Sorry for the long length but this is a topic that has been bugging me a lot lately.
I for one am sick of people making judgments on the New York Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr. Jagr came to New York with a rep most people will never let him live down and I am sick of it. No matter how this guy plays he’s either used as a scapegoat or referred to as a selfish quitter. I understand that Jagr being a star player reserves the right for the fans of other teams to make comments; which is fair and I’m fine with since that’s just part of being a fan. But another part of being a fan is defending the guys you cheer for. Sometimes I think Rangers fans (not all, but a lot) lack in defending number 68. Is he Mark Messier? No. Is he Brian Leetch? No. He’s not even Adam Graves. These are players that won fans over with their play over the years. So what does Jaromir need to do to get himself to that level, and receive the appreciation he deserves? Now the simple answer might be to just bring the cup back to Gotham. It seemed to work well for the other three, and if that were to happen it would definitely increase sales of number 68’s jersey at MSG. But I really don’t think it would change the opinions of people around the league. This leaves me wondering if Ranger fans would go on continuing to ignore these neigh-sayers and still not stand up for their captain.
Remember, this is a man who single handedly ended almost a decade of hardship by shattering team records and playing an exciting brand of hockey the Ranger faithful had not seen played for some time. Did Hank’s rookie campaign help the cause? Of course. But don’t kid yourself. Jagr’s dominate play was the main catalyst behind any success. Some might also point to last year’s brief playoff appearance as the main reason as to why last year can’t even be recognized as a success in the first place. That might be true in some places, but not last year in Ranger land. I know fans that for almost ten years would have given their first born child if it meant a Ranger playoff appearance; no matter how brief. We had forgotten what playoff hockey felt like and Jarmoir has helped us remember.
Did Jagr have some dog days with Washington? Yes I suppose by “Jagr” standards he did. But let’s not fool ourselves; there are many teams right now (probably 30 to be exact) that would kill for a player who puts up 201 points in 190 games (including back to back 30 goal seasons and 7 points in 6 playoff appearances) even if they apparently weren’t giving it their all. But that is really beside the point. I’m not trying to defend Jagr’s days as a Capital or a Penguin. Why? Because I’m a Rangers fan and I only care about what Jaromir Jagr does while wearing the Blue and White. It’s not about the past, it’s about the present. I’ll leave the debating of his past for the Pens and Caps fans that would have a lot more education on the topic than me. But Jagr as a Ranger is something I feel qualified to make comments on.
In last year playoffs Jagr was looked upon as a quitter because the Blueshirts were swept from the postseason by the Devils. This loss was apparently Jagr’s fault. But let me ask you, if someone like Shanny had been told by doctors that he needed reconstructive surgery on his shoulder and was advised to not play, would they be looked upon as a quitter? I highly doubt it. But with that exact same prognosis, Jagr didn’t take the doctor’s orders and instead came back to play in game three and four of the series, even though he couldn’t even shoot the puck. If anyone else in the league had come back to play under those circumstances they would be given the hero’s welcome and commended for their courageous efforts, win or lose. Jagr however was looked upon as a selfish e\Euro who quit when the going got tough. This baffles me.
If the last two months of this season showed Rangers fans anything, it was not to pass judgment based on a player’s rep. I still remember how angry many Rangers fans were the day the team landed Sean Avery. His career rep left many, including myself, with the impression that he would surely be the locker room cancer that would lead to the final straw in a Rangers season that was already heading south. However, the trade proved otherwise and instead ignited a spark that lead to the team’s best hockey of the season. Ask Rangers fans today how they feel about Avery and I’m sure he’d fit just fine in amongst the group of three I mentioned earlier. In a short time Avery has played his way into the hearts of the Garden Faithful and dismissed the premature notions that were cast upon him in Los Angeles. Jagr however is still battling a lot of his stereotypes.
I believe that when Jagr’s playing at the top of his game he is amongst the best, if not the best player in the world. When his career is said and done he will be recognized as one of the most highly decorated players in history, and probably looked upon as the greatest European to have ever played the game (I’m aware that’s a whole separate debate on its own). But as a Rangers fan those recognitions and stats mean nothing. Most of that is based upon his pre-Rangers career. But this is still a guy who I believe gives the New York Rangers a chance to win every night. Does he do it in the same way as a Jerome Iginla or a Mark Messier? No. But he’s not either of those players and has never claimed to be either. So let’s just accept the big guy for who he is and not for whom we want him to be. His past rep makes him a very easy scapegoat when the going gets tough, but so far with him as a Ranger we haven’t had many tough goings. This is a team that still has a long way to go, but is also a team that has come a long way. This is something I think a lot of fans forget.
Dog days in Washington or not, New York Jagr has brought a winning atmosphere back to MSG. This year when the Rangers needed him coming down the stretch he was there to score clutch goals and make the big plays during the big games. As long as Jaromir Jagr continues to play hard and continues to sustain this atmosphere that so many of us had forgotten, than he deserves our support. So fellow blueshirts fans I am asking you to defend the captain the next time someone calls him a quitter or a whiner or uses the term “typical Jagr”. For years we as fans suffered at the hands of super stars that could never get us invited to the dance. Now, with 68 at the helm, we have been given the invitation and this year we’ve even been asked to stay a little longer. So with our newest captain leading us on Broadway this is a team this will continue to win, and for the New York Rangers there is nothing typical about that.