Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Put on your best suit, Marian

Marian Hossa's arbitration date is today, and as of the time of this post, there was no word on an impending deal that would prevent the hearing from taking place.

As often happens in cases like this, the two sides seem to be further apart than ever, as the act of arbitration has split the camps and created an us vs. them mentality, with neither side willing budging any further. This also often leads to immense anomosity that ends with the player leave the team the next year. Hossa has now turned down at least two contract offers from the Senators that we know of: a three-year, $11.9 million deal and a two-year $8 million deal. He called the first one "not good enough."

A "source" told the Ottawa Sun last week that Hossa, long regarded as one of the more underpaid players in the league, simply wanted what he thought was fair, and in the beginning, would've been content with Pavol Demitra money - meaning $4.5 million a year, a number I think the Sens would be happy to live with right about now.

Perhaps all the "I deserve to be paid the same as Iginla and Thornton" talk was just that - talk. Posturing for a bigger contract. Why Hossa would do such a thing publicly is beyond me, and shows how out of touch he and his European agent Jiri Crha are as far as how it would be received in Ottawa, a city he claimed to love.

Because, overnight, he went from one of the more popular players on the team to the second coming of Alexei Yashin, a spot kept warm by Anton Volchenkov during his brief but seemingly effective bargaining tactic of staying in Russia. Op-ed pieces were being written about all the negative parts of Hossa's game, including from yours truly. He can't be a leader, his defence is still suspect, he hasn't won any awards, he hasn't taken the team to the finals. We went on the defensive, maybe too quickly.

While Senators fans certainly regarded Hossa as one of the best players on the team, and on the verge of becoming an elite player, they didn't take kindly to him insisting he is one now and deserves to be paid accordingly. Even though we supposedly live in a new NHL, and have a billionaire owner more than happy to lose money to build a winner, Senators fans still have the mentality that this is a penny pinching team. Old habits die hard I suppose. So when a play tries to squeeze the team for more than he's worth, or is at least perceived as trying to do so, they become public enemy number one in an instant.

Two falls ago, it was Martin Havlat. The previous season, he was among the most well liked Senators, and was often touted as being the most exciting due to his blazing speed. Whenever a discussion about the best young scorers in hockey came up on local sports talk radio, his name was always included. But the moment he held out and missed training camp, all those phone calls singing the praises of "Mach 9" disappeared, and were replaced by cat calls and hisses, some even demanding the team traded Havlat, rationalizing that Ottawa didn't need any bad apples like that around.

Canadian hockey fans are fickle. They will turn on you in a dime if they feel as though they're being betrayed as fans of a team. Fortunately for Marian Hossa, they also have short memories about these kind of things. The same people that promised they would boo Havlat out of the building if he eventually signed, even for less than what he was asking, were on their feet cheering his highlite reel goals months later. If Hossa has a 40 goal season, and I expect him to, all will be forgotten.

Usually, the arbitration verdict becomes public between 24 and 48 hours after the hearing, so I'll be watching the tickers nervously to see how this turns out.


At 11:37 AM, Blogger just'cuz said...

I don't think Canadian hockey fans are fickle...they acknowledge the talents of Havlat and Hossa but they expect players who demand high salaries to have earned it. Players earn their respect by winning when it counts - in the playoffs. I don't think any of the Senators forwards (who have played more than three seasons) have yet proven that they can produce when needed in the playoffs (Brodeur, CuJo and the Eagle have pretty much shut down the Sens forwards in the playoffs).

I hear Hossa just agreed to an $18 million, 3-year contract. imho: He hasn't yet proven that he deserves that. But then again, I'm not the gm...just a season ticket holder, tired of paying too much for the tickets.


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