Thursday, June 30, 2011

Jagr Saga

Since there is no free agency news because of the NFL lockout -- and since the Steelers never sign any free agents anyway -- I am going to chime in on the Jagr Situation.

The timeline, in case you missed it, is as follows:
  1. Jagr decided he was tired of playing overseas and declared that he was interested in a return to the NHL for one last shot at a championship.
  2. He met with several teams, including the Penguins. Also met with the Red Wings, which is mildly infuriating. It's like Hossa all over again.
  3. Mario Lemieux got all excited.
  4. Ray Shero declared on Tuesday (6/28) that the Pens were interested and offered Jagr a one-year contract. He told the Tribune-Review that "Wednesday (6/29) is the day," for Jagr to make a decision, even though NHL free agency doesn't start until Friday, July 1st.
  5. On Wednesday, Jagr got on a plane.
  6. Jagr has since disappeared, to the level where he may end up gunned down by a SEAL team.
Since free agency doesn't officially kick off until tomorrow, this is probably a power grab by his agent attempting to get Jagr a better deal. Hopefully it's a smoke screen, since he also mentioned that the hated Philadelphia Flyers have also shown interest in Jagr.

Now, I wasn't all that into hockey when Jagr pouted, demanded a trade, and shook off the Pittsburgh fans and his awesome mullet for the Washington Capitals. This means that I don't bear any ill will towards #68. I do understand that there is still a healthy contingent of Pens fans that still do harbor animosity towards Jagr.

[Weidman: Interestingly enough, while Pittsburgh is all a-twitter about the possibility, it really is hard to find any buzz about it in Detroit press.]

To those people, I say get over it. Sure, he's 39, but those are hockey years. It's not like a tailback or a quarterback or even a shortstop or power forward. Gordy Howe played until he was like 85. Dwayne Roloson almost made it to the Stanley Cup Final and he's 41. He just signed a new contract with Tampa. Plus which, it's not like Jagr has just been chilling out in Eastern Europe eating Kit Kats and watching the Czech equivalent of Maury Povich for the last three years. He's been playing against a very high level of competition -- granted, not NHL level, but still very high -- since he left the league following the 2007-08 season. A number of scouts for a number of good teams took a look at what he could do and determined that he still has something left in the tank.

Also, I will never forget Game 4 of the Pens-Rangers series in the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs. New York was well on their way to getting swept by a far superior Penguins squad when Jagr stepped onto the ice and decided that there was no way in hell he was losing that game. He still had it then, I think he still has it now.

I still think he can score 30 goals. The Pens desperately need wingers. Odds are that Sid, Malkin, and Staal will play the bulk of the 2011-12 season. Providing that James Neal can emerge from his scoring coma, they'll have a potent offensive line-up through all four lines.

If you're thinking about the third line, the ardent pursuit of Jagr has not distracted Shero from taking care of day-to-day business. They signed Arron Asham on Tuesday and they're working diligently on hashing out a deal with Tyler Kennedy. If they keep Kennedy and add Jagr, this team could be downright scary next season.

For anyone still clinging to Jagr Hate even after my stunning rebuttal three paragraphs ago, I have one more thing to say: It's not his fault. He was used to winning. He could see the wheels coming off. The fans were starting to get fed up with the zone-trap that ended up in 0-0 ties every night. He was tired of it. He was entering his peak. The only way a hockey player can get attention is by whining like a little girl and holding his breath until the front office relents. That's uncharacteristic behavior from a hockey player, so he either gets what he wants or he's trading before he starts to tear apart the dressing room.

Finally, if I can forgive Barry Bonds and apologize to Kordell Stewart, Jagr deserves a second chance. (Editor's Note: I still HATE Eric Lindros.)

In other free agency news, there have been rumblings that Tiki Barber is interested in the Pittsburgh Steelers. These rumblings have been fueled primarily by... Tiki Barber, to the point where, if you Google "tiki barber" the first suggestion you get is, "tiki barber steelers". He wants to play for a competitive team and the Steelers are a competitive team with a lot of veteran players. Well, Tiki, I'm sorry to say... no. Emphatically. No.

Take away the fact that he's 36 and left his wife to go bang an intern. We'll just take that right off the table (after mentioning it, because it's still important). The fact remains that he's a tailback -- remember just recently when I mentioned that it wasn't bad that Jagr was older because he wasn't a tailback -- and he's well over 30. Take away that and you are still faced with the fact that he retired following the 2006 season. You know who else retired following the 2006 season? Bill Cowher. Right? Seems like a long time ago. That's because it is.

You know who else retired in 2006? My Dad. Six months after he retired, we were supposed to meet at his house on a Saturday to move some stuff. He called me and left me a message at work that Saturday, saying that he needed to push the time back and asked if that would work for me. I had been working a 9-5 job for six years at that point. This is not to say that my Dad is a feeble-minded old man. He's not. This is just making the point that, when you're out of the game, you lose things. You lose your "edge" for lack of a better word. In games played at the NFL level, you cannot afford to lose that edge. Most teams know this and Barber will discover it. On top of all that, the Steelers would really only have interest in Tiki's brother Rhonde, since he plays cornerback and they need more of those. They should be all set at running back, especially if they retain Mewelde Moore.

For similar reasons, the Steelers should -- and probably will, if they haven't already -- say no to Plaxico Burress. Take all the "out of the action" stuff for Barber and add, "because he was in prison." Remember when Jamal Lewis went to prison? There you go. For every Michael Vick example, there are a bunch of Jamal Lewis examples. Actually, Vick is the only guy that came back from prison and was worth something. That was also in his second season. The Steelers have enough talent at receiver -- and enough holes to fill elsewhere -- that they can afford to pass on Burress.

1 comment:

  1. So, yeah, not much ill will against Jagr here, but if he's not that repentant about bolting and is going for the power grab here ... wonder how he feels about sitting down, keeping his pie hole shut, and taking direction in the locker room and on the ice? Shero does a pretty good job with the one year vets and Jagr would be awesome (for what he would be asked/expected to do) as long as he knows his role. He, and his mullet (should it come back) would be welcomed with open arms as long as his antics don't go past the contract.