Arbitration is a word that nobody really likes to hear. Arbitration, in any walk of life, generally means that there is a heated argument of some kind that has the potential to end in awful ways. The worst part about it is that it’s almost always avoidable but one or both sides are just being too stubborn to make things work. But is this really always the case? Is the fact that Tyson Barrie and the Colorado Avalanche are set to meet in arbitration on July 29 really that bad?
The picture that people paint for arbitration hearings is always ugly. One side demanding a certain amount of money while the other side lists all the player’s deficiencies and why they don’t deserve the money. I essentially liken it to a Godzilla fight at the end of a movie; things are really ugly and it’s not really all that clear who actually won once things are over. Sure, King Kong was banished into the ocean, but the whole city was completely demolished. What was actually accomplished here?
The most famous example of this is the case of Tommy Salo, who went to arbitration while a member of the New York Islanders. Things got so bad during this arbitration hearing that Salo actually broke down in tears and had to excuse himself from the room. Granted, this was while Mike Milbury was running the Islanders and Milbury is known to have about as much tact as a cobra in a box that just tumbled down a rocky mountain. Nonetheless, it’s hearings like this that give the arbitration process a negative stigma and why so few scheduled hearings actually happen.
The Tyson Barrie Situation
Tyson Barrie elected arbitration with the Avalanche and the two are scheduled for arbitration next week. Joe Sakic offered Barrie a long-term contract during the NHL Draft; it was specified that this was a long-term contract offer and, given Barrie’s excellent point production from the past two seasons, there’s little doubt in my mind that the offer was a substantial one. It clearly wasn’t to Barrie’s liking as he filed for arbitration soon after. This has led some of the who’s who of the hockey world to sound the trade alarm surrounding Barrie as Darren Dreger did, claiming the Avalanche seem to be in “annual fights” with their star players.
This narrative was spawned from the long lasting Ryan O’Reilly saga, which has been very well documented. It isn’t exactly true, however, as pretty much ever other star on the team managed to figure out long-term deals with the team at very reasonable salary cap numbers. This is also not similar to the O’Reilly situation as Barrie has never held out, never signed an offer sheet for another team, and there hasn’t been the crazy side show with Barrie’s family. At worst, there is just an honest disagreement about a good contract number and both sides just want to iron it out.
It’s Not All Bad
There is some solace to be had in this situation for Avalanche fans. The team clearly values Barrie, otherwise, he probably would have been traded by now, and there has been no bad blood between the parties, no war or words. It’s true that I have suggested that the Avalanche should leak their offer to the media so that they can change the narrative about the team being “cheap,” but the Avalanche haven’t done this and there has been no posturing from Barrie’s side. Is it possible that the team and Barrie want to do this as amicably as possible? Why not? Joe Sakic is a competitive guy, there’s no doubt about that, but he’s not exactly Mike Milbury when it comes to…anything. So could this arbitration hearing actually end up being a good thing in the long run?
The Avalanche, despite what much of the national media would have you believe, are not stupid. They realize Barrie is a valuable player and that he helps their team be better. I find it very unlikely that Sakic and company would be foolish enough to come to an arbitration hearing with this type of player and go out of their way to make him feel inferior and useless. Doing that would be about as constructive as a player climbing over the boards and hitting a fan with his own shoe.
The Avalanche must be honest in their assessment of Barrie, while still making it clear that he is a big part of the team and essential to their success moving forward. If it were me walking into that room, I would want to make it as clear as humanly possible to Barrie that I want to get to the point where I have no choice but to pay him whatever contract number he’s asking, but that I’m not quite there yet. The offensive production is outstanding but I need him to round out his defensive game a bit more and find ways to be more consistent and that I have nothing but the utmost faith that he will do this.
Just because arbitration has that negative stigma doesn’t mean it has to unfold that way. There are plenty of reasons to be hopeful that things will be worked out. The Avalanche are perfectly capable of making this hearing work out in their favor not just for the next two seasons but many years beyond.