Caps find relief by trading Jagr, but still await hope

January 25, 2004|by MARK KELLER

When Jaromir Jagr was traded to the Washington Capitals 2 1/2 years ago, a sense of hope was given to a hockey franchise in desperate need of relief from its long history of playoff failure.

When Jagr was traded Friday to the New York Rangers, a sense of relief was given to a hockey franchise in desperate need of hope after a horrendous first half of the season.

It's pretty safe to say that few in Washington will miss Jagr now that he's gone. One fan on a sports talk show on a D.C. radio station likened Jagr to a boat: "You love it the day you get it and the day you get rid of it."


The truth is Jagr never fit with the Capitals. He did average more than a point per game, but his style never meshed with that of former coaches Ron Wilson and Bruce Cassidy.

The Caps had always been a defense-minded team, which always served them well enough to get into the playoffs. They just never knew what to do when they got there.

The idea of trading for Jagr - and signing him to a monster contract, too - was that he would add the scoring Washington needed to get over the hump and move deeper into the playoffs.

The Caps do score more often now, thanks to the addition of Robert Lang, but they also can't stop anybody from scoring. Olie Kolzig is still a good goalie, but the defense in front of him is awful.

It won't be a surprise if a couple more of the higher priced Capitals - including Lang and Peter Bondra - are traded away in the next few weeks. The Caps continue to lose, both games and money, and they can't draw people to their home games.

There was definite relief when the Caps traded Jagr. But it looks like any hope might still be a while away.

I have to admit I was a little surprised to see that Len Bias was a member of ESPN's Silver Anniversary ACC Team on Wednesday.

How was that for a starting five? Bias, Christian Laettner, Ralph Sampson, Mark Price and Michael Jordan - pretty incredible.

Also incredible were some of the names that were left out, including Tim Duncan, Shane Battier, Juan Dixon, Jason Williams ... I could go on and on with those.

Still, ESPN's Mike Patrick made sure to point out that he voted for Battier for "the other forward spot" - the spot that Bias won. And that's fine.

Part of the blame for that would go on Bias himself. Since he didn't get a chance to showcase his talents in the NBA - where he would have been a superstar on the level of Jordan - people forget just how good Bias really was.

He was undoubtedly the greatest player ever to call Cole Field House his home court, and he certainly should be recognized as one of the five best in the ACC over the last 25 years.

Mark Keller is sports editor of The Herald-Mail. His column appears every Sunday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2332, or by e-mail at

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