September 19, 2011
Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
Attention other 29 general managers in the NHL: Don't do what Dean Lombardi is doing.
Lombardi is currently in a Cold War with the perhaps best player on his team (and, you could argue, in the entire Pacific Division) over the terms of a contract extension that should make him one of the top four- or five-highest paid defensemen in the league; and, they hope, for a number of years.
But that is the sticking point. Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times recently reported that Doughty turned down the club's "best" (read: "final") offer of $6.8 million a season for the next six to eight years. Doughty — or, to more accurately portray the way this is being framed, Doughty's agent — would like to see a smidge more money (north of $7 million per) and a few less years. The ongoing holdout is the result of this clear and acrimonious difference in opinion between the two camps.
The sticking point for the Kings is that Doughty obviously didn't have an especially good season by his very lofty standards in 2010-11. Hey, it's not always easy for a defenseman, particularly one as young as the 21-year-old. But having three good-to-outstanding years in the league at his age is a rare feat indeed, and if Doughty wants to demand the reported amount, it's certainly reasonable to do so (even if asking for Shea Weber(notes)- or Zdeno Chara(notes)-type money is slightly silly since he's not as good as either one of them). It's also very reasonable for the team to say that his demands are too great.
But there are two very big missteps that Lombardi is making here and, somehow, escaping all blame for it.
(Coming Up: Iginla injury concerns; Tyler Seguin(notes) goes public; Jonas Hiller(notes) is feeling fine; great news about Peter Mueller(notes); Jimmy Howard(notes) as distracted; are the Panthers a playoff team?; Alexei Yemelin(notes) makes an impression; TJ Oshie(notes) is in shape; Baltimore loves Capitals; the Canucks' "Cup hangover"; the Thrashers are the Jets; Ovechkin eats cake; and a rather terrible Drew Doughty(notes) trade.)
First is that he has taken the very calculated and misguided path of taking the negotiations public. He recently told Rich Hammond that for every day of training camp Doughty does not attend, the Kings' per-annum offer drops by $24,727.27 — $6.8 million over the 275 work days of the NHL season. (Neither side, apparently, is interested in a one- or two-year deal.)
What does he hope to accomplish by making these very public declarations? Is Doughty going to all of a sudden jump up and say, "Well heck Don Meehan, I really wanted that 25 grand!" and immediately fly to Los Angeles and, like Bobby Ryan(notes) before him, negotiate his own cap-friendly deal?
Short answer: No. This isn't An Offer He Can't Refuse. As of this writing Doughty's missed two days of camp, so he's currently looking at a paltry salary of $6.75 million a year. How horrible.
The only thing Doughty will likely care about at the end of the day is that Lombardi didn't demur and say, "We're not going to discuss the details of ongoing negotiations at this time." By throwing out scraps here and there — what the team has already offered, what the player is looking for, how much each missed day of work will cost him, etc. — the only thing Lombardi can do is piss off his best player, not muscle him into finding a deal he or his representatives find unacceptable.
The other mistake he's making here is setting the $6.8 million max salary on the basis that this is how much Anze Kopitar(notes) makes. It's foolish. Kopitar is an excellent hockey player, but he's not the best on the Kings. (Now that they've acquired Mike Richards(notes), he might not even be the second-best.) Drew Doughty is.
Therefore, if you're saying, "We won't go above this amount," then the logical response is, "Kopitar is not as good at his job as Doughty, and therefore Doughty should be paid more." It's really not that difficult. Usually when teams set this kind of baseline, it's with a guy like Nicklas Lidstrom(notes), an unequivocal star player that would be the best on any team in the league. Anze Kopitar is a lot of things, but that is not one of them.
Lucky for the Kings, none of the above matters. Everyone seems to have already made their decision about where the blame lies: This is a problem caused solely by Drew Doughty, and not Lombardi and his often-questionable negotiating tactics (remember that Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) fiasco?). For some reason, it's believed that players are supposed to stay blindly loyal to their teams and not be paid commensurate to their abilities. People are already running him down, essentially calling him a meek bystander in a war between his team and his allegedly power-hungry agent, questioning his conditioning and saying he's demanding more money than Lidstrom. As though wanting more money than a 41-year-old on a one-year deal is now somehow unreasonable.
And to accuse him of being disloyal to the team is, simply put, stupid. People often like to say things such as, "This is a business," but that's not the case, apparently, in times like these. Fans would rather Doughty gladly take less money than he's worth just because the GM says he should.
Much like Phil Kessel's(notes) unhappy exit from Boston, it's not going to be the general manager's fault that he let a star player go to another team. I don't see how that makes sense, especially given that the Kings have plenty of cap space.
This isn't a case of Doughty demanding that the Kings pay for potential, as has happened with other restricted free agent negotiations. He's already one of the best defensemen in the League.
Why is it so outrageous that he wants to be paid like one?
What We Learned
Boston Bruins: Tyler Seguin wants to earn respect this season. "It has to be on the ice. It was to be on the bench. It was to be in the dressing room. Public appearances, you know?" It has to be at Foxwoods. It has to be shirtless.
Buffalo Sabres: Ales Kotalik(notes) thinks he can weasel his way into the Buffalo lineup this season and I get it. I mean, he looks at the roster and sees boatloads of mediocre forwards getting paid ridiculous amounts of money for no readily apparent reason and says, "Me too." But no, Ales. You are terrible and I really hope you enjoy busing it in the AHL this season.
Calgary Flames: Jarome Iginla(notes) left the first Flames practice of the season after 20 minutes with back spasms, then sat out Sunday's session. Hey, where do the Flames finish with Iginla missing an even slightly significant amount of time? 33rd in the West?
Carolina Hurricanes: Just before camp opened, the Hurricanes signed 2011 draftee Ryan Murphy. Jim Rutherford says he could push for an NHL spot. I say that doesn't speak too well to their defensive prospects this season.
Colorado Avalanche: Peter Mueller has fully recovered from his concussion, which is another great bit of news. Took full contact and everything. "It's tough when a guy loses that much time and other people don't get a suspension or anything," he said. "I understand that I'm not in charge with (discipline). I just hope the NHL figures something out." No kidding.
Columbus Blue Jackets: The line for auditions to be the third guy in the Jeff Carter(notes)/Rick Nash forward group forms to the left. Vinny Prospal(notes), RJ Umberger(notes), Antoine Vermette(notes), Derrick Brassard, Matt Calvert(notes), Ryan Johansen(notes), Tomas Kubalik(notes) and Cam Atkinson(notes) will all get a crack at it during camp. Yes, eight guys.
Detroit Red Wings Presented by Amway: Jimmy Howard on why he had trouble focusing on games during contract negotiations: "Sometimes what happens is, you're trying a little bit too hard out there, and pucks end up going in the net." Chris Osgood(notes) must have been trying really, really hard for his whole career.
Edmonton Oilers: How did the Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s win all those Stanley Cups? Was it attitude? Was it preparation? No I think it was having like almost all of the best players ever. That was probably it.
Florida Panthers: Sean Bergenheim(notes) thinks the Panthers can make the playoffs. He might be right if the team trades for a real NHL starting goaltender or Jose Theodore(notes) somehow becomes a rookie again.
Los Angeles Kings: The Kings are more serious heading into training camp this year, which they hope brings them more success. Remember that time they got more than a quarter of their season win total by early November because they started the season 12-3? Yeah, how do you realistically do any better than that? It's that part of the season after Nov. 13 where they only went 34-28-6 that's the problem.
New Jersey Devils: The Devils are really good at possessing the puck, so fans hope that continues in the coming season. Of course, their best Corsi and Fenwick years since 2007 were both last season so y'know, take it with a grain of salt I guess.
New York Islanders: The Islanders are giving Steve Staios(notes) a tryout in training camp and they might just sign him at the end of it. To which anyone who watched a Flames game the last two years says, "Hahahaha good luck with that!"
Ottawa Senators: Here's a horribly Senators-y bit of news: their as-yet-unreleased Heritage jersey they were going to wear this year was revealed when Reebok accidentally shipped a bunch of them to a store in Buffalo. By the way, they look awesome:
Phoenix Coyotes: "Coyotes goaltenders to stage spirited battle." Again, it's Jason LaBarbera(notes) and Mike Smith(notes). The only battle they'll be having every night is when they're fighting the puck.
San Jose Sharks: The Sharks don't want to get off to a slow start this season. They weren't even in a playoff spot until last January and then they ONLY won their division, finished second in the West and made the Conference Finals for the second straight year, where they lost to the best team in the league! Outrageous.
St. Louis Blues: TJ Oshie crushed all his conditioning tests, which must be frightening news for the rest of the league. Because if an out-of-shape Oshie can put Zdeno Chara on his wallet, an in-shape Oshie is going to hospitalize one opponent per night all season long.
Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs invited 70 (not a typo.. that's seven-zero) players to camp. But Ron Wilson says that won't last very long. "I'm cutting through all the B.S. here and getting right down to the NHL players." That's good to hear: Non-NHL players are "B.S." Thanks for inviting all of 'em, Burkie.
Washington Capitals: People in Baltimore are becoming more interested in hockey, and a Caps exhibition game being played there is close to selling out. This just in: Fans in region gain interest in winning sports team. More on this breaking story as it develops.
Winnipeg Jets: Thousands of people showed up to Jets practice and were disappointed to find out that yes once again they're only the god damn Atlanta Thrashers, who finished 12th in a bad conference last year.
Gold Star Award
Ovie's really not doing himself any favors with the fat thing:
Minus of the Weekend
Attention Flyers beat writers: I know Holmgren finally shipped off those two big mean jerks you all hate. But try not to pull anything waving those pompoms around. It's only training camp.
Play of the Weekend
More Alexei Yemelin hits? Yes you got it:
(Thanks to @ArtemChubarov for the heads up on both Yemelin vids. Can't wait to watch this guy.)
Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
User "Tookey98" is keeping the Doughty spirit alive:
Enjoy your death trap, ladies!