Thursday, 3 July 2014

Ryan Johansen leads with his heart, if not his immaturity.

I tend to always side with the players when it’s time for them to bargain for a Collective Agreement.  They're the ones who we pay to see, they create the wealth, not some piratical monopolists who happen to have restraint-of-traded their way to ownership of the teams we cheer for.  Teams we've grown up to love deeply, and have imbued with the value these fraudsters and shills are now squeezing for ever more golden eggs.

But NHL players have agreed, often against the advice of their union leads, to a lot of new rules and restrictions with their last two CBA’s. Within the constraints of these rules, I understand that a GM who has more bargaining power will use it to restrict the amount of money he pays his younger players so he can lavish it on his veterans to retain them, or to attract free agents.

Notwithstanding that, I also understand a smart GM who thinks this shouldn’t apply to a Sidney Crosby or Jonathan Toews, who thinks that young player earned a huge raise on his next deal.  If your prized rookie is already an All-Star and the leader of your team, pay him accordingly.  That makes sense.

This is a much better system than before, when rookies would get drafted in the first round and sometimes hold out, eventually sign a contract and collect a gigantic payday, without having played a minute in the NHL.  Veterans who’d played for years had to settle for minimum deals, because the dollars were all spent on Alexandre Daigle and Radek Bonk.

In light of the preceding, the Blue Jackets don’t appear to want Ryan Johansen to get a huge contract so soon into his career, which we could call the Jonathan Toews method, for players who instantly step up and show leadership and maturity. The Jackets must be afraid he might not be ready for a huge deal, that it might affect his coachability and focus, and let’s call that the Edmonton Oilers effect.

Instead, they want the player to mature and improve as a player, and to prove that he’s worth the mega-deal, and prefer to sign him to an intermediate 'bridge' contract, and let’s call that the P.K. Subban approach.

Mr. Johansen’s response hasn't been positive.  His comments regarding his negotiation, about having earned a four-year deal after one season of strong play, are off-putting.  This kid bargains like Nazem Kadri bargained last season:
“I’ve earned more than a two- or three-year deal with my play,” Johansen said. “It seems a little disrespectful, to be honest. … I want to play in Columbus, and I want to be a Blue Jacket, but I want to get this done. It seems like a slap in the face.”

Pretty bold for a kid who had one good season, and was a problem before that, with indiscipline and poor work habits.  In the right hands, with the right actor, it could almost be parody, a spoof of an entitled, spoiled athlete with a poor grasp of what’s going on in the real world.

Here’s what Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Post-Dispatch had to say about the matter:
…But the organization’s position on Johansen is well-established.

The Blue Jackets spent the first two years of Johansen’s career with a firm boot behind him, insisting he play with a drive and passion that didn’t seem to come to him naturally or consistently.

It came to a head last year. After Johansen had been sent to the minor leagues to keep playing when the Blue Jackets’ season ended, Johansen was made a healthy scratch in an American Hockey League playoff game because coaches didn’t like his effort level.

Those concerns seemed to fade last season, when Johansen’s play became more consistent and he began taking over games with his skill.

Johansen said the Blue Jackets still believe his conditioning isn’t up to snuff, and the organization is miffed that he didn’t remain in Columbus this offseason to train with other players.

The Vancouver sports talk station Monday morning was Ryan Johansen wall-to-wall, and how the Canucks should offer-sheet him, and Columbus is too poor to match, or they should trade them Alex Burrows and Yannick Weber and a second-rounder for his rights…

So we’re not alone, trying to land superstar players with spare parts and castoffs.

But it's another clear reason why Marc Bergevin goes after character when building his team.  Ryan Johansen is obviously a singular talent, but you have to factor this level of petulance into your equation when you're choosing between prospects at the draft table.

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