It's not easy being the Nashville Predators. This, we know. It's a franchise that's still clinging to viability, hoping to change economic and cultural fortunes before it's forced to vacate the premises. The pressure on the team's management is tremendous, and sometimes that can force rather awful decisions. Why else would local ownership reach out to a shyster whose only commitment was to move the team out of Tennessee one day?
If accepting "Boots" Del Biaggio's money was pitiable, the team's public stance on Alexander Radulov is rather pathetic.
Here's a player who just broke his NHL contract by signing a three-year deal worth $13 million with Salavat Yulaev Ufa of the Continental Hockey League in Russia. Traitorous doesn't even begin to cover how insolent his move is to the Predators. Yet, according to the quotes John Glennon collected for The Tennessean, if Radulov comes back to Nashville and puts some pucks in opponents' nets, all is forgiven:
Both Predators Coach Barry Trotz and team captain Jason Arnott say they want Radulov to return for the coming season, but they are aware some baggage might come with him.
"When you back out on your deal and you let your teammates and the whole organization down like that, it's hard to swallow - no question,'' Arnott said. "I can't sugarcoat it any better. It's disappointing.
"But if he does come back and play with us, hopefully he comes back with a good mind and be ready to play. If he does that, I think guys will forget about it. If he comes back with the attitude that it's his last year here and he doesn't really care, then it's going to be a long year. It's going to be tough.''
Ever notice you can't see a visible backbone in the Predators' logo?
As for Trotz, he appears to be using some sort of Patty Hearst defense for Radulov's actions:
"I think Alex is just a young man that gets easily influenced,'' Trotz said. "He is still maturing and he doesn't have a lot of patience. He bounces from one thing to the next. Someone told him this is the best thing he could ever do and then he'll find out it's not and we'll go from there.''
So there you go: Radulov was brainwashed. All Nashville needs to do is deprogram him, and he'll be good to go.
Look, I know goal-scoring is at a premium and Radulov has plenty of upside. But just so we're clear: He walked out on his contract. To think that some statistic act of contrition will erase that fact from the memory banks is appalling and embarrassing for the Predators. Do you think the Red Wings would put up with this? How about Lou Lamoriello?
I suppose that speaks volumes about where those franchises have gone in the last decade, and where the Predators haven't.
They should trade his ass to a complete no-man's land for hockey. Some city that barely can hold on to its franchise. A city like ... uh, scratch that.
Meanwhile, the tenuous relations between the NHL and the Russians continues to descend into rhetorical bomb-tossing. CHL president Alexander Medvedev believes that if a transfer agreement between the two leagues is ever reached, the NHL owes the Russians some back pay:
"Russia has not been a party to transfer agreement between the NHL and the IIHF for almost three years, so you can begin to talk about the reverse effect," Medvedev told the Russian newspaper Sports Express.
"If we want to retroactively impose a new agreement into force, let us start from the moment when Russia withdrew from the treaty. Then, probably need to talk about compensation for (Alexander) Ovechkin and (Evgeni) Malkin."
To review: Russia decides not to sign a transfer agreement with the International Ice Hockey Federation that calls for a $200,000 fee from the NHL when it signs non-North American players. Now it wants retroactive fees ... from an agreement it chose not to take part in.
Isn't this a bit like that bitter nerd in the corner cubicle asking for his share of the office lottery winnings, even though he chose not to purchase a ticket?