June 25, 2008
The Pensblog is a Pittsburgh Penguins Web site whose rabid fan base and cultural impact in the Steel City would make a morning radio shock jock envious. They've appeared on NPR. They are fashion trend-setters. Their lexicon of inside jokes and their glossary of wickedly funny terminology have been adopted by everyone from rival fan sites to Jarkko Ruutu in postgame interviews.
Many hockey blogs have influence, but few could actually act as a catalyst for a puckhead revolution. The Pensblog already has. So when the boys decide to get passionate about something, you must pay attention; and today, they declared that "it's time to officially start the Jaromir Jagr Movement" for Penguins fans:
He is a free agent this offseason. He left here in 2001, and it wasn't pretty. Our personal feeling was that he tanked the ECF that year. It didn't help that he was dying alive.
But times change. If he hadn't have left, we'd be looking at a different Pens locker room right now. And that locker room would've been in the Sprint Center.
It would be a fitting end to the saga. The more we talk about it, the more compelled we are. And hey, Petr Sykora and JJ are tight. If Jagr signs, we make WWJJD wristbands.
Granted, this idea seems to rank somewhere between implausibility and fantasyland. (And Sykora's pretty tight with Hossa too, and look where that gets you.) But an objective look at the current state of affairs for both Jagr and the Penguins reveals that we may, in fact, have a match here.
If Marian Hossa is skating away as a free agent, that's a pretty large offensive hole on right wing. Jagr had 123 points and 96 points before last season's 71 points, which was totally attributable to the chemistry problems he had with the New York Rangers' offensive imports. The playoffs showed what a motivated Jagr can still do in this League; it would be hard to imagine Jagr not finding his smile playing on the wing of either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.
John Dellapina of the NY Daily News wondered if there was a team that could give Jagr "the kind of contract and comfort zone that [would] convince him to leave New York and/or spurn Omsk" in Russia. The Penguins could be that team, although contract duration is an issue. A one-year deal worth $6 million would fit within the team's salary structure for 2008-09. A two-year deal pushes that salary into the first year of both Malkin's and Jordan Staal's new contracts, which might make for tighter cap space depending on free agents like Brooks Orpik and Marc-Andre Fleury this summer.
(This would be a good time to mention that Malkin and Jagr have the same representation in J.P. Barry. And that Mario still owns the Penguins. Take that for all it's worth.)
Assuming the financials are settled, the question then becomes one of comfort. Jagr's on the record as having moved past the intense animosity directed at him from Penguins fans upon his departure. That leaves a conflicted-at-best Pittsburgh fan base, which boos him passionately but still can't shake memories like these:
Not everyone is drinking the Kool-Aid on Jagr coming back to Pittsburgh. From Lori at Hockey, Football and Stiletto Shoes:
I appreciate his time as a Pittsburgh Penguin, but the idea of him returning gives me nausea. Honestly, I would be shocked to see him wear a Penguins uniform again. And I'm also sad to announce that since my childhood crush years, he seems to have turned into a bit of an [expletive] in the locker room.
But The Pensblog has hit on something here that isn't as fanciful as it seems at first glance. When Penguins fans speak, the team listens; the franchise would be in Kansas City or Hamilton right now if these Pittsburgh puckhead didn't have influence.
We're less than a week away from July 1. That's plenty of time to get "The Jaromir Jagr Movement" rolling. Start printing the T-shirts, boys.