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.
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.
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.
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.