No Oil Country for Old Men

nothankjagr

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.

  • 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.

    This sentence is like a kick in the junk. Surely, SURELY, you meant NOT born before 1973?

  • Loki

    @ Word:
    Ya, classy, and he knew it was last year so thats why I think he did it – knew the Union couldn't really do anything. A flop, but turned our boys into faceoff wizards. Probably was decent to have in dressing room too

  • Poo Czar

    I thought the 7 mil for next year was a "poison pill" in the potential contract to sneak him through waivers. They wouldn't ACTUALLY pay Jagr that much would they? That's Horcoff money for cripes sakes!

  • Thorn

    I don't think you need a crystal ball to predict this one. Sure I'd love to see the Czech Mate line since this rumor's been around for years, but I'd have an easier time digesting a seafood taco from a roadside stand in Mexico than dropping 7 mil to land Jagr for a year. Kovalchuk! Lets land this scoring dynamo ASAP double SAP!

  • Loki

    At 7 million a year I might have an issue with it. I wouldn't mind it for under 5 (4 would be awesome). Even if his pts drop off again to 60, are 60 pts worth 4 million? To the Oilers I think so. Each of those years he had 54-30-25 Goals, so a 25 goal 60 pt man would put him above Dustin Penners #'s.

    By no means do I say he is first option. Throw money at people like Hossa again before Jagr, but if they dont sign… I'd take it as an appeasement signing for the fans (Dustin Penner anyone?).

  • swany

    Colin wrote:

    swany wrote:
    I still think Edmonton’s best option is for them to try and trade for Kovalchuk in the summer, he will be a UFA next year and I don’t see Atlanta loosing him for nothing. What I like Trade for Kovy and sign Jay-Bo. Jagr would have been nice about 3 years ago, or if Klowe would just have given him 2 years last year we could have seen what is left in the tank. Now that ship has sailed
    While Jagr potentially fills a hole the oilers have (although I agree with Robin in principal), JBo adds nothing. This team already has 4 expensive puck moving defensemen, adding another is ludicrous in the extreme. Having more than half your cap hit in your Dmen is a recipe for failure. I would much rather see Jagr than Jaybo in Oilers silks at this point unless 2 of our 4 offensive defensemen are moving(and then you’d better get an elite top 3 forward under a good contract in return).

    You do you think we trade for Kovy a puck mover will have to be delt for our coveted LW sniper that's why you try for Jay-Bo.

  • Tombo

    Is it confirmed that the offer the Oilers would be giving Jagr now would be equivilent to the one they offered up last summer? I have no problem with them taking a chance on the guy if he's the best option out there, but not for 7 mil. With the cap potentially going down next season I'd be suprised to see anyone give him that kind of money to come back.

    Could definetly see JJ having some "Old man power" and becoming a factor for us. Similar to Rod the Bod in Carolina.

  • mjsh

    I went to the game against the Rangers last year. I remember thinking that Jagr was well past his prime and then late in the game he got a couple points. I also remember seeing him in his first year in the league when the Penguins came to town. What a player he was. In Nagano he and Hasek won the czechs the medal.

    Too bad you are right about him and his age. I am also on the get Kovy bandwagon. Wonder if that will happen.

  • Colin

    swany wrote:

    I still think Edmonton’s best option is for them to try and trade for Kovalchuk in the summer, he will be a UFA next year and I don’t see Atlanta loosing him for nothing. What I like Trade for Kovy and sign Jay-Bo. Jagr would have been nice about 3 years ago, or if Klowe would just have given him 2 years last year we could have seen what is left in the tank. Now that ship has sailed

    While Jagr potentially fills a hole the oilers have (although I agree with Robin in principal), JBo adds nothing. This team already has 4 expensive puck moving defensemen, adding another is ludicrous in the extreme. Having more than half your cap hit in your Dmen is a recipe for failure. I would much rather see Jagr than Jaybo in Oilers silks at this point unless 2 of our 4 offensive defensemen are moving(and then you'd better get an elite top 3 forward under a good contract in return).

  • Rival

    I would of been open to seeing him here for he remainder of the season but I'm starting to think signing him to huge jack for next season could be another nightmare this team does not need.

  • Pokie Reddik

    I agree with Robin, It's like the Oilers hanging on to MacT, Sure he took them to them to game 7 of the stanley cup finals in 06 , He nailed the girl, but he didn't get her pregnant.

  • swany

    I still think Edmonton's best option is for them to try and trade for Kovalchuk in the summer, he will be a UFA next year and I don't see Atlanta loosing him for nothing. What I like Trade for Kovy and sign Jay-Bo. Jagr would have been nice about 3 years ago, or if Klowe would just have given him 2 years last year we could have seen what is left in the tank. Now that ship has sailed