It wasn't hard to miss the consternation over Alexander Radulov's probable return to the Nashville Predators over the past week, as various parties around the NHL grumbled into their cereal about the inherent unfairness of it all.
Opposing GMs expressed a lot of displeasure with such a move, and Doug Armstrong in particular seemed peeved that a guy who was putting up big-time points in the KHL just a few weeks ago could return to the thick of an already tight Central Division and help his very good team become even better. The Canucks, too, said they weren't happy with it, though one just suspects that it's another case of the Canucks finding something to complain about, given that this is what the organization does from top to bottom.
But in the end, this is best for everyone involved, unless they have to play the Predators in the season's remaining however-many games, and playoffs.
Radulov is, essentially, a top-six forward that makes an already strong power play and offense even stronger, and really solidifies the Preds as a legitimate contender to come out of the Western Conference, if not win the Stanley Cup.
The Preds already have a top-10 offense in the League and have added to it. And the best part, as far as David Poile should be concerned, is that it costs him and his team nothing but a couple years' worth of KHL-related headaches. And if other teams were in Poile's boat, they'd be tap-dancing in front of the media over how lucky they are to have a potential point-a-game player coming to them for pretty much nothing.
There are some who have said that guys in the room won't be happy with it. Radulov bailed on his team when they needed him to chase money and easier competition in his home country. There are still a good amount of players left over from those days and time may not heal all wounds, but winning almost certainly will.
If these guys make a deep playoff run — they really have that ability — and Radulov even well enough that he's not an obvious liability, then it won't matter whether the team picked him on from San Jose or Salavat.
And of course, this makes great sense for Radulov. He gets to cash 10 or so game checks (if he ever gets out of the KHL), plus pull down what could become a hefty playoff share all for a few months work. And in doing so, he'll probably torch the final year of his entry-level deal, then cash in big-time later this summer. Keep in mind, this guy is very, very good and could sign a pretty sizable deal, especially if his return goes well.
One thing people griped about is that it's not fair he gets to do that: Playing 10 games shouldn't count as a full year as far as your ELC goes. But guess what, if it would have for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Gabriel Landeskog or any other of the NHL rookies who played that many games, why shouldn't it for Radulov?
It's inherently not an issue of fair or unfair, but even if it was, the same rules govern Radulov as govern anyone else on their entry-level deal. If you want a similar example, how about Sven Baertschi of the Calgary Flames. He didn't get the tryout fresh out of camp that a guy like Mark Scheifele did, but the organization had to call him up on an emergency basis last week, and he's actually been pretty impressive, scoring in both his second and third games.
Now, if the team decided that they like what they've seen from Baertschi, they could keep him around for the remainder of the season in much the same way the Preds would for Radulov, but once he hits 10 games for the big club, that counts the same as if he had played all 82. The situations are not fundamentally different as far as the collective bargaining agreement is concerned, nor should they be.
Radulov coming back from Russia is a big deal for the NHL as well, at least symbolically. He's the first player who's not necessarily a "name brand" in the way that Jaromir Jagr is to leave North American hockey in a huff and then come back with a chance at being an extremely impactful player in the league (with apologies to Nik Zherdev, Anton Babchuk, and Jiri Hudler).
Perhaps it's important, symbolically, that a Russian player who stormed off to the KHL and stayed there for an extended period is now being welcomed instead of not being allowed back in the NHL. Perhaps this will help to encourage other talented players happy to stay in the KHL *cough*Kuznetsov*cough* that there's room here too.
(Of course, the easy argument there is that it might also encourage grumpy Russians to stomp out of the NHL the second their ice time drops or contract negotiations aren't going their way. That's a valid concern, but GMs are pretty much living under that threat every day anyhow, so in the end, what's the difference?)
This also helps the fans because it adds what could possibly be a very good talent to a League that's already fun as hell to watch most nights. The only people who have any right at all to complain about this is goaltenders and coaches on other teams, because Radulov is probably going to make them all look quite bad.
On Monday morning, I kicked up a big ol' stink about how bad it would be if the league brought back the red line in an effort to slow the game down, and it seems like that won't actually happen.
But what may happen instead is actually even dumber.
The proposal, and this would be tested in the AHL before it comes to the big leagues, is to put a line across the defensive zone at the tops of the faceoff circles, meaning that players would be free to make two-line passes, but only after crossing that line.
So, if I'm not mistaken, that essentially creates and then immediately outlaws the three-line pass instead. Because what hockey needs to obfuscate the already-complicated rules related to icing and offside is to paint a couple extra lines on the ice and add in some even-more-complicated rules based on them for no reason.
One thing that gets lost in a lot of this is that people think the breakout some teams employ, which the ringette line is supposed to eliminate, is D-men hammering the puck from their own zone for a tip-and-chase is making the game boring.
Know what's more boring? The same thing happening because teams skate the extra eight feet to the top of the circles, in addition to sometimes having a stoppage in play because they didn't.
This isn't like hybrid icing, which the league needs to institute, because it's not a safety issue.
It's because some people think the game's boring. It's not. Hockey's fine. Let's leave it the hell alone.
Pearls of Biz-dom
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BizNasty on hot beverages (I think): "How long should you leave a tea bag in for?"
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- Alexander Radulov