Let us review the question of the day.

Am I more frustrated with A) the Rangers 3-2 overtime loss to the Devils B) that today is my (groan) 43rd birthday C) that I agree with today’s Larry Brooks column?

If you picked C, you would be correct.

While I am still trying to come to grips with getting another year older and trying to figure out last night’s questionable officiating (yet again – the Devils appear to get the best of the calls), Brooks is on target when he calls Jaromir Jagr’s decision to pull himself out of the top three in the shootout “unfathomable”.

I know that many people will be quick to rally to Jagr’s defense.  They will respond with the stance that having Jagr shoot is throwing away one of the three attempts.  That “might” make sense if it were the coach’s decision based purely on a statistical fact or even a gut instinct.

However, nothing could be further from the truth.  The decision for Jagr to be kept out of the first three shooters for the third time in four shootouts rests completely with the captain who told the coach to hold him back.

Even more puzzling is the fact that Tom Renney had Jagr penciled in the fourth slot against the Devils on February 6 and fifth last night.  If it is so necessary to keep Jagr out of the top three, then why is he being listed fourth and fifth?  At that point, it makes more sense to have him go first and give the Rangers some leeway if he misses as opposed to have him go in a potential “sudden death” spot of fourth or fifth.

John Dellapina of the “Daily News” offered up Renney’s defense of his superstar captain.

“He’s just not where he wants to be in the shootouts.  Consequently, he’s not interested in shootouts.”

That is all well and good, but I am not where I want to be sleep-wise.  Consequently, I am not interested in showing up to work today.

I don’t think my boss would accept my reasoning and there is no way the Rangers should accept Renney and Jagr’s reasoning.

The previously mentioned Brooks had this tidbit in the “NY Post”.

“‘I’m not good anymore,’ Jagr told The Post when asked why wasn’t on Renney’s list.  ‘That’s the reason.’”

Can you imagine Mark Messier begging out of the shootout because he’s “not good anymore”?

Besides, if Marek Malik can score during a shootout, how hard can it be? :-)

For better of for worse, whether he likes it or not, Jaromir Jagr has to set an example for his teammates.  That is one the responsibilities you take on when you wear the captain’s “C” on your chest.  If Jagr can’t show confidence in himself, how can he expect his teammates to have confidence in him and how is he going to inspire them to have confidence in themselves?

I am reminded of a story that is told during HBO’s documentary on the success of the 1999 Women’s World Cup that was held in the United States.  The championship game between the United States and China was decided by penalty kicks.  U.S. coach Tony DeCicco selected Mia Hamm as one of the Americans five shooters – despite Hamm’s admitted inability to produce results when taking penalties in practice.

DeCicco commented that there was no way he was going to leave on of the greatest players and scorers in the game on the bench during the penalty kicks.

The same logic applies to Renney and Jagr.  A legion of Ranger fans reacted without stunned disbelief when Joe Thornton won the Hart Trophy over Jagr last year.  If you want to be the best, you have to act like you are the best – and that means sucking it up and taking one of the first three shootout attempts.

If you think it doesn’t make a difference, then read what Martin Brodeur told Sherry Ross of the “Daily News” in reference to NOT having to face Jagr in the shootout.

“I’m happy when he’s not shooting.”

You can’t boil down this point any simpler than Brodeur did in that sentence.

Jagr and Renney’s logic is just as baffling as Marc Crawford’s logic when, as Coach of Team Canada in the 1998 Winter Olympics, he left Wayne Gretzky on the bench as Canada lost the semifinal shootout against the Domenik Hasek-led Czech Republic.

By the way, Jagr was one of the Czech Republic’s five shooters.

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