Sunday, September 19, 2010

It's Fall - For Sure ...

Okay, it's time to start blogging on a regular basis again, I know. Unfortunately I've been a might busy with the rest of my life. I mean I had intended on starting to blog regularly again following returning home from our vacation on Labor Day weekend and then I got distracted by a myriad of things I had/have to do. That hasn't slowed but after all, the Capitals are back in camp, I've received my season tickets and the leaves have started to turn in the back yard. Also as all of us Capitals fans know from Eric Belanger's recent interviews, all the kids are back in school too.

Yes it's been that long since I last posted - I basically let the whole Belanger mess go without so much as a comment so I'll catch up here. Just because I haven't been blogging myself doesn't mean I haven't been following the blogsphere, I have. In the blogsphere, the reaction to the whole Belanger mess is very mixed - I mean other than general agreement that it was a mess. Where do I come down on the whole thing? Putting aside the feelings everyone knows I have that were mixed as to whether Belanger is or isn't the right guy to be the pivot between Semin and Laich; and putting aside the question as to whether or not the Caps were or weren't going to pay more for him then he is worth, especially in the current market; I'm an old school guy.

What do I mean when I say I'm an old school guy - just that, I really mourn the days when some one's word really meant something and despite the knowledge that the majority of the time in business you need it in writing, I still honor my handshakes and expect others will until they prove otherwise to me. Don't get me wrong, I'm not often totally shocked when someone basically goes back on the word and essentially screws me for deals I haven't gotten in writing - I'm not that naive' anymore - those days are long since gone. However, I do prefer to do business with people who have my outlook which is tied to two things - a) my word is better than a written contract; and b) for a business deal to really work out as best as it can, it has to be a fair, and good deal for all the parties involved. So where do I come out - well when I look at Caps General Manager George McPhee and the Caps organization's behaviour, even if only half the things that have been leaked by Belanger and his agent are true, I'm disappointed - REALLY DISAPPOINTED. They just didn't act honorably. Don't get me wrong, they DID NOTHING outside the rules of the CBA, and I guess/think that Belanger's agent did NOT do his job when after a couple of weeks (no more than 2) he didn't actively start to market his player. In fact he should have done that when no written deal was forthcoming in just a couple of days. Now when I take a look at things from Belanger and his agent's perspective, while I understand why they did what they did, I can't really and don't really agree with it, at all either. Why, you ask? See rule #2 - they had to understand what they had asked for and they believed GMGM and his posse agreed to was NOT a good deal for everyone - not even close. Just days after they had what they thought was a handshake 1 year deal for $1,850,000; a similar player, IMO, Jeff Halpren signed a one year deal in Montreal for $600,000 - that's $1.25M less if you're not good at math, or basically 1/3rd the price that Belanger wanted from the Capitals. Okay, I like Belanger in a Caps uniform for 2010-2011 better than Halpren, but I don't like him in that uniform, that much better - not even close.

So when I look at the "Belanger Incident" I can't fault the Caps Management, it is a business, and the CBA, basically says you're not allowed to be an "old school guy". But you know what, I would not have behaved like either side behaved. If I was Belanger and his agent, while I understand working a negotiating strategy to get the most you can for your wares/services; I've learned over the years, that if you get A LOT more for them once from someone who is astute, that will likely be the last time you get even close to a fair offer from that same "customer" ever again. Maybe since Belanger is currently 32 years old and his career is winding down, he didn't/doesn't care about that thought, but he probably should as he likely has or desires to have another 2 - 4 years of playing career after this season. I really think that had Belanger and his agent been willing to sign a 1 year $1.5M or two year $2.7M deal, he'd have been signed by either the Capitals or some other first choice team of his. Of course, playing in Phoenix for Dave Tippett next season for $750,000 doesn't stink either. I'm not saying that professional athletes don't deserve what they get paid - they must, after all lots of owners seem willing to pay them their salaries; I am saying it doesn't seem like a bad or overly horrible way to make $500+ thousand dollars a year. However, getting to the conclusion of this whole thing, when I look on the other side of the coin - the Caps Management's behaviour, I just cannot come to terms with it, EVEN if only half of what we've seen/heard is true. If they couldn't make the deal happen, it should NOT have been offered in the first place. If they thought they could and then found they could not, as soon as they realized it they should have told Belanger and his agent so. If they never made the offer but somehow Belanger and his agent thought they did, as soon as they (the Caps) realized the mistaken conclusion by Belanger and his agent, they should have said something - publicly. Finally, at this point,, they should be the bigger men, and within the limits of the league rules and the CBA, and with the agreement of the the NHL head office, they should reach out and "make it right." That may not be possible, but they should try - it's the classy thing to do. Finally, if Belanger hasn't figured things out, he ought to fire his new agent and either get another new one or go back to his old one. I say this because right now his (Eric Belanger) behaviour is classy, but his agent's is not - publishing emails between parties that were part and parcel to a negotiation, especially when you only publish those on a selective basis (I assume you are publishing those that a) only support your side of the events, and b) do not expose you to slander or libel charges; vice the complete picture)is decidedly NOT CLASSY. Okay so that's the last thing I'm saying on this matter.

Now on other fronts - last week was rookie camp and the Capitals Rookies beat the Flyers Rookies - it doesn't count in the standings and its certainly not a playoff game, but hey its hockey and it's the Caps beating the Flyers so we probably should be happy about it. I know I am.

Regular training camp opened for the Capitals this weekend, now that means the regular season opener is just around the corner and that is news! All the Capitals got back to town at least a few days early and all are apparently in very good shape for the start of camp. This is a far cry better than last season when we were talking about things such as Flash's blood clots, etc.

Also, at least the majority owner seems to agree with me that it's way to early and both dangerous and stupid to be talking about things such as how meaningless the regular season is, and how you can't wait for the 2011 playoffs before the regular season even opens. Personally, I'm psych'ed about the home opener against the New Jersey Devils. I'll go to one of the three pre-season games but I know we won't start getting the answers to the questions about the Capitals - re: 2nd line center; defense corps; young, inexperienced goaltending - until the regular season starts and then progresses at least 20 games. I also know we won't really see how much the moves New Jersey and Pittsburgh have made this off season will pay off for them either - that's who I see as this year's "Beasts of the East" - though I'm sure the Flyers want to be in that group and there's at least one other team that wants to surprise us.

I'm also excited that it seems to me the rest of the Southeast Division has raised the amount of talent in their lockers, with the possible exception of Florida, so those games should be a lot more interesting and exciting to watch. So now we are getting much closer to "On Any Given Sunday ..." The approach towards parity also seems to be reflected in the average team's payroll against the salary cap where it seems to me that either 19 or 20 of the teams in the league will start the season with payrolls of between $54M and the Cap Max of $59.4M(though right now according to Cap Geek there are 6 teams over the cap).

Yes it is indeed starting to smell a lot like Hockey around these parts.


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