Fan sentiment is a strange thing. Not that I’d claim to know much about the NBA, but I seem to remember the response to Lebron James and his free agent cronies deciding to play together in Miami being… decidedly negative. Two short years later, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter – by far and away the best two NHL free agents available this summer – colluded ever so slightly to sign matching (cute!) contracts with their hometown Minnesota Wild for 13 (ha, wink!) years’ worth of probable playoff contention. It’s almost poetic. (Links after the jump)
Seriously. Upset as I am that neither of these essentially-free assets became Toronto Maple Leafs, it’s hard to feel bad for Minnesota fans. This has to be an epic feeling for them. There seems to be a general aura of, well, “The players have earned the right to decide” mixed with “Good for the Wild, mining an obvious affinity these players had for their home to sign both.” Chuck Fletcher gave each of these players a $98 million pair of ruby slippers, and three clicks later, everybody’s cool with it.
I wrote a piece last week suggesting Brian Burke should throw every available modicum of effort into signing those two players, but emphasizing that failing to do so would not be…a failure. That the metric of success would be his efforts and not the results because – as we saw Wednesday – sometimes, there are variable factors in the free agency process (IE, a player’s desire to play for a hometown team) that are beyond a GM’s control.
They say luck is a meeting between preparation and opportunity. The opportunity was certainly there – player affinity and availability – and the preparation was apparently Wild owner Craig Leipold’s willingness to spend the money.
Great for them, I guess. It just highlights the sort of influence that personal relationships still have in a money-driven industry, and creates a bit more parity in the form of “another team who can actually, maybe, slightly compete with Vancouver in the Northwest.”
But colour me surprised that the Suter/Parise reaction has been so cordial around these parts, considering that you’d think Toronto fans – being residents in a city and province that produces so many NHL players and no shortage of superstars – might be slightly irked that the same advantage hasn’t been there to be mined.
This isn’t the Don Cherry rant. I couldn’t care less about the ‘Burke doesn’t have enough Ontarians playing on his team!’ garbage, especially considering he’s drafted predominantly Ontario-born prospects with most of his high profile selections and that Toronto-born stars haven’t exactly been plentiful in recent free agency windows. Who’s next? Corey Perry? Born in Peterborough, is that close enough? Joe Thornton’s up in two years, he’s from St. Thomas – also pretty close!
I’m not going anywhere too existential with this, but the Minnesota Wild’s dual signings of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter certainly did make use of a competitive advantage that Toronto, you’d think, would be one of the best-positioned organizations in the league to have. Now, we can’t make something out of nothing. ‘Opportunity’ remains, as before, one half of the luck equation.
But the day might come where a Tavares or a Stamkos actually reaches UFA status. It may. It shouldn’t, and Steve Yzerman is probably too smart a man to let it happen (I won’t say the same for Garth Snow). If it happens, all Toronto can do is handle their preparation beforehand – which is to build a healthy organization committed to winning and show a potential free agent enough incentive to play here beyond being closer to their summer home.
Thursday Morning Links!
-Via The Leafs Nation, Is Nazem Kadri ready for the NHL? Well, he’s demonstrated skill that says yes. I met Naz very briefly during the Marlies playoff coverage and I can tell you the main thing working against him, as has been the case previously, is his size. And Clarke MacArthur. Clarke MacArthur being in Kadri‘s roster spot is really, probably, kinda screwing him over.
-Kevin Allen at USA today has a collection of Craig Leipold quotes related to the Suter/Parise signings which, surprisingly, does not include “Wheeeeeee! Ahahahaha, ZOMG, this is [censored] amazing!”
-Scott Cullen addresses the Parise/Suter contracts for TSN in a “Numbers Game” kinda way.
-Via the Globe, Mirtle breaks down the deals more specifically with graphs for actual yearly salaries and such. Y’know, I remember a few hockey players at my high school really struggling with math. Now I feel like the teacher could have explained graphs with negative slopes more easily by saying, “See where the line declines sharply at the end? That’s called cap circumvention.”
-Damien Cox thinks the Wild might be crazy because Zach and Ryan can’t possibly live up to the value of their contracts. But partway through, he concedes that the players are very good, “if not superstars,” so the Wild probably don’t care.
-Also via the Globe, Shoalts writes about how the Suter/Parise(/and little did he know it, Carle) signings have cleared the deck for a flurry of trade activity – in an article that ironically, and probably depressingly, does not mention the Toronto Maple Leafs once.
-Oh, yeah. Matt Carle signed a 6-year, $33 million deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning last night. And yes, that’s the same Tampa Bay Lightning he played for before.
-Only slightly hockey related, but the city of Toronto has made two attempts to obtain a Nash this year, and the one that most of us actually wanted to succeed has failed.