Saturday, January 20, 2007

Whither Jaromir?

The Rangers lost, 3-1, to an Atlanta Thrashers team that was not playing anywhere near their best hockey of the season. The Rangers were outmanned and lucky to lose by only two goals, as it took Atlanta's Marian Hossa three breakaways, including a penalty shot, to finally score a goal today, and even then, he had an empty net and scored off a rebound.

In watching the Rangers this week, I note a couple of things:

1) No passion. I've seen Ice Capades that featured more body contact and speedskating than the Rangers this week.

2) A bigger concern: what up with Jagr? He's been listless, trying to do too much on his own (he had a HORRIBLE stretch today where he kept trying to stickhandle into a clogged slot and kept coughing up the puck), and taking really dumb penalties. So the question has to be asked: how badly is he hurt?

I've watched Jagr for a long time now, and I know the level he can play to, and the level he's currently capable of, and he's playing to neither, which tells me he's hurting a lot worse than he's letting on.

You may recall it was about a year ago that he and Jarkko Ruutu had their run-in during the Olympics (Jagr was kneed in the helmet by Ruutu along the boards during the Finn-Czech qualifying game for the medal round). He has not been the same player since, altho he's shown flashes of brilliance at the beginning of this season.

Yes, he scored the Rangers only goal today, and yes, it was scored mostly using his brilliant stick skills, but it's obvious to me that most teams have caught something in Jagr's play this year and are forcing him to skate and stickhandle much more than usual.

3) During an intermission in the Devils' game, Stan Fischler mentioned the Philadelphia Flyers were shopping usually-injured Peter Forsberg around and had discussions with the Rangers.

One word: don't. OK, that's a contraction, but still. While Forsberg might be the answer under different circumstances (and the fact these discussions are going on indicates that jagr is indeed on shaky wheels), this is not the time to "old" the team up again. In contrast to many recent "star studded" squads, last year's Rangers team, the first to make the playoffs in 10 seasons, used an awful lot of young players, many of whom aren't even on the team anymore, and I point to the trade of Ville Nieminen last year for Useless...I mean, Sandis Ozolinsh as the turning point from being a legitimate Cup contender to barely scraping by this season.

You'd think management would take the lesson.

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