by Jas Faulkner, contributing editor
From a media person’s standpoint, the NHL is starting to resemble a koi pond at feeding time. Someone taps on the edge of the pond on one side and there is a frenzy of activity as everyone swims to the noise. Someone else taps the edge at a different spot and off they go.
Suter! Parise! Poile! Lamoriello! Carle! People are mad! Drama!
In the meantime, staff at clubs all over North America are working on the thousand and one details that eat the rumoured free time they’re supposed to be enjoying in the summer months. The front offices’ duties can include: reconfiguring their coaching pools, coming up with the latest way to brand the upcoming season, and how they’ll decide who will wear the laundry. Not the least of these tasks is deciding when and where to offer contracts that turn a previous season’s performance into a precis to a life’s work.
On July 20th, a press release from St. Louis announced that the Blues signed T. J. Oshie to a five-year contract. The morning telephone press conference with team GM Doug Armstrong was low key. There were no dramatic announcements, no fireworks, no hoopla, just Armstrong expressing what came as little surprise to anyone who paid attention to the Blues this past season. He gave T.J. Oshie a five-year deal because of what he brought to the organisation. It was recognition for a job well done:
“We’re excited to have him here. He was a big piece of our team last year and will be a big piece moving forward. He has a lot of the things we’re looking for. During the season he embraced the new coach. He proved himself to be a valuable player for our franchise. Knowing what TJ means to the team and how he was coached by Ken, it was the thing to do.
-St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong on T. J. Oshie
In the closing minutes of the presser, someone asked Armstrong about arbitration. There was a pause as Armstrong chose his words carefully.
“Arbitration just a piece of the process. I personally don’t find it productive. The ideal is that everyone is comfortable with the business side. We try not to have the emotional hangover that comes with things like that. I recognise that sometimes it’s unavoidable. We decided not to do that, to put T.J.’s fate in someone else’s hands and work together.”
The feeling was obviously mutual. Later that day, Oshie spoke to the press about his feelings regarding the new contract:
“Becoming part of the core of an organization, it means the world to me. I want to be the best I can be and to be a part of the core of a team, it means the world to be included in that group. I can’t say enough about how proud I am to be here.”
-T.J. Oshie on being a part of the Blues Organisation
When asked about the prospect of going through arbitration, Oshie was in agreement with his boss.
I wanted to get the deal done. This is where I’ve wanted to be for a long time. My agent and the team worked together and I was fine with the way things worked out. Now I have to prove that I’m worth the money being put towards me.
Looking over my notes from the two press conferences, a phrase that figured prominently in Greg Behrendt’s “He’s Just Not That Into You” kept coming to mind.
“This is what it’s supposed to look like.“
Yes it is. It might be less exciting, not sitting on edge for weeks and months at a time, wondering if the guys who function as the foundation of a team will be there next Fall. It is infinitely more satisfying to know at the start of the season that everyone on the ice wants to be there. In this respect, the Blues and teams like them who are signing their guys without fireworks and acrimony are blessed. They can concentrate on getting ready for training camp and preseason and beyond.
For other teams, this summer means taking the time and effort to rebuild once the deadlines pass and the decisions are handed down. As Armstrong noted, sometimes it can’t be avoided. Still, given the wear and tear on people and relationships, it would be nice if those flares of contractual sturm and dang could be avoided.
In Case You Missed It…
Was your week busy? For Shea Weber and everyone who has anything to do with the Flyers, IT WAS THE BESTEST WEEK EVAR! For those of us who follow hockey for a living, it was all Shea, all the time, from the moment the Dreger Report hit the net. You might have missed a few good stories in the midst the Weberpalooza that was this week.
Brent Lemon presented a very interesting take on the provenance of a chunk of the fans, players and teams in the AHL as he posed the question, “How Much Canada Is In The American Hockey League?”
Margann Laurissa‘s impressive write-up of the Norske Juniors, “Norwegian Junior Hockey Changing Structure in 2012-13“, will make you want to call your local cable provider and demand a Norwegian sports channel.
At Overtime, Ross Bonander looked at the professional hockey community’s response to Parkinson’s Disease in “Relating To Wayne: Hockey and Parkinson’s Disease.”
That’s it for this week’s Dispatch. Next week I’ll dig into the mailbag to answer more kids’ questions (and a few sent in by grownups as well.) Until then, remember to keep your blades and your stick on the ice and at least one eye on your agent!