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No to Jagr, version 2.0

Ok kids, the rumour won’t die, so I’m forced to write about this again. If you want to read my first take, click here.

1- Habs need size up front

Yes, Jagr is big, but so was Peter Popovic. When folks say that a team needs size, it’s also implied that the size comes with grit and nastiness. Jagr brings neither. The Habs need a guy who can throw a few punches, score goals and lay the body. Is Jagr that guy? Was he ever? Nope. Yes, he can protect the puck and stick handle and shoot. Big deal, so could Alex Kovalev.

2- Mercenaries needs not apply

Jagr apparently wants to play with 5 teams (Montreal, Detroit, New York, Pittsburgh, Washington). Note how they’re all deep-pocketed teams with the exception of Pittsburgh, who instead just happen to have (hopefully) a recovered Crosby, Malkin and Staal. Want a guaranteed all-star center? Sell your services to the Pens. Otherwise, he’s knocking on the door of teams he’s played for, or that have lots of cash. You want a guy with all world skill, size and previous chemistry with Plekanec? Then go get *gasp* Alex Kovalev (there’s that name again). At least we know he WANTS to be here. And he’d be cheaper. Crazy eh? We’ve been down this road once, and I’m dumbfounded that Habs fans want to venture down it again. Stay away from both players in fact. Besides, do we really have interest in a guy who’s trying to leverage teams and leagues against one another? It’s obvious that he’s trying to squeeze top dollar out of somebody, somewhere. Don’t take the bait.

3- Chemistry

The Habs are a tight room. Jagr’s mere presence throws that in to chaos with all the attention he’ll bring to himself. He can say all he wants that he’ll be a good soldier, and do his best to help the team. But we know that when things don’t go his way, he sulks, he pouts, and most importantly, he sucks. And he’ll drag his mates down with him. He doesn’t fit with this team in any way. If the NHL allowed for a “special teams player”, then maybe. If he had 6-8 minutes per night on the power play ONLY, then perhaps it could work. On a regular shift, he’s wasting everyone’s time.

4- “The System”

Has Jagr ever met his own goaltenders? Can he name one goalie for any team that he ever played for? How will this guy fare in a demanding Jacques Martin system that requires responsible play without the puck? That demands that he actually presents himself in the defensive zone? Jagr can’t spell backcheck if you spotted him the b-a-c-k-c-h-e-c. Backczech? No, thank you.

5- Endurance

He looked good in the Olympics and in the World Championships. Wonderful. He’s also been playing in the KHL for the past several years (for 10 million dollars per year I may add). The KHL is not nearly as rugged or grueling as the NHL is, especially today. There’s less travel and way less games. The KHL’s regular season weighs in at about 50 games. An NHL regular season consists of 82, an increase of more than 60%. Then there’s the playoffs where the tough really get going. The Bruins just played 25 games en route to a Cup win. Added to the 82 game regular season, they played 107 games. Roughly double that of the KHL schedule. How on earth does anyone have confidence that Jagr can simply step back in to NHL action – at 39 years of age, play in a defense-first system, and help the team in areas that he no longer excels in?

6- Habs need even-strength help

Jagr can certainly help a powerplay, I’ll admit that much. But the Habs don’t need help on the power play. They need to learn how to succeed at even strength. The Canadiens were among the very worst teams in the league at even strength scoring. In case you hadn’t noticed, the majority of a hockey game is played at even strength…you’d be well served, and the Bruins just amply proved, to be a team that does well 5-on-5. To do that, they need players who will drive the opposing net, and force other teams to think twice when they retrieve the puck in their corners. Does Jagr fit that bill? Only if you make him do that on your PS3.

It Makes No Sense

Even at a reasonable cap hit on a 1-year deal, I strongly believe that a gamble on Jagr is a wasted one. He addresses none of the Canadiens needs, while at the same time creating new problems and potential controversies. I believe Pierre Gauthier would be wise to give the “thanks but no thanks” reply to Jagr’s agent Petr Svoboda. I think too many Habs fans are under the spell that he can come back in to the NHL and be a 40 goal, 100 point guy again. He can’t. Not in Montreal, not under Jacques Martin, not at 40 years old. He’s not Teemu Selanne. The Habs don’t have Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf, or Corey Perry, so don’t cite The Finnish Flash as a guy who can still bring it. This isn’t to say that Jagr can’t fit in with the Pens, or Caps or elsewhere on his wish list. It just can’t work in Montreal. He’s too much of a me-first mercenary that completely flies in the face of the Habs style.

So here’s your turn. Tell me how Jaromir Jagr can help the Habs.

  • http://www.cowhideandrubber.com Kyle Roussel

    There’s a way to do business, and there’s a way the Habs do business. They like to keep it quiet and under the radar. Jagr/Svoboda aren’t doing themselves favours by being so public about this.

    I don’t like “the system”. You’ve read my stuff before so you know I can’t stand Martin and the way he has the Candiens playing. But he & Gauthier are as stubborn and unshakeable a duo as there is. They don’t waver or veer course. Martin’s system does handicap the system, and it’s not ok, but that’s the reality. He and Gauthier are building towards something in their own way and Jagr doesn’t fit that vision.

    The pecking order would be out the door if Jagr were brought in. He’s too imposing a presence, whether he wanted to be or not.

    While he’s a first ballot hall of famer, that was a long time ago. The Canadiens need guys who can play both ends of the rink, hard. Jagr can’t.

    I know you were with me on the “say no to Guerin” last year, but frankly, I think Guerin would have made a better fit last year than Jagr does this year.

  • http://www.thecheckingline.com Prax

    He wants to come back to the NHL in general, but why does contacting other teams as well as the Habs mean that he doesn’t really want to come to Montreal? None of us know that, only him. It’s like when you’re shopping for a new car, if you really want the Ford Focus, you’re going to get the Ford Focus, but it would be silly not to look at the Chevy Cruze and the Mazda 3 while you’re at it, if for nothing more than a comparison point or a backup plan. Not to mention that we don’t even really know what he and Svoboda did. What more can he do if he called Gauthier before anyone else and Gauthier told him to f-off, or he asked his buddies Tomas, Jaro and Roman if they could put in a good for him. It’s unfair to really make that assumption. The simple fact that Montreal is on his shortlist proves he wants to come here.

    And I think we’ll always disagree on the “system”. You’re willing to deal with it, I’m not. Martin’s handicapped this team and it’s not okay. Obviously he has Gauthier in the palm of his hand but no other GM would allow the coach’s system to stop him from improving the team, something Jagr clearly does.

    As for his moodiness, yes, it’s well-documented, but the guy’s in his late 30s, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he’s grown up since his last go-around in the NHL, especially considering he’s obviously willing to take a paycut and go through the daily grind of the NHL this late in his career if for nothing more than to win a cup. People change, and I’m willing to bet that he definitely has. Not to mention that I think you give him too much credit. Kovalev and Koivu had their claws deep within the Habs locker room because they were here for years, and they were the team’s two top performers. If Jagr comes here, he’s pretty much 5th or 6th in the pecking order AT LEAST after Price, Subban, Gionta, Plekanec, Markov and Cammalleri in terms of talent, and even further down the list in terms of leadership, throwing in Gill, Hamrlik (possibly) and maybe even Gomez. There’s a very strong leadership group here, possibly one of the best in the NHL. They’d be able to handle any ego Jagr would have, and I’m sure that’s something that would be discussed with him before the season anyway.

    His age is countered by the fact that he won’t be making much money and his ice time can be controlled. The guy is still a top ten all time scorer and by all accounts he hasn’t lost much of that skill. If he pans out, he could lead the team in scoring. If he doesn’t at worst he’ll have a Gomez season (at a fraction of the cost) with 40 or so points and leave. There’s literally nothing bad that can come of this, all it does is give the team more depth, and it STILL leaves room to grab more toughness for a 3rd scoring line.

    Not to mention that I don’t see how the Habs don’t need help on the PP. Sure they finished among the league’s best special team units, but by the end of it many players who were overplayed were drained, Plekanec included. Adding depth to the powerplay helps the team on the PK and 5-on-5 indirectly.

    Frankly, this sounds like a typical Debby-Downer type of complaining because of experiences with Kovalev or something. You don’t get anywhere in the NHL without taking a few risks. All good teams take them, and if you can deal with them if they don’t pan out, then there shouldn’t be a problem. The safe GMing that this team has seen for the last decade is what has kept it back.

  • http://www.cowhideandrubber.com Kyle Roussel

    Couldn’t disagree more, Prax.

    If Jagr was happy to come to Montreal, he wouldn’t have initiated contact with Detroit, Pittsburgh, New York, etc. If he really wanted to be in Montreal, he would have exhausted that option before moving on to other teams.

    We may not like the way Gauthier and Martin work at times, but there’s a 0% chance that Gauthier brings in such a large presence without a deep discussion with Martin. What happens the first time Martin asks Jagr to dump the puck in instead of carrying it? #1- Jagr sulks. #2- Whatever effectiveness he had is now gone. Martin won’t change his system. Let’s just accept that and live with the reality.

    His presence is a VERY real threat to team chemistry because of his moodiness.

    There is TONS of downside in having Jagr here. He’s 39! What makes us think he can just step back in after 3 years out of the NHL and potentially double his workload in a much tougher league? It’s folly. If the Habs needed help on the powerplay, I’d say do it. But they don’t. In fact, they’re a top team with the man advantage. They need 5-on-5 help, and Jagr does not help that. The Habs need toughness and grit. He doesn’t bring that either.

    Where’s the upside? There is none.

  • http://www.thecheckingline.com Prax

    The Pens and Wings are two teams that rely on leadership and structure in their locker rooms, they’re two of the last four cup winners, and they’ve apparently made offers to Jagr and his agent. But he’s not what the Habs need? I don’t buy it. When the 9th all time league scorer wants to play for your team, when he wants to do it for cheap and when you have more than enough cap space for him, you accommodate him. I’m sick of using the system as an excuse and I hope that’s not how Gauthier does his job. “Well, Jacques going to be a dick to him so let’s not go after this good player”. Enough of that. There’s literally no downside to signing him to a one year deal at $2M, no matter how many excuses people make. He’s not handicapping your team, and if he’s not happy he’ll just leave, and they STILL have cap space to acquire more scoring depth. Low risk, VERY high potential benefit.

  • http://www.cowhideandrubber.com Kyle Roussel

    Hi Jan,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment! I agree with you in that the Habs need scoring depth. But I think the potential distractions that come with a guy like Jagr in a place like Montreal is too much of a risk to bother taking the gamble.

    Jagr does protect the puck well, and he still has hands, but the Habs BADLY need grit and sandpaper among the top 6. Another year of relying on the smaller guys to do the dirty work in their prime years is another year wasted. Pacioretty is not enough, and Kostitsyn is ill-suited for that role. The Canadiens need a team that has can the likes of the Bruins on the scoreboard as well as in the physical battle department.

    I know that when comparing careers, Jagr vs Kovalev is no contest. But at this late stage, they are largely on the same level from where I see things, and as I mentioned, at least we know Kovalev’s “heart” is already here in Montreal. As enigmatic as he is, it’s got to be worth something to him. (But to be clear, I don’t want either player back). Jagr *might* hit 60 points with Plekanec and Cammalleri…Kovalev probably wouldn’t fare much worse. But neither address the issue of toughness and even strength scoring. But on top of that I think for most fans, 60 points would be considered a disappointment. I think a lot of fans are still thinking about the mulleted Jagr from 14 years ago, or even 6 years ago. He’s not that guy anymore and we both know that. We also know how Montreal fans treat players that don’t live up to expectations.

    It is true that it’s a thin free agent market this summer. Therefore if Gauthier were to sign Jagr for a year (provided it were for no more than 2.5 million), I wouldn’t lose any sleep, but I very much feel like it would be another year of the same old, same old if this is the road we go down.

    Finally, the coup de grace that really kills this for me is twofold: the workload and rigors of the NHL vs KHL and the defensive requirements a player is mandated to perform under Jacques Martin. How long would it take before Jagr’s unwillingness (or inability) to play hard without the puck creates controversy and starts having a negative effect on Plekanec and Cammalleri?

    Lastly…if Jagr really wants to be here (and isn’t just posturing or leveraging to get top dollar from someone else) then he won’t mind waiting a while. Gauthier can look for the better fit elsewhere and if Jagr is still available, go get him then. But I don’t see this being much more than a sideways move for the Habs, and it’s more likely a step back than it is a step forward.

    As for your lines, sure they look good. But where’s Moen? Where’s Darche? Where’s Desharnais? Where’s White, Where’s Pyatt? I think we’re dreaming a bit (both of us) if we think the look of the forwards will be drastically altered from last year. As much as I’d love to see Eller with Kostitsyn, Moen is likely the other winger on that line, While White, Desharnais and Darche round out the fourth line.

    I really appreciate opposing comments and viewpoints like yours. It helps making blogging worth while and I hope to see you again!

  • http://www.cowhideandrubber.com Kyle Roussel

    Hi Sylvain,

    It’s a pretty thin free agent market. Ville Leino and Brooks Laich would be two guys I set my sights on. Whether Gauthier sees things the same way is another matter.

    As for Jagr…it just doesn’t make sense to me. A longer term solution should be explored in my opinion.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  • Jan Sauve-Frankel

    I don’t think anyone truly believes Jagr would be a saviour. Rather, I think Jagr DOES address an issue we have, which is lack of scoring depth. Signing a player like Jagr on a one-year deal allows the Habs to ice 3 scoring lines instead of 2. It allows Kostitsyn to play the whole year with Eller on a 3rd-line (barring injuries). It gives another option on the power play.

    Is Jagr gritty and tough? Of course not. But, his size and hockey smarts allow him to protect the puck very well in the corners and along the boards. He still has a shot and still knows how to put a pass on the tape.

    I feel your comparison to Kovalev is unfair. Jagr is one of the greatest players of all-time and Alex Kovalev is the most talented player to never score 100 points in a season. Even when Jagr was struggling with the Rangers, he put up a 71-point season. I don’t think he will put up 70 points, but he could approach 60 or better if healthy and playing with Plekanec and Cammalleri. Also, I do believe that Plekanec and Jagr have more chemistry than Plekanec and Kovalev.

    If there were a ton of good options out there, I would say don’t bother with Jagr. However, when the top free agent forwards after Brad Richards are Brooks Laich, Eric Cole and Ville Leino, I think Jagr on a one-year $2-3 million deal makes a lot of sense and has the potential to pay huge dividends. If it doesn’t work, he’s gone next year, and our prospects are a year closer to contributing. Also, signing Jagr does not preclude us from signing one of the aforementioned players if Pierre Gauthier really isn’t bringing Wisniewski back. The Habs should have about $8 million to spend.

    Wouldn’t you want to see the following 3 lines (which could be worked under the cap)?

    Cammalleri-Plekanec-Jagr
    Pacioretty-Gomez-Gionta
    Cole/Laich/Leino-Eller-Kostitsyn

  • Sylvain chard

    Short of bringing a line A la Nilan, Kordic, Laraque style yes we do need grit to face the bruins next season. So what do you suggest dude? Anything availlable in the FA market that might be a good fit IYO? Good work as usual. BTW I was leaning on Jarg coming here but my reservations were seen on paper through you ( especially the fit in Martin system which was my big issue) so you sold me by clarifying my own thoughts. Thx

  • http://www.cowhideandrubber.com Kyle Roussel

    Genius? That’s lofty praise, but who am I to turn it down! ; )

    What drives me nuts is the “yeah but” crowd.

    “Yeah but if the Canadiens had scored one more goal, they would have beaten Boston and won the Cup”
    “Yeah but if Markov/Gorges/Pacioretty were around…”
    “Yeah but all the non-calls…”

    There’s truth to some of those arguments, but it does nothing but disguise and exonerate the fatal flaw of this team: They can’t score at even strength and they lack the size & toughness to make deep cup runs. The fact that they made some noise last year was an aberration. The Bruins needed a legendary performance from Tim Thomas in order to win the cup, and they also needed superb even strength production. Special teams will always be keys to victory, but until you have the basics wrapped up, it’s more “lipstick on a pig”.

    Thanks for reading buddy!

  • http://HabsAddict.com Kamal Panesar

    LOL! Genius piece, Kyle!

    My two fave lines:

    “But we know that when things don’t go his way, he sulks, he pouts, and most importantly, he sucks.”

    and…

    “Does Jagr fit that bill? Only if you make him do that on your PS3.”

    Good stuff, as always and I agree wholeheartedly with you. Jagr is not the answer. As you said so succinctly, the Habs can’t score 5-on-5. It’s been a problem for years and one that management has failed to address.

    Until PG et al. addresses this huge whole in the Canadiens make-up, they will continue to be on the outside looking in…

  • http://www.cowhideandrubber.com Kyle Roussel

    Kostitsyn is a pure sniper, yet he’s asked to do things that don’t suit his style. But he does them anyway because he’s the only guy that can; digging in the corners, being the physical presence. He would be best served as the guy who was looked to to simply shoot. He spent the majority of the the season with Plekanec and Cammalleri. He also spent significant time in the black hole with Gomez, and yes, he was in the doghouse on the 4th line at one point, but it was relatively brief. His best fit is with Eller, and I hope he stays there while Gauthier finds a better option for the top-6. But failing that, AK is a much better fit with the Habs than Jagr, IMO. He’s younger, less of a distraction and we know he can play a full 82-game schedule. The same cannot be said for Jagr anymore with any degree of confidence. Good debating, Sean!

  • Sean Dempsey

    The way Kostystin plays out there, you really think he knows the system ? and I can’t call him a top 6 forward seeing as how he spent most of the season relegated to the 4th line…..that’s an expensive 4th liner. Kovalev, Jagr and Kostystin are all cut from the same cloth, when they WANT to play, they are (can be) almost unstoppable…

  • http://www.cowhideandrubber.com Kyle Roussel

    Thanks for reading, Sean. I don’t think you’re alone in taking Jagr over Kostitsyn. But at least Kostitsyn knows the system and is 1 of 2 guys among the top 6 forwards who can throw a hit.

  • Sean Dempsey

    Couldn’t have said it better myself, but I would take Jagr over Kostystin


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