Max Talbot and Jaromir Jagr: How Will They Shape the Penguins-Flyers Rivalry?
Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury and company will have to wait until December to take on a vastly different Flyers team. Gone are team captain Mike Richards, top goal scorer Jeff Carter and talented forward Ville Leino. Arriving in Philadelphia are former Penguins Maxime Talbot and Jaromir Jagr.
While most Penguins fans knew Talbot would no longer make his home at Consol Energy Center, they were shocked and even somewhat angered that he chose to join the Flyers. However, they believed Jagr would be coming to Pittsburgh, and the hate that Pens fans now feel for arguably the second greatest player in franchise history is through the roof.
How will these two former Penguins, both who were largely loved during their time in black and gold, shape this rivalry as we look ahead to October?
Let's take a look.
Whether you are reading this as a Penguins fan or a Flyers fan, I welcome your thoughts on how the season series will turn out next year.
Fuel for Fanbases
While Flyers fans appeared to be mixed on whether or not the signings of Jagr and Talbot were good for their team, they knew one thing. They were taking these players away from the Penguins, and if there's one thing Flyers fans love, it's irritating Penguins fans. It didn't take the fans long to agree that these signings would make Pens fans upset.
The Flyers fanbase will now get a chance to warm up to the same players Penguins fans cheered on for so many years. The trash talking will only get louder if, for example, Jagr scores a clutch goal during a game against the Penguins or if Talbot lays a body check on one his old teammates.
Now that Jagr and Talbot could become fan favorites at Wells Fargo Center, there is a lot of potential for new jokes and insults to be hurled at the Penguins' fanbase.
Not that Pens fans don't have their own ammunition. Chris Pronger isn't exactly popular around the rest of the league, and if Ilya Bryzgalov doesn't play up to his contract, Pens fans will get to take their own shots at Flyers fans.
During Game 6 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, the Penguins were down 3-0, and Talbot decided to spark his team by fighting Flyers tough guy Daniel Carcillo.
While being taken to the penalty box, Talbot put his finger to his lips as if to "shush" the Flyers fans. The Penguins came back to win the game and eliminate Philadelphia from the playoffs.
There's no doubt that the Philadelphia fans still remember this moment but, this time, they are hoping that Talbot can do his own "shush" in an orange and black jersey to give the Flyers momentum to win a game. He has a five-year deal with the team, so he has plenty of time to put his Pittsburgh past behind him and become a key player in Philly.
Although Jagr doesn't have recent history with the Flyers, he has played against them plenty of times in his NHL career, whether he was with the Pens, New York Rangers or Washington Capitals. In fact, when he was a member of the Rangers, he scored his 1,400th career point against Philly in a 2006 regular season game. He will now be asked to bring offensive power back to a team that lost some of it due to trades and free agency.
What Talbot and Jagr do in Flyers uniforms will add to what they did as members of the Penguins. These moments will be remembered by fans and media from both sides, and it will only keep the rivalry strong for at least the next five years.
Since the year 2000, the Penguins and the Flyers have faced each other in the playoffs three times. The only time the Flyers won a series was in the 2000 Eastern Conference Semifinals. Jagr was a part of that 2000 Penguins team and posted 16 points in 11 playoff games.
The Penguins have eliminated the Flyers in each of their last two postseason meetings, the first being the 2008 Eastern Conference Finals and the second, the 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Pittsburgh went on to be Stanley Cup finalists in 2008, and in 2009, they won their third Cup in team history.
There's no doubt that should the intrastate rivals meet in 2011-12, the Flyers will still be very bitter about this and want revenge.
But they don't need to worry too much. They will have Talbot on their team. Talbot will know what it takes to beat the Penguins, and he will share those secrets with his new teammates. He'll know about their defensive play, special teams units and Marc-Andre Fleury's weaknesses.
Jagr will also be eager to return to the Stanley Cup playoffs, as he has not participated in them since he was a member of the New York Rangers in 2007-08. Ironically, the Penguins knocked out Jagr's Rangers in the 2008 Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Jagr will not want to be knocked out by his old team again as he looks for his third Cup ring. He will have determination and can put up big numbers (he had 15 points in 10 playoff games in 2008). Talbot is also capable of stepping up in the playoffs.
It may not go the Penguins' way should these teams get together in the postseason next April.
Although this has more to do with the Penguins and Flyers front offices than it does the teams on the ice, it still very much has an impact on the rivalry.
In recent years, Penguins fans have been traveling to away games in solid numbers. They are not afraid to venture into hostile territory in the Wells Fargo Center (take it from someone who's done it twice, although once was from the comfort of a luxury box).
Flyers fans have also been spotted at the old Mellon Arena and Consol Energy Center. They may not have taken over, but make no mistake. They were vocal and were willing to go the distance to support their team.
If you plan on going to a Penguins-Flyers game this year, you'd better get your tickets early. I would suggest the first day they go on sale.
If you wait, this will not be an easy ticket to get. So be brave and make your travel plans now.
Fans who get into these matchups, regardless of which jersey they are wearing, will not be disappointed. The banter between the two fanbases alone will be worth the price of admission.
One Last Chance
Jagr is 39 years old and will be 40 in February. Regardless of what team he chose to join for 2011-12, you can't deny that he will probably be retiring at some point in the next few years.
Talbot is 28 years old, but this could be the only time for the rest of his career that he gets the chance to get a five-year contract. There was no way the Penguins would lock him up for five years, so he went where he could get the money.
Both players were given a chance to get a fresh start and make key contributions. NHL players only have a limited window where they can do things such as lead their team to a Stanley Cup or get a guaranteed pay for several years.
With time running out for Jagr, you can bet he'll be playing like every game is his last. He has a chance to go out on top rather than drag out his career past its expiration date.
Retirement is likely several years off for Talbot, but he has to prove he was worth this contract. This means he has to be more visible for the Flyers than he was for the Penguins, and he will also have to stay healthy (fortunately, the latter isn't much of a problem with him). These big contracts have been known to hurt teams, and Talbot will have little room for error.
Players often step up their games against big rivals, and you can bet that games against the Penguins will be a great place for Talbot and Jagr to go all out and show that bringing them in was the right move.