Jaromir Jagr 2


Over the past few weeks it seems that there has been nothing but criticism on our captain Jaromir Jagr. First of course you have the shootout controversy and everyone questioning his captaincy since he does not take the shootouts and what have you. Then earlier this week Barry Melrose blasted Jagr saying “No one wants Jagr, for what he makes what he gives you… one dimensional player and not a winner” so since there is all this negativity towards our captain, I thought I would take a look at his tenure as a Ranger and see if it fair or not.

When Jaromir Jagr was in Washington he caused nothing but problems. He signed the biggest contract in the history of hockey, yet did not produce for the Capitals in the most important column, the win column. Finally on January 24th 2003 Jagr was traded to the New York Rangers in exchange for Anson Carter which would change the direction of the Rangers. It was hoped that with 31 games left he could help bring the Rangers back to the playoffs for the first time since 1997. However, since the Rangers won just 3 of their next 12 games they had a fire sale at the deadline hoping to built towards the future. Jagr had 29 points in 31 games, but by missing the playoffs again the season was a wash. Fans grew even more bitter since that season marked the seventh straight season the Rangers would not get a chance to play for the Stanley Cup.

Then of course the strike debacle robbed us of a season of NHL hockey while Jaromir Jagr played in the Russian and Czech leagues during the lockout. After the fiasco was over the Rangers assembled a team built around Jagr in hopes that maybe they could end their playoffs drought. The Rangers brought in a big contingency of Czech players such as Martin Straka, Martin Rucinsky, Marek Malik, and Michal Rozsival hoping that maybe Jagr would feel more at home and more motivated to play, since many others had questioned his motivation in Washington. Sports Illustrated disagreed however, picking the Rangers to finish 30, yes out of 30 teams in the NHL. Jagr had other plans however. Before the season started, Jagr dropped a bombshell when he told reporters that the Rangers would make the playoffs. The reporters held in their laughs but Jagr was not kidding. It started on Opening night when the Rangers were heading down the turnpike to face their arch rival Philadelphia Flyers. The pundits were predicting big things for that Flyers club after spending big money in the off-season acquiring Peter Forsberg and Darien Hatcher. The Rangers had different plans. Down 3-2 heading into the third period Jagr blasted two power play goals that lifted the Rangers past the Flyers and jumped started a magical season. The Rangers roared in the Olympic break looking like they had a sure hold on the Atlantic division title.

Something changed after the Olympics, the magic was not there. The Rangers were treading water up until the last 5 games of the season in which they blew their hold on the division lead and fell into the 6th spot. Even with the disappointing fact that the Rangers had blown the division title, they still ended the playoff drought and were heading into a series against their bitter rival, the New Jersey Devils. This series however would not live up to the 94 and 97, at least not from a Rangers fan perspective. The Rangers were getting pounded 6-1 in game one of the series and then with less than 2 minutes to go in the game, Tom Renney questionably decides to put number 68 on the ice to, of all things, kill a penalty. Jagr in turn injured his shoulder and killed any chance whatsoever of the Rangers even making it a competitive series. If Renney did not put Jagr on the ice there who knows what would have happened in the rest of the series.

Even without the playoff success however, Jaromir Jagr must be credited for almost single handedly carrying this team to the playoffs. Sure the emergence of Swedish net minder Henrik Lundqvist was huge, but Jagr single handedly kept this team afloat offensively. Thornton may have won the MVP award but anyone who watched the Rangers play would beg to differ. Jagr brought playoff hockey back to Madison Square Garden and he must be given credit for that.

This past summer Jaromir had to undergo serious surgery to repair damage to his shoulder from the incident against the Devils in game one. Sixty six games through the campaign this year Jagr is still averaging over a point per game, with 77 on the season. Yet people say he should be stripped of the “C” and that he is the reason they’re losing. Larry Brooks suggested the Rangers were considering dealing him at the deadline, Melrose and his comments make it sounds like Jagr is the biggest cancer in the NHL, and even the Garden Faithful were letting him have it midway through the 2nd period against the Blues. Yet a team with only one real scoring line is only 2 points out from making the playoffs. The only reason the Rangers are even sniffing the playoffs right now is number 68, and if he can put this team in the playoffs it would be an amazing accomplishment.

Now, I am not trying to put Jagr in the ranks of Mark Messier. However Jaromir is a great talent really working hard to try and lead this team to the playoffs. He does not have much talent around him and is carrying this team on his back for the second straight season and maybe back to the playoffs again. So before you start buying this Barry Melrose train of thought, step back and think about what Jaromir Jagr has done as a Ranger, especially the past two seasons.

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