Saturday, November 03, 2007

The skating dead of Music City

The Vancouver Province's Tony Gallagher has put together an interesting examination of the state of the Nashville Predators, the poster children for the Fire Sale franchise, which spends a good portion of its time clearing the shelves before selling the stock.

Of course in the Predators case, selling seems problematic. Having spurned one or two rewarding offers from Ontario billionaire Jim Balsillie, the Preds now wander a minefield of false starts and stops, that seem to leave the team further away from being sold than they have at any time.

A situation that probably isn't sitting too well with the man trying to move his stock, Craig Leipold who probably wishes he had been green lighted to sell to Balsillie and be done with this mess. Instead, he waits and waits for the latest tire kicker, William (Boots) Del Biaggio III to show him some money and take him off the hook as owner of Nashville's zombie patrol.

Gallaghers article looks at how two of the Preds are handling the season of turmoil, where rumours swirl of relocation to Kansas City where there's no guarantee that the welcome will be anymore successful than thins have been in Nashville.

He looks at the frustrations of past free agent signings Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont, who both felt that they were joining a team on the upswing back in 2006, one year later it's almost a case of the last guy out the door turn off the lights, as the would be local hustlers team up with the would be rustlers, to try and secure the financing to keep the franchise in Nashville, or not!

By joining Predators, Arnott, Dumont bought tickets to nowhere
Tony Gallagher
CanWest News Service; Vancouver Province
Friday, November 02, 2007

VANCOUVER - Imagine signing on to a cruise ship expecting to see all the glories of Alaska only to find you've mistakenly been placed on the Titanic.

That is the hockey equivalent of what happened to Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont in the summer of 2006. When the two signed with the Nashville Predators that July, both expected they'd be joining one of the best teams in the NHL's Western Conference, a team that was gearing up to take a run at a Stanley Cup.

The Predators had the great goaltending of Tomas Vokoun, a power-play quarterback like Kimmo Timonen, great offensive talents like Steve Sullivan and Paul Kariya and a cadre of young defencemen developing in staggering numbers.

After what Dumont had been through when the Buffalo Sabres lost their chance to run at a Cup when goalie Dominik Hasek was moved along, he was looking forward to the opportunity, which comes to veterans who care about winning when they get to choose their place of employment.
And Arnott liked the arrangement so much he signed for five years and got himself a no-trade clause to boot.

Now, this team is going nowhere. Their bench is in chaos on a regular basis under the friendly, but staggering, tutelage of Barry Trotz - whose administration has run its course after two underachieving playoff performances.

The roster has been evacuated of talent. The team traded Vokoun three days before his own no-trade clause would have kicked in because owner Craig Leipold was not allowed to sell the team to Jim Balsillie, who wanted to move it to southern Ontario. And given Leipold couldn't sell, he decided to offload the assets that were costing him the most money.

"When I signed here things were certainly different," Arnott said Thursday. "This team had everything and J.P. and I were hoping to add a little offence to get the team near or over the top and then all of a sudden it's all different. Suddenly the core group is going out the window and you're wondering what happened. (General manager) David Poile came to me and he was all apologetic and wanted to know if I was all right or if I wanted to do anything about it and I told him I signed on for the long haul."

What Poile was probably wanting to hear was that Arnott would waive his no-trade clause so he could move him as well, but it never got that far when the player declared his loyalty. But surely he has to be wondering what kind of a mess he's gotten himself into.

"I can't blame David, I don't think he had any idea this was coming himself," Arnott said of Poile. "He was in a tough spot himself, knowing that he had to move guys he didn't want to move. I felt sorry for him myself and decided to stick it through. Hopefully the new owners will get some stability in place and start to spend and add some of the pieces we'll need. But it takes time for a core to work together and even if they do start to spend again, all that time has been lost."

Dumont wasn't quite so frank in his comments, instead saying all the right things about how much talent the team still has. But he can afford to be that way. At the end of the season he's unrestricted, and you can bet that if this mess isn't cleaned up by then he won't be staying unless a significant wad of cash is waived under his nose to save face for the franchise. Either that or he doesn't care about winning.

The lesson to be learned for quality players is clear cut. How much due diligence is necessary in terms of investigating the owner with respect to his financial capabilities and his long term direction for his asset in order to make an informed decision on where to sign? What is happening on the surface isn't necessarily what is in the offing as has been the case both in Nashville this past year and two years ago in St. Louis when ownership melted down the team to bare bones for a sale.

It's getting to be that a player needs to investigate everything about an organization before committing the next few years of his life there. All that glitters is not gold. And if things don't pick up financially for this league in the U.S. very shortly, there are going to be a lot more mined franchises in the landscape waiting to detonate.

Vancouver Province

No comments: