Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Make Up Your Mind Already

There has been something that has been bothering me about the NHL for a few years now and this latest Mats Sundin news has made this issue resurface and so now I feel the need to vent. It is being rumored that Mats Sundin may not sign with an NHL team anytime before the season starts and may opt for the Scott Niedermayer/Teemu Selanne approach and sit it out until the trade deadline. This is an approach that NHL players have adopted as of late, from Roger Clemens, and is causing serious problems for teams and serious irritation to me.

I am anything but a Leaf fan but even I think what Mats Sundin is doing now is wrong and is hurting his former team. When he first decided to test free agency I was ecstatic because I knew that he wouldn't return to the Leafs when he got a huge offer from a contender. Unfortunately though he got the offers but hasn't made up his mind yet, or so he claims. Sundin has now been in Sweden for over a month trying to "decide" what to do. By doing this Sundin is now forcing some teams, like the Leafs, to leave cap space for him to come back instead of signing more free agents to help fill the need for good players. This to me is wrong because it leaves teams holding the bag and if Sundin doesn't return then they have missed their chance to sign quality free agents.

Also you're telling me Mats Sundin doesn't already know where he wants to play and hasn't known for a while now? He clearly knows exactly what he wants to do and right now to me its looking like he is going to sit it out until the trade deadline and then come back with a contender.

This may seem like a great situation for teams due to the fact that once the trade deadline approaches they can sign a forward who is a point a game player and a physical presence. However we have seen in the past that this can be a huge risk that more often than not doesn't pay off.

In the case of Roger Clemens it never worked out as in 2006 and 2007 he sat out more than half the season and then opted to return to the Houston Astros (2006) and the New York Yankees (2007). In 06 upon his return he went 7-6 and didn't help the Astros make the playoffs. In 2007 he came back and played for the Yankees going 6-6 with an ERA of 4.18 and helped the Yankees get bounced out in the AL Division Series by the Cleveland Indians 3-1. Clearly this move never worked for Roger and should not have been adopted by NHL players.

Yet Niedermayer and Selanne both decided to take this approach and in the end it hurt the team. In this past season Nidermayer only played 48 games with the Anaheim Ducks and Selanne played a mere 26 and although they are some of the best players in NHL history it still causes issues with them coming back to the team so late in the season. Once Selanne and Niedermayer came back the Ducks made the playoffs but were beaten by the Dallas Stars in the first round 4 games to 2.

Taking this approach causes a number of issues that both teams and players need to deal with. The first issue is that cap room needs to be freed up so that both players can be signed to the team. Effectively what happens is that when a players pulls a Roger Clemens they get suspended and their contract isn't add to the cap. So when Niedermayer and Selanne wanted to come back some people had to go. To make room for the two new players GM Brian Burke was forced to trade Andy McDonald who had 78 points the previous year for Dough Weight who is a legitimate scrub which hurts the team.

The second issue is the unbalancing of team chemistry. A team plays over 55 games together and all of a sudden new players come in and lines are shuffled which causes some players to lose the rhythm that they were in. This isn't true for every player but even it it affects one or two that is a bigger deal than most people realise.

The third and most important issue is the fitness of the returning players. There is no substitute for playing in NHL games against NHL players and there is no way anyone can train for that in the offseason. You can try train your body but when you are away from competition for an extended period of time you just aren't prepared to comeback like that. To make matters worse these players return during the final stretch to the playoffs where games are harder, faster, and more intense. This means players need to come back and give it 110% every night when they haven't been used to anything near that.

This rule of allowing players to do this should be removed and if not there should be a penalty for it at the very least. Hopefully Mats Sundin doesn't opt to do this and just comes back or stays away.

1 comment:

LeafsPWN said...

Sundin won't do that and never even thought about doing that. He would have gladly accepted a trade last year if that was his plan. He has always said he will make his mind up over the summer and feels he doesn't deserve a cup unless he plays for that team all season. He should take his time and wait until september if he chooses. He's earned that right. Agreed the stories are sometimes annoying, but he's not writing them. Its not his fault. He's in Sweden with his supermodel fiancee enjoying his millions. Ata boy.