Brother Karsh's Column for LetsGoPens.com
Once and Again
December 13, 2001
Still struggling to fit into a team which has yet to adequately come to terms with his arrival, Jaromir Jagr recently likened his situation with the Washington Capitals to a new marriage. He says he's trying to get acclimated to his new surroundings and his new routines. He says he's still adjusting. It almost makes one wonder if Jagr isn't a Penguin fan, because he sure does sound like one.
Seeing Jaromir Jagr in another uniform, playing against the Pittsburgh Penguins, is something like meeting an ex-lover.
You imagine the scene to the letter. You know it will happen and you think you've more than prepared yourself to handle the encounter. It'll be no sweat. Everything will be just fine. Then that certain someone walks in the door and it all falls apart.
Something's different; they look a little different, or they act a little different, you may not be able to put your finger on exactly what it is, but there's just something. That's usually the moment when you realize the difference itself is the only thing you were really prepared for.
Maybe that's why Tuesday's game in Washington felt so wrong, why the Penguins could even be excused for limping through a loss to Boston a night later. The game was the same, yet it was so completely different.
Jaromir Jagr spent over a decade in Pittsburgh. He arrived a bright-eyed boy who couldn't speak the language and soon became the best hockey player in the world. Only, by the time he left, Jagr had become little more than cynical scoring champion glad to be moving on. In between there were the side-stories; the cars, the girls, that hair cut, but most importantly there were the wins and there was the Stanley Cup. Two years of Lord Stanley to be precise, and goals, hundreds of goals.
But now all those memories, all those nights, all those momentsnow they're all just once upon a time.
Penguin fans can be excused for a bit of animosity. That's always what comes first, that 'I'll show you' indignation. Spurned or not, you want a little retribution, a little recognition for the hurt you feel and everything you lost when you were left in the lurch. But eventually you soften up around the edges. Soon enough they smile just the way you remember, or they move in that perfectly unique way that takes you back to exactly what caught your eye long ago. Soon you just want to leave. Who won doesn't matter, who lost doesn't matter, all that matters is what you once had and the difference that now lies between you.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have moved on from Jaromir Jagr, perhaps they didn't know how much until Tuesday, but now they've got a good gauge. They've moved on, he's moved on, and now it's different. Now it's really over.
Despite what can only be described as an offensive and odious power play, the former celebratory bastion of many a memorable Jagr moment, the Penguins have come together since the sometimes surly scorer took his act to the District of Columbia. They haven't exactly done it in a way that inspires fear in their opponents, but what this team has accomplished should promote hope in the stands.
Strange as it may seem to say, the Penguins appear to be a better team without Jaromir Jagr. Of course, they're not as dangerous as they were with him, but as they've proven repeatedly throughout the early part of the season, they're not as one-dimensional either. They may not be scoring goals in droves, but they aren't relying on a single player to get them through every game, and for a team that's been top-heavy with the likes of Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr for over a decade, this is certainly a step in the right direction.
What you tell yourself after it's over is that seeing Jagr again like this was good. It demonstrated just how far the Penguins have come since he walked out the door. Although, it also reminds this team how much further they have to go.
Brother Karsh appears weekly LGP.com and believes that it's good the Penguins will get to see Jagr again and again throughout the season. Of course, this is a positive which will be accentuated when the Penguins win the majority of these contests.
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