The Great #NJDevils Czech Forwards, Are They Too Old?

Jim McIsaac

While there are three Czech men who are suiting up for the Devils, two of them are sure fire hall of famers. However, do they still have their scoring touch?

There are three New Jersey Devils players on the roster who hail from the Czech Republic. Those three names are:

  1. Marek Zidlicky
  2. Patrik Elias
  3. Jaromir Jagr.

Now, let's play a little game called "one of these things is not like the other thing". While we could pick quite a few differences, the outlier is Marek Zidlicky. Elias and Jagr are two of the best forwards in the league and most likely will be first ballot hall of famers. When Jagr chose to join the Devils, he was joining another great Czech player in Patty. Let's take a quick look at a few basic differences between the two players!

Jagr Elias
Position RW C
Age 41 37

Draft Position

5th overall

51st overall

Games Played 1391 1090
Career Points 1688 930
Career PPG 1.21 0.85
Stanley Cups 2 2
# of NHL Homes 8 1
Top Scoring European 1st 12th

First off, this post is not intended to argue that Elias and Jagr are at the same skill level. Jagr is the highest scoring European player to ever lace up the skates, while Elias comes in at #12 on that list. However, Elias has won the same number of Stanley Cups as Jagr. How else are the two Czech players different? Jagr was drafted in the first round while Patty wasn't taken off the board til the second round. My favorite stat however, is that Patrik Elias has played for one team. While this may be a factoid no one else cares about, I believe it shows a certain amount of pride for the Devils. They have been able to retain Elias for his entire career, despite offers to go elsewhere. The Penguins kept Jagr for 11 years until he decided to go on his own Tour De NHL.

So, now that both Patrik and Jaromir are on the Devils roster, what can we expect this season, given their respective ages? In order to see this, I plotted the player's career goals per game, assists per game, and points per game.

Screen_shot_2013-08-02_at_8

Screen_shot_2013-08-02_at_8

As you can see, Jagr was definitely a more prolific scorer during his prime than Elias. However, Elias has a more gentle slope on the black trend line, meaning that he is still keeping his scoring touch as he ages. What isn't shown in this chart is that Jagr left for Avangard Omsk for three seasons (2008-2011). That absent period would be between periods 17 and 18 on Jagr's chart.

As the trend line shows, both players are past their prime and are decreasing in scoring ability. Using the trend line as a prediction tool, it appears that Jagr is on pace for 0.42 PPG while Elias has a slightly higher average of 0.58 PPG. Now, does this projections seem realistic? Yes, I think it is. Jagr will fill in Kovy's spot on the powerplay, albeit he will not play the full two minutes. Elias is still an effective forward who can play 18+ minutes per game. Speaking of playing time, how much can we expect from these two?

Jagr averaged 21:32 a game throughout his NHL career while Elias averaged 18:22. However, Jagr is four years older than Elias and is clearly in the twilight of his career. In the last two years, Jagr averaged 17:20 while Elias averaged 19:17, almost two minutes more than Jagr. I would suspect Elias continues playing about 19 minutes a game while Jagr could fall below 17 minutes per game.

Overall, these two Czechs still have some juice left in their batteries. And given the lack of firepower on the Devils roster, they will definitely benefit from these two players being on the ice.

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