So let’s see here: Jaromir Jagr is either a spineless, ill-suited leader for not wanting to go in the shootout last night against the Devils.
Or he is a selfless, team-first player willing to put his ego aside for the greater good.
My take is he is neither.
Or he is both.
I guess you can say I’m still figuring this one out.
But first, let’s hear from the Big Fella, who originally resisted my question about the events of last night, but later provided a compelling response when I asked why the best player on a team was on the bench with the game on the line.
“Best player doesn’t mean you’re good on breakaways. (Peter) Forsberg doesn’t go on breakaways. (Scott) Gomez doesn’t go on breakaways. I think they’re pretty good players. Some guys play four minutes but they’re good on breakaways.”
Jagr was then asked about the message he may be sending the rest of his teammates.
“That’s a tough answer to answer right now. I didn’t think about it. I didn’t know what the other team was thinking. I just know what I’m thinking. If the game’s going to be on the line with two minutes to go, I want to be there the whole two minutes. This is a different story.
“If I would be sure about it, your never sure, but if I would be sure I’m better than the guys who are going, I’m in…It’s a tough answer to answer. You just never know. Trust me, if I know it would help the team I’d be the first guy to stand on the red line. I do what I feel is good for the team and if I feel it might hurt me or I’m not going to be a hero, it doesn’t matter because it might help the team. But maybe I start shooting. Maybe it’s going to help the team.”
Naturally the same questions were posed to Tom Renney, who was fairly passionate in his defense.
“I don’t have a problem with it at all,” Renney said. “If that’s where his level of comfort is with that part of what we do, good (for him) for being honest about. Period. I’m fine with this.”
“Jaromir’s growth as a leader this year has been phenomenal. It’s easy to misunderstand his intentions in certain areas. This is not one of them at all. He wants to make sure someone has more confidence and more success in this so we win a hockey game. End of story.”
Is it, though? Might this be indicative of a larger problem? Again, I go back to what I said earlier: I’m not sure.
As Jagr alluded to earlier, if we’re talking about the last two minutes of a hockey game, then yes, get your helmet on and get on the ice. If you’re the captain and the team’s best player, there should be no question about it.
But shootouts are different. Shootouts are goofy. And hard as this may be to believe, there may well be four or five or even 10 players on the Rangers roster who are better at it than Jagr.
The analogy I tried to make to everyone from my boss to Dave Maloney and Joe Micheletti this morning is one of putting Shaquille O’Neal on the free throw line with no time on the clock. Yes, he’s your leading scorer and your team’s leader. But when it comes to the specific discipline of shooting free throws, he’s awful. Maybe Jagr is a little better than that. But it doesn’t change the fact that he didn’t think he could produce a goal when the Rangers needed one last night.
Is that gutless or smart? I wish I knew.