Monday, November 16, 2009

On opposites

I am the opposite of Stan Fischler, insofar as I am right about everything, and he is wrong about everything (by this same logic, Chico Resch is the opposite of my father). Usually, we (I) here at Play Petr Prucha leave old man Fischler alone. He's like the Grandpa I never had: I always genuinely enjoyed spending time with both of my grandfathers, and Stan Fischler is that old man through whose opinions you smile and nod because he seems so happy about what he's saying, and he's not really hurting anyone anyway. But today, "The Maven" deserves some special dispensation.

On his Twitter stream yesterday (no, really, his fucking Twitter stream), Fischler, with a cry of "I only have 140 characters, there's no room for supporting evidence anyway!", dropped this unjustifiable nonsense: "It's abundantly clear now that Marian Gaborik is better for the Rangers -- on the ice, in the lockeroom -- than kookie [sic] Jaromir Jagr ever was."

Not "I prefer Gaborik's playing style to Jagr's" or "I think Gaborik could end up being better for the Rangers in the long run" or "I like hanging out with Gaborik more" or "Gaborik doesn't have dumbass facial hair, and that's a plus" or anything like that, but "it's abundantly clear." Really, you clueless fucking codger? What, exactly, makes that clarity so abundant?

First of all, I am as sick tired now as I was in 2006 or people complaining about Jagr being some kind of hockey diva. He was great in Pittsburgh, then he went to Washington, and he wasn't happy with the system there, and it wasn't good for him, and his productivity decreased because of it. Everyone decided that meant he was a whiny bitch who was intentionally playing worse hockey because he didn't like it there. That's fucking dumb. No one decides to perform worse in order to spite his club. Certainly not Jaromir Jagr.

Granted, I didn't spend a lot of time in the New York Rangers locker room from 2005 to 2008, but I didn't really get the impression he was a burden there. Notwithstanding Fischler's sophomoric "And what superstar REFUSES captaincy?" (one that isn't willing to take that title until he's sure he can actually handle it, you buffoon), wasn't Jagr exactly the kind of captain we're missing right now? The kind that, when you're down three games to none in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, captains from the ice by playing a one-man fast, physical hockey game at home, putting on a show that says "we're not going down without a fight," and scoring 2 goals and an assist to win the game 3-0 seemingly by himself? The kind that afterwards, despite all evidence to the contrary, tells reporters with a confident grin that there is absolutely still something up your sleeves, just wait until Game 5? I mean, we lost Game 5, losing the series like we were always going to, but still, isn't that the kind of captain you need, if you're gonna go deep? Chris Drury is a very good hockey player, but he could stand to take a college-level course or two on captaincy from Jaromir Jagr. Marian Gaborik might be a lot of fun in the locker room, but there's a reason he's not even an Alternate Captain right now. He's an offensive leader, but despite my lack of experience in the locker room itself, I'm betting he's not a locker room leader.

But perhaps Our Mr. Fischler isn't talking about the human interest side of the story (he is). Perhaps this isn't about being a captain (it is). Perhaps the clarity of the situation became so abundant when Staniel did a deep statistical dive into the offensive prolificacy of each player (it didn't; he didn't). Let's give him the benefit of the doubt there (no).

In Jagr's first season with the Rangers, he scored 54 goals, good for the all-time single season Ranger record, beating out my boy Adam Graves's 52 the year we won The Cup. He also scored 69 assists, putting him at seventh all-time on the Ranger list, behind a Gretzky, a Zubov, a Messier, and three Brian Leetches. For the arithmetically slow, this comes to 123 points on the season, which blew the previous Ranger record out of the water: only 5 other Rangers have ever scored over 100 points in a season, and none of them broke 110 (Ratelle - 109, Messier - 107, Hadfield - 106, Mike Rogers - 103, Leetch - 102).

In his second season with us, when his "decline" began, he put up only 30 goals and 66 assists, good for only ninth all-time in assists (one point behind Gretzky) and eleventh all-time in points (also one point behind Gretzky). He also played all 82 games in each of the three seasons he was with us, and he led the team in goals and points in all three of them, and in assists in two of the three. If you ignore all that wishy-washy "he was a fantastic captain" stuff, he was statistically significant to the Rangers' all-time records. Seriously, look at the list of Rangers' single-season records. Jagr is tied with Mark Messier and Brian Leetch for total appearances on this page, with seven. Behind them, Wayne Gretzky appears six times, and then Jean Ratelle, Rod Gilbert, and Henrik Lundqvist are tied with four appearances each.

This is not to say that Gaborik isn't incredibly valuable. He is. Of 20 games so far this season, he has played 18, and he has scored 13 goals and 12 assists, for a total of 25 points so far. That's nothing to discount. He's on track to play, in an 82-game season, between 73 and 74 games. In those games, he's on track to tie or just beat Jagr's 54 goal record (54.6), and to net an additional 50.4 assists, for 105 points on the season (which would be fifth for the Rangers all-time). This is a hallmark player, no doubt.

But even if we make the statistical mistake of assuming that the man's performance through 18 hockey games is unquestionably going to continue throughout the rest of the season, through continually rotating linemates, while we come up with some fantastic numbers, we absolutely do not find numbers that come anywhere near abundantly clearly more valuable than Jagr's. In fact, we find numbers that fall short of Jagr's first season with us (which, I'll remind you, was a full season, not an imagined season based on 18 productive games).

And none of this even begins to mention the on-ice intangibles. Jaromir Jagr paved the way for other players to be better. I don't mean that in the feel-good leadershippy way: he took the brunt of every defense, game in and game out. Jagr demanded the attention of the opposition so much that it left other players open on the ice to do what they wanted, and he demanded the talent of the opposition so much that his teammates never had to match up against the best players on the other squad. It's something only the truly elite players do.

Again, none of this is to take anything away from Marian Gaborik, who is unquestionably the most prolific part of the first Ranger team to pose any real offensive threat since Sather let Jagr go to Avangard Omsk. He's fantastic. I would have no problem with Fischler offering the opinion that Gaborik could, if he keeps playing like he has been playing, end up proving as useful as Jagr was for the Rangers. But, really? Twenty games into the season, of which Gaborik has played 18, and it's "abundantly clear"? Cause Jagr was too "kookie"? Get over yourself, old man. You're like a shitty, lame, American Don Cherry who can't afford the alcohol, the attitude, or the wardrobe. Retire.

In other news, it's time to stop enjoying our close-but-mediocre 7-round shootout win against the mediocre Ottawa Senators Saturday afternoon. We couldn't even handle Kovalchuk's first game back with the Thrashers, and tomorrow night we have to deal with Ovechkin's first game back with the Capitals. This game could be very, very painful.

Hey, wow, I was gonna end the post there, but guess what I just learned? Up at the top of the post, I wrote that thing about Stan Fischler being my opposite and Chico Resch being my dad's, but that was before I just now learned that Chico and The Maven have written a book together. That's fucking hilarious. Under no circumstances will I pay money for this street trash, but if someone wants to donate a copy to Play Petr Prucha, I will pay you back by blogging about how wrong they are about things. Bonus points if you stole it. Double bonus if you stole two copies so you could pee on one and send the other one. Negative bonus points if you pee on the one you send me. The book is embarrassingly called "Who's Better: Rangers, Devils, Islanders or Flyers?" Maybe my father and I should write a book, too. Working title: "How Hockey Works: A Children's Treasury of Schmucks You Shouldn't Ever Listen To" - what do you think?

1 comment:

  1. From my father:

    It's only a working title, but it will do for now.

    Maybe we can start with a preface-insert of the NHL Suspension Flow Chart. You know, like when those fantasy series include maps at the fronts of the books. It would help establish the overall theme/concept for our readers to navigate through.