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  • Writer's pictureDerek Ochej

Ray Bourque and Jaromir Jagr

This week's post feature two of the greatest players of all-time. Not only did they rack up great statistics throughout their careers, they were consistently at the top of their games for over 20 NHL seasons. While there have been more dynamic talents than Ray Bourque and Jaromir Jagr (not many), there are only a handful of players who can rival their combined longevity and talent.

Bourque and Jagr are also a great example of the fickle nature of team success in hockey. Jagr experienced back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in his first two seasons. What surely would have seemed to a young hockey player to be a rosy future full of Cup victories, Jagr would wait 19 years to make his third Cup Finals appearance, playing in 1241 regular season and 135 playoff games. His Boston Bruins squad would ultimately drop the Finals in six games.

Bourque on the other hand did not taste Stanley Cup victory until his very last professional game, 1612 regular season and 214 playoff games in total, including two prior trips to the Cup Finals. As you will see in the video link below, the long way clearly did not sour the moment for Bourque.

Card 255 - Ray Bourque

Bourque was drafted eighth overall by Boston in the famed 1979 NHL draft. As a 19-year old he immediately made the Bruins roster, scoring 17 goals and 48 points. He was named a first-team all-star, won the Calder Trophy and finished fourth in Norris Trophy voting.

Over the next 15 seasons, Bourque would establish a dominance in the league unseen since Bobby Orr’s hay days with the Bruins. Between 1980 and 1996 Bourque:

  • Scored 20+ goals nine times, never scoring less than 12 goals in a single season (which was during the shortened 1994-95 season). Bourque scored a career-high 31 in 1983-84.

  • Recorded 70+ points twelve times, and broke the 90 point barrier four times. His career-high 96 points was also recorded in the 1983-84 season.

  • Led the league in shots three times (1984, 1987 and 1995).

  • Was named to the all-star team every single season (10 times first team, five times second team).

  • Finished top four in Norris Trophy voting every single season. He was a finalist 13 times and won five times (1987, 1988, 1990, 1991 and 1994).

  • Twice finished runner up for the Hart Trophy (1987 and 1990) and five times finished top five in voting.

  • Led all defenceman in scoring twice (1986 and 1994). To me this seemed low, but you have to remember he was competing with Paul Coffey, Phil Housley and Al MacInnis in their primes. Bourque was also the most consistent of the four across almost two decades.

  • Took over the Bruins’ captaincy in 1986.

In addition to regular season success, Bourque guided the Bruins to perennial Stanley Cup contender status. In his fourth NHL season, he and Bruins made it to the Prince of Wales Finals against the juggernaut Islanders, ultimately losing the eventual champs; Bourque scored eight goals and 23 points in the 1983 playoffs.

The Bruins won two Prince of Wales Conference titles in three years (1988 and 1990). Both times they ran up against the team that took the dynasty title from the Islanders, the Edmonton Oilers. Bourque recorded 21 and 17 points in both respective playoffs.

The 1991 and 1992 playoffs saw the Bruins again make the Prince of Wales Conference Finals, this time facing off against Pittsburgh both years. Like previous experiences, these ended in heartbreak for the Bruins, as they lost both times to the eventual champs. Bourque tallied seven goals and 25 points in 1991, while missing part of the 1992 playoffs due to injury.

As Bourque entered his late 30s, the Bruins began to decline from their consistent contender status of the previous decade. He continued to produce, averaging 50 points a season and earning Norris Trophy and all-star votes.

After having been eliminated in the Conference Finals by the eventual champion or losing in the Cup Finals five times in his career as a Bruin, Bourque was traded in March 2000 to Colorado. Dave Andreychuk was also sent to the Avalanche in exchange for Brian Rolston, Samuel Pahlsson, Martin Grenier and a first round pick. Prior to the trade, Bourque had played 1518 games with the Bruins, the sixth most NHL games played all time with a single franchise.

In 14 regular season games with the Avalanche Bourque scored 14 points. The Avs would drop the Western Conference Finals that season to Dallas in seven games. Motivated to return for one last shot at the Stanley Cup, Bourque tallied seven goals and 59 points at age 40, being named to the first all-star team for the 13th time in his career. In the playoffs, the Avalanche would go on to win the Stanley Cup for the second time in franchise history, with Bourque contributing four goals and 10 points. He went out on top, promptly retiring after winning the Cup in his 22nd NHL season. This moment will forever be remember for the emotional hand off from Joe Sakic to Bourque of Lord Stanley's Cup.

Over 22 seasons Bourque played in 1612 games (12th all-time), scoring 410 goals, 1169 assists (fourth all-time) and 1579 points (11th all-time). He played in 19 all-star games, and ranks third all-time in plus/minus at +527. Bourque is also the NHL career leader in shots, with 6209. In terms of defensive scoring, Bourque is the all-time leader for goals, assists and points by a d-man. In the playoffs, he ranks fourth in goals, third in points and sixth in games played for defencemen.

From 2002-07 he was an assistant coach with Cushing Academy, a high school prep hockey team in the US. He currently co-owns a restaurant in Boston and runs his own charitable foundation.

YouTube clip: video from being named one of the NHL's Top 100 players of all-time.

Card 256 - Jaromir Jagr

Drafted fifth overall by Pittsburgh in 1990, the Czech right winger was a mysterious prospect that many thought may never come to the NHL; however, Jagr did join the Penguins immediately for the 1990-91 season, scoring 20 goals and 57 points. He was named to the all-rookie team and finish sixth in Calder Trophy voting. Jagr experienced postseason success immediately, winning the Stanley Cup in his first season, contributing three goals and 13 points.

For his sophomore season, Jagr scored 32 goals and 69 points, contributing 11 goals and 24 points in the playoffs as the Pens won their second straight Cup. He continued to put up solid scoring statistics for his third and fourth campaigns, but it was the lockout shortened 1994-95 when Jagr shot to superstardom. He won his first Art Ross (scoring 32 goals and 70 points), was runner up for the Hart Trophy and named a first team all-star.

Over the next six seasons (1995-2001), Jagr ascended to the level of the top player in the NHL as Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux entered the last few seasons of their careers. In this time Jagr:

  • Scored 40+ goals five times, including a career-high 62 in 1995-96.

  • Scored 100+ points four times, including a career-high 149, also in 1995-96.

  • Won the Art Ross trophy four seasons in a row (1997-2001).

  • Was named a first team all-star four times, and second team all-star once.

  • Won the Hart Trophy in 1999, and was named a finalist four times.

  • Won the Pearson Trophy in 1999 and 2000.

By the early 2000s the Penguins were in rebuild mode after a decade of success. Lemieux had purchased the team and come out of retirement, but the Pens were still jettisoning expensive contracts to shore up their finances. As a result, Jagr was shipped to Washington in summer 2001 for three prospects that would play a combined 141 games for the Pens: Kris Beech (100), Michal Sivek (38) Ross Lupaschuk (3).

In two full seasons with the Capitals, Jagr eclipsed 30 goals and 70 points both seasons, but the team made the playoffs only once, losing in the conference quarter-finals. Halfway through his third season in Washington, Jagr was traded to the New York Rangers for Anson Carter.

Following the lockout season of 2004-05, Jagr had a comeback season for the ages, scoring 54 goals and 123 points. He was named a first team all-star, won the Pearson Trophy for a third time and finished runner up for the Hart and Art Ross to San Jose’s Joe Thornton. His next two seasons on Broadway saw respectable offensive output (including 96 points in 2006-07), but playoff success was elusive. Yes, Jagr led the Rangers back to the playoffs after several seasons on the outside, but the team never advanced beyond the conference semi-finals.

In summer 2008 Jagr signed as a free agent to play in Russia, which many thought was the end of his NHL career. After three seasons in the KHL, Jagr came back to the NHL at age 39, scoring 19 goals and 54 points with Philadelphia in 2011-12. He started the following season playing in his native Czech Republic, signing with Dallas and playing 34 games for the Stars before a deadline day trade to Boston for a first round pick and two prospects. The Bruins made the 2013 Cup Finals, losing in six games to Chicago, with Jagr contributing 10 assists.

For 2013-14 Jagr signed with New Jersey, scoring 24 goals and 67 points. Midway through his second season with the Devils, he was shipped to Florida for two draft picks. In 2015-16, Jagr scored 27 goals and 66 points, the 19th and final time in his career he scored 20+ goals, doing so at age 43. He also won the Masterton Trophy that season. 2016-17 saw Jagr play a full 82 games at age 44; by the time his 24th NHL season started, time had caught up with Jagr. In 2017-18 he signed with Calgary, playing 22 games and scoring seven points before leaving the NHL for a second time.

In 24 NHL seasons Jagr played in 1733 games (fourth all-time), scoring 766 goals (third), 1155 assists (fifth) and 1921 points (second). He played in 10 all-star games, ranks third all-time in even-strength goals (538), 11th in powerplay goals (217), first in game-winning goals (135) and third in shots (5637). Jagr is still playing pro hockey as he enter his 50s, with Ryiti Kladno in Czech Republic, the team he has owned since 2011.

YouTube clip: video from being named one of the NHL's Top 100 players of all-time.

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