You probably can guess some of my feelings on this. I relished covering Jaromir Jagr—because he was a thrill to watch play hockey; because he was an engaging and intriguing personality; because he’s a legend of the game, and those don’t come around every day.
But do I think the Rangers made an enormous mistake in letting him go? Actually, I don’t.
Look, I’ve said it before that I’m sure Jagr was a handful. I’m sure he was moody. I’m sure that as much as he tried to buy into the Rangers defensive system, it was more a sacrifice of circumstance (he couldn’t score) than of choice (as in, no one chooses to not score).
At some point, the Rangers sat down during their organizational meetings in La Quinta, Calif., and assessed the offseason ahead. Some members of the brain trust thought Jagr should stay. Others thought it was time to turn the page. The reasons for and against are probably pretty obvious.Â For because he’s Jaromir freakin’ Jagr. Against because well, he’s Jaromir freakin’ Jagr.
Yes, Glen Sather said, all of this could have been avoided if Jagr just hit the 84 points he needed and the Rangers would have had him back again at a discounted rate. Then all of Jagr’s idiosyncrasies remain just that—amusing fodder for reporters and fans, and even his teammates. But if it’s a matter of writing a big check to a 36-year-old player coming off the worst season of his career (albeit one in which he was still a monster down the stretch), all the added factors that went with having Jagr on your team probably no longer seemed worth it.
And like I said, the Rangers at least seem to have a plan. Between Zherdev and Naslund, Drury and Gomez, and Redden and Kalinin, they are a sleeker, more mobile group that will employ an up-tempo style—Â all while still trying to shut down teams on the other end. I’m sure they’ll be competitive. They might even be better.
But I can’t imagine they’ll have a player who could dominate the game the way Jagr still did at times last year, not to mention a player who was equally as entertaining in speaking his mind.
That might not be enough to justify bringing him back. But it’s still enough to know I’ll miss having him around.