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Junker: Penguins don't need Jagr

| Monday, May 16, 2011

Jaromir Jagr returns to the Penguins where he himself said he spent the best days of his career, buries the hatchet with Penguins fans, and becomes the high scoring winger for Sidney Crosby that the team has been coveting for years. Sounds great. But I was glad to see that Jagr is close to a deal that will keep him playing in Russia next year. He's not what the Penguins need, a guy who always has been some kind of distraction despite his ridiculous talent.

Perhaps he's matured some over the years but we don't know that for sure. The guy who refused to wear a helmet at practice, who requested a trip to the minors when he wasn't getting enough ice time as a rookie, who sulked when he felt he wasn't getting enough attention, is the Jagr I remember. You want to throw that into a locker room run by Crosby, the consummate captain and leader who does everything by the book and by example• And at 39, so what if Jagr had a hat trick against the U.S. in the World Championships• His goal scoring numbers have declined in a Russian League that is good, but isn't as good as the NHL, isn't as physical as the NHL, and doesn't have as grueling a schedule as the NHL. Add it all up and the final figure isn't impressive.

A week ago the Pirates were causing some buzz in town but since then the best thing that's happened has been a rain out. Well, maybe not. Manger Clint Hurdle made an example of centerfieder Andrew McCutchen by benching him for a game after he did not hustle to first after a strike out when the ball got away from the catcher.

McCutchen was contrite in his response and admitted he had made a mistake. That's the kind of leadership Pirate fans want to see and perhaps even the players want to follow. Will it help win more games• That remains to be seen. But with Hurdle at the helm this team has been far more interesting to observe already, both on and off the field.

The NFL lockout may be frustrating for fans and it certainly would be more fun right now if Steeler draft picks and undrafted free agents were in town to observe and talk with. Still, it will be shocking if any regular season games are actually cancelled. No one has lost a cent yet and until there is some pressure, like most negotiations, these will move slowly.

It's too bad Alan Faneca couldn't finish his career as a Steeler. And while it's hard to statistically measure the play of a guard, he's as good as any to wear the black and gold and worthy of the hall of fame. Nine pro bowl trips• That's dominating the position for a decade. He may have to wait awhile because goodness knows a lot of voters think there are too many Steelers in there already. And guys like Dermonti Dawson and Jerome Bettis may get first crack. But none of that should matter when considering Faneca.

Steeler fans probably noticed that former quarterback Kordell Stewart was arrested in Georgia last week for speeding and driving with a suspended license. Maybe he was just trying to get to the church on time. Stewart is to be married this coming Saturday in Atlanta to Porsha Williams. Congratulations to Pitt for throwing one of the best sports events around here in a long time last week. The "Century of Change, 100 years of African American Athletes at Pitt" dinner was like walking into a hall of fame although instead of looking at busts or plaques or photos, the legends were there live in the flesh. And while it wouldn't be fair to mention one of the returning athletes over another, Charles Smith remains one of the classiest guys to ever come down the pike. Other than a touch of gray at the temples, he looks like he can still play.

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