Thin Air: Round And Round

Just some hockey and other thoughts on this overcast day in Denver:

– Jagr to the Devils.  Who does that sit right with? I haven’t talked to anyone who thinks it’s a good fit.  But if there is a team on the verge of an identity change, it’s New Jersey.  Martin Brodeur is on his last legs, Kovalchuk is gone, money is suddenly a real thing, and the future is uncertain.  Perhaps Jagr is a great fit.  I thought he would be a great fit in Ottawa, though. Maybe next year.

– I’m attempting to read Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon for what feels like the hundredth time, and right now I’m reminded of the hardest hockey town I’ve ever been in, Danbury, Connecticut.  I’ve never seen a crowd so loud and angry, enough to make the players want to jump in the stands.  The invisible line between spectator and participant was the only think keeping things from becoming violent the time I saw the Danbury Trashers play in the ‘old’ UHL. It wasn’t the glass that kept them apart. I had never seen anything like it, and I haven’t since.

I was wearing my Kazen Ak Bars jersey, and a woman who worked at the rinks, obviously in some sort of custodial capacity, asked me if I was from there.  I said no, I just liked the Russian jerseys.  She said that was her home, and for a brief and awkward moment, I tried to talk to her, but there was a bit of a language barrier, and she had to get back to work.  I wonder if she is still in Danbury.  I would love to find out what her life is like there.

– Michigan just approved a new arena for Detroit, which will be partially funded with tax dollars.  Joe Louis Arena is well past it’s prime, but if there is a city that doesn’t need to spend it’s money on a new arena, it’s Detroit.  I’m sure there will be more details coming soon.  But can you imagine worse timing?

– The minor leagues are in for a bit of change.  There are always teams folding and moving around, new teams sprout up in the ashes of the previous ones.  But rarely do you see what the Central Hockey League did.  The league was sold to the owners of some of the teams.  It’s been hard to find out exactly which teams are involved in the new ownership group, but it’s an interesting development.  Perhaps the dying gasp of a league that has seen vast turmoil over the last several years?  From losing the majority of their core Texas teams to the junior leagues, to absorbing the UHL/IHL  and losing most if it shortly after, this latest development could go either way, but I’m leaning towards disaster.  Time will tell.

– It’s late July, so things are slow in the hockey world.  So I guess that’s it for the moment.  Keep your ears out for a new Avs Hockey Podcast coming soon.  Yes, it’s been a while.  Life happens, just as it goes on.

After the First Day: Free Agency Thoughts

Market, via  Merriam-Webster:

d : the area of economic activity in which buyers and sellers come together and the forces of supply and demand affect prices <producing goods for market rather than for consumption>

I think a lot of hockey fans forget what a market really is when it comes time for free agency.  The market is defined by the supply and demand of the moment.  It may reflect the past and the future of the market a bit, but it’s really defined as what the needs of the moment are and what is available to fill those holes.

My shining example is Mike Smith, Tim Thomas and the goalie market.  Smith signed a five year extension, for $5.666… million.  At the time, it seemed like a lot of money for Smith (it is a lot of money in general, but the scope of that kind of money isn’t the real question here).  My immediate thought was, this isn’t a bad deal for either side.

A few days later, and look at what the market is for goalies.  Ray Emery is in Philadelphia, a bunch of backups shuffled around, but every other team is set with goaltending.  And who is left out there?  Ilya Bryzgolov and Tim Thomas.  There isn’t room for them right now in the league.  Bryz might look to the KHL if things don’t open up in the NHL, while Thomas will be sitting in NORAD waiting for someone to get hurt.

That’s the market Smith was signed in.  If this was next year, where the goalie market is much more open, he might not have gotten this much money.  And I fully expect that market to shrink considerably.  No way are that many good goalies going to free agency.  Most will be resigned.

Smith was able to work a deal in this market that was favorable to him, because the Coyotes were low on options.  Unless they brought back Bryz for another stint, they were going to be looking for another Labarbera / Garon dual backup “solution.”

And if you weren’t convinced of the state of goalie market, Nikolai Khabibulin went back to Chicago.  Yeah. Locked. Up. Tight.

That was what the free agent market was this year.  Lots of needs and not a lot of players to fill those slots.  It was a market that was going to be overpaid, but not by gigantic Kovalbucks.  There was talent out there, but not enough to go around.  Most teams had locked up and resigned the more attractive options before UFA day came (Letang, Ellis, Bickell, etc).  When Briere and Lecavalier are the biggest players involved, and everyone knows where they are going before signing day, it’s going to be a strange day.

There was plenty of action.  The Tyler Seguin move was a bit surprising. I look forward to seeing him in the West.  And the Ducks finally trade Bobby Ryan, which I think they will regret.  I like the way the Senators are building.  It isn’t a great team yet, but they are getting better and better all the time.

Some thoughts on the first day of free agency:

– Nathan Horton goes to Columbus and David Clarkson goes to the Leafs, both for similar money. Yet for Columbus it’s a good signing with risk (will Horton stay healthy) versus Toronto overpaying and making a huge error, according to the experts.  Despite similar numbers last season and Clarkson being a more physical and healthier player.  I wonder if the feeling that the Leafs are screwing this up simply comes from their long history of screwing things up.  I get the impression the media just likes that storyline.  Neither is a bad signing.  Too long of terms?  Maybe, but not bad deals.

– I was surprised we didn’t see more seven-year deals, the longest term allowed under the new CBA.  Only two seven-year deals, followed by 5 five-year deals.  Perhaps it’s the lowering of the salary cap, but I would think that would work towards the advantage of the team.  The cap comes down, they have to fit a player under that cap, then keep the deal / average cap hit rolling to maximize value.  Or the market didn’t hold enough players worth seven years.  I’m guessing it’s the latter.

– Jarome Iginla goes to Boston.  Shades of Marian Hossa?  Should we expect Chicago and Boston in the finals again?  I doubt it, but it makes for an interesting parallel.  Six million seems like a lot for a player on the decline and a team that is close enough to the cap ceiling that they can touch it without stretching too hard.  But considering the skill level (and toughness) Iginla started from, that decline could take a long time to effectively manifest itself.  Iginla has to perform for his new team quickly.  The fans wanted him before, were left at the alter at the trade deadline, and were not thrilled about it.  Since we live in the salary cap, Team NHL era, they may forgive quickly if he shows that he was worth the bother.  Otherwise, I hope he brought some ear plugs.  He’s going to hear about it.

– The three sites I have been going to over and over for UFA info have been TSN’s excellent trade tracker,, and Spector’s Hockey from Lyle Richardson. The trade tracker is great because it’s a simple spreadsheet that’s sortable.  I’ve sung the praises of Capgeek before, and I hope whomever runs that site makes some serious bank.  They deserve it. As for Lyle Richardson, I love his work.  Enough said there.

– The Red Wings have done nothing to reduce their reputation as being the Detroit Old Folks Home.  Daniel Alfredsson leaving Ottawa to sign there only reinforces that perception.  It isn’t a bad move for either one, and while Alfredsson was the franchise player in Ottawa, he didn’t seem too happy with the team in their last round of the playoffs this year, effectively sounding the alarm that he was quitting the series.  When it’s time for you to go, it’s time to go, and for Alfie, it was time to go.  Whether it works out for Detroit is anyone’s guess.  It could be the veteran they need, or it could be another Mats Sundin situation.  Please recall, that didn’t work out.

– Everyone wanted Andrew Ference.  I don’t blame them, he was pivotal in the Bruins run at the Cup. But considering where he went, for that term and that money (4 years / $13mil), less teams were in the running than the fans thought.  He took less money to go to Edmonton than he could have gotten elsewhere, making it a personal decision for him, and that’s great.  Edmonton is finally getting out of the draft-for-everything mode and starting to build a team.  Whether this set of components works out remains to be seen, but at least they are finally trying.

– As for the Colorado Avalanche, I’m fine with what they did in free agency.  Sure, it would have been great to see them land that perfect piece of the puzzle, but I have bad news for everyone looking to solve every problem with free agent signings.  It doesn’t work that way.  If your team solved all it’s issues in free agency this season, they didn’t have that may issues to begin with.  The sins of the past have not been forgotten in Colorado.  Scott Hannan, Greg Zanon, Jan Hejda, shall I go on?  That’s just the free agent defensemen signed that didn’t work out well.  Shane O’Brien? Oh, you want me to stop now?  OK, so those signings didn’t work out, there weren’t many defensemen on the market that would fit in a 1-2 role, and still, fans wanted to see the Avs make a splash?  Instead, the Avs signed a few depth players to stock up the horrid Lake Erie Monsters, which has been an issue for years.  I hope this means they are going to take the minors seriously.  There is still plenty of time for the Avalanche to make trades to shore up the defense, but this is not a problem that will be fixed overnight.  They are doing something, which is more than could have been said before the new regime was put in place.  That’s a good step forward.  There was no splash to be made this year. Perhaps only a slight ripple to be had.  Good enough.

Goal Waived Off in Detroit: Why It Happened

Tonight in Detroit, a goal by Jordan Tootoo that 98% should have counted was waived off.  Here is the goal:

The best angle as to why this call happened is the one from the corner, the second slow mo replay.  The ref, Dave Jackson, is in a good position in general, but as this play progresses, he is screened as the puck hops up and Dany Heatley swats it with his glove at the same time Drew Miller swats at it with his stick.  Jackson sees that the puck changes angle, but exactly who touches the puck is out of his vision, or that the puck hits Heatley’s hand and changes direction to the back of his hand and the side Miller’s stick is on… well, you can see how the confusion can happen.

Had the puck not gone to Tootoo and instead played by a Wild player, it would have been a moot issue and the play would have continued.  Had a save been made, the play would have (erroneously) stopped, and a face-off would have ensued.  No real damage done.  In this case, a goal was waived off when it shouldn’t have been.

It also lends steam to the debate about what is reviewable and what isn’t.  Had the puck gone directly in off Heatley’s hand / Miller’s stick, it would have been reviewed.  But this wasn’t a goal that was overturned, it was a stoppage by being played with a high stick, that then resulted in a goal.  Reviewable?  Maybe?  It’s so confusing.

It’s a fast sport.  What you gonna do?

Slip of the Lip

I’m fascinated that hockey fans can’t get their heads around how much the players make.  Much of the discontent with the NHLPA and their decision to not take what is being offered seems to be revolve around the dollar figures many of the top players receive for their efforts, and why they don’t take the millions of dollars on offer.  Well, that and the delay to the start of the hockey season.

After the fallout from the comments made by Red Wings vice-president Jim Devellano, you would think there would be a lot more sympathy for the players.

It wasn’t so much the comments that made my hair stand on end (a bit of a feat, considering how bald I am).  That the NHL owners or even just a few executives would look at the players they have under contract as ‘cattle’ doesn’t shock me at all.  These people shell out a ton of cash for near ownership of a person’s life.  It’s amazing they think of the players as people at all.

What stunned me was the amount of the fine that the NHL levied against Devellano.  $250,000.  Chew on that one for a while.  For making comments about how he views the players, and alluding to the owners potential collusion on offer sheets, the NHL took a quarter of a million dollars from Devellano.

Most fans have a hard time relating to the salaries of the players.  They make a ton of money compared to you and I, and we certainly hear a lot more about their money than the owners.  But the NHL just took the price of a nice house from a team vice-president.  $250,000 for one interview.  That’s life changing money for most people.  That’s several years salary for a middle class worker or family.

Yes, players make a ton of cash, and I talked about why in yesterday’s post.  And some of the teams are losing money, no doubt about it.  But it’s obvious some of the executives kicking around the league and the more financially successful teams are doing just fine.

As an aside, I find it highly amusing that a person who has enough money to survive a $250,000 fine is not allowed to speak his mind, in a country where the first amendment allows a person to say whatever they want.  In fact, I would love to see this kind of thing challenged in a court of law.  How is it acceptable to censor a person for comments they make that aren’t harmful to others in a society that protects free speech?

The owners are claiming they are in the poor house.  But they can charge each other half an entry-level contract for saying something stupid.  Something about that doesn’t sit right with me.

Thin Air – July 11, 2012

New Nash-ville: Breaking!!!11OMG1!!1ONE!!! – Rick Nash has six teams he is willing to be traded to.  The 2011-12 LA Kings, the 2010-11 Bruins, and the 2010 Canadian Olympic team are the top three.  If those don’t work, he is willing to go to the NY Giants.  He has dropped the Lakers, as they already have a guy named Nash on their team.  He had the Predators on his list, but he saw their mascot’s name and got confused.

That said, if Nash wants out of Columbus, then get the hell out of Columbus.  Don’t tie the hands of your GM, who is asking for everything in the world, and will not get it.  If you go to that Puck Daddy post, you will see that Nash wants to go to teams with a good center to set him up.  Or, you know, Columbus could try to get a solid center, which they could use anyways.  Just saying.

Better Dead than Red: The Winter Classic Alumni Game rosters were partially unveiled today.  My guess is they did it this early in advance so they could get a count of walkers and wheelchairs needed for the players.  If I wanted to watch a bunch of old guys skating around in Red Wings jerseys, I would go to a regular season game.

Shane Doan Doobie Do Doan Doan, Comma Comma: What is with Shane Doan?  Thanks for showing loyalty or some strange version of it, but either get out of town or resign with the Coyotes.  He has to know what he wants by now, and should be willing to act on it.  If he doens’t, sign a one year deal (because he can dictate terms with the Phoenix at this point) and see what happens with ownership.  

Ownership issues didn’t derail the team going into the playoffs.  They lost to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion, after a solid run that turned into a loss of composure.  If you blame the ownership situation for that, you need to rethink what accountability is. 

But Doan’s value has to be going down with every passing day.  The big spending period of free agency is over.  Now it’s about making salary fit into a budget, and making chemistry work.  And if you still need to plug holes, doing it cheaply.  Doan, sign with Phoenix for a year.  Get it over with.

URLs Gone Wild: Ever since Parise and Suter signed with the Wild, I wanted to use that headline.  After seeing what the Wild spent on two players, I haven’t seen much anger or frustration from fans that their teams didn’t make similar offers.  Spending Kovalbucks on two players isn’t any kind of guarantee you will win a Cup, and handing out CBA protected bonuses like this isn’t the smartest spending.  Even Avs fans, who thought getting Parise would be the end-all, be-all solution to the team’s woes have been fairly quiet.  Perhaps going into the next season, less is more. 

The Ongoing Break: I’ve been taking a break from Twitter and Facebook lately, and I won’t lie, it’s been nice.  I feel like there is less drama in my life, and I don’t get invested in the silly arguments that used to waste my time.  Now I waste my time in other ways.  Social media can be great, but it can also get out of hand, and I would spend way too much time seeing what other people said.  And twitter kills my blogging.  It really does.  

Still, I’m happy to pop on and reply to @s and DMs, or messages on facebook.  I just have given up on the timeline for a while.  Try it, you might like it.

Housekeeping: A few things I wanted to mention here.  I know I’ve mentioned it on twitter, but I have officially moved back to Denver, after being on tour for the last several years.  I even got an apartment in Capitol Hill with a one year lease.  That means I will get to watch more Avalanche hockey, and might even write about them more often.  It’s been a weird transition, and I’m not sure how life will look by the time the season starts.

It also means that Jay and I will be able to do a few more episodes of the Avs Hockey Podcast next season, and most of them will be face to face, which is always a better podcast.  It’s one of the bright spots for me, and I’m honored that Jay wants me around for the show.  I don’t post about it here often, but that will change.

You probably didn’t notice, but I changed my byline here from Tapeleg to James.  Because that is my name.  Which isn’t really a secret or anything.  When I started hockey blogging, I was anonymous for reasons.  But when I started The Rink (which has languished to the point that I need to make a decision on it), I felt it was silly not to use my real name.  That was almost four years ago, and for some reason, I never got around to changing it here.  I still like the Tapeleg moniker (and if you ever wanted to know what the deal was with that, you can listen here), and will still be using it, but I did want to make the change, and so there you go.  Hi, I’m James.  I hope you like it here.

Downie in the Dumps

By now, every Avalanche fan with an internet connection knows about the trade of Kyle Quincey to the Tampa Bay Lightning for forward Steve Downie.  Then Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman quickly flipped Quincey like a house in 2007 to the Detroit Red Wings for a first round pick.

My immediate thoughts on the trade were negative.  I couldn’t see a good reason for the Avs to trade away a perfectly decent defenseman when for a bona fide fifteen goal scorer that has a history of suspension.  After further consideration, I still don’t get it.

First, let’s look at Downie.  He has a history of suspensions that can’t be ignored.  From Wikipedia (with severely clunky language for hockey fans to stomach):

During a September 25, 2007, preseason game against the Ottawa Senators, Downie was involved in an incident in which he checked unsuspecting left winger Dean McAmmond into the boards, while Downie’s feet were off the ice. Due to the extent of McAmmond’s injury and having left his skates during the hit, Downie was suspended by the NHL for 20 games three days later for deliberate injury to McAmmond, as the NHL were cracking down on any play resulting in a head injury. To date, it is the fifth longest suspension given by the league.


On February 28, 2009, Downie, by this point playing for the Norfolk Admirals (the Lightning AHL affiliate), slashed a linesman in the shin following a controversial empty-net goal in a game against the Hershey Bears, receiving a game misconduct for physical abuse of an official. Under AHL rules, this penalty carries an automatic 20-game suspension, which would be Downie’s second such lengthy suspension.

Aside: Make sure you take a look at that Wikipedia page, and the first picture they have of Downie.  He’s in the penalty box, isn’t he?

So lets not kid ourselves, we have us a real winner here.  Downie seems to have settled down under the tutelage of Yzerman and Coach Guy Boucher.  He did have twelve assists in the seventeen playoff games the Lightning were in last year.  So sure, he may have changed his ways.  He doesn’t have an ungodly amount of penalty minutes, but he is a minus fifteen (a stat I take with a grain of salt).  The Lightning do have a -31 goal differential right now, so even if that isn’t surprising, minus fifteen is tied for second worst in Tampa Bay (and make sure you say hello to Brett Clark who has the worst +/- on the team (miss you, buddy)).

What does this trade do to the Avalanche (and you will notice I didn’t use the phrase ‘for the Avalanche’)?  Some say it brings ‘sandpaper’ to the team.  And fine, I can see that.  I can also see plenty of opportunities in the past for the Avalanche to bring in sandpaper, and even at reasonable prices (Sean Avery comes to mind, even if I wouldn’t want to see him wearing Burgundy and Blue).  And Cody McLeod and Shane O’Brien are sandpaper guys, and can probably mix it up even more if needed, without getting in penalty trouble.  If sandpaper is the issue, why not trade TJ Galiardi? Oh, right, because no one is buying Galiardi.  Sandpaper, grit, toughness, whatever you want to call it, it’s a good thing to have.  Downie’s brand of it?  That will remain to be seen.

My other big question is how is Downie going to get along with Joe Sacco?  Boucher and Yzerman have been positive influences on Steve Downie, but put him in the current managementland in Colorado and step back.  We don’t know when this baby is going to blow.

There are two ways to look at the trade, with the deal between the Red Wings and Lightning, or without.  I prefer to look at it without the deal with Detroit, because the buck really stops for the Avalanche with the trade they were actually involved in.   But just for the fun of it, let’s look at Quincey for a first round pick.

Detroit shelled out a first for a guy they signed and quickly waived, and who wanted to show the Red Wings they made a mistake.  They traded that pick to former Red Wings star Steve Yzerman’s team.  Saying the Red Wings overpaid for Quincey is an understatement, until you remember this is a Red Wings pick, so it will probably be in the low to mid twenties by the time it comes up in the Draft.  Still, if Yzerman is shedding dead weight, and pick in the first round is valuable to him.  And lo and behold, he just shed a boat anchor about five minutes earlier.  Remember kids, it’s always good to not burn bridges when you leave a job or organization.  You never know when they will help you out.

According to plenty of media types (but I got my info from Puck Daddy), the Sherman and Red Wings GM Ken Holland had been in discussions about Quincey, but neither side cared for what was available in the end.  So Greg Sherman had his chance at a Red Wings first round pick and chose to say no.  That I can understand.  A late first round pick is less valuable to Sherman than a roster player.  And he did get a roster player, but it happens to be Downie.

As for the Avs and Tampa deal, Tampa is the obvious winner here.  Even if they had kept Quincey, they would have gotten a puck moving defenseman who isn’t scrawny, and there is always a need for those.  Instead, they got a draft pick that could be used to move up in the draft, or put them with two first round picks overall.  And they are still wheeling and dealing.  They could get more.

What does this say about what the Avalanche are doing in their final stab at making the playoffs?  Does this signal that they are selling, buying, or have gigantic pockets to be picked?  Has there been a trade that makes it look like there is any plan whatsoever in place for the Avs as they rebuild?  And is that why they don’t like to call it a rebuild, because they don’t know what the word really means?

For the record, Dater and Mile High Hockey disagree with me.  I’m willing to give this one a time will tell, but can I say that I’m happy with the trade?

I’ll leave the final word to my twitter account.

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Jagr: Whoop-De-Do

Can someone wake me when Jagr actually signs somewhere?  Because until then, I could care less.

For all the speculation and hype surrounding our next veteran savior, it doesn’t mean a damn thing until he signs the bottom line.  And even then, it probably makes little difference.

Jaromir Jagr wants to return to the NHL – where he burned bridges with the fans of the teams he played for – and is talking to three teams for now, the Penguins, Red Wings, and an unnamed team.  What, only three?  I guess he commands this kind of interest.  Obviously, Jagr isn’t going to come back to play for a team that doesn’t look like a contender, so the list makes sense, even if it is short.  So let’s take a look at how he would fit on those teams:


The Penguins are appealing to just about every player for two words: Crosby and Malkin.  I can see why Jagr would want to go back to the city he was viciously booed in after he left, to play with these two guys.  And the complaint is that Crosby and Malkin need someone to play with.  But Jagr, as skilled as he is, isn’t getting any younger, or any faster.  It wouldn’t be long before he’s opening the gate for them and watching them play from the end of the bench.

This is where the internet wants to point out some goal that Jagr scored in Russia, or the Olympics, or in Jose Theodore’s driveway.  And it doesn’t matter.  A broken clock is right twice a day.  He can score a goal or two, sure.  But time is not on his side, and the Pens, they have nothing but time.

The Penguins have enough cap space, if Jagr doesn’t mind not making $6 million.  And they need forwards badly ( says they have 9 forwards signed for almost $32 million), so overall, this wouldn’t be a bad fit.  Heck, I think it would be hockey comedy gold.  But if Jagr is skating on the top two lines by mid-season, I’ll be shocked.  Or it’s a testament to a lack of depth in the Penguins system, which isn’t that shocking either.  But hey, at least NBC wouldn’t have to embarrass themselves by pumping Jordan Staal as the big player of the Pens when Crosby and Malkin are injured.

Red Wings:

Yep, another older guy signing a one year contract with the Red Wings.  When is the cycle going to end ?  I understand players wanting to go out in a blaze of glory with a team that makes the playoffs every year, and rarely gets eliminated in the first round.  But restocking the Detroit Old Folks Home is becoming an annual event of insanity.  Jaromir Jagr is to Mike Modano as Mike Modano is to Mike Modano.  Do you see the math there?  That isn’t a compliment.

The Red Wings are like the Penguins: they have their core, and then plug in players around that core.  It’s not a bad strategy, if your core is good enough.  And for both teams, it mostly is (I’d give the edge to the Red Wings here, as their core seems to have a more complete game than the Penguins core).  But while the Penguins will pick up any loose change to fill their roster, the Red Wings seem to want only the over-35 crowd.  If Ken Holland has to tell you to get of his lawn, then you aren’t going to play for him.

The Red Wings have a lot of cap space, but they need defensemen more than forwards right now (this is just going by players signed, not way in depth analysis).  They could use a few forwards ( shows 12 forwards signed at $32 million), but Detroit has shown that they have depth the Penguins do not.  And players don’t mind taking a pay cut to play in Detroit, since they always are a contender.  Would Jagr be a good fit?  The bigger question is, does Detroit need Jagr?

Unnamed team:

Please let it be Winnipeg.  Please let it be Winnipeg.  Please let it be Winnipeg.


That’s just my opinion on the Jagr thing.  In the end, he isn’t going to carry a team on his back, partly because he isn’t in that kind of shape, and partly because he never has in the past.  And if he isn’t going to do that, what’s the big deal?  What makes people think he’s going to have an impact now, when he didn’t have an impact when he left the NHL?  A formerly great player who went to the KHL for a reason, coming back to the NHL to make a final run at a Cup?  I’ll try to get excited when his skates touch the ice.


Nabokov and The Decision

Several months ago, LeBron James went on ESPN for an hour long special to reveal what team he was going to sign with in free agency. It was spectacle, wind up, spin, and just about everything wrong with the big business of sports. The verdict on LeBron James?


Evgeni Nabokov was claimed off waivers by the New York Islanders after he signed with the Detroit Red Wings today. Within hours, word came from his agent that Nabokov would not be reporting to the Islanders organization. The verdict on Nabokov:


Hang on a minute here.


The rules on signing a player in the NHL who has played part of the season in a league overseas is that they must first pass though waivers. Any team can claim the player, with the team lowest in the standings getting first priority. If they can afford him, they can have him.

And what recourse does the player have? What can the player do if he doesn’t want to play for the team that claims him off waivers?

Nothing. Except not show up.

Can you imagine that happening to you? You get a job, but because you worked in another state, any other employer can take you away from your gig, and put you to work in their organization. First, you were going to be designing websites with a kick-ass startup, and the next day, you’re working the frialator at a McDonalds in Flint, MI. What would you do?

(and if you can’t get past the McDonalds bit, just insert whatever job that would suck in your field)

In the world of sports, players are treated as, and referred to, as property. In any other context, this would be illegal. But since this is sports, and the people involved are making a pile of cash, they should do what they are told, and put what they want to the side. It’s ridiculous.

So Nabokov should go to New York, and play as well as possible for a team he doesn’t want to be on, in a place he doesn’t want to be? No matter what the NHL waiver rules are, which seem designed entirely around punishing a player for going overseas, the guy is exercising the only real power he has left. In what is probably the twilight of his career, he probably wants to play for a contender. By not showing up, he is bucking the system, which looks mighty flawed at this point.

I bet the St. Louis Blues have a good argument against the waiver system right now, after loosing two players in a similar fashion this season. The only difference is that Marek Svatos and Kyle Wellwood won’t me making the impact that a goaltender of Nabokov’s skill can make (this isn’t to say he’s going to turn things on like Tim Thomas, but they guy can stop a puck).

We haven’t heard word one from Nabokov at this point, but it’s obvious that he doesn’t want to play for the Islanders. If he wanted to be on the island, he would have signed with them. And we have a problem with that?

UPDATE: Nabokov has spoken. Another post should be forthcoming.

Sometimes, this is how change happens. Someone says no, and the rules get looked at. Don’t be surprised if Nabokov, and certainly Nabokov’s agent, know exactly what is going on here, and have a perfectly good understanding of the waiver rules. Instead of going along with them, they are doing something different, which isn’t usually encouraged in big business, or sports.

TSN has a good roundup of what the Islanders can do next. My question is, what can Nabokov do next?

(thanks to @t_san for pointing me to that TSN column)