Archive for the ‘manalysis’ Category

State your case: The CLS/Sports and the City Fake Leafs

October 13, 2009


In the event that you made an understandable hockey hibernation during the summer, we’ve been Re-Drafting the NHL for the last few months. Since rosters are (thankfully) just about to be finalized, it’s time to start studying these bad boys like the Zapruder film.


Even though I’m a bad role model, I thought I’d start things off (well actually Joe started it off) by talking about my own team.

[Quick Note: this team was originally represented by EyeBLeaf from Sports and the City, but my dorkiness turned into a black hole and engulfed the team. So most of the blunders are my fault. His main picks were the first two: Marc Savard and Alex Semin.]

The CLS/Sports and the City Pseudo-Leafs:
Forward Lines
Alex Semin – Marc Savard – Bill Guerin
Jere Lehtinen – Patrice Bergeron – Teemu Selanne
John Madden – Manny Malhotra – Mike Grier
Sergei Kostitsyn – Kyle Turris – Chris Neil

Defensive pairings
Mike Komisarek – Sergei Gonchar
Matt Niskanen – Willie Mitchell
Kurtis Foster – Nicklas Grossman

Goalies
J-S Giguere
Alex Auld

Reserves:
Mark Fistric, Eric Godard, Ryan Carter

Reasons Why the Pseudo-Leafs are awesome
1. Greed is Good

One of my team building philosophies (and general sports views) is to lean heavily toward players who have an obvious carrot dangling in front of them (instead of a guy who’s fat and happy with a huge new 12-year contract).

Instead of listing all the guys in contract years, here’s the only players who aren’t playing for a new deal this season: Giguere, Komisarek, Bergeron, Fistric, Godard, Turris, Neil, Carter.
In other words, fourteen starters are in a contract year.
2. Elites aplenty

Naturally, these things are subjective but my team has:
  • An elite passer (Savard)
  • An elite sniper (Semin … and maybe Selanne)
  • A playoff proven goalie (Giguere)
  • One of the league’s best offensive D (Gonchar)
  • One of the league’s best shutdown D (Mitchell)
  • A great defensive forward and one of the best guys in the FO circle (Malhotra)
  • One of the league’s most frequent hitting forwards (Neil) and D (Komisarek)
3. Strong special teams

Fake Toronto is designed to be good in 5-on-5 situations but great in special teams.

Along with high-scoring guys like Semin and Savard, the team also has one of the best PP goal scorers in Selanne. Gonchar is so proficient as a point man that he is often on the ice for 90 percent of the Penguins’ PP time! Niskanen and Foster provide nice second and third options for PP point men.
PP units
Selanne – Savard – Guerin (for screens)
Semin (rover) – Gonchar

Kostitsyn – Bergeron – Lehtinen
Foster – Niskanen
I also focused heavily on having strong PK units.
Malhotra, Madden, Lehtinen, Bergeron and Grier are all excellent PK forwards while Mitchell, Grossman, Komisarek and Niskanen can provide solid support on D.
PK units
Malhotra-Grier
Komisarek-Mitchell

Madden-Lehtinen/Bergeron
Niskanen-Grossman
4. Big, mean defense

With a lot of finesse forwards on the top two lines and a steady but more offensively inclined top D in Gonchar, I decided to focus on big and hard hitting D guys.
Komisarek and Grossman were among the league leaders in hits in the 08-09 season. The smallest D guy on the roster is Niskanen – who’s still 6 feet tall.
Hell, our backup goalie Alex Auld is 6’5″ himself.
5. Good in reality, fantasy and video games
I think the team covers all the bases reasonably well.
Regrets?

  • Assuming Matt Cooke would be around just a little bit longer. Same with Taylor Pyatt, Ian Laperriere and Travis Moen. (The hope is that Mike Grier and Chris Neil will hurt people sufficiently)
  • Could have used a little more grit with the team’s best scorers.
  • While I’m on record in saying that I think Giguere still “has it,” it would have been nice to get an obvious starter.
  • If I would have known that Rob Niedermayer and Rob Lang would be in the NHL, I would have taken at least one of them. Especially since Kostitsyn and Turris were booted down.
Conclusions
It’s a bummer that both Sergei K and K Turris were sent down to the minors, but Ryan Carter and Eric Godard are playing NHL minutes so they can pick up some of the slack.
Overall, I think my team is strong defensively, has above average goaltending and a mixture of high scoring forwards and gritty PK guys. There might be teams that can score more or be a little more gritty, but few if any can boast as much versatility.

The hockey media’s curious love affair with Chris Drury

May 6, 2009

What, exactly, has Chris Drury done to cause so much of the hockey media elite to swoon like high school girls over their prom dates? Do we all love former Little League stars that much? Has the mainstream media’s obsession with “clutch” scoring bubbled over into insanity?

The funny thing is that Puck Daddy’s absurd Marleau for Drury fake trade proposal wasn’t even the original reason this post came to mind. Here’s what actually stuck in my craw (from John Buccigross’s mailbag last week):

Dear John,

Do you think the Buffalo Sabres will ever win a Stanley Cup? If so, what’s it going to take?

Scott
Virginia

Personally, I don’t like the mix of personalities on the Sabres’ roster right now. Perhaps some players will mature quickly into serious and committed professionals and give the rest of the team a lift. The Sabres give off the vibe of a boorish frat party at times. Buffalo gave a lot of money to Jason Pominville and Derek Roy. Pominville’s contract goes to $5.3 million next season! He had 20 goals in 2008-09. He has to score 35 to 45 at that cap number. These high-paid, young players have to be the most committed and mature players on the team along with Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller. That’s how they will make the leap to an upper 90-point team.

What they lost in Daniel Briere and Chris Drury was so much leadership and direction. The young players have not stepped up to fill the void. They also are not tough enough. They need more tough players or they need to have their current players play tougher. Ryan Miller seems like a consummate professional and his injury really did hurt the Sabres. I’ve written in this space for much of the season that Buffalo would be a great market for Jay Bouwmeester; a small, passionate hockey market. Plus, the Sabres need help on the blue line.

So, by Bucci’s standards Pominville is an albatross. Then what does that make “hockey god” Drury?

It’s stunning that Buccigross (who I generally like, although his Mike Myers/music referencing/lazy Hakan Loob humor is getting repetitive enough to be its own drinking game) follows the Pominville bashing by mentioning Drury and Briere, aka the guys who signed the worst contracts of the post-lockout era.

C’mon, Bucci, that’s like deriding fake breasts and then making a segue to Pam Anderson‘s run on Baywatch.

With all this in mind, let’s take a look at what Drury (god) and Pominville (CANCER!!!111) have done since Drury signed his Rangers-killing contract:

Chris Drury

OK!! OK!! We GET it! He was in the Little League World Series! Uggggh.

2007-08 season: (82 GP: 25 goals, 33 assists for 58 points, -3 rating, 7 GWG)
2007-08 playoffs (10 GP: 3 goals, 3 assists for 6 points, +3 rating, 1 GWG)
2008-09 season: (81 GP: 22 goals, 34 assists for 56 points, -8 rating, 2 GWG)
2008-09 playoffs (6 GP: 1 goal, 0 assists for 1 point, -5 rating, 1 GWG)
Overall: 51 goals, 70 assists for 121 points in 179 games or about $117,000 per point ($14.2 million cap hit for two seasons).

Stereotypical Mainstream … “Expert” response: B-B-BUT HE’S GOT A FUCKTON OF INTANGIBLES!!!

Jason Pominville

2007-08 season: (82 GP: 27 goals, 53 assists for 80 points, +16 rating, 1 GWG)
No playoffs
2008-09 season: (82 GP: 20 goals, 46 assists for 66 points, -4 rating, 2 GWG)
No playoffs

Overall: 47 goals, 99 assists for 146 points in 164 games. Even though he hasn’t started his supposedly misguided next contract yet, he would be receiving a little more than $36,000 per point if he scored at that two-season pace under his next contract.

Stereotypical Mainstream … “Expert” response: B-B-BUT HE NEVER STOMPS AROUND THE LOCKER ROOM AFTER A LOSS!!! No “Any Given Sunday” speeches. You can’t put a price on that (spits while screaming)!

They both signed ludicrous deals, but only Briere is PhotoShopped as a pregnant woman.

OK, there’s no doubt that Bucci likes Drury personally. Maybe at some point, Bucci was doing post-champagne interviews when the Colorado Avalanche won a Cup and they simultaneously made a tired Mike Myers joke … locked eyes … and it was hockey love forever. But, c’mon Bucci, Pominville is producing more points in less games for less money than Drury. Derek Roy also produced 151 points in the last two seasons, so you cannot really get much wiggle room there either.

The funny thing about the Sabres is that they are damned by the correct decision they made to allow Daniel Briere and Chris Drury to go. Both players have been roundly panned for having contracts that were very optimistic regarding the two of them continuing to be successful into their mid-to-late 30’s.

No one hesitates to butcher Briere and it’s easy to see why. But it boggles my mind that hockey media members aren’t comparing Drury’s contract to the all-time worst ones.

Sorry, everyone, but Drury’s contract might just be “Yashin bad.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Drury is a bad player. No doubt, the guy has an uncanny knack for scoring pivotal goals, he’s a very good faceoff guy and plays with plenty of heart. It just seems amazing that a nice complimentary player can get this sort of obscene praise.

He started off as an over-qualified depth player who had great success because opposing teams had to worry about Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg, then he floundered in Calgary. His best run might have been in Buffalo, but that team worked so well because they had a seemingly un-ending group of forwards who could score by committee. He didn’t have to be “the man” so he thrived.

Now he’s in New York, a team rendered completely dependent on Henrik Lundqvist since they put their superstar money in solid/second line/awful players like Wade Redden, Scott Gomez and Michal Rosival. This team will have a second round ceiling for the rest of Drury’s stay, barring miraculous goaltending from Lundqvist.

Let’s cut the crap. Drury is the second coming of Bobby Holik – a nice enough player who can fill a role but somehow became worthy of a GIGANTIC contract in MSG land. (To be fair, though, he at least doesn’t look like a neanderthal.)

So, I give up. You tell me. What makes Drury so good? How far can intangibles and likeability take one person? Maybe there’s something I’m missing … something only an “expert” can see.

Olli Jokinen: terrible?

April 24, 2009

When the Calgary Flames traded for Olli Jokinen, most people assumed that the Flames made the biggest splash of all the deadline teams. But if you asked quite a few Flames fans/bloggers, it was a splash alright – of hydrochloric acid to the face of their DREAMS.

His first career playoff run has been quite two-faced, indeed.

On one hand, his stats look pretty damn nice. Jokinen has 2 goals and 3 assists for 5 points in four games, with a +3 and a whopping 17 shots on goal. When judging the odd-looking Finn based on those stats, he’s had an amazing playoff run.

Yet, Jokinen’s also had some forehead-slapping moments that call back all the talk about him being a cancer for the Phoenix Coyotes. There Olli was with that blank look in his eyes, unaware that he greatly increased his team’s chances for a Too Many Men on the Ice penalty. It just seems like he has a knack for taking a backbreaking penalty or making a stomach-churning turnover when he’s in his own zone.

It seems that Jokinen is a two-headed monster. One head wears goat horns; the other head is uhhh He-man’s head or something.

What’s your take? Is Jokinen a one-dimensional player, ultimately more of a liability than anything else? Is Olli a power forward and the center Jarome Iginla‘s needed all this time?

The answer may lie somewhere in between, but that’s just no fun.

Olli Jokinen: awesome or awful?(online surveys)

Bow Flex

February 27, 2009
Really? This is the guy that GM’s are going to be battling over this weekend?

James has already chimed in on the fate of the Florida Panthers this season. But I have a bigger question… who the heck is Jay Bouwmeester anyway? I spend the majority of my time watching Western Conference hockey, and since the Kings have only played the Florida Panthers 5 times in the last 5 years… I really don’t feel like I have a clear sense of how good or how mediocre a defenseman Jay Bouwmeester is. I’ve never had him on a fantasy team, never traded for him in NHL 07, 08 or 09 and never heard a friend say “oh man, that Bouwmeester is a BEAST on the blueline.” Although, if any friend said that about a NHL player I probably would hit him. Or at least smile at him gently.

Here’s what I do know about Jay Bouwmeester… he is the current NHL leader in consecutive games played, not missing a game in 4+ seasons. His career high in points is 46. Career high in penalty minutes is 79. And he averages about 27 minutes a game. He’s 25 years old and is a 6 year NHL veteran. So we are looking at a reliable, top 30 NHL defenseman without much of a mean streak. And man, does he know how to look non-threatening in a photo.

So if you are an NHL GM… do you make a play for this UFA? What do you give up for someone who seems to have no intention of signing with a NHL team before this summer? Remember, the NHL Trading Deadline causes strange things to happen… witness Mike Comrie being swapped for a low #1 draft pick. But for a NHL All-Star defenseman? Lubomir Visnovsky cost the Oilers Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene. What would you trade for Kyle Quincey? What would you pay to get Keith Duncan or Ryan Suter? Could Ron Hainsey be the one to put you over the 8th seed bubble? Because all those guys are in and around JBo.

Now I’m sure that Bouwmeester has some amazing intangibles that I’m just not aware of because I haven’t seen him play as much as I’ve seen Pronger, Phaneuf, Souray or Jovanovski. And I realize that is my fault. But can you really blame me for not catching a lot of Florida Panther games over the past few years? I mean look at this monstrosity of a jersey.


I’m not paying money to watch this on tv.

Florida wants the return you get for a #1 defenseman because Florida actually thinks Bouwmeester is a #1 defenseman. In reality, he’s a strong 2nd on a good NHL team. He is only getting so much hype because he is a UFA. But here’s the fun part about the Trading Deadline. Someone will probably will give up what Florida wants. And then Brian Burke will get double that for any of his Toronto fire-sales.

I’m in the camp that believes 100% Florida should trade Bouwmeester. Sure the Panthers are 6th in the Eastern Conference, but they are only 4 points out of 10th place too. And are the Panthers really going to put together the kind of run to challenge Boston, Washington, New Jersey or Philly? There is a great future coming together in South Florida and McCabe, Boynton and Ballard should be able to hold down the team for the remainder of the season. So get rid of Jay Bouwmeester and be done with it… before he turns into this guy:

What say you Florida Panther fans? I know that you come to this blog in force. Is Bouwmeester really that good and he’s never gotten the chance to play in a meaningful game? (well, he did play in 18 AHL playoff games with Chicago in 2005… and had 0 points.) Or has he just been the best defenseman on an awful team the last 5 years? Believe the hype or not?

Jibblescribbits: Why Joe Sakic should be the All-Decade Center

February 17, 2009

(On Saturday, Earl Sleek wrote a great post covering one of the burning questions of the All-Decade team selection process: Niedermayer or Pronger? Today, Jibblescribbits covers one half of the other great discussion: Sakic vs. Thornton. Once you’re done reading about Burnaby Joe make sure to head over to his great blog that covers the Colorado Avalanche and hockey in general.)

Normally when I’m given a side in a point-counter-point argument The first thing I do is I try to mentally argue the other side in my head. Knowing your enemy gives you more ammunition and the ability to rebut the other side’s argument before they even make it, defusing it. But for this argument I have a hard time doing that, and that is because I cannot come up with one good reason to pick Joe Thornton over Joe Sakic for the all-decade team. (And I’m a huge Thornton fan)

Jos Sakic won his Conn Smythe in 1996 so I can’t use that. I guess all I am left with is a Hart, Lester B. Pearson, Lady Byng (all in ’01) NHL All-Star MVP (which I’ll admit isn’t worth a whole lot), and 3 NHL all first teams (’01, ’02, ’04). He’s also got one of those Stanley Cups in ’01 and then a Gold Medal (and Olympic MVP) in ’02. Instead of listing his all-star appearences, I’ll just list the years he didn’t go: ’03, ’08, ’09. All three of those years happened to be because he was injured.

Thornton has a Hart, and leads Super Joe Sakic in regular season points over the last decade 708-650(even though Sakic leads in goals 248-221), so there’s an argument that could be made here.

But dig any deeper and that argument quickly breaks down. Add in playoff points and it’s a virtual tie in points (747-744 edge to Thornton). Sakic also has over 400 less PIM than Thornton. Based on merits alone Sakic has a slight edge, but there’s more to hockey than stats.

I’m not a big fan of calling someone clutch. I think “clutch” is overused and is misunderstood. With a small sample size anyone can get lucky and appear to be clutch, and anyone can have a slump at the wrong time and look like a choker. I’m not going to call Thornton a choker, because that wouldn’t be fair (nor accurate).

That being said if there ever is such a thing as clutch.. well Joe Sakic is it. In the playoffs he’s playing at a smidgen under a point per game pace (94 points in 96 games) while Thornton has struggled to keep his regular season form in the playoffs (only 39 points in 53 games). And yes, Cups count. Thornton could win one this season (and I hope he does) but Sakic has 1 and there can’t be enough said of his trancendent Olympic Performance in Salt Lake in ’02. For what it’s worth, Sakic also has, and not too put too much hyperbole on it, the greatest goal of the decade on his resume. I consider a Game 7 series icer in which he makes not one, but 2 future hall of famers look silly while firing off his iconic wrist shot the greatest goal in history. Sure there’s more significant ones, but in sheer terms of skill combined with what was at stake they don’t get any better than this:

(1:44 mark)

None of this is any disrespect to Joe Thornton. I think he’s a fantastic player and certainly belongs in the discussion of greatest centers of the last 10 years. But he’s not at the top. Joe Sakic is. His regular season stats combine with his postseason stats to make him the best center of the last 10 (cough 15-20) years.

Hockey Orphan: Boston Bruins

January 12, 2009
Chara = unmitigated beast

(Definitely make sure to read the Hockey Orphan by Evan from Stanley Cup of Chowder first. My take is meant to be the fattening dessert after Evan’s main course.)

Evan covered the key pluses and minuses that come with being a Boston Bruins fan but there’s a few other things to think about when considering the Killer Bees.

Zdeno Chara, mountain of a man

When talking to my sports-but-not-hockey-fan friends, Chara is one of the guys who achieves mythical status. After all, is there anything more terrifying than a guy who ends up being seven feet tall on skates?

My favorite Chara story came from last summer. During the off-season, it was rumored that Chara wanted to be completely awake during his shoulder surgery to make sure that it was completed properly. Can you imagine being the surgeon in that situation … conducting a challenging, precise surgery while some Slovak monster stares you down?

That’s just so freaking manly. The shoulder surgery story was brought you by The Campaign to Make Mike Milbury Cry.

Phil Kessel
When Kessel came into the NHL, it seemed like he was considered something of a punk (at least by NHL standards). That image changed quickly once the American sniper courageously battled testicular cancer during his rookie season.

If you cannot root for Phil K just go ahead and jump off of a tall parking garage.

Fantasy hockey implications

Definitely cannot say that I saw the Bruins coming. Not to this extent.

But from a fantasy hockey standpoint, players such as Marc Savard, David Krejci and Tim Thomas are helping savvy (or lucky) owners get a leg up on the competition.

Wicked cool jerseys

The Original Six teams have the market cornered on cool jerseys and the Bruins are no exception. Great color scheme, the spoked wheel … it all works so well.

The unmatchable quality of their classic jerseys probably explains why they’ve struggled to come up with a good third jersey. That being said, their solid current third unis definitely look a lot better than those yellow bear monstrosities from the Joe Thornton days.

The Jacobs Factor

Evan touched on this, but the biggest mark against the team is its cheap ownership. Will the Bruins be able to lock up the red hot Kessel before he becomes a popular target for offer sheets? Can the team manage to either keep its two-headed goaltending monster (they are both free agents) or possibly make an upgrade in net?

If Jacobs is willing to pony up the cash, the Bruins could be the class of its division for years to come.

Grade: A-

Promising future, some very likable players (there is not one NHL fan who looks at Milan Lucic without a feeling of envy) and an awesome tradition. If only they mattered more to Boston fans with a slew of successful teams and to their polarizing owner.

There aren’t many teams with a mix of promise and still a hint of pre-bandwagon sneakiness quite like the Bruins.

Manalysis: Mike Milbury is the NHL’s Matt Millen

January 7, 2009
Remember kids, not everyone who wears glasses is automatically smart.*


Rarest are the times when the planets align; when everything comes together in an angelic jambalaya of perfection. Hockey and football certainly have things in common: both are violent, look great in HD and employ large quantities of meat heads. That being said, it’s unusual to see a pairing more joined at the blundering hips than “Mad” Mike Milbury and “Fire” Matt Millen.

Allow me to elaborate …

Backgrounds marinated in likability

Giving Mike Milbury a tip of the hat for his playing days is the only sane thing to do. For christ sakes, the guy went into the stands … AND BEAT SOME JACKASS FAN WITH HIS OWN SHOE. Remember in grade school, when you forced your “friends” to play the “stop hitting yourself game”? This was the NC-17 version of that.

Seriously, does it get any manlier than taking off someone else’s shoe and beating the shit out of them with it? How does that guy look himself in the mirror? Imagine what it must be like for his buddies: do they tease him about it or is it such an emasculating experience that they just stay away?

That might be worse than trying to look your friend in the eye after sleeping with a 300 pound woman.

(Um, or so my cousin says.)

Millen, also a defensive player, did almost as well: he won four Super Bowls during a journeyman career. Almost as good as beating someone with their own shoe.

Tormenting fan base by making horrendous trades, idiotic signings and baffling draft moves (and sticking around as GM for an awkwardly long amount of time)

Mike Milbury spent an astonishing 11 years making the New York Islanders so atrocious that most young hockey fans forget that the team once won four straight Stanley Cups. Eleven years. It’s amazing what kind of damage an idiot person can do in that much time:

  • First trade essentially sent away Wade Redden for Bryan Berard and Martin Straka. Remember, this was “someday I’ll make $6.5 million” Redden not “a crazed Rangers fan might kill me someday” Redden. And they received post-eye injury Berard and non-Jagr enhanced Straka.
  • This is also the first guy to trade Roberto Luongo.
  • Traded away Darius Kasparitis for Bryan “meh” Smolinski. Kasper becomes a part of Penguins lore after concussing Eric Lindros.
  • Traded away pre-prime pre-neck breaking Todd Bertuzzi and Bryan McCabe for Trevor Linden. Oddly, Bertuzzi and McCabe are among the most openly mocked players in the NHL right now, but for a few years they were considered “stars.”
  • Drafts Rick Dipietro instead of Dany Heatley (although that did keep Heater away from dangerous New York traffic. Too soon … still?)
  • Trades Zdeno Chara for Alexei Yashin. Proceeds to sign Yashin to perhaps the most openly ridiculed contract in the NHL history (with the possible exception of Toronto signing that Finger guy who’s so irrelevant I forgot his first name). Chara develops into a $6 million D who was so hardcore he wanted to be awake during his shoulder surgery (!).
  • Oh, and guess what: the pick he traded to Ottawa turned into Jason Spezza. So essentially he traded away Chara and Spezza (core members of the Senators near-dominant teams) for franchise-killing pouty bitch overpaid center Yashin. Gadzooks.

That’s just astonishing. Millen certainly isn’t a slouch in the clusterfuck department, either. He drafted three WRs in the first round: one is basically out of the league, Roy Williams is a semi-bust and Calvin Johnson may never recover from slumming it up on a Millen-engineered 0-16 Lions team. Let’s not even dwell on Joey Harrington (that’s just cruel).

Is that the same photographer who had Brian Burke pose in the middle of an empty row? If not, someone might have a case for photo op infringement.


Shit, the guys almost share the same freaking name

Just switch it up: Matt Milbury and Mike Millen. If you read them real fast you might not even know there was a typo. This is getting creepy.

And of course, they pick up a TV job almost without missing a beat

The big debate regarding Millen is “how can you be credible when you clusterfucked a franchise into a 0-16 season” while everyone in Canada’s too busy booing American Junior players to care that some atrocious GM is on the intermission reports (kidding, they’re too busy eating flapjacks). Here they are – two of the worst decision makers their given sports have ever seen – already lapping up a nice TV contract.

And, you know what? Who cares. When you look at the parade of morons networks trot out for their shows (Terry Bradshaw … Keith Jones … DEION SANDERS?), maybe Millen and Milbury are the smartest in the room.

Sometimes it just comes down to Einstein’s theory of relativity – which after some skimming, contains no mention of shoe-based brutality.

*Question: did Milbury dramatically remove his glasses while making a draft pick or announcing a franchise crippling trade? Because if so, then forget that I ever criticized him.

An in-depth look at the wildly underappreciated career of Jaromir Jagr

October 30, 2008

People who read my stuff about the Stars (and previously about the Kings if you go in the way back machine) would probably be surprised to know that once my snarky armor is pierced, my hockey heart sports a Pittsburgh Penguins logo.

The Penguins were an easy team to love. Over the years, man-crushes were developed for Stu Barnes, Alex Kovalev, Martin Straka, Johan Hedberg and Ron Tugnutt. Some sports fans hold grudges when a player leaves but those guys always reserved a soft spot. And, of course, Mario Lemieux is the Patron Saint of Pucks.

But I became a fan of the Penguins after the years of their mini-dynasty and Lemieux only occasional graced my hockey viewing presence. When he did he owned the sports world. Eli Manning leading the New York Giants to the Super Bowl made my sports year, but I still don’t know if it tops Lemieux’s post-retirement run to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Loving Lemieux and many supporting cast members is easy, but if there’s one player in Penguins history who divides fans it’s Jaromir Jagr.

We may disagree about Jagr’s legacy, but I think we all frown upon his ludicrous Brazilian.

Many fans booed him every time he touches the puck. They made (admittedly pretty damn funny) “dying alive” references, mocked his John Daly-ian gambling mishaps and never forgave him for the way it ended. Make no mistake about: Jagr and the Penguins had an ugly divorce. Really, it might have submarined the franchise if not for the Crosby lottery. It might have left spurned Penguins fans muttering Kris bleepin’ Beech in the same way Boston Red Sox fans once cursed Brett Boone‘s less talented brother.

A lot of fans forget how great Jagr was. They let the diva antics, the bad divorce, the Capitals disaster and unfortunate facial hair cast a shadow over a Hall of Fame career.

I’m not one of those fans.

Really, the early-to-mid 90s were a tragic era for hockey superstars. As much as I hated Eric Lindros and disliked the (retrospectively justified) Lemieux comparisons heaped on Peter Forsberg, the stars of the obstruction/neutral zone trap era may never get their due. Scoring 100 points in the 80s usually meant that you were an all-star. Hitting 100 in the New Jersey Devils’ “golden” era was a sure sign of a superstar.

The bottom of the post chronicles Jagr’s underrated dominance of the NHL throughout his unappreciated career. But here’s a few bullet points to make Jagr haters grit their teeth.

  • Jagr is ninth all-time in points. In NHL history. And this is after forfeiting the last two or three years of his prime.
  • Oh yeah, and the only guy above him who played a majority of his games during the 90s is Joe Sakic (who has 1638 to Jagr’s 1599 points). But Sakic played in 100 more games so it’s still safe to say that Jagr was the most prolific scorer of his generation. Suck on that.
  • The thing that made Jagr so damned unstoppable was that he was just as likely to score a goal as he was to set one up. He ranks 12th all-time for goals scored. Brendan Oldmanahan DOES have four more goals on his resume … of course, he needed more than 200 extra games to do so.
  • Want evidence that people hate him just a little too much?

Take a look at these stats and play a little game of “one of these things is not like the other.”

Art Ross trophies: 1995, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001
Lester B. Pearson trophies: 1999, 2000, 2006
NHL first team All-Star: 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2006
Hart trophies: 1999

That’s what happens when you leave the voting up to the media. It happens in the NBA (where the Shaq-Kobe debate for best player in the NBA seemed to happen everywhere but on media ballots during their LA years) and other sports: the sexiest story beats the bland perennial dominator. And when that bland perennial dominator is a diva with a mullet, then getting black balled is only natural.

(To be fair, MVP voting isn’t usually as bad as coach of the year voting … since this year’s coach of the year could be next year’s unintentional studio analyst)

  • He holds a bunch of all-time records for right wings and for the New York Rangers.
  • Considering the venom spewed at Jagr, you would think he never showed up when it mattered the most but Jagr was extremely clutch. He has 181 points in 169 career playoff games.
  • He’s tied with Mats Sundin for all-time postseason overtime goals with 9 (kind of irrelevant, but it gave me a chuckle).
  • He’s also won two Stanley Cups and an Olympic gold medal.
  • Consistency might not be a word associated with Jagr, but really that’s just another example of rampant hate. Two of his career records (most consecutive seasons with 30 goals and most consecutive 70-point seasons, both at 15) show that he was a machine for a decade and a half.
  • He’s second all-time with 112 game winning goals.
  • Seriously, you can manipulate stats in any way you see fit … but Jagr’s career numbers are just plain staggering. So reach down deep inside what remains of your soul and admit that Jagr is the best forward of his era. Even if he never was the league leader in warm-and-fuzzies.

Take a look at Jagr’s prime years in context and it becomes clear just how special he truly was:

1992-1993

94 points in 81 games.

1993-94

99 points in 80 games. (9th best in NHL)

1994-95 (the other lockout)

Tied for first in scoring with Eric Lindros (70 points each in under 50 games played)

1995-96

Mario Lemieux (161 points in 70 GP!)

2. Jagr (149 in 82 GP)

3. Joe Sakic (120 in 82 GP)

Sure, Lemieux helped but he still beat Sakic by 29 points!

Montana – Rice; Jordan – Pippen; Lemieux – Jagr.

1996-97

Missed 19 games, but was still 6th in the NHL with 95 points.

1997-98

1. Jaromir Jagr (35 goals, 102 points overall in 77 games)

2. Peter Forsberg (91 in 72)

3. Pavel Bure (90 in 82)

1998-99

1. Jagr (44 G, 83 A and 127 points in 81 games)

Blew away second place Paul Kariya by 20 points!

1999-2000

Managed to lead the league in scoring with 96 points in only 63 games played. Pavel Bure came in second with 94 points in 74 games. The only top-10 guy with similar GP was Joe Sakic who managed 81 points in 60 games.

2000-01

Another scoring title for Jagr (52 G, 69 A and 121 points in 81 games) although Sakic was breathing down his neck (54 G, 64 A and 118 points in 82 games).

2001-02

His run with the Capitals didn’t go too well, but he still put up some numbers. He matched Sakic’s 79 point performance, only Burnaby Joe played in 82 games compared to the Mulleted One’s 69. That was good enough to tie them for 5th place.

(This year goes down in Hart Trophy voting infamy when Jarome Iginla was denied the MVP because some abysmally racist hockey writer LEFT IGINLA — THE SCORING LEADER ON A SHITTY FLAMES TEAM — OFF HIS BALLOT ALTOGETHER.

Look on the bright side Mr. Racist Hockey Writer … it’s not like Iginla made you look like a tool by becoming the Flames all time goal scoring leader while Jose Theodore turned out to be a flash in the pan. Or anything. You douche bag.)

That shit still makes me mad. Although, maybe it’s my naivete and it wasn’t racism after all?

He didn’t make the top 10 in (2002-03, 2003-04)

2005-06 (post lockout)

1. Joe Thornton‘s magical trade year mostly w/ SJ: (29 G, a ridiculous 96 A, 125 points in 81 games)

2. Jagr (54 G, 69 A for 123 points in 82 games) on what was, in my opinion, a far inferior New York Rangers team.

3. Alex Ovechkin’s Calder trophy lookatmenotCrosby year (106 points)

It’s hard to argue with Jumbo Joe winning that Hart Trophy, but who knows how many people chose him over Jagr because he took the scoring title by two points…


2006-07

No. 8 in scoring with 96 points including 30 goals.

2007-08

A down year with only 71 points, although he often carried the New York Rangers in the playoffs with an impressive 5 G, 10 A and 15 points in only 10 playoff games.

My main sources for Jagr’s career stats were the immortal hockeydb.com and the run by mortals Wikipedia.