January 11, 2010
Back in July, we spoke with Octagon hockey agent Allan Walsh about his use of social media to promote and package his clients. While his Twitter feed is often a collection of interesting stats and frequent gushing over a client's recent play, it's also been one of the loudest soapboxes in the hockey media this season. Please recall:
• Walsh's comments on the Blackhawks' qualifying offer mess during the summer, which were wiped away from Twitter after publication.
• Most notoriously, his Twitter quip about Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price(notes), who just so happens to be in competition with Walsh client Jaroslav Halak(notes): "Interesting stat of the night.... #Habs' Price is 10W, 32L in last 42 starts. Hmm." The since-deleted tweet earned massive attention from Montreal media.
That last situation earned Walsh scorn from the agent community and bloggers for tearing down one player to promote a client; two months later, it appears Walsh was simply uttering an unspoken truth about the Habs or was just ahead of the curve, as Halak's been the better goalie to the point where Price's future in Montreal is in question.
So Walsh gets slammed for being a discourteous loudmouth, speaking out of turn in 140 characters or less while defending his interests and those of his clients; which obscures the fact that, more often than not, the dude's on point with his Twitter op-ed pieces.
Now it's the Minnesota Wild's turn to face the Wrath of Walsh, as they were apparently unaware that veteran winger Petr Sykora(notes) was being disrespected until Walsh sniped at them over Twitter. Is he out of line or on point with this latest dust-up?
The situation: Sykora had worked his way back from a concussion, but had been a healthy scratch for two straight games. Yet even though he wasn't playing, Sykora had to skate warm-ups before the Wild's game against Chicago. James Sheppard(notes), who was also going to be a scratch, did not.
Wild beat writer Michael Russo of the Star Tribune tweeted that the Wild "treat him like a rookie."
Walsh upped the ante: "No, the coach is treating Sykora with less respect than a rookie."
Russo sought comment from Walsh (as we did this morning), but the agent chose not to elaborate. From the Star Tribune:
Here's the deal: Sykora had a mega-deal in Russia. He was convinced to come here on a one-year deal by Chuck Fletcher, whom Sykora immensely respects, with apparently certain promises, like ice time and linemates.
It's obvious Sykora's camp doesn't feel like he's being given a chance. He's been scratched three times, played fourth line many nights, has averaged 12:01 of ice time.
Anyway, as I mentioned, this is obviously close to coming to a head.
Russo reported last night that Wild Coach Todd Richards would likely have a sit-down with Sykora to discuss the scratches and his role with the team:
"When your team is going pretty good -- and we've been going pretty decent -- it's harder," Richards said. "Before him coming back, as a group, we were playing really well.
"It's never a personal issue. It's never, 'This guy's playing great and I'm going to keep him out because I don't like him.' That would be completely foolish if you're coaching that way."
Richards has a case here, because the Wild have been playing better hockey lately; Sykora isn't cracking the top line of Andrew Brunette(notes)-Mikko Koivu-Antti Miettinen(notes), who's finally showing signs of life; and Russo writes that wingers Guillaume Latendresse(notes) and Martin Havlat have worked well on a second scoring line. Where would he fit?
That said: Sykora has been a 20-goal man for the last 10 straight seasons. He's struggled to two goals in 13 games this year, but hasn't received the ice time and the linemates to prove otherwise. If Russo's correct that both of these things were promised to Sykora upon signing with Minnesota, does he deserve a good stretch to prove himself? Or does that risk chemistry?
More importantly: If those were the terms for Sykora's signing with the Wild, isn't Walsh right to snark at Minnesota for failing to comply with them for his client?
We'd say yes. Of course, we'd also say that Walsh had every right to trash Price in puffing up Halak, too.