Selasa, 17 Mei 2011

Adding Jagr would be error

Monday, May 16, 2011
Whew! What a relief. For a minute there, I was starting to believe the speculation that had Jaromir Jagr possibly coming back to the Penguins. It turns out that isn't likely. Good. Jagr is the last player they should want to add to a team that's only a healthy Sidney Crosby and a healthy Evgeni Malkin from being a Stanley Cup contender.

The Post-Gazette's Shelly Anderson reported Sunday that Jagr probably will stay in the Kontinental Hockey League, where he has played the past three seasons. I don't know if he has matured as a person -- he was the most immature player I've covered in Pittsburgh -- but he seems to be smarter. He has to know he has a good thing going in Europe. He's making a fortune, much more than he could make with the Penguins. He also has to know it's difficult for any athlete to go home again and be successful.

It would be especially difficult for Jagr if he were to come home to Pittsburgh, where he started his hockey career after being the Penguins' first-round draft choice in 1990, No. 5 overall.

Many people seem to have forgotten what a royal pain Jagr was here. He was great in the beginning, a kid with talent that almost was beyond description. He was a key contributor to the Penguins' first two Cup teams in 1991 and '92. He should always be remembered for that -- first and foremost -- more than the five NHL scoring titles and league MVP award that he later won with them.

But as Jagr got older, he became difficult in the Penguins' room. He wasn't a good teammate, unless you value selfishness and moodiness as important team traits. He frustrated all his coaches with his many mood swings and his frequent sulking. I still can hear the late, great Herb Brooks preaching that the name on the front of a player's sweater is so much more important than the name on the back.

Man, he hated coaching Jagr.

The Penguins were so desperate to keep Jagr happy that they hired fellow Czech Ivan Hlinka to be their coach in 2000. Hlinka couldn't speak English, which didn't work out too well for the team. He was fired after just four games of his second season.

But the language wasn't Hlinka's only problem. Jagr sabotaged him with his moodiness. It was during Hlinka's one full season that Jagr made his infamous observation that he was "dying alive," presumably because he wasn't happy with how he was playing. Later that season, after not scoring a goal for the eighth time in nine games, he said, "I feel all this pressure on me, like people are waiting for me to screw up. Well, here it is. It's happening. Get used to it. This is me. I'm not a good player."
Jagr was the Penguins' captain at the time.
Some leader.

It was during this period that Jagr asked Penguins owner Mario Lemieux -- a man he professed to worship -- and general manager Craig Patrick to trade him. He did so many times. Finally, in the summer of 2001, Patrick sent him to the Washington Capitals with Frantisek Kucera for prospects Kris Beech, Ross Lupaschuk, Michael Sivek and future considerations. It was one of the worst trades in franchise history and devastated the team.

That's why Jagr was booed -- rightfully so -- each time he returned to Mellon Arena with the Capitals and then with the New York Rangers.

That's also why the Penguins shouldn't retire his No. 68 jersey.

It doesn't belong in the Consol Energy Center rafters next to Lemieux's magical No. 66.

Jagr is 39 but still has game, as he proved in the world championships last week by scoring a hat trick against the United States. If he somehow were to take a lot less money to join the Penguins again, maybe he would help their power play, although I'm willing to take my chances with it if Crosby and Malkin are healthy. Maybe he would be a better teammate.


It seems more likely that Jagr would have a hard time as a role player behind Crosby and Malkin. How long would it take him to be "dying alive" again? Crosby, as the team captain, doesn't need that. Certainly, Malkin, who has had his moments of sulking here, doesn't need it.

The Penguins don't need Jagr.

Ron Cook: Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan.

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