Since making his triumphant return to the NHL, Jaromir Jagr will return to his old stomping grounds, Pittsburgh, for the first time tonight. Most people expect that he will be roundly booed, because….well I guess because he didn’t put loyalty ahead of cash and opportunity.
That, and to me anyway, it seems pretty clear that Pittsburgh didn’t actually want him back. It sounds like the Pens expected the same out of Jagr that I did: utter disappointment (and yes, we were both wrong).
He told this story about where he thinks the Pens saw him fitting in:
Nobody will tell you how they want to use you. That’s one thing. But you can sometimes read between the lines. I’ve got nothing against [Penguins winger Tyler] Kennedy [who was a restricted free agent last summer] or guys like that, but if somebody tells you, ‘Well, we have to wait for Kennedy,’ and he was playing on the third line, well, where am I going to play if you wait for Kennedy before you sign me? I was reading between the lines.
In talking about what he could’ve done to help out the Pens powerplay, he basically says that even if he were a Penguin he’d probably see as many PP shifts for them as he does now.
I didn’t think I would get on the power play. That’s the way I felt. I didn’t know how I was going to play. I have some confidence in [myself] that I’m not going to be that bad. And in Philly there was a totally different team. There was a new team with a lot of young guys. Nobody had anything guaranteed. Here [Pittsburgh], that’s a different story. Everybody’s been together for probably five, six years, they won the [Stanley] Cup together. The lines are set up. I don’t think I would have had a chance to play – at least, the way I wanted to play.
So, to get this straight: the Penguins offered Jagr less money - significantly less, if what we’ve heard has been accurate – and told him they needed to sign Tyler Kennedy before they could get to him. And they wouldn’t commit any powerplay time to him. …So yeah, he took the better opportunity.
Yet we’re expecting boos?
I get that it hurts for fans to see their childhood hero don the villain colours. And, if there’s one area I can get on board with those fans in this case, it’s that you can’t promise ice time in the summer. You get in where you fit in, no matter what, and he would’ve likely earned a PP spot eventually.
But he still made the right call going to Philly – hockey is a business, and teams will cut you the second they don’t need you. You have to take the money and chance at a top line spot where it’s offered. It was the Penguins organization that didn’t do enough to get him.
So if you do choose to boo, aren’t you the one that’s tarnishing what he did in Pittsburgh over his time there? Doesn’t acknowledging he really did nothing wrong by making the smart decision (and simply rooting for your own team when he’s involved in the play) better preserve the years you did have together? And why does this paragraph read like I’m a relationship counsellor?
While I respect his talent and accomplishments, I’m no fan of Jagr, but I will be on his side tonight. Booing one of the greatest players in the history of your franchise who returns without real sin makes no sense to me.