In the past week or so, Sean Monahan, Jeff Carter, Tomas Hertl, Radko Gudas and David Krejci have all begged out of appearing in the World Cup. Oh and Henrik Zetterberg. And Niklas Kronwall. And Duncan Keith and Jamie Benn. We might soon find out that Frederik Andersen, possibly injured in Olympic qualifying, is begging out too. And Henrik Lundqvist.
It’s enough to make you wonder what could have possibly happened in the past week that caused eight strong, previously healthy professional athletes to get injured more or less en masse in a four-day period. It’s enough to make you wonder if anyone suffers a paper cut or sees a pretty bad in the next day or two.
And hell, it’s almost like holding this tournament in September is a hell of a bad idea for this reason and a few others. Not that the NHL or its Players’ Association was ever going to turn down the idea of some extra money in exchange for some elite players getting in a handful of what amount to exhibition games. The risk that a guy would get injured and end up missing any number of games that actually mattered — i.e. weren’t part of a made-up tournament the NHL has only occasionally allowed to exist or acted as though it was really worth anyone’s attention — was always going to be too great to really help avoid this kind of issue.
There’s not really a ton of incentive for players to show up and put their seasons at risk, and the Gudas injury is a perfect illustration of why: He has a hairline fracture in his wrist so bad that he can’t even grip a stick. And he picked up that injury in training for the World Cup. Now, the argument could be that he could slip and fall down the stairs at home, and still be in the same position. Remember when Brendan Witt got hit by a truck? It happens! The actual NHL season starts in a month, though, so why on earth would you risk anything like that?
You can say national pride is on the line all you like. But this seems like a two-team tournament — Canada and Sweden — to begin with, and also it’s hard to have national pride in Team Europe. Players know a lost cause when they see one, and well, jeez, it’s surprising more people didn’t pull a Jiri Hudler.
After Tomas Hertl decided his recovery from a knee injury just didn’t allow him to participate (wink wink) the Czech Republic tried to get a hold of Jiri Hudler to invite him. And Hudler, who just signed a one-year show-me contract with Dallas for short money, didn’t even pick up the phone. His agent later told the team he wasn’t interested in playing in the first place.
Greg pointed out yesterday that Hudler was infamously snubbed by the Czech team for the Olympics and so he just might be bitter. But more likely is that he views the World Cup with about as much enthusiasm as a dog views a trip to the vet. And it’s hard to blame anyone who doesn’t want to play in the W-O-R-L-D C-U-P O-F H-O-C-K-E-Y.
And with that in mind, maybe the Jay Bouwmeester announcement really is the result of Mark Giordano just straight up saying, “Thanks but no thanks.” It doesn’t make logical sense that Team Canada would otherwise value Bouwmeester over Giordano, so his feeling like the Flames’ potential redemption season with a new coach and actual competent goaltending is more important — which by the way it 1 billion percent is — is as plausible an explanation as we’re going to get.
One wonders if this would be an issue if the World Cup were held in, say, July. A two-week tournament shortly after free agency opens doesn’t seem like it would be particularly popular among players either, because there goes the few weeks of vacation before getting back to running and lifting most days of the week. But neither does this, because of the risk of injury. And neither does a mid-season tournament, because you don’t want to shut the league down for three weeks.
So what does that leave you with in the end, really? The basic impossibility of a well-timed tournament? Yeah, pretty much. But when it’s a license to print money that doesn’t technically count as hockey-related revenue, it’s not like the league or PA is going to say, “I guess we’re good then.” (And by the way, they’re probably never moving this out of Toronto for that reason.)
The increasing likelihood that the Olympics aren’t going to feature NHL players in a year and a half is very, very real. The International Olympic Committee just changed over a whole bunch of leadership, and from the reportage it seems as though that means negotiations take a bit of a step back. The owners will be bemoaning that they’ll have to negotiate bitterly just to get back what they already had — a nice turn of the tables from the 2013 lockout, isn’t it? — but the fact is the IOC probably won’t be quite so willing as it has been in the past to meet NHL demands.
Does that mean a whiny pull-out for Pyongchang? Probably. Does that also mean crawling through Mr. Burns’ supplicants door to come back when Beijing happens in 2022? You bet.
In the meantime, the League is asking whether you, the fan, would consider actually caring about this tournament as more stars from Your Favorite Team come down with a case of the “World Cup flu.” Because it would really like the money from ticket sales, jersey sales, ad sales, concessions, and more. And since there’s probably not going to be NHL players in the next Olympics — the only international tournament in which NHLers will step over their fallen grandmothers to participate — the league also asks that you, the fan, consider caring even more for the 2020 World Cup as well.
But if they can’t get all these players to care with the promise of a revenue split — which means money in their pockets — why should you, the person who’s paying for it?
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: Yeah that’s Corey Perry in for Jeff Carter. Sure, why not? When a former MVP is like your fifth call-up you’re probably in good shape.
Arizona Coyotes: Martin Hanzal extension coming soon? Seems like. How much of a raise should he get from $3.1 million AAV though? He’s 29 and has a career high of 41 points. That money sounds just about right, doesn’t it?
Carolina Hurricanes: Raffi Torres says he can change the way he plays the game. He also said it last year. And in 2013. At this point, we’re just enabling a trying-to-decapitate-his-opponents addict who, by the way, isn’t a good enough player to be worth the effort in the first place.
Florida Panthers: Not to run down Vince Trocheck (a perfectly good player) too much as he’s added to the 23U team, but I’d rather have Alex Galchenyuk, all things being equal.
Las Vegas No-Names: They’re not going to announce the team name for another six weeks or so. How many more variations of “______ Knight” can Bill Foley register in that time?
Minnesota Wild: Trying to figure out why this is a thing:
We're voting Coyle/Zucker.
— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) September 3, 2016
Pittsburgh Penguins: Ask Sidney Crosby a hockey question, and odds are good you’ll get a really long answer. What a guy. For the record, I would also like to see Crosby play with Bergeron and Marchand.
San Jose Sharks: This is a very subtle self-own on the Warriors’ playoff chokejob.
— Warriors PR (@WarriorsPR) August 30, 2016
St. Louis Blues: Nice story on Ken Hitchcock here.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Jon Cooper isn’t worried at all about the team’s inability to re-sign Nikita Kucherov to this point. You will be. You will be.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Toronto mayor John Tory took part in the team’s pitch to Steven Stamkos this summer, and it obviously didn’t go well enough to lure the player. So then it became a political issue.
Gold Star Award
I’m honestly more interested to see how Frank Vatrano does in a full NHL season than just about any other player in the league.
Minus of the Weekend
Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Year
User “axepig” with the setup.
Chris Tanev for Brad Marchand
And in the rare double-bad-take, user “eviohh26” with the punchline.
If we are trading Tanev it isn’t for a 28 yr old winger.
Seems like the classy thing to do would be to not call attention to it.
(All stats via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)
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