No Oil Country for Old Men


I love old guys because I am one. I appreciate old stuff because, well, there’s something to be said for time-tested reliability and familiarity even when it’s obvious there’s newer, better junk around.

But, even as a writer who believes my most creative years are ahead of me despite having blown out 50 candles on the cake, as somebody who has a leather jacket I’ll never toss even though it’s older than Sam Gagner, I’m convinced there’s no room for nostalgia when it comes to mapping out the future of the Edmonton Oilers.

So, while I applaud Kevin Lowe’s willingness to think outside the box in his pursuit of Jaromir Jagr, the last thing I want to see is what’s left of the once-great Mario Jr. draped in Oilers silks next season.

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While landing Jagr as a Czech Mate for Ales Hemsky would qualify to some as a big splash, history suggests the now 37-year-old future Hall-of-Famer is one piece of nostalgia — at $7 million or so a season — Lowe and the Oilers can’t afford.

Hey, I still own a TV that provided the best picture money could buy in 1988, but I won’t be using it as the centrepiece for the home theatre my wife and I are building downstairs at Chez Brownlee. And I still consider Sean Connery the best James Bond ever, even if chicks now see a bald old man.

What I see when I look at Jagr, a once-great player whose best days are well behind him, is a warm, fuzzy repeat of Adam Oates and Jiri Dopita, or Glenn Anderson revisited. I see good intentions, time and money wasted on looking back instead of ahead.

I see a mistake waiting to happen.

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Can’t turn back time

The Journal broke the news about Lowe’s pursuit of Jagr, who is toiling with Omsk Avangard in the Russian League. Some people considered the bid pie-in-the-sky stuff. It wasn’t, as subsequent reports have shown.

As for me, well, I didn’t have to think back all that far to vividly remember some blatant failures involving attempts by the Oilers to rekindle the past glories of 30-Something players.

  • There wasn’t anything to lose when Glen Sather brought back Anderson for the 1995-96 season at age 34 because the Oilers were awful and weren’t going anywhere despite Doug Weight’s 104 points. Anderson’s stint his second time around lasted just 17 games, a stretch in which he produced decent numbers with 4-6-10. But Anderson wasn’t a fit in the dressing room with Ron Low’s young team and the replica of the Stanley Cup Andy kept in his locker stall was, frankly, embarrassing.
  • Lowe gave Dopita, a national hero in the Czech Republic for his exploits in international play, a twirl to start 2002-03. Dopita, then 33, was supposed to be the best guy in the world not playing in the NHL. Despite obvious skill, Dopita had the foot speed of a cigar store Indian. He was a horrendous fit on a team that skated well. Dopita had just 1-5-6 in 21 games when Lowe had seen enough. Dopita was bought out.
  • Oates was 41 and was widely regarded as one of the best set-up men of his generation when he inked a $1.75 million deal and pulled on Oiler silks for the 2003-04 season. Unfortunately for Lowe, Oates was 10 years removed from his prime and his career-high 142 points of 1992-93. Oates was a positive presence in the dressing room and was a mentor to Jarret Stoll and Shawn Horcoff, but he didn’t produce: 2-16-18 in 60 games. Such a pro was Oates, he offered to give back some of his salary for the season when it became clear he’d flopped. Still, a failure.

Thanks for the memories

I get it that Jagr, who has 1,599 points in 1,273 regular season games with Pittsburgh, Washington and the New York Rangers, was a better player in his prime than Dopita and Oates.

Still, I don’t have to crunch a lot of numbers or dust off the NHL record book to know that even the best players are in decline at the age of 35, let alone pushing 38. Jagr is not an exception to the rule.

In 2005-06 with the Rangers, Jagr had 123 points. In 2006-07, he dipped to 96 points. In 2007-08 he had 71 points. In each of those seasons he played 82 games. So, in 2009-10, if Lowe and the Oilers get him, he’ll produce how many points?

If Lowe and GM Steve Tambellini want to make a significant splash as opposed to a big splash, they’d be better off throwing $7 million at somebody NOT born before 1980. Find a UFA. Or make an offer sheet. What they don’t need is another blast from the past to blow up in their faces.

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If there’s anybody who thinks Mario Sr. is the answer for the Oilers moving forward, I’d strongly suggest you’re mistaken. And, for top dollar, I’d like to sell you an Eight-Track tape deck that used to be top-of-the-line.

Worked like a hot damn. Honest.

— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6pm on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.

  • sameoldsameold

    *sighs as he puts on the old broken record*

    It doesn't matter if it's Kovy, Crosby, Malkin, or Ovechkin coming here (not that i'mm saying any of them possibly could), if MacT is coaching this team in 2010….it goes nowhere but 8th place

  • W.T. wrote:

    W.T. asks everyone to remember when this rumour was flying around that both Tambo and Klowe came out and said that they had NO interest in Jagr at all, end of storey. Do you think they are lying to the great Oiler Nation? A high quality man like KLowe would try and pull the wool over the sheep’s eyes?
    W.T. says R.B. didn’t like it when W.T. suggested Kovy coming to Oil. Why won’t this storey die then, maybe Tambo and KLowe can make a joint statement to clear this up. You know everyone will believe them don’t you?

    That's a remarkable post. Jagr isn't coming here because the Oilers' GM said so, but the Kovalchuk story just won't die despite the Thrashers GM saying so. Let's reverse it.

    Kovalchuk isn't coming here because Don Waddell made him captain of the Thrashers and has publicly (and repeatedly) said that he plans to hang on to him.

    On the other hand, W.T. doesn't like the suggestion that Jagr might be coming here. Why won't this story die then?

  • Dennis

    RB: this thread's probably dead but what kind of a deal would you give me on some Boston 8-track's;) Their first two albums are dandy:)

    Seriously, though, I think it's a bit misleading to lump all three guys into the one idea. Dopita was young enough to still be able to make an impact when he signed but there was a miscasting of him for some reason because he looked horrible when he got here.

    So, Dopita never Did had the track record of a Oates or Jagr and Oates was 41 years old when he started his lone Oilers season – plus he'd missed camp and was behind right from the get-go – and Jagr would turn 38 just past the midway of the 2010 season if we brought him in.

    So, all that should've been listed and the biggest question is how much we'd pay and what the ramifications would be therein.

    What we've seen the Isles do in the last couple of seasons and overpay guys a little because they've got the room to do it on a short-term basis because they aren't paying anyone else. The Oilers don't have that option but if they did – and I know they probably won't – I'd have no problem with them throwing a few mill at Jagr for one year.

    He might not be the young Jagr but there's a difference in him and what Dopita and Oates were as Oilers. The biggest question is if we should use the money on him.

    So, I'd wait and see before coming out against this as vehemently as you did.

  • Robin Brownlee

    @ Dennis:

    There are ALWAYS better options than throwing $6-7 million at players approaching their 38th birthdays.

    And it's perfectly legitimate to mention Dopita and Oates in the same item as Jagr. I don't put them in Jagr's class — in their primes or when they became Oilers in relation to when Jagr might become an Oiler — but I'm philosophically opposed to taking the gamble on players this old no matter how great they once were.

    And, yes, the biggest question is whether the Oilers should spend the money on him. I say no.

  • Dennis

    RB: On a one-year contract – if you have the money – then I am all about throwing some money at him. We still haven't lured a name UFA and the contract would be presumably for only one season, so why the shag not?

    Of course there's a limit but I"m not gonna go against it Just because of his age.

    And, because I'm just sometimes a stickler:), I think it's important to list the ages and previous accomplishments of all three guys. For instance, Oates was on a pronounced downswing before we picked him up and the circumstances mitigated further when he missed camp.

    The devil's in the details, IMO.