Doesn’t this picture just make you sick? (Photo credit: Jonathan Newton)
A long, long time ago, in a frightening world before iPads and Windows Vista, there was this belief that the Capitals needed only one guy to get over the hump to become a stone-cold Stanley Cup contender. It was 2001-02. They already had fifty-goal scorer Peter Bondra, Vezina winner Olie Kolzig, and what many thought to be among the most solid defenses in the NHL.
When word got out that summer that Caps-killer Jaromir Jagr wanted a fresh start, George McPhee kicked the tires and made him a blockbuster deal. He sent BIG-TIME prospects Kris Beech, Michal Sivek, and Ross Lupaschuk (this was before GMGM got good at drafting) to the Pens for defenseman Frantisek Kucera and Mr. Mullet.
Let’s take a minute to laugh at Penguins General Manager Craig Patrick. Via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Patrick said he was delighted with the players Pittsburgh received. He called Beech the key to the deal and a potential franchise player whose skills are similar to former Penguins great Ron Francis.
Yeah. Um, no.
Later that year, the Capitals — fearful of losing a superstar in his prime and what it might do to its tepid fan base — signed Jagr to the largest contract ever in NHL history (at that time) — $77 million over seven years — with an option for an eighth year.
And then he played.
In his first subpar season, he finished with 79 points, a 42-point drop from the year before. The Capitals failed to defend their division title and missed the playoffs. George McPhee went “all in” the next summer and reunited Jagr with Robert Lang. That didn’t work either. In Jagr’s final full season with the club, the Capitals finished sixth in the East, and lost to Tampa Bay in the first round of the playoffs.
It wasn’t really the lack of production that was bothersome. It was the awful body language, the lack of hustle, the poo-poo look on his face as if he was playing at the worst place on Earth.
On January 23, 2004, the Caps unloaded Jagr much to fans’ delight, trading him and his albatross contract to the New York Rangers for Anson Carter. He had a few bounce-back seasons there, but then the lockout happened and he went away to play in Russia. We thought we’d never have to hear his name again.
The Capitals are traveling up 95 to play Jagr and the Flyers on Thursday, and unless you’ve jumped on the Caps bandwagon recently, you have the same pangs of vile hatred that I have for the man. Why couldn’t he just sign my freakin’ jersey when I came to Piney Orchard?!?
So, through the magical video talents of RMNB reader Max Duchaine, here’s our loving tribute to Jaromir.