Jaromir Jagr has been around long enough that his preferences and personality are well known around the NHL. So when New Jersey Devils head coach Pete DeBoer decided to remove Travis Zajac from the top line, where he’d been centering the 41-year-old, it probably didn’t come as a shock that it upset Jagr. It’s been established that the veteran of more than 1,400 regular season games prefers to settle in with the same players on his line and doesn’t like to see changes made to that for any reason. With the Devils offense puttering along lately, DeBoer utilized a pretty common tactic among coaches when he switched a few players around to try to spark something. This apparently was a shock to Jagr, who spoke to Tom Gulitti of The New Jersey Daily Record about his irritation with the move:
It doesn’t make sense to me and I don’t want to talk about it either. I don’t really [care] either.
DeBoer didn’t shy away when asked about the juggling, and acknowledged that he was doing something that Jagr probably wouldn’t like. As per the Record:
I know Jags likes consistent linemates. Some guys prefer that. Some guys don’t mind change. I know he’s said before that he likes to play with the same guys. At the same time, that only works if you’re getting consistent production and we haven’t gotten enough there recently.
While it makes sense to move players around when they’re struggling, that hadn’t been the case at all with Jagr and Zajac. While the former didn’t score a point on Monday night, he’d produced 12 over his last eight games. Zajac had also been playing some strong hockey lately, posting eight points over his last six games. So when Jagr says that the line shuffling doesn’t make sense, maybe it’s because it really doesn’t. Could this just be an attempt to spread out the scoring by DeBoer? Sure it could, yet New Jersey sits in 26th in the NHL in average goals scored per game. So why make a move that could potentially drive that total down even farther while upsetting arguably your best player? Being a coach in the NHL isn’t an easy job, and DeBoer clearly saw something that he didn’t like out of one of the players involved here. Still, it isn’t every day that a member of a team will speak out specifically about line tweaks. For even more New Jersey Devils coverage, check out FanSided’s Devils-centric site, Pucks and Pitchforks.