players last season in Philadelphia, including Claude Giroux.

“What makes (Giroux) special is that he wants to be the best, he wants to get better and he is willing to listen. I told him and he knew it, I know what it takes to be the best,” said Jagr.

“Ten or 12 years ago, I felt I was the best player in the world. 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.

“The most important thing for the young guys is to learn to listen. 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.”

And when it comes to work, Jagr practices what he preaches. He was asked if he could see himself taking a game off now and then to conserve energy over the course of a long season.

“I’m trying to work so hard during the season in practices that during the game, you can have fun. I love the game, so I don’t think I can take a day off,” he said. “If I am not going to play, I am probably going to go out twice a day in practice. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”

So, how about taking off some practices?

“In my opinion, if you don’t practice, you cannot play,” Jagr said. “That’s the way I think. Everyone is different. If somebody shows me you can play and be good without a practice, then I am going to follow it. I don’t think anyone was born like that.”

But if there is a better way, Jagr is always willing to listen. There are always new things to learn, even when you rank second among active players with 1,346 games played.

“You learn every day. You don’t stop learning. Once you stop learning, you are dead,” Jagr said. “You have to learn every day to adjust your life. Life is moving so fast and everything is changing. If you don’t adjust to the new life, you don’t have a chance to survive, especially in the new NHL.”

Among the lessons learned last year that dropping his weight from 240 pounds to 228 might not have been such a good idea. The goal was to try to get quicker. He ended up not feeling quicker, might have lost something off his shot and that could have contributed to his production waning over the second half of the season. Still, he ended up with 54 points (19 goals, 35 assists) in 73 games for the Flyers.

There will be new things to learn this season. It will be the first time he has played for a team in the Western Conference after having suited up for Pittsburgh, Washington, New York Rangers and Philadelphia during his 18-year NHL career.

“With the new NHL, they want to save travelling, they want to save money – and I understand that – so you don’t play many times against the other teams in the different conference,” he said. “It’s tough to say which conference is better. You have the Stanley Cup champions from the Western Conference but that doesn’t mean the West is better. It’s going to be interesting to find out what kind of differences there are.”

One thing he is not concerned about is the travel in the Western Conference. The Stars, of course, have some of the toughest travel in the league.

“I was in Russia, playing in Omsk, and the shortest trip we had was two-and-a-half hours,” he said. “We were flying five hours, six hours twice a month. It was a totally different plane than the Dallas Stars have too, trust me.”

While dealing with the travel should be no problem, not making the playoffs would be an issue. And he sees the 2012-13 Dallas Stars as a playoff team.

“The one thing I learned in my life is you shouldn’t underestimate anybody, ever,” Jagr said.

“I remember years when before the season they said this team was going to win the Stanley Cup, and they didn’t even make the playoffs. Look at the LA Kings last year. They were so close to not making the playoffs, and then they totally dominated in the playoffs. The margin of error between the teams that are champions and the teams not making the playoffs is so small; the little details make a huge difference.

“I think in Dallas with the young guys, plus Derek Roy and Ray Whitney, who is still a great player, I think we are going to make the playoffs. I think I’ve missed the playoffs once in my life. I don’t want to do it again.”

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