Q: Jaromir Jagr may be a free agent at the end of the season. Do you have any reason to think that he might be interested in coming back to the Pens?
Rob Lah, New York City
MOLINARI: It seems as if, for every fan who boos Jagr anytime he touches the puck at Mellon Arena, there is another who would like nothing more than to see him finish his career here.
Those who delight in jeering Jagr figure to get at least one more opportunity to do it this spring -- the only way to avoid that would be for the Penguins to win Games 3 and 4 of their second-round series against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden -- but the prospects aren't nearly as good for the ones who would like to see him in a Penguins sweater again.
It's true that Jagr still owns a house here, but that's mostly because he's been unable to find a buyer; it's not as if he spends summers hanging out at Ross Park Mall or PNC Park. And even if he had interest in returning, it's far from certain the Penguins would have any in bringing him back. Not only because his extraordinary skills have, at times, reflected his advancing age, but because introducing a complex personality like his into the exceptional chemistry found in their locker room now could carry some risks.
But even if both parties decided this idea had promise -- and that's probably quite a reach, on both counts -- it's hard to imagine that it would advance beyond the theoretical stage because of money. The Penguins will face some tough salary cap-related personnel decisions after this season; they are almost guaranteed to lose guys who fill significant roles. In light of that, it's difficult to envision them giving a seven-figure salary to someone from the outside who hardly would be a sure thing to earn it.
Q: I am really tired of hearing referees say they don't want to affect the outcome of a game by calling penalties. Don't they realize that by not enforcing the rules of the game and letting players get away with rule infractions, they are having a bigger impact on the game than if they called the penalties and kept it fair?
MOLINARI: It never fails. Every now and then, someone has to be a troublemaker and present a well-conceived argument that utterly refutes one of the great pseudo-realities of sports. Consider this submission to be an example of that.
The concept really isn't that complicated: The rulebook should be enforced as written -- that's why it was written that way. An infraction that is a penalty in the first five minutes of the game is a penalty in the final five minutes, too. (Should strike zones change in the ninth inning, or the line of scrimmage become flexible after the two-minute warning?)
For a referee to ignore rule violations because the score is close and time is winding down isn't allowing players to decide the outcome of the game. It's intentionally neglecting to do his job and if that happens often enough, the league that employs him should find someone who's willing to do it properly.
Q: Alex Kovalev wore the "C" for the Canadians with Saku Koivu out of the lineup. Is it common for a team to award the captaincy to one of the alternates when the captain is injured?
Ryan Wise, Baltimore
MOLINARI: There is no standard protocol for dealing with a situation like the one that existed in Montreal while Koivu was injured for much of the first round. Some teams opt to name a replacement, as the Canadiens did, while others simply bump their complement of alternates from two to three, as the Penguins did while Sidney Crosby was recovering from his high ankle sprain.
There is no particular advantage to designating an interim captain, at least for practical purposes. When a captain is not on the ice, whether it's because he's injured or simply on the bench, the alternates are accorded his privileges, primarily the ability to discuss rules interpretations with the referees.