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Why Jagr deserves to be NHL's MVP


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Why Jagr deserves to be NHL's MVP


Robert Picarello / Special to FOXSports.com

Posted: 1 day ago


The New York Rangers have been a rags-to-riches story this year, most of which can be attributed to the play of Jaromir Jagr.


Heading into play Saturday, Jagr led the league in goals (52) and points (114) and was the odds-on favorite to win the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP. If Jags wins the award, it will mark the second time in his career that he has been the NHL's most valuable player. In 1999, Jagr won as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins.


Earlier this season, former Rangers' captain Mark Messier called Jaromir Jagr "the best player in the world." (Jim McIsaac / Getty Images)


Jagr was also chasing his sixth Art Ross Trophy, given to the player who leads the league in scoring at the end of the regular season. If he takes home that hardware, the Rangers' leading scorer would move into a second-place tie with Mario Lemieux and Gordie Howe. Only "The Great One," Wayne Gretzky garnered more scoring titles than Lemieux and Howe, finishing with 10 in his Hall of Fame career.


After hearing the whispers before the 2005-06 season started that the Rangers were going to be one of the league's bottom-feeders once again, Jagr was determined to prove all the naysayers wrong.


"Whatever the media says is fine with us. We are the guys who are going to prove it on the ice," Jagr said. "It's going to be fun and interesting this year. Hopefully we can continue to play the whole year like this."


Well, Jagr has not only proved the critics wrong, he has almost singlehandedly led the Rangers back the postseason for the first time since 1997. He has also rewritten the Rangers' record books along the way. First, Jagr topped Hall of Famer Jean Ratelle's 34-year-old single-season points total by collecting 114 — and counting — this season. Secondly, he tied the Rangers' single-season goal mark by potting an NHL-leading 52 goals in his first 74 games, matching the record total set by Adam Graves in 1993-94.


Jagr ranks second all-time for points and goals among players born in Europe. In addition, Jagr ranks first in NHL scoring since 1990-91, second in NHL goals since 1990-91 and second in NHL assists since 1990-91.


"He's a big strong man. I don't know how you defend him outside of taking a penalty," Rangers head coach Tom Renney said. "Quite honestly, when his feet are moving and he's got the puck there may not be anybody better. Jags has an incredible set of hands. He can certainly fire the puck and he can do it off balance and those types of things, which makes him very valuable to our hockey club."


The only player who may give Jagr a run for his money for the Hart in the season's last few weeks is San Jose's Joe Thornton. The former Bruin has been the sparkplug that ignited the Sharks back into playoff contention when the team looked like it was dead in the water in early December. Thornton leads the league in assists and has set a career high in points, surpassing his old total of 101 set with Boston back in the 2002-03 season. Since coming over to San Jose in a trade on Nov. 30, the former Bruins' captain is the NHL's leading scorer with 73 points (16 goals, 57 assists) in 48 games, a per-game average of 1.52.


While those numbers are impressive, I'm afraid I'll have to say it ain't so to Joe when it comes to the Hart. Jagr has carried the Rangers all year. He helped turn around a franchise that only won 27 games and finished with a mere 69 points when the NHL last had a season. New York also finished 13th in the Eastern Conference in the 2003-04 campaign.


Not so this year. With only eight games remaining on the docket, the Rangers were battling the Philadelphia Flyers for first place in the Atlantic Division — a true Jags-to-riches story.




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