As the trade deadline approaches, Rangers fans begin to wonder about what Glen Sather will do. Will he pick up a big player? Will he dump Malik or Mara? The biggest question mark is Jaromir Jagr. He doesn't seem to have much in the tank or much durability in the rear fender. He has scored only 16 goals and 38 assists in 63 games and does not seem prone to break out of his slump any time soon. Every player gets worn down with time and this seems to be Jagr's time. It would make sense to dump him now for something as opposed to losing him for nothing to free agency.
On the other hand, the Rangers are playing very well having jumpd into a tie for 6th place in the Eastern Conference and sitting only 7 point behind the division leading Devils. They have gone 9-3-2 since January 22 and have seemed to put offense, defense and goaltending together. More importantly, they have played a solid, full game on every night with the only exception being the Montreal Massacre. Jagr's line, if not he himself, has been producing well. Dubinsky has thrived on a line with Avery and Jagr. A shakeup at this stage of the game, especially on the top line, may be more destructive than beneficial.
That, along with other internal and external deadline trades, is what Glen Sather must decide on Tuesday and that will decide whether Jaromir Jagr will be wearing the blue sweater in Carolina on Thursday. You may want a trade and you may not, but either way, don not forget what Jaromir Jagr means to this New York Rangers organization.
54 goals, 69 assists and 123 points. It is hard to remeber the days when Jagr's production was so high but it was only two years ago that Jagr was voted MVP by the players. His monstrous year carried a young and relatively untalented team to their first postseason since 1997. His stats were worthy of may awards and he seemed a shoo in for the Hart, Rocket Richard and Art Ross trophies until all three awards were heisted by the dynamic duo of Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo on the last day of the season. He broke Adam Graves' single season goal record and John Rattelle's point record. Most importantly, he carried this team to the playoffs on his back and ended a painful drought. Everybody was calling for him to be made captain. And he was.
Jagr didn't stop there. He posted 30 goals and 66 assists in the next season and with the help of new Ranger Brendan Shanahan led a fearsome offense to Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. He led this team as the captain past Atlanta and 7.7 seconds away from a 3-2 lead on the #1 Sabres. The first playoff berth, win and series win since 1997 had been captured thanks to Jaromir. He was our captain just one year ago. Now he has become our cancer as the stuborn Rangers fans (myself included) love to toss away useless old ones.
Lets face it. Without Jaromir Jagr, the Rangers do not make the playoffs in 2006. They almost certainly do not make it in 2007 either. Without Jagr, Adam Graves would still hold the single season goals record and Rattelle would hold the single season points record. Glen Sather would trade away youth to improve the team now and we might not have Staal, Tyutin, Girardi, Dubinsky, Callahan, Prucha and Dawes to name a few. The Rangers would not be talented now and prepared for the future. Jaromir Jagr may need to be traded, but don't forget how much Jagr did for this team, regardless of his bad habits and attitude. Jaromir Jagr saved the Rangers. Be grateful for that and cheer for him in this tough stretch. He may not be able to lead us to a Stanley Cup but he build the foundations for this team to do so. Wherever he ends up, I wish him luck.
Jaromir Jagr is not my scapegoat. He is my hero.