December 27, 2011

Every General Manager’s Nightmare

Every few years or so, most of the 30 NHL GMs will have to walk on eggshells as some of their top players will don a different sweater, that of their country for an IIHF sanction tournament. It gives the player a chance to showcase his skills on an international level. If the player performs well, that can benefit his pro team in many ways. Such as: increased jersey sales, ticket revenues and even other GM’s noticing a player and perhaps making substantial trade offers.  In most cases the player comes back after the tournament none the worse for wear with a few exceptions. The most notable was when legendary Goalie Dominick Hasek was playing in the 2006 Olympics for the Czech Republic and hurt his hamstring. This led him to not being able to play for his pro team; The Ottawa Senators.

Yesterday in Calgary, Anahiem Ducks General Manager Bob Murray experienced one such twist of fate. As a player which he gave permission to play in the World Juniors blocked a shot and fractured his left foot during Canada’s dismantling of Finland 8-1.

Devante Smith-Pelley is in the midst of a decent rookie year with the struggling Ducks, who of course fired their Stanley Cup winning coach Randy Carlyle back on November 30th.  The 42nd overall pick in last summer’s draft was not returned to his former OHL club, Mississauga St. Michael's Majors and was developing into a productive 3rd and 4th line winger. He is expected to miss four to six weeks of action, so since its Canada and they will play all the way till the last day of the tournament, The Ducks will miss him until about February 1st.  

Now I realize this case is not the same as Hasek getting hurt in 2006 and then not being able to play for the Senators when they finished first in the East in points only to get bounced in the 2nd round by the Lightning.  But it brings up a bigger question, is it really worth it for a team to lose their superstars for a few weeks to play in tournaments with the risk of injury so pervasive in hockey?

What would have happened if Pat Kane or Duncan Keith had been dinged in the 2010 Olympics? That could have changed the entire dynamic of the Blackhawks season and Chicago could still be waiting for a Stanley Cup. I for one, enjoy the Winter Olympics more than most and because hockey players appear to be some of the most down to earth athletes in sports, I find it so easy to throw all my patriotism behind the team.  I was crushed in 2010 when Sid scored that goal; I understand what that exposure did for the game in the United States. However I also totally understand the apprehension from the league to not go to Sochi, Russia in two years. This will be a very interesting  nine months as the CBA will expire in September and participation in the Olympics will no doubt be on the agenda, with some players including Alex Ovechkin stating regardless of what George McPhee or Ted Leonsis says he will be in Russia playing in 2014. This for sure will be a point of contention.

Joe DeTolve
Chicago, Illinois

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