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Believe it Arnott ...

Devils center shakes off bad rep, shakes up N.J. offense

Click here for more on this story

Posted: Wednesday May 31, 2000 01:37 AM

  Jason Arnott Jason Arnott scores the Devils' seventh goal of Game 1 -- his second -- against Dallas goalie Manny Fernandez. AP

By Terry Jones, SLAM! Sports

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- I know. I know. Say it ain't so. Jason Arnott. In the Stanley Cup final. With an 'A' on his sweater. No. No. No. It just can't be so.

Rub your eyes all you want. It's so.

And rub them again. He's the real deal. How about a four-point night against the defending Stanley Cup champs in the Cup opener.

Larry Robinson put the 'A' on his sweater and told him to grow up. That's what happened here.

"He became a man this year," said Robinson yesterday on the eve of the Stanley Cup final between the New Jersey Devils and the Dallas Stars.

"Basically, Jason Arnott finally matured.

"There comes a point in your career when you grow up and understand it's the glory of the game and not the glory after the game and maybe it's time you grew up.

"Some guys do. Some guys don't. The guys who don't have a short ride. The guys who do have a long ride.

"Jason didn't know what it took to win. Jason never had to be a leader before. When he first came here, he was a much different person than he is now."

Note that Robinson didn't say different player. He said different person. It had to start there.

"To be honest, he didn't know how to work. He had to get in better shape. When you're in better shape, you can work harder.

"Jason was one-dimensional. He's more complete now."

Great expectations

Robinson remembers, like all Edmonton fans, watching Arnott in his first season. He looked like he was going to be great.

"Everybody thought that," said the former Los Angeles Kings coach. "To be that big and that strong and ... there are a lot of big, strong guys who don't dedicate themselves who are doing other things now."

Lou Lamoriello made the trade for Bill Guerin and for the longest time there it looked like a Glen Sather special. But now ...

"We knew what we were getting," said Lamoriello. "We knew what the problems with him were. Jason was not unlike a lot of first-round drafts these days who get a lot of money and allowed themselves to go along without working. But when you put them with guys like Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko, it's tough not to work. Now he's starting to take charge."

Arnott was run out of Edmonton by the fans and the media. A blue-collar hockey town ran out of patience with Mr. I Just Couldn't Get Into It.

But that was then. And this is now.

"Edmonton was more run-and-gun. What I found out when I came here was that this system wasn't that hard to play," said Arnott. "And I was surprised how many more opportunities you could get playing this system."

Quoted prior to the Toronto series as saying his problem in Edmonton was that the fans expected him to be Wayne Gretzky or Mark Messier in Edmonton, Arnott now claims that's a misquote. And that quote just the other day -- saying he wants to prove that the Devils got the best of the deal for Guerin -- Arnott says that was a misquote, too.

"That's in the past. A lot has happened since then," he says. "When I left Edmonton, I didn't want to go. But it was time for a change. And it brought the fun back into the game.

"It's no longer Bill Guerin vs. myself."

Found a place to hide

After his first year, Arnott found himself on hockey magazine covers. He came back with a head the size of a scoreboard. By the time he left, he wanted to hide.

And hide is what he's done here.

Talk to people around the Devils and they'll tell you that Jason Arnott has almost no profile here

OK. Even the Devils who do have a profile aren't far away from feeling they've been placed in the witness protection program. But Arnott has had no profile.

"You can go anywhere around here and nobody knows you," he says.

"It's great. You can leave it at the rink. No one bothers you. You have a lot of privacy. It makes it so much nicer."

Different strokes for different folks.

Arnott was a giddy guy here yesterday.

"I feel very fortunate. I'm in the Stanley Cup final. This is a dream come true. Every year when you are knocked out of the playoffs early you wish and dream you were there when you watch the Stanley Cup final. Now I'm in it and it all hasn't really sunk in yet."

Jason Arnott in the Stanley Cup final.

Probably hasn't sunk in yet in Edmonton either.

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