NHL needs JR's sharp tongue

DETROIT -- Now that I’ve said it to his face, I need to say it here: Jeremy Roenick should become the Charles Barkley of hockey. Hockey could use him.

After his stint on NBC during the Hawks-Wings game Sunday, he’s officially passed over to the “other” side. So why not take that outspoken charm he had for 20 years on the ice and use it to energize the sport from the broadcast booth?

Nothing against the Versus crew, but the next time they’re confused with the guys on TNT, who cover the NBA, it will be the first time. The TNT crew have chemistry, are entertaining, and Barkley will call out players and teams like a couch potato who just lost a bet. Yes, this is what hockey needs. Canada has Don Cherry. The U.S.? Brian Engbloom? Please.

“I’m all for it,” Roenick said. “That’s the direction I want to take things. NBC is giving me some opportunities and we will see what happens. Next up is the Olympics.”

If Roenick isn’t a perfect fit for full time studio analyst, than Jonathan Toews isn’t serious about hockey. J.R. could fill two hours without being asked a question. And already he’s jumped into some controversy by calling out U.S. hockey for putting Chris Drury on the Olympic team.

“I’m going to be myself and speak my mind,” Roenick said. “Hey, I had one bad year before 2006 and was left off the team. He hasn’t been the same Chris Drury in two years. There were more deserving guys. That’s all. No big deal.”

Yeah, no big deal. Unless you’re Chris Drury, that is.

Roenick has been doing a segment on the L.A. Kings’ Web site called “JRguement” where he tackles, basically, anything he wants. This is a man who should have a much bigger forum than a team Web site.

Hopefully, Sunday on NBC was just the start. If things go well during the Olympics, look for more of Roenick. But the NHL needs to go one step further and embrace this idea. Versus and NBC need to pay Roenick what he wants and tell him to let fly. The player’s fraternity in the NHL is different than any other sport. Calling out players (not named Sean Avery) doesn’t happen often; that’s where Roenick comes in. And he shouldn’t be muzzled. Ever.

Sir Charles and the NBA seem to be doing just fine with that strategy. Now who can sit next to J.R. and be his wingman? Brett Hull, anyone?