There's a longstanding idea in sports that you can hate to play against a certain player, but you'd love to have him on your team.
The Penguins are going to find out what that means in reverse fashion next season anytime they cross paths with Jarkko Ruutu and the Ottawa Senators.
With apologies to Sean Avery or Steve Ott, Ruutu is the best agitator or pest in the league and the instant he takes a run at Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin next season, you're going to be a lot less eager to chant "RUUUUUUU!!!"
Chances are if Ruutu were a relatively bland player such as Rob Scuderi or Jeff Taffe, countless chants of his name would've still rained down from the balconies of Mellon Arena anytime he did something minute like block a shot or carry the puck. "Jarkko Ruutu" is the name of some villian or evil maniacal being in a Stephen King novel or Tim Burton film. Chanting "Ruuuuuuuuu!!!!" was something so basic yet it brought so much pleasure to thousands.
Thankfully for Penguins fans, Jarkko Ruutu was capable of much more than the simple, everyday things you see on a hockey rink.
He drove opposing players nuts:
He could throw a check as well as anyone in the game:
Contrary to what some Canadian commentators with biased attitudes towards non-Anglo Canadians would have you believe, Ruutu could throw with anyone in his weight class:
He had the ability to excel in shootout or penalty shot situations:
He could score goals when his team needed them the most:
(We've always contended Ruutu had the ability to be a 25-goal scorer if he ever dropped his agitating ways and was teamed up with someone like Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.)
And occasionally, Ruutu did the indescribable:
Ruutu was loved by the fans here for all those reasons. Those characteristics will make him public enemy No. 1 with Penguins fans now that he'll be wearing the red and black of Ottawa. He pretty much is everywhere else.
(Photo: Keith Srakocic/Associated Press)
In yesterday's "eulogy" of Georges Laraque, we pointed out that the Penguins never really had a guy who was one of the top fighters in the league until Laraque got here. We brought up the fact the Penguins had guys like Jay Caufield and Steve McKenna who were fighters, but they were hardly going to be confused with elite goons like Bob Probert or Tie Domi.
Through e-mails, a few of you pointed out that we omitted J. Bob "Battleship" Kelly.
We should've clarified we were talking about players who were strictly fighters. Guys who have very little skill with a hockey puck and were relied on solely for their fighting ability. Kelly was more than willing to drop the gloves and was more than capable of defending himself, but he was also a fairly decent player. He had a career-high 27 goals in 1974-75 and followed that up with 25 goals in 1975-76. Kelly wasn't a useless slug like Krzysztof Oliwa.
Regardless, any conversation involving fighters and the Penguins is incomplete without "Battleship" Kelly. We regret the omission.
PROBLEMS WITH THE NEW EMPTY NETTERS
Several readers have brought up the fact that YouTube videos are not viewable in the new format for EN.
If you're reading us through Internet Explorer 6 or even lower, you will have problems. For whatever reason, this new software doesn't agree with IE 6. We can't even work on EN using IE 6. The company that has provided us this software is aware of the problem and we've been told they won't address it until September. (We're biting our tongues on that one.)
If you read us using a Mac, please let us know if you've had any problems. We haven't used a Mac since college.
EMPTY NETTER ASSISTS
-This is just a question we're throwing out there, but when was the last time the Penguins had the most favorable ownership situation among the three professional sports teams in town? The Rooney family is scrambling to reorganize the Steelers and the Pirates are owned by a group that's content to market the team with nachos, fireworks and bobbleheads instead of actual, you know, baseball. If you're a Penguins fan, take a breath and enjoy the fact that your team is the most stable or viable in this town from an organizational standpoint for perhaps the first time ever.
-Former Penguins enforcer was named commissioner of the Mid-Atlantic Hockey League.
-Former Rangers and former Penguins forward Martin Straka agreed to a one-year deal with a team in the Czech Republic.
-The Devils brought back goaltender Scott Clemmensen.
-Someone stole some hockey memorabilia from Bruins forward Milan Lucic. We don't want to meet the person brave enough to jack Milan Lucic:
-Former Penguins prospect Angelo Esposito is trying to get a fresh start in Atlanta.
-The Thrashers re-signed goon Eric Boulton.
-The Lightning acknowledged it needs help on defense.
-Karl Alzner, the Capitals' first-round pick in 2007 carries with him a fake moustache once used by Snoop Dog as a good luck charm.
-The Blue Jackets signed 2008 first-round pick Nikita Filatov.
-The Predators signed former Coyotes goon Josh Gratton. After trading Darcy Hordichuk, the Predators needed someone to drop the gloves.
-Predators forward Steve Sullivan hasn't given up hope of making a return to the ice. He hasn't played since February of 2007 due to a back injury.
-Blackhawks prospect Simon Danis-Papin suffered a neck injury during a prospect camp.
-Someone finally told the Canucks the free agent signing period started. They inked former Wild forward Pavol Demitra and former Islanders defenseman Rob Davison.
-Demitra is kind of a desperation signing. After losing Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison and failing to bring in Mats Sundin, the Canucks needed a first-line caliber forward. Demitra's a fine player who can play all three forward positions but durability is a concern with him. The last time he played more than 80 games was the 2001-02 season.
-Davison is a very rugged blueliner who will hit anything in a different uniform but he's fairly limited with his mobility. He's also handy anytime you need those goals from the other end of the rink:
-The Oilers signed former Rangers defenseman Jason Strudwick.
-The Ducks signed former Panthers defenseman Steve Montador.
-Ducks general manager Brian Burke defended Anaheim as a hockey market.
-Former Winnipeg Jets star Thomas Steen was hired by the Coyotes as a professional scout. His son is Maple Leafs forward Alexander Steen.
-The son of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana will battle the son of Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky for playing time at quarterback on their high school's football team.
-The NHL and the new Kontinental Hockey League in Russia reached an agreement to honor each league's player contracts.
-James Mirtle offers an updated look at who's left in free agency.