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Jaromir Jagr's Defection In A League Of Its Own

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On Friday, Charlie posted a New York Times article that delved into the shock-and-awe that was the conclusion to "JagrWatch." In it, the author posited that Jaromir Jagr signing with the Flyers was somewhat akin to Roger Clemens joining the Yankees or Brett Favre joining the Vikings.

The signing of Jagr and Talbot by Philadelphia is comparable in shock value, and perhaps as an act of betrayal in the eyes of fans, to Brett Favre's signing with the Minnesota Vikings after spending most of his career with the Green Bay Packers, and with the Red Sox icons Roger Clemens and Johnny Damon becoming Yankees.

Charlie thought that the Jagr defection wasn't quite on the same level as, say, Clemens, because Jagr's is only likely to last a year. But this isn't quite right. Jagr, unfortunately, has sullied his already-tarnished image with Penguins fans far more than Clemens or Favre could even dream of.

When Clemens left Boston in 1996, it was because the Red Sox could not match his contractual demands. Several teams put in bids for the then 34-year-old pitcher, primary of which were the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees. Clemens, in fact, spurned the Yankees initially, signing a shorter-term contract with the Blue Jays at a similar salary instead.

After a couple years with mediocre teams in Toronto, Clemens wanted to move on to greener pastures. Winning pastures. The Houston Astros and Texas Rangers were both interested in Clemens, but it was the Yankees who managed to land Clemens via trade.

Brett Favre, on the other hand, had a long and distinguished career with the Packers. As he aged and went through several drawn-out flirtations with retirement, Packers management grew less and less thrilled with the diminishing returns provided by their quarterback. It was now Aaron Rodgers' time and the Packers freely let Favre go to find another employer.

The Vikings were interested right off of the bat, but Favre ended up with the New York Jets. He pseudo-retired again, after a mediocre season with the Jets, before being courted out of retirement by the the Vikings, with whom he enjoyed two seasons before, hopefully, really calling it quits.

Now, let's compare this with the Jaromir Jagr's recent signing with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Notice, first, that neither the Red Sox nor the Packers were actively courting Clemens or Favre when they joined rival teams. The Red Sox did it for monetary reasons, the Packers because they rightfully felt they had a better option.

Jagr was not only actively courted by the Penguins, but he made several comments that appeared to be actively courting the Penguins as well, even as far back as 2009.

"I would play for the minimum salary. I would play for $350,000 just for [Mario Lemieux] because I owe him my hockey life. I want to pay him back because he has made me what I am...besides my parents."

And as recently as last week, as relayed by his agent.

"It's a tough decision for Jaromir," Svoboda said. "His heart is in Pittsburgh."

His heart was in Pittsburgh and he wanted to do right by Mario, so ... he went and signed with the Philadelphia Flyers? The Penguins' biggest rival?

As radio commentator, Penguins fan and jilted lover Mark Madden wrote:

It would have been distasteful had Jagr gone anywhere else. But PHILADELPHIA?

In English football, players don't move between Liverpool FC and Manchester United. JUST DON'T. You can't play for the old enemy. Fans of your old club see you as a turncoat. Fans of your new club can't quite wipe away the stigma.

Now, Jagr did receive more money in Philadelphia, signing a $3.3 million contract that is worth $1.3 more than what the Penguins offered him. 

So, then economics could be the reason for his decision, right?

Before I start talking, it surprised me when you said money - there were a lot more teams with a higher offer than Philadelphia.

It wasn't the money. He just wanted to play for the Flyers.

But, why the Flyers?

Jagr said he was impressed with the Flyers' historical toughness, defensive strength and goaltending upgrade. And the reason he most passionately articulated?

The Flyers have right-handed centers!

When I looked, for me, [I looked for] a centerman, a good player like Briere or Giroux, who are right handed, have a right-handed shot. I like to play power play on the right side, and I think because they're right-handed, they like to play on the other side. I think it would be a problem if I would play in Pittsburgh with Crosby or Malkin, left handed, and have to play on the other side, when I've played all my life on the right side, I don't think I would be able to play there. Or if I go to Detroit, with Datsyuk and Zetterberg, they're left-handed and they play on the boards where I used to play at. I don't think I would have a chance to play at all. If I'm going to play good, at least I have a chance to play. That was the other thing I was thinking.

Let me rephrase that. Jaromir Jagr would rather play with Daniel Briere and Claude Giroux than Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby or Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, because Briere and Grioux are righties.

Come again?

Could this explain the Kip Miller thing? Wait. No, it doesn't. Miller was a lefty.

In summary, Jagr courted the Penguins and they actively courted him back. He said that he would play for the Penguins for the league's minimum salary (now $525,000) and the Penguins offered him four times that. His agent relayed how much is heart was in Pittsburgh on a fairly consistent basis for a week, whipping up fan excitement and anticipation.

Jagr then lost contact with the Penguins and went off the grid entirely before returning to sign with the Flyers, the Penguins' biggest rival, for a cavalcade of trivial reasons, the largest of which were articulated being that Crosby and Malkin are left-handed.

And Jagr's perplexed that Penguins fans are less than thrilled with him?

I didn't promise anybody anything, that I was going back. The Penguins seemed like I did something wrong or something bad, and I don't think I did something bad.

To you, maybe you didn't, Jaromir, but Ray Shero said it best:

"I'm hoping Jagr meant what he said by wanting to do right by Mario," Shero said

He didn't.

In fact, he probably couldn't have done much worse.

Favre and Clemens' legacies may have been tarnished by events at the latter end of their careers, but Jagr's legacy in Pittsburgh has been forever obliterated. In that regard, he's in a league of his own.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.